Smelly socks tell story of cultural identity

12 Aug, 2010
Diana Burgoyne, artist in residnce at AUT's CoLab

Has the smell of sunscreen ever convinced you that there is sand between your toes?  If so, you have experienced synthetic synaesthesia, when one sensory experience triggers another “phantom” sensory experience.

Both Canadian artist Diana Burgoyne and New Zealand artist Raewyn Turner are fascinated by this phenomenon; they believe that exploring our sensory associations is another way to understand our cultural identity.

Burgoyne will be artist in residence at AUT University’s interdisciplinary creative technology centre, CoLab, in August.  While in Auckland she will complete two sensory exhibitions “Flap”and “ReSense” in collaboration with New Zealand artist Raewyn Turner. 

Flap features fifty jars with authentic human odours inside (courtesy of socks that have been well worn by New Zealanders and Canadians).  With flapping lids, the jars will create a variable rhythm while sporadically releasing the scents of New Zealanders and Canadians.  It is what happens next, when those smells and sounds meet the senses of exhibition visitors, which interests Turner and Burgoyne most.  In particular, they wonder what automatic associations each of us will experience, and what that will tell us about ourselves as New Zealanders and Canadians.

Burgoyne says Flap combines her strengths in performance art and electronics with Raewyn Turner’s research into the as-yet unsensed human plume; they are exploring what it means to be a New Zealander or a Canadian on a very human and social level.

An earlier sensory collaboration between the two artists will also show at MIC; ‘ReSense’ identifies many of the distinct shades of green found in New Zealand and Canada and allows visitors to experience those shades through synthetic fragrances created by New Zealand commercial perfumer Louise Crouch to match each of the colours.

“My contribution to both of these exhibitions with Turner is in the form of performance art and the mechanics of creating a “living” piece of art that engages the senses,” says Burgoyne.

“Flap builds on the work we did in ReSense, continuing our sensory exploration of nationhood at a more human, social level, by considering the powerful associations we make with authentic body odour.”

Burgoyne and Turner’s collaborative work will be exhibited in the new Interactive Suite facilitated by CoLab, and will later be moved into the Moving Image Center Gallery on Karangahape Road.

While she is at AUT, Burgoyne will also run public workshops on basic electronics, demonstrating basic circuits with fun techniques that include using “singing” zucchini as resistors. 

“I am interested in the intersection between science and art and I want to take people into the world of electronics in a playful way,” says Burgoyne.

During her residency Diana Burgoyne will give an artist talk and performance on the 27th August, 5-6pm at the ST PAUL St Gallery in association with the LIVE. REPEAT. PLAYBACK. Programme.

CoLab’s manager, Dawn Hutchesson says “We are very excited to have Diana resident here at CoLab to continue her collaboration with Raewyn.  Both are pioneering artists breaking down the barriers between art, science, technology and life – barriers which CoLab also seeks to make obsolete.”

What:      Re/Sense & Flap
When:    23 August – 3 September, CoLab Interactive Suite

3 September – 9 October, MIC Gallery

Contact:  Dawn Hutchesson, Manager, CoLab ph 09 921 9566

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