Jo Burzynska – Culture at Work Artist in Residence 2018

Osmic Resonance is an audio-olfactory installation that harnesses sympathetic vibrations between sounds and aromas. Created by the multimedia artist Jo Burzynska  in a 2018 CULTURE AT WORK Art-Science Residency. Jo has created a multi-sensory chamber, in which the aesthetic, scientific and therapeutic potential of sensory interactions are explored and experienced through intensifying and shifting, entwined sound-and aroma-scapes. Tapping into a shared trait of perception similar to synaesthesia, stimulation in one sense domain alters perceptions in another.

Jo Burzynska – Artist Statement

Recent developments in neuroscience, cognitive science and psychology have confirmed what artists have long intuited: that the senses are interconnected. Initially working with a single sense as a sonic artist, I was inspired to encompass taste and smell, which have been integral to my parallel career as a professional wine critic.

In this residency, I am seeking to identify correspondences between sounds and aromas, examining what might be shared and what is personal, and how memories, emotions, preferences and culture may affect these correlations. Members of the public will share their responses to sounds, aromas and audio-olfactory pairings in a study that will be used to inform the final installation created for the residency.

Reverberating through the residency are the scientific perspectives of Associate Professor Anina Rich, a cognitive neuroscientist specialising in sensory processing and synaesthesia, and Dr Mem Mahmut, a psychologist working in the area of olfaction. Their mentorship and insights into sensory perception will both inspire and be applied to the final audio-olfactory work produced.

Jo Burzynska – Artist biography

Jo Burzynska is multi-sensory artist whose parallel backgrounds in sound art and professional wine writing have increasingly converged in the production of art at the intersection of the senses. This regularly combines audition and the chemical senses (taste and olfaction), the interaction between and its creative application is also the topic of her current interdisciplinary doctoral research at UNSW Art & Design.

Scientific Statement: Associate Professor Anina Rich – Cognitive Neuroscientist

Our perception of the world is based on combining information from our senses with our pre-existing knowledge, thoughts and goals. This is a very complex process but something that occurs constantly without apparent effort and without our control. In synaesthesia, an ordinary stimulus (e.g., a sound) evokes an additional extraordinary experience (e.g., a colour). Although this is an unusual phenomenon, seen in perhaps 1 in 100 people, we all have ways in which we `link’ information from the different senses. These links are subtle and we are not aware of them usually, but they can influence our preferences and the way we perceive an event. For example, if we ask people to match the brightness of a light with the pitch of a sound, there is a systematic pattern to their responses, even though they do not consciously link sound with vision. Similarly, when we ask people to smell odours and select colours or textures that match, we can see consistent patterns across people. In Osmic Resonance, Jo Burzynska has brought together odours and sounds in an intriguing installation that allows us to explore the way olfaction and audition interact to influence our perception. In this exciting project, she combines science and art to give novel insights into the very nature of multisensory experience.

Anina Rich