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



Online Scent Extraction Wokshop at BlueCity Symbiosis Festival, Rotterdam

Date: 29-11-2020
Host: BlueCity Rotterdam  https://www.bluecity.nl/

It took place via Zoom - so all the participants followed the workshop at home.

I extracted "papaya flowers" myself with Japanese vodka "Shochu".


The catalogue "Olfactory Games" is ready to order

Finally the catalogue is ready to order: "Olfactory Games 2009-2018" by Maki Ueda | Blurb Books. It contains 45 works made by the students in my course on olfactory art. Curatorial text contributed by Caro Verbeek. Appreciating all the students participated in my class. (The book price is purely the printing cost - you can order one globally from the nearest Blurb distributor)


Scent Extraction Workshop (remote) at de Willem de Kooning Academy, Rotterdam, 2020


Dates: Oct 14-16, 2020
Class: Digital Craft
Lecturer: Ivan Henriques


Thank you Ivan for supporting us!

Scents extracted:

[the 3rd year]
pencil shavings
fake leather
muffin skin
apple skin
potato chips
peanut butter

[the 4th year]
bay leaves
leather shoes
baked bread
antique book
ginseng candy
banana leaf


Maki Ueda – Du Kôdô à l’art olfactif

 Maki Ueda – Du Kôdô à l’art olfactif

L’odorat, sens un peu ”oublié”, est remis au goût du jour par l’attrait actuel pour l’invisible et l’éphémère. La Japonaise Maki Ueda a fait de l’odeur son médium de prédilection. Elle est devenue une des références internationales de l’art olfactif contemporain émergent.
Partant de là, la créatrice s’est intéressée au Kôdô cet art japonais qui consiste à humer l’encens issu de bois précieux. Elle s’est rapidement affranchie du protocole instauré par les maîtres du Kôdô. Elle a repris en revanche à son compte, leur goût pour la performance et le jeu. Dans son œuvre, cette globe-trotteuse formée aux sciences de l’environnement, s’appuie autant sur les pratiques des arts numériques que sur celles, ancestrales, de la parfumerie de Grasse ou de Delhi.

Très vite, son approche multiculturelle et avant-gardiste de l’odorat, impose la jeune artiste auprès des milieux artistiques du monde entier. Cette pionnière de l’olfaction – qui se partage entre le Japon et les Pays-Bas – est rapidement sollicitée pour la mise en place de performances. Celles-ci mêlent danse, théâtre, musique et arts graphiques.

Les fragrances qu’elle compose, n’utilisent que des produits naturels. Elle va se former à Grasse pour mieux comprendre l’extraction naturelle du parfum. En 2014, elle décide de rejoindre Aastha, l’héritière d’une lignée d’artisans parfumeurs, de Kannauj, dans le nord de l’Inde. Cette dernière lui fera découvrir les secrets de l’Attar, une méthode de distillation à l’huile – et non à l’alcool, comme elle se pratique en Occident – vieille de 5 000 ans !

Ce qui m’intéresse dans l’art olfactif, aujourd’hui, c’est l’expérience immersive, la perte de repère et l’idée même du mouvement », résume Maki Ueda. A l’occasion du lancement de MX-30, Maki Ueda propose une expérience olfactive exclusive en référence aux accords de Paris sur le climat.

Elle convie les participants à s’interroger sur l’odeur du réchauffement climatique. Cette installation, travail de laboratoire sur les sens, l'odorat et la température, tente de répondre à ces questions. Maki Ueda présente ici deux structures indépendantes maintenues à la même température. L'une diffuse des odeurs qui agissent sur les sens froids et l'autre des odeurs qui agissent sur les sens chauds. Les visiteurs se promènent entre ces deux espaces.

L’artiste suggère à l’utilisateur d’utiliser les odeurs du froid pendant les périodes chaudes et les odeurs du chaud quand il fait froid. Nous pourrons peut-être ainsi gagner en résilience grâce aux odeurs et réduire notre consommation d'énergie.

Les substances aromatiques agissent non seulement sur notre nez, mais aussi sur nos poumons, nos yeux et nos muqueuses. « Lorsque je teste un parfum froid, mes poumons sont froids, même lors d’une journée d'été très chaude et humide. L'odeur chaude a rendu ma gorge chaude. Les substances aromatiques sont absorbées par les glandes sudoripares ainsi que par les muqueuses. Les odeurs peuvent même agir sur les sensations froides et chaudes de cette manière, même si elles ne sont pas reconnues comme des odeurs ».

Pour cette recherche Maki Ueda a travaillé avec Jas Brooks, un scientifique et artiste de l'Université de Chicago.

(writtey by Natacha Ami, the curator of 48 Nord Paris)

Artist Statement

Artist Statement

Smells for the Paris Agreement, premier at Mazda 100 years anniversary
[Artist Statement]
I am deeply grateful to Mazda and the agent for inviting me here and commissioning my new work.
I have been working in the Netherlands as an olfactory artist since 2005. I am now considered to be one of the most prominent artists in this particular field of contemporary art.
This work is an epidemic in my long career.  This is because it is the first time I have tackled the social problem as global warming.
Climate change is a serious global problem. Why is it so hot in Paris in the middle of September? 
What can we do about it with smells?  For example, can we change the way we feel hot and cold with olfaction? This  question was my starting point.
The title of the work is: Smells for the Paris Agreement.
I am diffusing a cooling fragrance and a warming fragrance, made with scientific data, in each of two spaces that are controlled to have the same temperature.
You are all witnesses and test subjects for this little experiment.
I asked a young scientist Jas Brooks from Chicago University for advice which molecules to use. I also read the paper regarding trigeminal nerves and transient receptor potential(TRP), the receptors related to temperature.
What was fascinating to me was that, like perfumery, it's important to have a balance between the components.  Some components can be both cooling and warming. Methyl Salicylate is a good example.  This is a common scent used in a cold and a warm patch.  When combined with black pepper, it works for warmth, and when combined with eucalyptol or menthol, it works for coolness.
The following components were used in the final composition.  They are mostly Synesthetic:
{The Cooling Fragrance}
methyl salicylate

{The Warming Fragrance}
Black pepper
Red Chili Extract (self extracted)
Methyl Salicylate
Interestingly, linalool, eugenol and cinnamaldehyde, which I used for a cooling fragrance, are considered “warm scents” in perfumery.  This is where science and art differ.  In this work, I faithfully followed the science.
It's also interesting to note that Menthol, the heart of a cooling fragrance, only works at temperatures below 25 degrees Celsius.  Today, it's hard to get below 25, so it's possible that the cooling room isn't working properly.  I wasn't expecting it to get this hot... climate change.
In my own experiment I found that my throat was dry in the warm room.  Yesterday's guest described its dry feel as "cork-like".
My lungs were cold in the cold room, and I also felt cold where I sweated.
Smells are absorbed by the body through mucous membranes and sweat glands, even if we don't feel they are smells.  Enjoy the intersection of the senses of smell and touch.


Title: Smells for the Paris Agreement

Here is the new installation I am going to present in Paris on the 15th & 16th of Sep.

Title: Smells for the Paris Agreement

Does a smell make you feel cooler or warmer? This installation is a laboratory-like work on the senses of smell and temperature, inspired by this question. Two independent compartments are kept at the same temperature. One of them is a diffusion of a group of smells that are said to act on the cold senses, and the other is a diffusion of a group of smells that are said to act on the warm senses. The participants were asked to move back and forth between the two spaces to confirm the effect of the diffusion. 

If you can feel cooler in the "cool room", you can actively use those smells in the hot summer, or you can use the smells in the "warm room" when it's cold. We may be able to gain resilience through smells and reduce our energy consumption. 

Aromatic substances work not only on our noses, but also on our lungs, eyes and other mucous membranes. In fact, when I was testing a cold scent, my lungs felt cold, even though it was a very hot and humid summer day. The warm scent made my throat hot. Aromatic substances are absorbed through the sweat glands as well as the mucous membranes. Smells can even work on cold and warm sensations in this way, even if they are not recognized as smells. 

For this research, I received some general advice from Jas Brooks, a scientist and artist at the University of Chicago.I also benefited from the "Smell, taste, & temperature symposium" which he is leading. This area seems to be still unknown even to scholars. Regarding the effects of specific aromatic substances on the trigeminal system, I referred to the article "Chemosensory Properties of the Trigeminal System" by Félix Viana. 

Maki Ueda