Smell: The Neglected Sense

SYMPOSIUM & EXHIBITION

Though unnoticed, our sense of smell is a major mood determiner. Scents evoke vivid childhood memories. They are part of our identity: we each have a scent that is as unique as our fingerprints.

Even cities have their own specific scent profiles. Still, we tend not to be aware of the profound effects of smell. VU Amsterdam is organizing a symposium on 24 February during which an art and fragrance historian, a psychologist and an artist will elucidate the importance of smell as part of culture. A new VU exhibition will also open that will let you observe that which is invisible, indefinable, elusive and often neglected: smell! Both activities are related to scent historian Caro Verbeek’s PhD dissertation, ‘Aromatic Art (Re-)reconstructed: In Search of Lost Scents’.

A century ago, surrealists like Duchamp and futurists like Marinetti used scents to accentuate their images, exhibition spaces, poetry readings and toys. They used Brazilian coffee beans, erotic perfumes, sulfuric acid, ozone, incense and industrial fumes as means to influence the public. Most of these ‘aromatic interventions’ were intended to provoke, to confuse, to alter people’s mood or to add a sensory dimension. Unfortunately, many of these ‘artistic aromas’ have been lost. These days, artists all over the world are once again working with scents and aromas. The exhibition provides an overview of how international artists and perfumers incorporate scents into their art as they explore the boundaries of ‘visual’ expression.

What does the countryside smell like? The Battle of Waterloo? The moon? The planet Earth? These and other lost and rare scents have been reconstructed thanks to the joint efforts of perfumers, chemists and historians.
Indulge your olfactory sense and give your nose something to sniff at. Register for the symposium and come see the exhibition.

Photo: Copyright Gayil Nalls, People sniffing World Sensorium at midnight 01-01-2000, Time Square, New York

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ACCESS director Inger Leemans nominated

ACCESS director Inger Leemans has been nominated for Viva400 2015: 400 women who excelled this year. Inger’s nomination is based on her research in the History of Emotions and the development of digital humanities techniques for emotion research. To support the nomination:

http://www.viva400.nl/knappe-koppen/inger-leemans/

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Inaugural lecture: Moved by Media and Emotion

Prof. dr. Elly Konijn

On Wednesday 30 September, professor Elly Konijn will give her inaugural lecture at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam on the subject of media and emotions. The lecture (in Dutch) will explore a broad range of media, from theatre to reality soap, from video games to social robots. One of the research projects professor Konijn is involved in is that of sociobot Alice: her research team aims to discover, with the help of community nurses and family, how this care robot should react to and speak with older women to reduce the effects of loneliness. Can people form affective ties with a robot, and can a robot replace a human being?

In her inaugural lecture, professor Konijn makes use of recent research to demonstrate how the emotions aroused by various media can influence people’s actions. She will also show how certain emotions incite people to turn to certain media, or how they subsequently trigger people to engage with these media in their daily lives.

For more information (in Dutch), see the announcement on the website of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.

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Alice Cares – the documentary on care robot Alice, developed at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.

Conference on Compassion in Early Modern Culture

Poster Compassion Conference smallOn 18 and 19 September 2015, ACCESS and the Department of Language, Literature and Communication of the Faculty of Humanities at VU University are organising an international conference on Compassion in Early Modern Culture.

Keynote speakers are Katherine Ibbett (University College London), Jan Frans van Dijkhuizen (Leiden University) and Bruce R. Smith (University of Southern California). In the parallel sessions, international researchers will present their research on early modern compassion.

ACCESS members are most welcome to attend (parts of) this conference. For more information, the programme, and (free) registration, see the conference website.

Call for Papers: Compassion in early modern culture 1550-1700

VU University Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 18-19 September 2015

This two-day international conference aims to bring together literary scholars, art historians, musicologists, and cultural historians to explore thinking about the experience as well as the social and political impact of compassion in early modern European culture. It seeks to combine two current approaches to the early modern passions: historical phenomenology on the one hand and the analysis of the role of compassion in the public sphere on the other. Sir Philip Sidney famously claimed political impact for the experience of compassion when he wrote that that the feelings of pity and fear aroused by tragedy could mollify the hearts of tyrants. Participants are invited to discuss which views on the experience of compassion existed in early modern Europe, and how the arousal of compassion in literature, theatres, art, sermons,  music, and elsewhere was thought to impact – or did impact – the public sphere.

Keynote speakers:

  • Katherine Ibbett (University College London)

  • Bruce R. Smith (University of Southern California)

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Emotion centre VU receives grant

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Body Maps of Emotions

The Amsterdam Centre for Cross-Disciplinary Emotions and Sensory Studies (ACCESS) has received a grant of €50.000 from the Netherlands e-Science Centre.

ACCESS, emotion-research centre at the faculty of Arts of the VU University in Amsterdam, has received the grant for their joint research project “Embodied Emotions: Mapping Bodily Expression of Emotions from a Historical Perspective”.

The bodily expressions of emotions are often condsidered to be culturally universal. With this project, Inger Leemans, Herman Roodenburg, Kristine Steenbergh and Erika Kuijpers aim to gain a better insight into the bodily experience of emotions in seventeenth and eighteenth century Dutch plays, and compare this to 21st century body maps of emotions. Their hypothesis is that historical conceptions of the functioning of the body and the emotions may have been the basis for an alltogether different classification of (primary) emotions and for a different bodily experience of the emotions. In cooperation with the e-Science Centre, they will explore the different ways in which the Digital Humanities can be put to good use in the research into the expression of emotions in early modern plays.