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Scent, Memory, and Technology in Post-Digital Age

Interview with Yuqing Liu


1.      Please tell us something about your background and your art journey so far.


Hello, I’m Yuqing Liu, an olfactory interaction artist. My cultural and artistic background is deeply rooted in exploring the symbiotic relationship between scent, memory, and technology. Originally from China, I am currently based in London, where I continue to expand my artistic horizons.




2.      Describe what a normal day looks like as an artist.


Each day in my studio is a blend of creative exploration and meticulous planning. My mornings often begin with reviewing notes and sketches from the previous day, allowing these initial ideas to simmer as I prepare for the day ahead. The bulk of my time is dedicated to hands-on experimentation with scents and technology, crafting and refining the scent compositions that form the core of my installations. This tactile process is interspersed with periods of research and digital work, where I delve into the latest advancements in olfactory science and interactive art. Evenings are reserved for reflection and conceptual development, sketching out new ideas and contemplating the emotional narratives I aim to weave through my art.



3.      Can you tell us more about the theme in your art and your inspiration?


At the heart of my art lies the intricate dance between olfaction and memory, a theme inspired by the personal ordeal of witnessing my grandfather's memory fade. This deeply personal catalyst drove me to delve into the underexplored sensory realm of scent in art, aiming to encapsulate the ephemeral nature of memory and emotion. My installations are not just sensory experiences but emotional journeys that invite the audience to uncover their own hidden recollections, bridging personal and collective narratives through the universal language of scent.

I stay inspired by constantly learning about new technologies. I think scent is not used enough in advanced tech like virtual and mixed reality. My goal is to use smell to unlock deep memories and feelings. I see a future where technology engages all our senses, making our experiences and memories richer.




4.      How does your art life impact other parts of your life?


My art deeply intertwines with how I experience life, where even the simplest moments can spark creativity. For example, walking through London's alleys on a rainy day, I'm captivated by the sensory dance of sights and smells. The dampness in the air, mixed with the urban scent of wet concrete, and the way buildings and lights shimmer in puddle reflections, all feed into my art. Such moments remind me of how water carries and reflects memories, fragile yet profound. This observation of the world around me is not just a passing thought; it's the foundation of my creative process, where everyday experiences are transformed into the unique material for my olfactory art.



5.      Could you share any difficulties and hardships you had to face in life and how or if you managed/overcame them?


In my life and art, a significant challenge is the ephemeral nature of scents and the unpredictability of olfactory memories, which vary widely among individuals. Similar to how AI is used to create images and videos, my work with scents to evoke experiences is inherently uncertain. My approach involves extensive trial and error, using various materials and technologies to stabilize scents and ensure they complement the visual aspects of my installations. I've developed a unique method for olfactory interaction art, continually refining it based on audience feedback. Despite the challenges, the process of overcoming them and incorporating new ideas and technologies is rewarding, fueling my passion for pushing the boundaries of my creative practice.



6.      Tell us about your best experience in the art world so far.


My best experience in the art world has been observing the powerful and varied emotional responses that my scent-based installations evoke. Integrating technology to transcend traditional visual art boundaries allows me to tap into the deeply personal and unpredictable nature of olfactory memories. It's truly rewarding to see how a single scent can evoke shared memories for some while stirring completely different emotions in others, highlighting the subjective and profound connection we have with scents. This fascinating range of reactions underscores the essence of my work: creating art that fosters unique, personal experiences and connections, making each interaction a meaningful and cherished part of my artistic journey.


7.      What practical advice can you give to fellow artists?


Embrace the unique voice that your personal experiences and cultural background bring to your art. Don't shy away from exploring unconventional mediums and interdisciplinary approaches, as these can open up new avenues for expression and connection. Remember, the challenges and uncertainties you face in your creative process are not roadblocks but catalysts for growth and innovation. Stay true to your vision, be open to learning, and never underestimate the impact of your art on the world.




8.      Is the artist life lonely? Please share your thoughts and experiences.


For me, the act of creating can indeed be solitary, demanding extensive periods of deep engagement with my projects, learning new techniques, experimenting with materials, crafting scents, and iterating methods. It might seem that I don't have much time for social interactions, but I relish the moments when I present my meticulously crafted pieces to an audience. Their reactions, feedback, and the emotions, feelings, and insights my work evokes in them are profoundly rewarding. I enjoy engaging in vibrant discussions with viewers about my creative concepts, absorbing their diverse perspectives, or even sparking new inspirations. In those moments of showcasing my work and sharing ideas, I don't feel lonely; instead, I feel my mind enriched and often find myself inspired by the unexpected insights people offer.



9.  What are you working on at the moment and are there any upcoming events you would like to talk about?

 

Currently, I'm gearing up for an exciting nationwide project in the UK set for 2024. The project's goal is to collect and catalog olfactory memories from various communities across multiple cities. This ambitious initiative seeks to enrich my scent memory archive by capturing the distinct olfactory experiences and memories of individuals from diverse cultural and social backgrounds. Through gathering these unique scent samples and their accompanying stories, I aim to enhance the depth and variety of my archive. This, in turn, will serve as a crucial foundation for my future projects in creating immersive olfactory narratives. This project is not just about expanding the boundaries of my olfactory art; it's also about highlighting the unique and shared scent experiences that paint the rich mosaic of life across the UK.



Yuqing Liu

Social media (Ins): @Ellieliu84

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