The soundscape was an answer to the question that I have been asking myself in the past few years: Who am I, and how can I define myself as an Iranian artist? I found my answer in my ordinary life. This led to my seclusion from society and focusing on the way I live and the way I think as a source of inspiration for my art. Now, after understanding how my existence is related to the world, it seems that I am becoming more sociable, and the more I interact with my surroundings, the more I care about the elements of sounds in our daily interactions. I believe that each city has its distinct sounds not created by objects but by its own citizens' behaviors and interactions rooted in their life experiences, language, and cultural backgrounds.
"Sound," according to Brandon LaBelle, "performs with and through space: it navigates geographically, reverberates acoustically, and structures socially, for sound amplifies and silences, contorts, distorts, and pushes against architecture; it disrupts conversation; it expands and contracts space by accumulating reverberation, relocating place beyond itself, and always inhabiting more than one place; it misplaces and displaces;...sound overflows borders." Historical and cultural research helps us think about soundscapes as uniquely reflecting the world's internal and invisible struggles and politics.
After the plight of migrants in the twenty-first century in Europe, we can see migrants not only has brought their everyday life sound from their hometown – as a result of their music or their routine activity based on their cultural background – they have also brought their gastronomic delights and culture to their new home town. So based on their colonies in European cities, we can both smell and listen to different cultures. For example, in an Indian restaurant in Berlin, not only can we smell Indian spices, but we can also listen to some Indian music, language, and even the sound that they make during cooking.
This project concerns the sensory aspect of immigration. As a sonic observer, I listen to anthropophony of cities and explore immigration’s impact on sonic and olfactory cityscapes. Sensory Souvenir takes the form of a multimedia installation with a durational live performance. In a room furnished with neutral, standard objects that symbolise the global flow of goods, performers who have migrated to Germany navigate the familiar and the foreign.
Urban spaces are an experience for all the senses, but all too often, academics and designers are interested in only the visual or aural aspects of a place. What are the implications of a more holistic approach to the role of the senses in our experience of urban space? My project investigates ways of assessing the multi-sensory quality of urban spaces to determine the effect of immigration on the Soundscape and Smellscape of the cosmopolitan metropolises like Berlin.
Cities are sensory, emotional experiences, for good and for bad. The city can overwhelm our senses. Places will be loved or hated depending on sensory cues. The sensory environment for an older person might be noisy or unsafe while too quiet or safe for someone young. The same differences can apply to people from different class and income backgrounds. Every city has its own sound atmospherics, even if too many are alike. On the other hand, smell can remind us sharply of a precise moment a very long way back. Smell is part of the signal world of nature. Walking in dining areas of cities, you might hit a row of Indian or Chinese restaurants whose food smells emanate from their air conditioning, either by design or inadvertently. The good Chinese restaurant will exude a blend of ginger, garlic, spring onion and soy sauce. If it is cheaper this mixture will include a foolish greasiness, partly inviting but interspersed with the smell of plastic and disinfectant. The dominant smell of Italian restaurants is often that of pesto, the mix of basil, parmesan, garlic, pine nuts and olive oil, tart but fruity. The Indian restaurant’s exhaust might smell of cumin, coriander and turmeric, but pre-made sauces which blur distinctions between individual spices are beginning to dominate. Cities have their own scent landscapes and often it is an association with one small place that determines a smell reputation.
There is value in studying ethnic identity in a specific setting because ethnicity is, in important aspects, a localised phenomenon, dependent on context; this property is lost in national studies. For example, European ethnic groups in the New York City area (e.g., Italians, Irish, Jews) have had a significant impact on the culture and traditions of New York City, and they have done so with a continued sense of their immigrant origins.
Migratory events due to various reasons reveal the cultural differences in urban environments. Humans change places voluntarily or involuntarily because of many factors, such as life struggle, wars, and diseases. The most intense city environments in which these translocations are observed are cities where many native and foreign individuals settle with the purposes of job, education, sheltering, and protection.
The purpose of this project is to determine the effect of cultural differences that especially take place due to migration on the sense of places in cities. It is required for foreign individuals to socialise with the local people in relation to adopting the space by improving their sense of belonging to prevent the identity of the space to be affected negatively and to create a common value on the emergence of a common culture. People have a continuous relationship with the environment they live in. In this relationship, people also reshape themselves with various stimuli that come from the environment they live in while sustaining their vital activities. This process of acquiring, interpreting, and formalizing information is an overall behaviour system.
Based on several interviews with Iranian immigrants around the world, at the digital Forecast Forum, I premiered an audiovisual documentary work telling stories of people who had been uprooted from their old surroundings to start a new life in an unfamiliar environment.
For thousands of years, human beings have found their food, escaped from dangers, fallen in love and given birth through the perception of the smell and sound of the environment. It is as if the signal of smell and sound is in the right frequency, the place is safe, it has a sense of belonging. It is this harmony of senses that makes a place home. Each of us produces different odor and sound signals through our daily activities, and at the same time we communicate with our surroundings by receiving and analyzing the frequency of sound and odour of others. The smell and sound of the environment for me reflects the lifestyle, the social class of the individual and his relation is revealed by nature.
Why only sound and smell?
Unlike sight, where a viewer is able to choose what they view and look away if a sight or landscape offends them, our sense of smell and hearing cannot be switched off. Their signal and vibration penetrates into our body and brain; we are constantly immersed in the smellscape as we breathe in and out, and continuously reverberated by the soundscape’s vibration.
Only death is silent:
We won’t emit and won’t receive any audio signals after death. Not only our auditory system will shut down after death, our other organs such as heart will stop pumping.
How do we perceive sound and smell?
Perceiving smell begins with olfactory receptors in the nose and ends in the brain. Each smell activates a specific combination of olfactory neurons, which the brain decodes as a particular aroma.In our auditory system, the outer ear receives sounds waves and turn it to the electrical signals. The auditory nerve carries this electrical signal to the brain, which turns it into a sound that we recognize and understand.
Each of us produces different smell and sound signals during everyday activities, and relate to our surrounding environment through receiving and analyzing the frequency of others’ sound and smell.
Familiarity and strangeness
Depends on our life experience, we determine if a receiving signal is familiar or strange. It mostly depends both on our individual life experience and what we used to receive normally in our society. So, if you are a chef or a musician, you have broader range of vocabulary for different sound and smell signals regardless of your social norms or accustomed senses.
Sound and smell and a cultural objects
Cultural objects are created by people. They are components of the human beings’ identity, individual and collective. They determine human communities’ history and are determined by it. Cultural objects are prints of memory, tracks of journey, sometimes strong, sometimes thin. Cultural objects, material or immaterial, have their origin, the reason of their existence, in the life conditions of a society, even in case they originate from certain persons, even in case they are created as a reaction to those life conditions.This project will focus on the role of sound and smell as cultural objects in urbanism; by investigating ways of assessing the multi-sensory quality of urban spaces to determine the effect of immigration on the Soundscape and Smellscape of the cosmopolitan metropolises like Berlin.
The roll of sound and smell in urbanism
A soundscape is a sound or combination of sounds that forms or arises from an immersive environment. The term soundscape also includes the listener's perception of sounds heard as an environment: "how that environment is understood by those living within it" and therefore mediates their relations. The term was originally coined by Michael Southworth, and popularized by R. Murray Schafer in 1960s.
Smellscape was first introduced by Douglas Porteous in parallel with the Shafer's soundscape concept. Porteous, describes the fragmented and space–time bounded human experience of places through smells, where the power of memory in perceiving smells was emphasized. the concept of smellscape suggests that, like visual impressions, smells may be spatially ordered or place-related. we breathe in the aromas which surround us without being consciously aware of their importance to us. Different odors are often ascribed to different social classes and ethnic groups in the West.
Urban life and the Sense of place
Cities are sensory, emotional experiences, for good and for bad. the city can overwhelm our senses. Places will be loved or hated depending on sensory cues. The sensory environment for an older person might be noisy or unsafe while too quiet or safe for someone young. The same differences can apply to people from different class and income backgrounds. Every city has its own sound atmospherics, even if too many are alike. On the other hand, smell can remind us sharply of a precise moment a very long way back. Smell is part of the signal world of nature.
The term sense of place is used to describe how someone perceives and experiences a place or environment. Different places can be experienced in different ways. Sense of place and belonging are strongly influenced by the groups someone interacts with such as age groups, racial groups, regional groups, educational groups, trade groups, religious groups.
Each city has a unique sound and smell due to its particular culture and model of life, which arises from the daily rituals performed by its citizens. The composition and variety of the production of these smells and sounds distinguish local varieties in the context of daily social customs.
Ethnicity is a grouping of people who identify with each other on the basis of shared attributes that distinguish them from other groups such as a common set of traditions, ancestry, language, history, society, culture, nation, religion or social treatment within their residing area.
Through time and space, under various civilizations and cultures, the built environments not only reflect our life-styles, but also delineate different social and political contexts. Therefore, culture is a significant component that embodies all kinds of human activities within the city, and represent the identity of the people in which they belonged.
Our sensory awareness is strongly manipulated in the world of shopping malls and destination marketing without an ethical aim. The purpose is for people to spend more so ‘nice’ smells and ‘good’ sounds direct and guide people.
Immigration and globalization
The history of human civilization is marked by migratory processes, by the movements of peoples and ideas from region to region. Migratory events due to various reasons reveal the cultural differences in urban environments. Humans change places voluntarily or involuntarily because of many factors, such as life struggle, wars, and diseases. The most intense city environments in which these translocations are observed are cities where many native and foreign individuals settle with the purposes of job, education, sheltering, and protection.
Every neighborhood has a particular smell and sound produced by their residents. Such variety has multiple roots, one of which is people’s immigration. They add smells and sounds to cities and neighborhoods that are distinguished from the structure of cities and the context of neighborhoods.
The most difficult form of this issue is immigration that is empty of such concepts. In terms of the evolution of contemporary music, if you are used to listening to classical music, atonality will be so annoying that you will not be able to continue listening. Immigration confuses the rules of life and olfactory and aural habits; thus; one has to find a way to accustom to these new customs to survive.
What are the influences of immigration on those personal and social interpretations that form a person’s identity? How much does it take for these new signals to mean home?
In order to survive, migrants have to find a way to get used to these new concepts.
Immigration rules that exclusion or inclusion migrants culture into their own society.
The sound and smell of a city form a large orchestra of its daily life, culture, and history; it is a symphony of strange things to establish the sense of place. The goal of this artistic research is to find the cultural origins of sounds and smells that represent different histories and cultures in a new form by immigration; like fingerprints, they are signals that reveal the hidden identity of cities. Collecting and analyzing these data and comparing them with the history of cities reveal changes that are some of the most consequences of the unavoidable phenomenon of immigration to megacities at the heart of history and the context of cultural studies.
For more information and details please check this presentation on Miro.com: