You Can Soon Smell, Taste, and Hear These 20th Century Paintings

London's Tate Britain museum has created an immersive art experience which aims to stimulate all the senses, not just sight.

by Kevin Holmes
Aug 5 2015, 2:15pm

Francis Bacon, Figure in a Landscape, 1945 Oil on canvas frame: 1628 x 1464 x 120 mm support: 1448 x 1283 mm Purchased 1950 © Tate

Starting later this month at Tate Britian in London,  you'll be able to taste, hear, and smell (and see, of course) four 20th century paintings from the museum's collection. Called Tate Sensoriumthe exhibition is the brainchild of creative agency Flying Object, who got the chance to implement it as winners of the second annual IK Prize 2015. The prize, which last year saw public-controlled robots roaming the museum at night, encourages innovative technological ways for the public to engage with artworks in the Tate's collection.

Tate Sensorium takes place in one of the galleries in the museum, and visitors will be limited to four at a time as they partake in the immersive experience. The works include John Latham's Full Stop which will use sound and touch—touch, in the form of "touchless haptics" from firm Ultrahaptics, who create "tactile sensations in mid-air." For this, it will involve speakers pumping out ultrasound causing vibrations on visitors' hands—a nod to Latham's art taking inspiration from scientific concepts.

Richard Hamilton, Interior II, 1964 Oil, cellulose paint and collage on board support: 1219 x 1626 mm frame: 1425 x 1830 x 100 mm Purchased 1967 © The estate of Richard Hamilton

Richard Hamilton’s Interior II will involve visitors being able to smell a perfume from the 1940s, the decade from which the image of the actress featured in the picture, Patricia Knight, is from. For David Bomberg’s In the Hold, an abstract piece which takes inspiration from dockers working on the hull of a ship, people will be able to hear and smell the sounds of a pre-World War I dockyard, including the aroma of paint. 

John Latham, Full Stop, 1961 Acrylic on canvas support: 3015 x 2580 x 40 mm Presented by Nicholas Logsdail and Lisson Gallery, London 2005 © The estate of John Latham (noit prof. of flattime), courtesy Lisson Gallery, London

The last painting is Francis Bacon's Figure in a Landscape. Known for his visceral work, the sensory-enhanced display of this piece will feature a bewildering mix of tastes, smells (including chocolate), and sounds. The idea is to confound and play with visitors' senses, reflecting the various ways the painting can be interpreted.

The audio in the various works will use directional sound so only those within certain distances can hear it and it won't bleed into the other experiences. And if they choose to, visitors will also be given the option to have their own physiological reactions to the works recorded. This comes in the form of a wristband which measures electrodermal activity, recording how much you're sweating to determine if you're excited by the augmented exhibits or not. 

David Bomberg, In the Hold circa 1913-4 Oil on canvas support: 1962 x 2311 mm frame: 1995 x 2355 x 63 mm Presented by the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1967 © Tate

"The default way of seeing art nowadays is in a sterile, silent experience in a gallery, just you and the painting looking at it and thinking," says Tom Pursey, co-founder of Flying Object. "But actually a lot of these works weren't created in that kind of environment nor were they initially displayed in it. So we want to really use this palate of the senses as a way of encouraging people to think about the art in a whole new kind of way."

Tate Sensorium is on at Tate Britain from August 26 to September 20, 2015. Click here for more information.

Via The Independent


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Tate Britain
francis bacon
iK prize
Richard Hamilton
David Bomberg
IK Prize 2015
John Latham
Tate Sensorium