Sensory storytelling: Somerset House

I led two workshops for Perfume: Synesthesia late event at the Somerset House, on 31st August 2017. My concept for these was developed in response to the Perfume exhibition, and builds on my ongoing artistic research into using all our senses to tell stories, by activating memories, emotions and imagination, in order to offer a more rich and nuanced experience of the every day.

The participants were invited to activate their less dominant senses (especially touch and smell), to explore the connection between these and their memories, emotions and imagination, and finally had the opportunity to use these new insights to create their own multi-sensory mini-stories.

They were first initiated by being taken on an interior journey, guided by instructions, hints and questions. What they encountered was a secret world, a miniature landscape of different textures, smells, shapes and consistencies…

Once sensitised participants were able to associate various textures and materials with their memories, emotions and imaginings…

Finally, the participants were able to create their own responses: scented journeys, enclosed within a transparent container.I have also asked them to write a full list of ingredients, real and also imaginary.

Below are some of their creations, as they appeal to the eye before the nose:

Finally, here is one example of a full creative response, a story in 5 senses produced by one of the participants, artist Ellie Doney.

Ellie’s perfume mini-story:
A lone horse and rider wearily cross the hot desert scrub. After days on the run, they’re parched and saddle sore, radiating baked leather, sharp sweat and fear. Seeing a crack in the wall of the gulch, they head toward it, craving shade. It’s a cave. The air hits them, blissfully cool and damp, mossy and earthy, fragrant with green growth. The cave slants down to a spring bubbling from the rock. They scramble down to drink, and as the rider sinks back into the velvet moss, a sweet, balsamic odor mingles with the damp earth. The roof of the cave is lined with an abandoned beehive, honey still in its cells. She kicks off her boots, draws a bag with the last of her coffee from her salty leather pack, and starts to build a fire.

List (or lust) of Ingredients
Fresh moss and soil
Preserved black lime
Ground coffee

Imagined ingredients
Cicada song
Trickling water
Desert herbs on fire

Image of Ellie’s perfume below:

About me: Dr Tereza Stehlikova is an artist working primarily in moving image, as well as performance. She holds a PhD from the Royal College of Art, where she researched the tactile language of film. She is a senior lecturer at the University of Westminster and a research coordinator at the RCA. She is a founder of Sensory Sites (, an international collective generating collaborative exhibitions and research projects that explore sensory perception and bodily experience. She also runs regular sensory workshops at the Dissenters Gallery.

If you are interested in the workshops please get in touch:


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