When it comes to assessing intelligence, I am much more comfortable claiming membership with the group that asks, "How are you intelligent?" than I am with the group that asks, "How intelligent are you?" Working across disciplines as an artist and teaching at colleges and universities since my early twenties has introduced me to many brilliant people who possess intelligences that manifest in demonstrably different ways. Some people are masterful with language. Some people are good with numbers. Some people possess the spatial or kinesthetic awareness of an architect or a dancer. Some people possess a profound empathy for others' experience. (These people's intelligence astounds me the most.) All of this is to say that when I begin creating a new artwork, there is a point in the process at which I must reconcile what I know (or could possibly hope to know) with what must be known in order to complete the project. In many cases, the next step requires me to find people with complementary knowledge bases and convince them to work with me.
Dave Ghilarducci is a great example of someone who is brilliant in ways I could only hope to be adequate. While I was goofing off with the jesters at UCSD Dave was boning up under the instruction of Nobel Laureates at the University of Chicago. He is an engineer with the spatial awareness of a sculptor. I was at his electronics lab this week and noticed that even his trash was organized.
The takeaway here is that Dave has worked with me on a number of projects that involve transmitting scent into interior spaces. Smells don't respect spatial boundaries, which makes them difficult to control. Dave is currently working with me to create an electronic system capable of delivering scents to coincide with spoken word narratives. It's akin to a DJ cutting from one record to another in real time. That is, if the sound from the first record continued to echo even after you cut away from it.
Our solution involve Arduinos, solenoids and a bunch of other stuff to pump low doses of dry, scented air into the noses of a captive audience. We will be testing this out on November 28th and 29th at San Diego Writers, INK space at Liberty Station. These will be the first preview events for Olfactory Memoirs, my long term transmedia project exploring narrative and olfaction. Seating will be limited, so email me soon if you would like to join us.