An exhibition of the senses

I’m interested in the use of all of the senses to appreciate art (from Ernesto Neto and his smelly sculptures to Sissel Tolaas recreating the smells of Liverpool). My last art exhibition included an opportunity for people to sense through touch recreated clay objects of First World War things.

Corned Beef in clay

Corned Beef in clay

Art galleries in the past have almost exclusively been visual. But we are not exclusively visual creatures. Children illustrate this perfectly. Notice how they crave to touch, smell and taste new objects. They cannot control themselves. They are often reprimanded for trying (especially in art galleries). Adults can control themselves because we’ve been conditioned to. But it is part of our instinct to want to experience things by all of the senses, not just sight.

A new venture has opened recently at Tate Britain which explores the senses and aims to blend art appreciation with the senses. The venture is the brain child of London-based creative studio Flying Object.

The venture is called the ‘Tate Sensorium’. It is an immersive art gallery which includes four paintings from the Tate’s main collection. The visitor is able to experience sounds, smells, tastes and physical forms inspired by the four pieces of art. They can also record and review their physiological responses through contemporary measurement devices.

The idea is to encourages a new approach to interpreting art. In some cases, technology is used to stimulate the senses. The visitor is able to use memory and imagination to ‘feel’ the artworks.

The sense of touch is used using the technology of ultrasound. Speakers vibrate on the visitor’s hand. This creates a sensation of touch. This isn’t quite the real thing but it is believed that this technology can accurately replicate the real thing and convince the brain that the visitor is touching the real object.

The sense of hearing is utilized through directional audio which uses ultrasound waves to direct precise sound waves across distances in a very precise manner.

Eating chocolate to help with the art experience

Eating chocolate to help with the art experience

Smell is recreated with, smells. The technology doesn’t really need explaining here.

As for taste, a master chocolatier and food inventor has developed an edible product that stimulates a haptic taste experience in response to the textural, painterly qualities and possible meanings of a specific piece of art.

John Latham, Full Stop, 1961 - one of the artworks used in the senses experiment

John Latham, Full Stop, 1961 – one of the artworks used in the senses experiment

Again, I really wish I lived near London as I’d really like to ‘see’ and experience this first-hand. I would love to know what people think after visiting the exhibition. Does it enhance their ability to ‘feel’ the artworks? Does it give them an extra level of connection? Or is it just a clever gimmick?

The technology may be crude at the moment but I’m sure that this is something that will be explored with greater sophistication in the future.




‘Taste, Smell and feel artwork at Tate Sensorium’ BBC News Website. Available from: [last accessed 25 August 2015]

IK Prize 2015: TateSensorium Tate Website. Available from: [last accessed 25 August 2015]

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