Scent in Cinema Series

Olfactory art, in particular scented cinema, has consistently been the brunt of dismissive humor. The “Scent in Cinema” series seeks to present works of scented cinema and provide critical discussions of this medium. The events include a virtual screening with mailed scratch and sniff cards followed by a moderated panel discussion with experts in the field. This event is meant to (1) increase enthusiasm about the study and creation of olfactory arts; (2) cultivate better sensory understanding of and critical engagement with smell; and (3) provide connections across several fields.

01: A Tale of Old Whiff (1960)

Recording of introduction and panel discussion for the A Tale of Old Whiff installment, featuring panelists Professor Leslie Kay, Professor Catherine Clepper, Professor Scott Wolniak, and Tammy Burnstock as well as surprise guests Dr Nadia Berenstein and Neal Harris.

The event occured on Friday, December 4th, 2020, and featured: over 230 registrations across 20 countries and 130 live attendees. This installment was made possible thanks to the support of the University of Chicago Graduate Council and Cinerama Inc! This was additionally co-organized with the brilliant Tammy Burnstock!

Whiff pointing to the scratch and sniff cards mailed to attendees.

About the short animation

The short animation stars Whiff, a bloodhound put to work by an intrepid detective to sniff out a museum’s stolen dinosaur bone worth $100,000.00. One small problem… Whiff can’t smell anything, but luckily the audience can.

The cartoon accompanied Mike Todd Jr.’s Scent of Mystery in its original theatrical release in 1960. This first scented animation originally featured 15 unique odors, delivered to each seat by Swiss inventor Hans Laube’s ‘Smell Brain’. A long lost print, only recently discovered, has been restored and re-mastered by David Strohmaier. Tammy Burnstock, Michelle French (FrenchBaker), Missy Whitaker (Print-A-Scent), and Neal Harris (Scentevents) collaborated to create a scratch and sniff card featuring 8 odors, including hot dog, dinosaur bone, and a complex field of flowers.

Panelist bios

Leslie Kay, University of Chicago

Bio: Leslie Kay (US) is a Professor of Psychology and has been at the University of Chicago since 2000. Her laboratory studies olfactory and limbic system neurophysiology, focusing on the mechanisms and functions associated with intra- and inter-regional oscillatory cooperativity. Kay did her dissertation research in the laboratory of Walter J. Freeman at the University of California, Berkeley, and received her PhD in Biophysics in 1995. She then did her postdoctoral research in the laboratory of Gilles Laurent at the California Institute of Technology, where she studied olfactory bulb mitral cell responses to changes in odor context.

Faculty Page | Kay Lab | Google Scholar Profile

Catherine Clepper, Rutgers University

Bio: Catherine Clepper (US) is an Assistant Professor of Practice at Rutgers University’s P3 Collaboratory. Clepper received her PhD in Screen Cultures from Northwestern University and wrote her dissertation The Rigged House: Gimmickry, Exhibition, and Embodied Spectatorship in Mid-Century American Movie-Going (2016) on mid-century, multi-sensory cinematic gimmicks such as Smell-O-Vision!, AromaRama, and Sensurround. Clepper additionally works as a research consultant for The Interviews: An Oral History of Television (formerly the Archive of American Television).

Academia Profile | Google Scholar Profile

Tammy Burnstock, Scented Storytelling

Bio: Tammy Burnstock (AU) is a writer, director, immersive event producer, and scented storyteller. Experience in the screen-based industry includes 12 years in the Children’s department of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), where Tammy originated and executive produced the award-winning online gateway The Playground. Since her film school thesis Attempts to Record Smell for the Cinema (1986), Tammy’s twin fascination with scent and cinema continues. Recently she initiated the ground-breaking olfactory restorations of the first (and last) Smell-O-Vision! films Scent of Mystery and A Tale of Old Whiff. Scent of Mystery (1960) was presented in participatory ‘Smell-O-Vision!’ for the National Science and Media Museum in Bradford, UK, for the Danish Film Institute in Copenhagen, and for the TCM Classic Film Festival in Hollywood. Most recently, she co-directed and produced In-Glorious Smell-O-Vision!, a scented documentary film that sheds light on the technology’s history and its inventor Hans Laube.

Scented Storytelling | In-Glorious Smell-O-Vision!

Scott Wolniak, University of Chicago

Bio: Scott Wolniak (US) is a multidisciplinary artist, teacher, and occasional curator based in Chicago. Working in a variety of media including drawing, sculpture, and animation, his work uses humor and phenomenology to present everyday life within a cosmic context. Wolniak utilizes the open-ended theoretical models of landscape and the artist’s studio to produce relational works, which range from opulent fields to cartoonish figuration. Wolniak began his teaching career at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2002. Since then, he has taught across media, developing curriculum for classes such as Conceptual Drawing, Collage, and Experimental Animation: Exploring Manual Techniques. Wolniak won the Janel M. Mueller Award for Excellence in Pedagogy in 2014. Wolniak launched Screen Share Video Gallery at the University of Chicago in 2016 as a platform for student work in Video, Animation, and New Media.

Faculty Page | Personal Website | Screen Share Video Gallery

Surprise guests

In addition to our panelists, we were joined by Dr Nadia Berenstein and Neal Harris (Scent Events). Thank you both for jumping in to provide your insights!

More installments coming soon!

The series is programmed and organized by Jas Brooks.