Experimental Olfactory lab
In the Museum
of «All and everyone»


St. Petersburg
2016 — 2018

„Life is short. Also it is necessary to be able.
To be able to throw a bad book,
to walk away from a bad movie,
stop to eat a junk food …”
Mikhail Zhvanetsky,
Famous Russian humorist.


          Integral laboratory of senses «The Museum of «All and everyone» is created in St. Petersburg as a platform for connecting the knowledge of the sciences, traditions and art about people.

          The museum’s mission — to return the meaningful curiosity in the everyday lives of people.

          The goal is — to show how the diversity of knowledge about a human being is reflected in a holistic system and practically applied in everyone’s life.

          In other words, one of the objectives of the Museum is to create exhibits and expositions through which every visitor could discover the edges of his own uniqueness, realize his capabilities and limitations, and uncover his curiosity.

How it all began
          The prototype of the Museum became the olfactory Laboratory-exhibition «Smells: the invisible beauty of St. Petersburg».
          The exhibition was prepared more than one year. Its creation was advised by specialists from more than 10 universities and research institutes of St. Petersburg, more than 100 people participated. All on volunteering basis.
          It shows how olfactory is important and interesting for the people from different areas.

А group of researchers
          The research group, consisting of curious people of different ages, with the participation of scientists (doctors, physiologists, psychophysiologists, psychologists, linguists, chemists, historians, philologists, philosophers, etc.) first investigated its own sense of smell, and then took part in the creation of exhibits.
          The conceptual basis was the work of the historian Nikolai Antsiferov (1889-1958), who believed that the city — a social organism that has its anatomy and physiology. The soul of St. Petersburg, its genii loci opens in smells and sounds.

Laime Kiskune
          Laime Kiskune is a long standing promoter of olfactory culture and art, teaching people of different ages and walks of life to comprehend the olfactory world and fostering the use of fragrances as art medium.
          Together with the team of talented creators, in an informal lab of Officina Artis Odorum Laime designs exhibition concepts, fragrances, perfumes and exhibits for olfactory exhibitions.
          This lab has accumulated an impressive collection of rare natural aromatic substances – the aromatheque. In the lab of Officina Artis Odorum, Laime has designed an original brand of perfumes Unda Prisca.
          Laime Kishkune joined the group in the last stage of the research and created an olfactory workshop group, ready to collect, extract, de-construct and re-construct the smells of the modern city.
          This is also one of the principles of the Museum — attracting the most diverse people to the creation of an exposition using creative group work.
          Despite of the fact that group was from amateurs, having in mind the perfumery education, my proposition was to work on a professional level turning the olfactory sketches of everyday life into olfactory art.
          The exposition was supposed to allow in a fascinating manner the visitor to explore his olfactory abilities by examples of the smells of the life in the urban environment.

The exhibition is open
          The exhibition was conceived as everyday Laboratory as the Process and Development.
          It is still alive starting from 2016 and is still developing.
          Visiting the exhibition is a guided excursion during which people get acquainted not just with different scientific knowledge about the sense of smell, but also can train in deciphering the smell text, they are accustomed to feel new impressions that were not realized before.
          The exhibits there are not only objects of olfactory art. They works as the tool for the visitor to understand the abilities of his sense of smell and catch the beauty of everyday life through the smells of the city.
          May the authors of the exhibits are «a bit removed into the back stage», because the accent in the exposition is not just on the authorized reading of the City smells,
but on the emotional, intellectual and even spiritual authorship of the visitor in his own discoveries of the perception of smells.
          Guests of the exhibition are offered to resolve the various exercises to unravel smells.
          There are employded physical, intuitive and linguistic olfactory cognition. The tour lasts an hour and half to two hours. And this is necessarily a dialogue of visitors and a guiding person about the olfactory experience.

Shortly about #scent-space
          Traveling in smell-scape of the modern City the visitor is immersed with his head to the smell.
          There have used for the first time the semi-opened scent-space. For this exhibition was important to make a condition where smeller could dive into the smell.
          Sniffing from the surface is natural when we smell from skin, from things, but mostly the smell we are perceiving in the space. And there is different sense – to perceive smell from surface or to smell in the space.

What‘s hapening with smeller, who is immersed with his head into scent-space? What he is able to discover?

          — own ability to distinguish consciously the smells of everyday life.
          For many this is a great surprise, because people believe that they have a broken sense of smell and they can differ the scents except that may in a perfumery shop.
          — individual ability to «read» smells, to describe them;
          — ability to compare with others their own descriptions, ways of interacting with smells, impressions;
          We can make an assumption thereby, that it is a possibility to overcome alexithymia, a problem of reading emotions in modern civilization

Why do we need

          — to train the brain to «remember» where the smell has been met
          — deciphering or creating any everyday smell is a fitness for the brain, development of neural connections that can then work in new creative processes
          — to learn a lot about the personal sense of smell, the brain’s work on deciphering the smell text, and do this in response to own questions that arise in the process of receiving an olfactory experience during the excursion;
          — to question the stereotypes about “good” and “bad” smells, reflect on the philosophy of own perception,
find out the origin of prejudices about the smells
          — to move from the hedonistic like/dislike to aesthetic perception;
          — to the understanding that smell has its own evolution, complex architecture, polyphony, can be readable, that even is possible to enter into some relationship with it.
          — that smells of everyday life is an important part of the picture of reality.
          The important thing happens with smeller after visiting exhibition: the beauty of everyday life opens up to him suddenly through stereotypes and boredom with a new face — a smell symphony, which is the ability to «stay in the present moment».

Current project — The olfactory code of the epoch
          The «historical meanings» of the smell are very mobile, but they give us a comprehensive idea of the «spirit of the times» or the «fragrance of the epoch». «Historical aromatics», «literary aromatics», as well as aromatics of everyday life — themes for new exhibitions of the Museum.
          It is about the history of St. Petersburg street lighting. This will be only a visual picture of the works of lantern art, if not to add the dynamics of the smell change that came from these lanterns in different periods of the city’s development.
          The smells of street lighting gave to different epochs a special scent and even served as a disagreement in society in the perception of the «spirit of the Fatherland».
          While creating such an exposition, we again have to combine the knowledge of several areas (history, chemistry, literature, anthropology) and to conduct lots of experiments studying smells, re-creating them, and finding a way of exhibiting.

          Olfactory art here works as an instrument of self-knowledge, as an integrator of the diverse scientific knowledge, as a way of communicating and transmitting the life experiences in different epochs.
          Smell is integrating factor. It can integrate total opposites.
          The smell is volatile and flexible, changeable and unpredictable. If we try to pay attention to this momentary component of our reality, then our bored road to work will never be boring and identical. Smell is something that constantly tells us about the novelty of this moment and helps us to feel ourselves new and alive.
          Air is what unites us all. Because of air, there are no boundaries. And the world of smell is inevitable.
Founder and President of the Museum, professor Yana Malyhina likes often to repeat:
«Scents show us the fullness of the world in a combination of its opposites: beautiful and terrible.
When we allow ourselves to expand our perception to the fullness of the world, only its beauty remains.”

To finish
          I’d like in the note of integral quality of scent related with linguistics.
          In every language we have words relating to smells and olfactory. In some very few, in some like Japanese or some African languages quite a lot.
          In my native Lithuanian language words “smell” and “breath” are homonymes. In Russian language words “scent” and “soul” are synonyms…
          May it can be helpful to understand better each other.

Laimė Kiškūnė