As you are being shoved into one of the four mortuary freezers that make up the Famous Deaths installation you enter a reconstruction of the final moments of famous celebrities by means of sound and scent. You smell Princes Diana’s fatal destiny, John F. Kennedy’s tragedy, Kaddafi’s desperate flight into a sewer and Whitney Houston fatal sob.
We all know the images of that open car that slowly drives through the streets of Dallas, the President happily waving to the crowd. And then, those few fatal shots. What must it have been like to be near that car? Famous Deaths is an innovative way of documentary storytelling where you experience these intimate moments as smell tableau in first person perspective. You smell an autumn wind, the grass, the leather car seats, Jacky Kennedy’s perfume, exhaust fumes mingled with the somewhat musty scent of that limousine, and then suddenly the penetrating scent of blood, brains and gunpowder drilling its way into your nostrils.
Famous Deaths enlists the power of scent to create a new, intense and more personal experience of these moments. Smell is an invisible and uncontrollable intrusion that forces its way into our memories. In the solitary confinement of the mortuary freezer you stand powerless against the scents as they penetrate your body. And, as the olfactory bulb is connected to the limbic system where memories are stored and the amygdala that processes emotions, in the time machine of Famous Deaths you encounter an experience that is both very emotional and memorable.
Famous Deathswas developed by POLYMORF for AVANS University of applied science in co-creation with lecturers, artists and students as part of the Sense of Smell Project. The installation has been exhibited at the IDFA Amsterdam, MOTI in Breda, Playgrounds Festival Breda, during Coded Matters #7 in Amsterdam, at Tech Open Air in Berlin and at Anglia Ruskin University’s Digital Gallery in Cambridge, Smart Fip@ Biarritz. SXSW Austin Texas, Tribeca Film Festival New York, Phi Centre Montreal. The Future of Storytelling NY.