Smell Dating

Smell Dating

23 October, 2019

Led by:

  • Klara Ravat – smell artist.
  • Anna D’Errico – neurologist.
Intended learning outcomes (more on programme level)

Part of Marres’ Workshops ‘Training the Senses’.

Learning objectives (course specific)

Explore the attraction of smells and the relationship between our brain, nose and hormonal system.

Objective statement (course description)

People are unaware of the power of their olfactory system in making life changing decisions. Smell is crucial in determining good food from bad food and detecting dangerous gases, but it also plays an essential role in choosing a partner. In this smell dating session, we will explore body odors. The smells of the participants are collected after an aerobics session. After being put in glass jars and numbered, the samples are passed around enabling everyone to find their match. In the meantime, participants converse with smell artist Klara Ravat and neurologist Anna D’Errico about the attraction of smells and the relationship between our brain, nose and hormonal system. What happens after this session, is up to you…

Type of course:

extracurricular course

Target group:

general audience

Teaching method:




The training starts with the participants being asked focus on the smell around them, then to smell their hand. They’re asked what it smells like and if it reminds them of anything, for instance, soap.

Afterwards, the participants are asked to begin doing physical exercises, such as jumping up and down, to get them to start sweating.


  • People are asked to take a cotton pad and rub their sweat on it. Then the pads are placed in separate cups and are numbered. The odours are all anonymous. The cups are all set around a large table. Every person gets a sheet of paper with the numbers on it and is asked to go around the table and start smelling each cup. They are asked to cross the number of the cup which smelled the best in their opinion.
  • “Usually when smelling something, before we start to identify the odour the first reaction is a visceral reaction: “I like it!” “I don’t like it!” But what we like might be very different. It can be attached to a memory or a strong experience but also with context or a label. The “Smell Dating” is a provocation and the idea is to try to find a mate based on an odour choice. You decide or choose the person just based on the odour independently of any gender, sex… etc. What happens when you meet a person just based on this? What changes?”
Assessment of learning: N/A
Effect (witness account, evaluation of the course)
Additional biblio sources (available at Marres)

  • Natural body fragrances; cotton pads