Smell the Soil by Rita Wang

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  1. collect sample (6 in total)

  2. participants (6 in total) smell all 6 samples and give impressions

  3. asked to match the soil sample with 6 given ocations

  4. if answered correctly, gets a piece of fabric to write their innitials and their impression of the smell, and rubs it around the body (especially armpit area)

  5. the microbes collected on the fabric from the participant is then grown together with the right soil sample in a petri dish



Tega Brain “Smell Dating”

Tega Brain “Smell Dating”

Agnes Meyer-Brandis  “One Tree”

Agnes Meyer-Brandis “One Tree”

Sensory Map Data Input

Sensory Map Data Input

Neuro Electrical Stimulation in nostrill

Neuro Electrical Stimulation in nostrill

Wine scent kit

Wine scent kit

Sensory map of Newport, RI

Sensory map of Newport, RI


did you think about the act of collecting data in this work? What relationship to the environment does your concept imply?

The collection of data resides in the poetics of smell and the possibility of connecting humans with soil microbes through the VOCs produced by both participants of the project. The volatile organic compounds, or rather, scents, are compounds that are perceptible to both humans and microbes, one through bio-chemical diffusion and the other through the sensory system. In this project, humans act as the device through which we measure and read the presence and communication signals of soil microbes and plant mycorrhiza.

Theres is also the larger question of the ways in which we interpret and and store scents, and the way that scent works as a particular type data in our brain. The “scent wheel” in a way represents how differently the 6 participants analyzed the 6 different soil samples, and the way that the roughly same inputs, through the “brain and nose” device, have very different output in so many levels. The different ways in which we interpret and store these data render a degree of intimacy. Moreover, the way that we talk about scent, referencing Deleuze and Foucault’s theories of language, tells a greater story of our inner algorithms and our discursive practices, in terms of scent.

For the participants who successfully matched the scent with the locaation, and answered correctly, where the soil is from, there is a poetic intuition that lies within. This intuitive connection and data analyzation is then channeled through the togetherness in the petri dish of fabric swapped with their own personal microbiome and VOCs, and the soil to which they connected. The petri dish then becomes an environment of growth and communication, of the two who one can read the other.

What artists or themes were you thinking about as you formulated the idea?

Anni Liu, Tega Brain, yasaman shari, Agnes Meyer Brandis, karolina Sobecka tasting clouds,, soil microibome, VOC microbial communication, smell, language, location, memory

How did you use site? How did you use technology? How did you choreograph the audience? Did you utilize interaction and why? Who (creator, audience, other lifeforms) has agency in this work and who doesn’t?

I chose 6 sites mostly along the F train stops. Not much of technology is really used, besides using inaturalist to identify species. The whole process is based on interactions between me, the soil (and all the organisms in the soil, the sites, and the participants. I guess the soil doesn’t really get much agency because they are the ones that are being smelled, read and moved around.

What open questions did you have going in? How did making the work change or address these questions?

Can any microbes communicate with each other through VOCs? How do we associate smell with locations? How do microbes and humans communicate, without anthropogenic translations, or rather, being a part of the system?

I think that more it is super interesting to watch how people interpret scent and understand the idea of communicating with microbes through scent. This work has rather been a study of humans. Making the scent wheel addressed the way we put smells in to words, and how differetn that is for each participants because of their own discursive practices.

How do we become a part of the system instead of merely translating through science?

I guess we need to really be physically on the site, interacting with the organisms, and also keep an open mind about the qualitative and poetic data, which tells a whole lot about ourselves. Once we have a better understanding about ourselves, we can try to be a part of the system.

What surprised you about this task?

How much I enjoyed knowing what people think about a smell, and how they put them into words.

If you were to do this again, what would you change to clarify or extend ?

I would probably get more samples, and document with more intentions. And also, perhaps do a metagenomics analysis of the soil.

Device (pigeon) by Rita Wang

exercise in non human listening .jpg

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working within the system itself instead of tranlating “data”

urban pests and re- distribution of resource

pigeon navigation

mapping - physical landscape


  1. design a camera that can be attached to pigeons, record live footage

  2. put gps log on pigeon (where do they live where do they go?)

  3. pests vs. redistribution of resources

  4. consumption

  5. you navig by satellite vs. you navigated by pigeon (?)

  6. soil, voc (voice of the silenced) the idea of"nature" is a monologue of of science (smells) of different sites in new york to be smelled


pigeons birds

Auto-pilots need a birds-eye view

by Society for Experimental Biology

The pigeons were fitted with a tiny head-camera before they flew through the artificial forest. Credit: Talia Moore

New research on how birds can fly so quickly and accurately through dense forests may lead to new developments in robotics and auto-pilots.

pigeon eye movement - bigger than 300

Scientists from Harvard University trained pigeons to fly through an artificial forest with a tiny camera attached to their heads, literally giving a birds-eye view. "Attaching the camera to the bird as well as filming them from either side means we can reconstruct both what the bird sees and how it moves," says Dr. Huai-Ti Lin, a lead researcher for this work who has special insight into flying as he is a remote control airplane pilot himself.

The methods pigeons use to navigate through difficult environments could be used as a model for auto-pilot technology. Pigeons, with >300 degree panoramic vision, are well suited to this task because this wrap-round vision allows them to assess obstacles on either side. They can also stabilise their vision and switch rapidly between views using what is called a "head saccade", a small rapid movement of the head

”(3) One behavioral psychologist who studies pigeons remarked, “Pigeons commit new images to memory at lightning speed. . . . They organize images of things into the same logical categories that human beings use when we conceptualize.”(4) —

they actaully conceptualize urban landscape


visualization - deliverable,

maps, 3d extruded etc, vr 360