Some Q & A on Invisible White with students studying architect

Recently I receive a lot of questions from academic side - I am happy that many people study my works. I am answering them as much as I can.

• Could you briefly describe one of your favourite projects connected with smells? What were the reasons for using olfaction as a crucial way of perception?

Spatial questions

Invisible White

• Did you adapt your work to the space, or did you adjust the space to your work?

Yes and no. It was a collaboration project with an architect. The pavilion was temporarily installed in an office room of an office chair company Okamura

So the architect came up with an idea constucting a space made only with R(curves).  In the process I requested to make 3 inlets and 1 outlet.

• How many visitors could be the public of this project at a time? 

1 group.

• What size of the exhibition space did your project need? Leight/length/width? 

about 10m x 10m, height 2-3 m.

• Was one room enough? If not, what was the route?


• What means of smell spreading did you use?

Three different liquid fragrance at 15% solutions in solvents, a mixture of ethanol and DPG.

• Did you use several smells in one exhibition space? If yes, what means of separation did you use?

Yes.  I did not separate them.  I made use of the natural character of air turbulence that mixes up the fragrances.

Visual questions 

• What was the importance of visual perception in your work? Were there special visual conditions of the exhibition space necessary? What kind of interior design was preferable?

No visual perception was preferred, but literary totally darkness was not preferred.  To ensure audience move freely in the space, the sense of sight had to be active. So we made a small tiny hole in the end of the construction process. There was a slight natural light coming in from the end of the space to help audience locate themselves.

• Did the amount of light in the space influence the perception of your work?

Totally. BTW this tiny hole (5cm diameter) made somehow a shiny reflection in the space, somehow.  It happened without planning.  This reflection made the internal air look foggy, so it was a wonder. People asked us if we are making smogs, but we were not.  The fragrance was quite invisible. This effect made audience noticing smells better.

Climate questions
• What was the significance of temperature in your project?

Very important.  +- 23 degrees I prefer.

• What was the significance of the level of humidity in your project?

Very very important. 50-60 percent I prefer.  The museum condition is ideal.

• What was the significance of ventilation in your project?

This was something I did not have much control over, because we had to rely on the ventilation that the office space already had.  That is why I made only 1 outlet. 

Other senses questions
• What was the importance of other ways of perception in this project? Did you use music? Tactile models?

No, I prefer not.

• Would you like to give us advice on how to create a comfortable space for the exposure of odours?

That is a difficult question….
Off course a lot of exhaust option is ideal.  For example the exhausts are placed in grids and if you can switch on and off one by one, that would give us freedom.  
It also needs partitions that seals the space off course.  And the space size has to be flexible (sometimes artwork needs only tiny space, and it cannot be placed in any bigger space) so if partitions can be placed anywhere that would be fantastic.
And off course there needs automated door with air curtain(partition) that prevents odour to leak.

Off course temperature and humidity is important.

Cafe, bar, restaurant, WC and ticket counter or something like that have to be somehow outside of these space not to interfere each other.





For a while I will probably keep on posting about the great news: finally I have received the golden pear, the Sadakichi Award.  

I should explain an interesting story behind this work.  In the beginning of 2020 a curator from Bremen, Ingmar Lahnemann contacted me for the first time asking me to take a part in a big olfactory art exhibition he was planning.  Soon after that, the COVID started.  In a meanwhile I got an idea to make a new piece reflecting on the pandemic. (I don’t even remember what kind of work I was initially proposing).  We were both excited shaping this new work together, but the planning got delayed and the exhibition was postponed since the pandemic was getting more serious.

The exhibition was finally opening on May 7th in 2021, on my birthday.  However it had to start without any audience for a month.  EU was completely closed for the international travelers too, so I had to ship the fragrances by post, but it was a nightmare. It got delayed because there were fewer international flights.   And on top of that, the Japanese custom returned the package to me because the bottles were labeled “Viral Parfum” which they found very suspicious!  I prepared SDS papers and then claimed them as “fragrant paints for art exhibition” in order to get them through.

It was a strange feeling having a new work opening without having witnessing it, but I was trusting the team of the City Gallery in Bremen - and indeed it was taken care very well.  I managed to travel to Germany finally in August after vaccinations.

Covid changed our perspectives: everyone started to care about invisible particles floating in the air.   And we are the expert on that.  I do believe in olfactory art.  Congratulations to all the finalists, and artists who contribute to this art form.

I am really appreciating Saskia and the IAO team for shaping this olfactory art scene and making it visible!  Since the awards started I was not lonely anymore.  I’m very happy to have friends all over the world sharing inspirations.



Viral Parfum by Maki Ueda

Perfumer: Maki Ueda

Viral Parfum is an installation which uses six scent accords to represent the different mutations of the Coronavirus. Invisible except under blacklight, together the accords create the scent of white lily: a fragrance to mourn and honor the deaths caused by the novel coronavirus. Maki Ueda is an olfactory artist based in southern Japan.
Learn more at ueda.nl.


Production Instructions - Viral Parfum

- A standard white cubic space
- The size: +- 2m x 2m
- The entrance should be made with black textile curtain or PVC curtain that conceals the light from outside (= the space needs to be completely dark in the original state)
- The walls, the floor, the ceiling should be painted white
- There needs 2 pedestals (in white color): one is for showing the “master perfumes” to be located in the center of the room, and the other one is to be located by the entrance outside of the room or inside of the room, for “give-away perfumes”.

- The walls needs to be covered with some kind of materials for the perfumes to absorb (since it probably does not stay on the painted surface).  For example, a cotton textile to cover the area between +- 70cm to 170cm in height, to make it easier for kids to smell too.  The textile needs to be washed and ironed before setting it up, because when it's new it has textile glue on the surface for the lotus effect, and it would prevent absorbing the perfume. 

(example of the cotton textile)

- The small bottles are for give-away.  They are for the visitors to participate in the work and “decorate” the space freely as they want.  

- There will be 300 bottles in total, in 6 different colors (only visible when it’s dark) corresponding to the scents.  When they are together, it forms the scent of lily.

- The master perfumes are to be exhibited as the main objects of this installation, but they’re also meant for the museum staff to “decorate” the space regularly.  There will be 6 bottles in different colors (off course with different scents)

- These are to be exhibited in the center of the room.  They have to look “luxury” perfume with proper spot lighting.  

- They need to have vandalism proof. There is no grip to my eyes to tie them with wires.  An option could be to place them in a sort of “vitrine” or “glass showcase” with a lock, in stead of placing them on a pedestal.
Bottle Brand: Pochpack.


(1) There needs 4 times black lights, each stronger than at least 30W (the stronger the better), mounted to the ceiling or the wall, for projecting each walls.
(2) There needs 1 spotlight for the pedestal in the center.
(3) There needs 1 ambient light, mounted to the ceiling or the wall
(4) There needs 1 spotlight for the pedestal at the entrance (outside of the room).

(1) to (3) should be connected to a lighting controller which let the lights fade out and in individually, following certain program as follows:

Stage 1: only when the daylight is on: nothing visible but there's only smell. [duration: +- 1 min]

Stage 2: when the black light fades in and the daylight fades out, the spots become visible. [duration: +- 1 min]

Stage 3: when the black light fades out, you stand in the total darkness. [duration: +- 1 min] The spots would gradually lose the intensity, then the daylight fades in.

Repeat these 3 stages again.


Viral Parfum - What if coronaviruses were something you could smell and see? -

New installation to be exhibited in Bremen, Germany in May-July:

Viral Parfum 
- What if coronaviruses were something you could smell and see? - 

Maki Ueda 

Since the appearance of the new coronavirus, we try to avoid airborne viruses by ventilating the air, meeting people in places where droplets cannot reach us, wearing masks to protect ourselves, and washing off viruses that may have gotten on our hands. In order to learn more about the virus we have been trying to see and visualise the invisible viruses, often in laboratory settings.

I came to the idea that the way this virus spreads has similarities to the way scents spread. Scents also spread in the air, so I often pay attention to air convection and ventilation, I also wear a mask when working with strong fragrances, and when handling fragrances, I change my gloves frequently to prevent the scent from spreading to other bottles.

Here are some of the similarities that scents and coronaviruses share:
- They are both too small to be seen.
- They spread through the air.
- They are spread by adhesion
- They disappear over time.

In this exhibition, I use scents to represent the different mutations of the virus. Visitors may spray the "viral parfum" anywhere they like in the room. Other visitors can detect and recognise the scents to find out where the virus is attached. The virus is invisible under normal light, but is occasionally illuminated by using a black light.

There are six different types of viruses here, including mutations. Each of them has a different fragrance, and when combined, they create the scent of white lily. It is a fragrance to mourn and honour the deaths caused by the novel coronavirus.




Smells for the Paris Agreement

The Use of Smell for the Sense of Smell and Temperature in Art Installation

MAKI UEDA olfactoryart@gmail.com

In this paper I will describe an artwork that started from the simple question "Can smells contribute to solving the problem of global warming?". This work allows the viewer to experience the relationship between the sense of smell and the sense of temperature. I will explain the process of research and development from an olfactory artist's point of view. The project was indirectly commissioned by Mazda, a major Japanese car manufacturer.

Additional Keywords and Phrases: olfactory art, installation, the sense of temperature, the sense of smell, trigeminal nerves, global warming, Paris Agreement, SDG’s


Fragrance has been often used since ancient times as a tool to achieve certain goals, such as healing, seducing the opposite sex or creating a sense of luxury. I use scent for artistic expression, but I have always been wondering if it could be used more universally to help solve global and social problems.

Then, through an agent in Paris, I was asked to create a smell for the anniversary party of MAZDA EUROPE, a Japanese car manufacturer. I thought it would be interesting to do some research to see if smells could help stop global warming. For example, if smells can make us feel cooler, then on a hot day we might be able to smell them and cool down a bit: this would eventually reduce our energy consumption. Can smells be useful for the resilience of mankind? These are the questions I set out to answer.

This project started as a research-based art project, with no guaranteed outcome, but it was meaningful as a self-reflection from the automotive industry in a time when the SDG's are being questioned as a corporate benchmark.


The production was divided into four main parts. Let's look at them one by one.

2.1 Selectionoffragrancematerials

At first, I selected and compared the "warm" and "cool" fragrances known in the genealogy of perfumery.

Warm Fragrances:
- cinnamon

- sandalwood

- labdanum

- clove

Cool Fragrances:

- mint
- eucalyptus - lemon
- camphor

I observed how I felt when I smelled these fragrances, but I gradually lost track of what I was feeling. I couldn't get rid of the initial image I had been taught at the perfumery school.

Then I asked around my friends what scents made them feel warm, and there wasn’t much of a difference from the list above.

What I noticed is that when we say "warm scents", we generally mean "warm" in the sense that they evoke a warm image. For example, we say "warm" when a scent is associated with Christmas, such as cinnamon. It's a cultural interpretation. In other words, other cultures may have a different interpretation. Smelling the “warm” scent does not necessarily make you physically warmer (i.e. raise your body temperature).

However, we know from experience that it is good to drink ginger tea when we are cold. I should focus my research on such aspects: something about the body function.

Then I asked my friend Jas Brooks, a scientist, if there were such molecules that physically affects the sense of temperature. He referred me to a paper about chemosensory properties on the trigeminal system [1]. According to this paper, scent stimulates not only the sense of smell, but also the trigeminal nerve. As a stimulus, scent also has a complex effect on receptors for warmth, cold and pain.

I experimented composing fragrances with the materials listed in the paper.

Components of the Cooling Fragrance: - menthol

- eucalyptol
- thymol
- citral
- cinnamaldehyde 

- linalool

- methyl salicylate

Components of the Warming Fragrance: - black pepper

- camphor
- eugenol
- red chili extract (self-extracted) 

- methyl salicylate

Camphor [2], eugenol and methyl salicylate are both cold and warm sensitizers. It is therefore necessary to combine them with menthol for a cooling effect. This is similar to perfumery. For example, linalool has a warm tone when combined with a sweet fragrance, but a cool tone when combined with a clean fragrance. Depending on the combination and the balance of the ingredients, the characteristics of the fragrance will change. This is the magic of perception. This experience in perfumery has been used in the formulation of the fragrance.

As the fragrance is intended to be evaporated in space, I have tried to use mainly top notes. In addition, the fragrance was created in an abstract way, so as not to evoke a concrete scent, such as the scent of lemon.

2.2 Simulation by diffusing

The resulting fragrance was diluted to 50% with a solvent (DPG) and simulated by diffusing it in a room at home.

As it was in the middle of a very hot summer, I first tried to diffuse the "cooling fragrance" in our room. It did not feel as cool as I would have expected. It turns out that the menthol ingredient works best when the temperature is below 25 degrees Celsius. In Okinawa, where I live, the summer heat is particularly intense, but with the air conditioning turned up high I managed to get a cooling sensation. It was a direct coldness, not on the skin, but in the lungs and bronchial tubes. I felt cold, so I stopped the experiment.

Next, I tried to diffuse the "warming fragrance" into the room. I felt dusty, drowsy and took a nap. I woke up with a dry throat. Although it did not raise my body temperature, I thought that the fragrance might have a physiological effect of increasing blood flow and consequently my thirst.

2.3 Examination of the method of diffusion

In the past, I have made my own tools for spatial diffusion in my own installations, but recently in Japan, we have many very good products on the market. Several diffusers were considered.

(a) AROMORE (Tree of Life): compressor system

(b) AROMIC AIR (AROMIC STYLE): absorption and evaporation system by fan
After testing, I chose (a). The good thing about this product is that it does not always evaporate the fragrance at a constant rate, but sprays it instantaneously after a certain period of time. This takes into account the nature of the sense of smell, which is prone to olfactory fatigue if it is always evaporated at the same concentration. It

results in saving on fragrances and increasing the intensity of perception.

2.4 Creating spaces

In order to design the space, the following requirements were made to the organizer in Paris from the point of view of space perception and the function of fragrances.

To create two rooms, a "Warmer Room" and a "Cooler Room", so that visitors can move back and forth between them and compare their experiences.
The two rooms are identical in shape. The two rooms are the same shape and are located next to each other.

The temperature and humidity of the two rooms should always be the same. (with some kind of controller, such as a portable air conditioner).
The space needs to be perceived as a closed space. i.e. the visitor should be able to feel that the space is filled with fragrances and that their whole body is immersed in them.

The space should not be too big or too small, and should be able to accommodate two or three people at the same time.
The space should be airtight so that the scent can be trapped and people can enter and leave easily by means of curtains.

The two rooms will be constructed of transparent materials so that the reactions of the people inside can be seen from the outside.
The floor will be covered with artificial grass and the grass will be sprayed with a fragrance.

The organizer in Paris has prepared a small green house made of plastic material. The entrance is covered with a PVC curtain.

Figure 1: The final installation setup

Figure 2: The final installation setup in drawing

Figure 3: A spectator in the Cooler Room (left) and in the Warmer Room (right)


Opened to the public on 15-16 September 2020, the exhibition was unfortunately not viable during the day, as the venue was directly affected by the extreme weather conditions of 37°C during the day. By the time the temperature dropped after sunset, we were able to maintain the temperature in the green house at around 25°C, which was ideal for the experience. Due to the spatial characteristics of the venue, the Cooler Room was always a degree higher than the Warmer Room, but everyone was surprised to find that the Warmer Room felt warmer.

In the Cooler Room we received the following reactions: It's like being in a forest. Moisturizing.
It feels good. I feel refreshed.

In the Warmer Room, we received the following reactions: The temperature is lower here, but it feels warmer. I feel like I'm in the desert.
It smells like a campfire.

It reminds me of a dry sauna, dry wood and cork.

Itchy throat.
This work seems to have offered "warm" and "cold" sensations that is pretty much common to all human

beings. It is interesting to note that the smell evokes a sense of "humidity", which in turn is perceived as a perception of "temperature".


Jas Brooks for generous advises. Mazda Europe and 48 Nord Paris for commissioning the project.


  1. [1]  Félix Viana. 2010. Chemosensory Properties of the Trigeminal System.

  2. [2]  Tomohiko Kotaka, Shoji Kimura, Makoto Kashiwayanagi, Jun Iwamoto. 2014. Camphor induces cold and warm sensations with increases in skin and muscle blood flow in human