Sensory storytelling - Food, smell and physical confinement as storytelling tools.

It’s not a new concept to think of food as theatre, with a three act structure and a sweet and happy ending, but I’m thinking about this because last night I was at a lovely pop-up restaurant by Collage. Some chefs, waitresses and catering professionals put on a three course meal, plus canapes, cocktails, art and music evening in my garden and studio. No narrative, but a great way to bring people together in an episodic structure. Quite inspiring. As was the recent The Guild of Cheesemakers by the Stand and Stare Collective, a theatre event based around a cheese and wine tasting and a wonderful interactive story about immortality.

I love the idea of taste being used as a storytelling tool. Or smell. Hazel Grain and Darius Pocha of Moksha recently made  Sculpting With Scent - a story told with scent and audio. They “created a romantic cinematic experience inspired by scenes from Lost In Translation. This included the smell of the bar in the Park Hyatt Hotel Tokyo, the traffic in the heat, a Takai fish restaurant and a hug from Bill Murray.” Each part of the story is associated with a smell and exploits the power of scent to create emotional associations. 

In magic-tree (2001) I tried to engage all the senses in a digital project by sending out a package that had a scent and contained chocolate twigs. 

Mike Nelson - I, Impostor, 2011

Above Mike Nelson,  I, Impostor, 2011

I love the installations of Mike Nelson that re-create abandoned shacks, offices and bedrooms or the Totes Haus u r of Gregor Schneider - another abandoned house, with atmosphere generated by the objects, sometimes recognisable, sometimes abstracted. I consider these sensory installations. They use smell explicitly as the objects often emanate a mustiness or, as above. the smell of developer is overpowering. You may even have to squeeze through narrow gaps or into confined spaces. These can be works you experience through your whole body.

The pop-up restaurant was interesting because of the natural structural affinity between a meal with it’s multiple courses and theatre with its multiple acts. Also because in a similar way to theatrical productions breaking out of the theatre, the food industry is taking the restaurant experience out into the world. There is a cultural need at the moment to displace experiences into new surroundings. Food becomes an experience rather than an activity. Food and narrative, hmmm - food for thought.

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Rik Lander

Rik Lander makes interactive and participatory narratives. Website

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