Week 5: Researching My Project

I have decided that I am very keen on creating a multi-sensory experience installation for my final project – with or without a group.

For this to happen I need to engage at least 2 senses, but ideally, I’d like to engage 3-4.

There are the so-called “5 senses” that we are all taught from birth:

Sight, Hearing, Smell, Touch, and Taste.

The obvious senses that I would appeal to would be sight and hearing. Touch would be the next step – and then perhaps even smell. I believe with the time and physical constraints however, it would be a bit hard to incorporate taste effectively.

So how do we engage with the senses?

I believe the easiest sense to engage with is sight – it is the foundation of art, after all. There is the colour theory that dictates the mixing of colours to create harmonious effects – which colours go well and which ones clash, for example.

The basic colour wheel

Then there is colour psychology to consider – which colours and colour combinations can combine to evoke certain thoughts, feelings, associations and memories.

A more complex graph that also includes basic colour psychology

In basic colour psychology, the following colours mean the following things:

  • Yellow: Positivity, light, warmth, creativity, motivation.
  • Orange: Vitality, fun, playfulness, exuberancee, youthfulness.
  • Red: Aggression, energy, provocativeness, passion, power.
  • Purple: Royalty, sophistication, nostalgia, mystery, spirituality.
  • Pink: Tenderness, sensitivity, friendship, beauty, compassion.
  • Blue: Trustworthiness, dependability, security, integrity, calmness.
  • Green: Wealth, health, serenity, prestige, abundance.
  • Brown: Earthiness, natural, simplicity, durability, rustic.
  • Black: Prestige, value, timelessness, sophistication, formality.
  • White: Pure, noble, clean, soft, freshness
  • Gold: Elegance, affluence, quality, elite, idealistic.
  • Gray/Silver: Scientific, balance, calm, maturity, cold.

The source for this is quite a fantastic read in itself; although there are flaws – in particular, cultural ones. For example, colours in different countries can mean different things – red in western culture may symbolise passion or aggression – in Chinese culture, it is the colour of luck.

Moving on to sound – sound is a great way to evoke certain feelings – such is the theory of music. Beautiful melodies can evoke feelings of gaiety, and carelessness. Harsh shrieking tones may evoke fear responses – common in soundtracks to horror films; while high pitched notes held for a period of time with harmonies in minor tones emit an overall feeling of melancholy or sadness.

Let’s for one moment divert from these theories and look at how I could apply them to my own work, though.

For example – I will create an immersive, intimate scene of a warm, sunny afternoon at a beach. Here’s how I would do this in a single room with a single projection screen with no images, which the senses engaged.

Close your eyes and imagine yourself on a beautiful, calm beach, surrounded by white sand…

Sight: Lights firstly – shine the lights on the screen and use the colour yellow for warmth. The brighter the light, the warmer it will ‘feel’ to look at – we wouldn’t want the light to be too bright or it will feel too harsh and look hot, instead of the relaxing warmth we’d want. The ground could be blue.

Sound: create a soundscape with stereo speakers or even surround sound – being sure to create a “3 dimensional” space by engaging with each speaker in production of the sound. Having the sounds of rolling, gentle waves emerging from the front speaker, with perhaps the sound of a gentle breeze blowing from behind. Throw in the occasional gull, perhaps moving from the left rear speaker, to the right front speaker. This places the audience into an immersive space in their head.

Smell: Here’s where it gets tricky. When I go to a beach I smell salt and seaweed. The most obvious way to recreate these smells is to bring the source into the location – however this isn’t always practical! Perhaps a small amount could be placed into a box, and we would direct the audience to go into close proximity to the source.

Feel: There are a few ways to approach this, too – lay a tarp or large box down and cover it with sand, for example, and instruct the audience ember to step inside without shoes. However, this may also not be practical. In this example, the most obvious approach to me would be to have a fans circulating around the room (perhaps in front of the salt) to imitate the ocean breeze.

Taste: For this example, I would not deliberately go about engaging with taste, however the effect of tasting the salty air may coincidentally be achieved by combining the fans in front of the salt.

Faiyaz Hussain and Kelly Nicholson’s work for their final MEDA302 project on display at the DMC. Photo credit: Paul Jones

I have attached the above photograph of the final work of two friends of mine for MEDA302. The installation consisted of balls of ice suspended by fishing wires and frozen on to fishing hooks with a light in the corner and a candle suspended in the centre. The work was over a tarp which had salt spread on it during the UoW Grad Show Out There (2016). I have included this work as an example of the above; I remember that upon being present for this installation, one of the first things to hit me was the very strong smell of the salt on the floor. As I recall, they sourced the salt from bags of pool salt. It was so thick in the air that you could almost taste it on your tongue!

Of course that is just an example of how I would approach one single project; I have not yet decided on which feelings I’d like to evoke, or how. All I know is the general area that I would like to work in, and what general concept I’d like to approach.

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