Balboa Stories at SDAI / by Brian Goeltzenleuchter

Balboa Stories is an art walk which uses locative media, olfactory art, digital audio and printed ephemera to take the participant on a narrative journey through Balboa Park. 

Charmaine Banach and I asked San Diegans if they had smell memories of Balboa Park - the sense of smell being a powerful memory trigger. The stories they were told are intimate, and often strange, slices of life: a perverse sports injury, a blissed-out drug trip, a romantic tryst gone awry. As opposed to taking a historical tone these stories are more like something you overhear at a bar - "fish stories” and "shaggy dog stories.” Charmaine and I tried to preserve the stories’ spoken word form by digitally recording the narrative as told by the person who experienced it.

The smell map leads the participants to various sites around this iconic San Diego park, where participants may use their smart phones to scan a QR code to hear the story that took place at that site. All the stories involve smells that we recreated and which are available to sample in the museum. In the museum participants can smell the smells, which at that moment are devoid of any context. Then they grab a map and go exploring Balboa Park to hear the story told on site. Once onsite they must reconstruct the smell memory, because they no longer have direct access to the smell.