Gayil Nalls

Gayil Nalls’ piece ‘World Sensorium’ (2000) at Times Square. Gayil Nalls analysed and experimented with smell, creating work which was able to combine everyone as a whole and attempts to move away from the idea of smell being subjective. World Sensorium is ‘a world olfactory sculpture [..] artist consulted with officials from 230 nations to help identify a scent-from tree, flowers, grass or herb- that is significant to each land. She then gathered the natural plant oils and combined them, in proportion to each country’s population in the year 2000′ (Nalls,2009). Gayil Nalls’ work provoked nations to understand what characterises them, like their national anthem, by doing so she created this world collective where people considered the nature around them and understood that smells have a relationship with their lands:

‘The United Kingdom felt that all four of its countries were united as people who know the scent of the sea wind rolling through ‘lands of grasses’. The republic of Ireland said that the smell “turf” was an important part of their history and culture. People remembered the smell of burning turf and thought of it as being able to prompt vivid memories of time with family and friends where stories were passed to the younger generation.’ (Nalls,2009)

What Nalls did was create a scent that depicts the world, a scent which combines every culture and every point of the earth together to create a natural celebration of our planet. A celebration of not only the natural plant oils but of the essence and the combination of every country. It was a celebration of us as a whole. The decision to stage the art piece in Times Square in New York was very relevant to the nature of the city – a cultural hub containing people from all over the world. However, at the same time it contradicted the idea of the natural and of nature, by being in a city which is far from being environmentally friendly. However what this art work did was not only characterise a scent for a nation but made one for the earth. Released from above coming down from the balloons and confetti it was a collection of bright colours and smell. This piece is a multi- sensory experience combining a combination of not only smell but colour and sound to create a dream like experience. By doing it on New Year’s Eve, it straight away became a celebration, a joyous occasion. You could consider it as a symbol of what the world would be if we were just one odour joined together. This momentary interactive sculpture joined everyone together, for that brief moment when the balloons and confetti dropped everything was perfect and by the time the balloons hit the ground it slowly became just a memory, a memory of a ‘universal experience’. What Nalls achieved was this explosive sensory experience, ‘World Sensorium is ultimately a formless sculpture shaped by the people embodying it. As an on-going work, the social sculpture grows as it continues to be shared in international public events involving large crowds.’ (Nalls,2009)

Gayil Nalls, World Sensorium


Nalls,G. 2010. Olfactory art: a new genre. [online] available at: <;

Nalls,G, 2009. Olfactory Art- World Sensorium [online] available at; <;


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