Perfumer Dino Kong Recreates the Scent of Beijing in Pollution Pods by Michael Pinsky

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When It Comes to Sustainability, We Won’t Accept the Status Quo

“Climate change is one of the most pervasive and threatening issues of our time, with far-reaching impacts in the twenty-first century,” observes the United Nations Environment Programme. In 2017, artist Michael Pinsky was commissioned by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), as part of Climart, to create Pollution Pods, with the support of BuildwithHubs, which explores how visual art affects viewer perceptions of climate change.

The Pollution Pods exhibit is at the forefront of large scale, immersive, interactive experiences, meant to be explored, provocative and Instagrammed as noted in the JWT’s Future 100: 2019 report which gathers disruptive currents into cultural forecasts.

Pioneers of the Senses 

We collaborated on the artwork, which is composed of five connected domes. Each pod represents a city and each takes visitors into a simulation of the pollution of five major cities, via scent, temperature and humidity, complete with an olfactory experience crafted by an IFF perfumer.

Aligned with IFF’s commitment to sustainability, it was not only an opportunity to build a bridge between art and science to help safeguard life on our planet but also an exciting way to push the boundaries of what is possible as pioneers of the senses. Each perfumer has a personal connection to the locations represented by the pods and they combined their local expertise with our proprietary palette of ingredients & technologies to create a realistic and vivid simulation of the air quality.

Discover Beijing by Dino Kong 

Dino Kong, a perfumer based in Shanghai, China, has spent numerous winters in Beijing. It is cold, dry and dusty, which combined with bad traffic makes the air rough in the throat. Additional elements are burning coal and sulphur. He made use of IFF’s Scentemotions research platform, which tags perfumery materials with moods and emotions by culture and demographic group. Making use of ingredients tagged ‘musty’ and ‘unhealthy’, he incorporated sulphuric-smelling elements from Cassifix and Tropicalia, together with guaiacol for smoke, and hay absolute to give a scratchy sensation.

Here’s what he told us:

His Inspiration 

I was very excited to be working on this project. I’ve been to Beijing since I was a child, many times. I love the city, but the pollution has gotten worse over the years. It’s getting much more crowded, with more people, more buildings, and more vehicles… There are coal, wood, lots of sulphuric smells, creating low visibility - the pollution is worst in winter. I tried to create this scent with an acid/sulfur/burnt wood combination, bringing a dry, scratchy, pungent feeling that expresses the unhealthy, musty air in Beijing during winter. 

His favorite Olfactive Memory 

My favorite olfactive/taste memory from Beijing can be traced back to my childhood. I like a traditional snack called “Fuling jiabing” (a ‘poria cocos ‘or fuling pancake, usually made from a mixture of the herbal plant and flour and stuffing). It tastes and smells like a combination of bitter, Chinese herbs with sweet syrup, rich flavor. 

How Can Pollution Pods Help? 

Pollution pods helps people to actually smell the scent of pollution, to feel the shock, within minutes, by moving through the pods, representing each place. It helps you realize the importance of protecting the environment. 

His Resolution 

My favorite part in this in project was having the opportunity to recreate the smell, unique to Beijing. And then, next to the scents from other cities, to get to smell them one by one, this was like travelling around the world. Globally, we are facing the same problem with pollution. It’s one Earth, one world, one home for us. We have to accelerate climate change action, to gather our efforts together for a better world. 

The Takeaway 

It was a honor for us to create the scents for Pollution Pods. We care about the environment and we are committed to sustainability and to creating an eco-friendly world.

The #PollutionPods Experience 

The art exhibit is currently on tour. Keep up with the latest news, events, dates and video here:

Follow the conversation on social media: #PollutionPods

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