Fragile Ecosystems | Firmenich | London | Group Exhibition | 2020

Fragile Ecosystems is a project which comissioned by the scent company Firmenich as part of my time on the MA Material Futures. The project begins to ask questions around how to record and asign value to changes happing in the world around us which are insensible to humans.

The future is a world of rapidly changing climates, changing in ways beyond prediction with unimaginable domino effects.

I have designed a monitor with the intention to use it to take readings of plants in the field. The monitor reads the air temperature and humidity, the humidity of the soil and takes readings directly from the plant of its minute cellular electrical communication. People can use this monitor to easily tap in to how a plant is reacting to changes in its environment. Supporting people in the important transition into deeper relate with the tiny profound effects climate change is having on the botanical world and how in turn it is affecting us.

The idea is communicated through the display which the monitor sat in for its presentation. It uses the data being recorded from the plant to release two different smells from the plinth. For example, you get one smell if the soil is at the correct moisture level and the plant is content, and the other is the moisture level drops and the cellular activity in the plant responds.

This research begs the question what will the plants of the future smell like?

In October (2020) Daphne (perfumer at Firmenich) arranged a meeting with Xavier, head of botanicals at Firmenich. I was interested to see if Firmenich would have archives of samples taken from specific plants in specific areas over the years which we could analyse to take note of how plants are changing their smells year in year out. We were unable to fulfil this desire as due to scent consistency, plant scent samples are not recorded and archived in such a way. It made me dream of perfumes which did not comply with the luxury market's expectation of consistency, how a perfume could change minutely over years due the environmental changes which were affecting the locations where the molecules were sourced, changing the combinations. How could perfumes highlight the changeability of the natural world and open our eyes to the facade of consistency.

The scent I developed in collaboration with Daphne was inspired by emerging scientific research. It maps out the molecular changes discovered and applies them to unexplored flowers. Speculating on future smells and bringing to attention how scent affects the functioning of ecosystems.

Data visualised and sonified by Jakub Fiala
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