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Olfactory Forest

Installation at Trapholt Museum, SENSE ME exhibition, Denmark, 2019

For SENSE ME exhibition at Trapholt Museum, Denmark, Studio Omer Polak creates an artificial forest focussing on the olfactory experience and sounds. An immersive installation of Manau Rattan cane poles, hanging in a circular room. Each rattan pole releasing a different smell and sound.

Forests are nature’s most biodiverse ecosystems and cover 31% of the surface of our planet. By providing us with fresh oxygen, forests are a precious resource for life on Earth and they have a wonderful ability to heal our body and mind. However, humanity has come to take nature for granted resulting in pollution and climate change, as well as a rapidly decreasing global amount of forestry. Further on, with 65% of people living in cities by 2050 (UN), industrialization and urbanization have constantly been moving us into a new human Landscape.

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What if the forests gradually disappear in the world and will become a rare natural phenomenon that masses of tourists want to see? Aside from the enormous horrific consequences for nature and the fabric of life, how will this affect our mental health? our well-being and leisure? And what are the implications for our sensory skills? Staying away from nature also reduces our sensing ability? Will we have to fake nature in order to sustain humanity? And if so, Will it become a place of mystery and fairytales, like the real forests used to be?

The olfactory forest installation contains 15 rattan poles, Each one of them releasing a different smell and sound collected in the forest. “ By using the “smell trap” device or “smell recorder” as I love to call it, we were able to collect light odor molecules, which are distributed from different organisms in the forest.”

The collected samples were brought back to the Symrise Lab and analyzed in a variety of ways in order to under- stand every single component in the smell composition. Based on the analysis multiple recipes were created out of a stock of over 2000 base smell components. Together with the senior perfumer, Marc Vom Ende from Symrise, we designed eight different fragrances. Mushroom, Linden, tree resin, moss, damp soil a sweat of a forest’s mammal, broken wood and young fresh green leaves. Each one of them has significant characteristics and a wonderful ability to recall personal memories.

Chemists beside perfumers. A methodical, technical, and objective analysis coincides with a sensory-driven, human, and subjective approach. These methods complement each other and neither suffices on its own in the process of determining which molecules contribute most to our idea of a particular scent.

Additionally to the smells, fifteen small speakers, placed along the rattan poles, playing different soft sounds recorded in nature. Sounds of termites eating a log of wood, a moth flapping his wings, a mosquito flying around and more. The low volume of the speakers, invite the visitors to come closer and to explore the whispering while sniffing the odors from the rattan poles. The relationship between each smell and the specific sound created an interesting area for research and experience in our creative process.

In recent years the growing concern about future ecology has led many artists to play with concepts of man-made nature. In our project, we take on The idea of the artificial landscape, using the nose as a medium to transport the human subconscious into the forest. By unfolding this scenario together with the audience, we are putting the public’s attention on the future of sensory experience journeys in cities.


Research project and installation by Omer Polak

Trapholt Museum, SENSE ME exhibition, Denmark, 2019 With support and collaboration with Symrise

Museum director: Karen Holdaway Grøn Curator: Katrine Stenum
Vera Westergaard, Architekt, Exhibits Director

Senior perfumer: Marc vom Ende , Symrise

Assistants: Alexandra Genis & Pauline préel.

Installation Production: Caecilia Verweyen

Lighting consulting: Patrick McCumiskey

Movie& Pictures by Pujan Shakupa & Stefan Stark

Font design - “Faune, Alice Savoie / Cnap”

Christina Witter - Director of Corporate Communications, Symrise.

Doris Beye - Director BU Consumer Fragrance Homecare EAME, Symrise.

Dr. Edison Diaz - Director of Applied Research EAME, Symrise.

Celina Koch  - Technologist, Applied Research EAME, Symrise.

Eugen Keusch, der Korbmacher, Rattan expert.

Marco Breiter - Laboratory manager, creating lab, Symrise.

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