Maki Ueda (JP/NL)

Olfactory Artist

JAPAN HOUSE Sao Paulo - fotos  de Rogério Cassimiro (5)


 Born in Tokyo, Japan, in 1974. Currently based in Okinawa, Japan and leads Olfactory Art Lab


Maki Ueda is an artist who incorporates the olfactory sense in art. She considers smell to be “new media". Believing that "fewer visuals = stronger olfactory experiences", she puts the emphasis on olfaction over the visual aspect in her work. She often uses scents to spark the imagination or to create perceptual confusion.

She has developed a unique combination of chemical and kitchen skills in order to extract the scents of daily life, including foods, ambient aromas, and bodily scents. She creates scents that capture childhood, identity, a mood, or a historical event. The results of her experiments take the form of olfactory installations and workshops.  She has inspired and influenced many olfactory artists for making her process and recipes "open source" on her blog, and became one of the most famous olfactory artists (listed on the wikipedia page "olfactory art")

She currently researches where issues as space, movement, and olfaction cross over. The works include “Olfactory Labyrinth” , “Deconstructing Chanel No. 5”, and “Invisible White”.  

Maki Ueda studied media art under Masaki Fujihata at The Environmental Information Department (B.A. 1997, M.A. 1999), Keio University, Japan. She received a grant from the Japanese government in 2000 and from the POLA Art Foundation in 2007. She has been based in The Netherlands from 2000 till 2011. She teaches and gives workshops on olfactory art at ArtScience Interfaculty of The Royal Academy of Art and Royal Conservatory The Hague (NL) as a guest teacher since 2009. Her course is one of the first structured olfactory art course in the world.

Online portfolio:


2009 - Nominated for The World Technology Awards Category: Art (NY, USA)

2016 - Sadakichi Award Finalist, for 'The Juice of War', The Art and Olfaction Awards

2018 - Sadakichi Award Finalist, for 'Olfactory Games', The Art and Olfaction Awards

2019 - Sadakichi Award Finalist, for 'Tangible Scents - Composition of Rose in the Air', The Art and Olfaction Awards



• Olfactory installations (as well as site-specific and open-air installations)

• Perfume artworks

• Research on the sense of smell and other senses

• Olfactory performances

• Olfactory workshops (for both adults and children)

• Food art event with the focus on the sense of smell and molecular gastronomy

• Teaching "olfactory art" at art schools and universities





The most important thing we can do as olfactory artists is to provide new olfactory experiences for our audiences.

The sense of smell has been mainly used for survival up until recently; for detecting fire, enemies in the dark, and the decay of food. Fragrance, especially with medicinal and anti-bacterial properties, has also been used for survival. The use for genital acts could also be categorized as an act for survival.

In recent times, however, we have more margin to utilize the sense of smell for pure pleasure. When perfume first appeared a few hundred years ago, it became possible to use scent in a creative way, or express a message, or to carry out a manifesto. The history of olfactory art is even shorter. Even if it is defined as art expression using smell and fragrance in a broad sense, its history may be mere 100 years or so.

Based on this, I believe that olfactory artists should hand searching the world of smell and fragrance over to the perfumery for the moment, and focus on the unveiled olfactive experiences.

I have been active in the field of olfactory art since 2005. Back then “olfactory art” was not a frequently used term, so I was calling myself a “scent artist” or “smell artist”. However, when I noticed a few years later that I was rather more interested in the sense itself rather than the smell, I decided to call myself an “olfactory artist”, even though it was not frequently used. My background is media art, and in the media art scene the term “haptic art” was commonly used, so I got inspiration from there. Other olfactory artists known to this day seem to have started using the same term then.

There are plenty of artists in the olfactory art scene nowadays. However the aesthetics of olfactory art are still unestablished. I will describe my standing point and aesthetics in this essay.



When I made a work with the scent of the city of Singapore when there were still fewer olfactory artists, I was told that it was an imitation of other work. This presented an interesting question: what makes olfactory art original? The other work’s concept certainly was about the scents of a city somewhere else, but the method of approach and realization was completely different.

Scent scape (scent of a city) is a theme which tends to be chosen at the time of the start-up of many olfactory artists. When paying attention to the sense of smell, the city smells a little different, so it becomes an inspiration. Such work and workshops can be found everywhere nowadays. Likewise, other themes that are likely to be selected are "body odor and identity" and "smell of death”; scents related to familiar thing or person, and something sensational.

Then, I thought, from what point does something become imitation rather than an original work of art? If I were the first one to make the scent scape in the world, may I think no one else is supposed to make such work no matter how he/she thinks of it, because it is my concept? This is close to the idea of conceptual art.

Trough this experience, I thought I want olfactory art to be like music. For example, a composer inspired by the River Danube creates music on the theme of the Danube. That does not mean that no one else should make music on the Danube. The Danube is a theme to the last, and although it is an inspiration, it is not a concept.

Thus the concept “smell of the city” should not be the center of the originality in the scent scape. Let us make a concept that is one level higher, on a meta-level —- that is how I am teaching students. In the olfactory art, a work where you only let audience feel the scent might also be valid, however we still have to explain the concept. I want the artists to explain what is different from other works dealing with similar scents, and where the originality of the work is.

It is even more ideal if there is database and appropriate criticism on top of it. For example, there are categories such as classical and pop in olfactory art, and it does not mean to be classified as classical just because the work’s theme is the Danube. Consequently, that would prevent the situation where only a sensational work tends to achieve interests. This is how I would like olfactory art to develop.


There is nothing more subjective than smelling. For example, if I thought about making a work on body odor, I would first make “fragrance of body smell”, However, there is a high chance that the smell of body odour to me is different from what it is to you. Furthermore, your opinion about the scent might be different from mine. You might find it a bad odour whilst I find it nice. You might even find it unbearable to smell.

To me it seems that scent is too unreliable to present a concept, because scent is, in its nature, neutral.

Olfactory artists often entrusts a concept of a work to the scent. However when considering that scent is neutral, doesn’t it matter what scent you use?

For that reason, I am challenging creating works whose concept does not change even if I change the scents. Since it does not require a specific scent, there is no need to rely on fragrance companies or perfumers, so it is also low cost.


To this day, I have presented various works whilst meeting the conditions and expectations of exhibitions from time to time. These revolve around various concepts, which are also my research themes.

[img 01]


Early works (2005-2008) of mine explore this theme in particular. I was given some clues from various cooking methods and achieved some unique distillation skills. Therefore, it looks like a magician who can extract anything, but that was not my intention.

Being able to extract anything means that you can make the aroma portable, or you can present it again beyond time. Every odour has its time axis and spatial axis. By shifting it and choosing an unique context, an interesting olfactory experience arises.


(1) The work whose spatial axis is shifted: AROMASCAPE OF SINGAPORE I studied the smell of Singapore with students, extracted it at the workshop, mapped it on a reduced map and displayed it.

[img 02]

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(2) The work whose time axis is shifted: THE JUICE OF WAR - HIROSHIMA & NAGASAKI -

I simulated the smell after the atomic bombs were dropped in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, and revived it to the present time with the original installation.

[img 04]


Odour has the physical characteristic of mixing in space with other odour. When diffusing scent A and scent B close to each other, the fragrance mix in the room and it becomes impossible to distinguish one from each other unless you get closer. Keeping this characteristic in mind, by putting different aromas at different spots, you can zoom-in and zoom-out to the scents by freely moving around. You can smell individual scents by zooming in (DE-CONSTRUCTION), and you can smell the total fragrance in the space by zooming out (RE-CONSTRUCTION).

This is a somewhat educational work group that becomes a clue to understand scents more physically with full use of olfaction.


(1) OLFACTOSCAPE - DECONSTRUCTION OF CHANEL NO. 5 - The inner wall of a cylindrical space is divided into ten parts and impregnated with a single fragrance component. The component used here is one of the top ten components of Chanel No. 5. When you stand in the middle, you can smell the mixed, total scent: the Chanel No. 5.

[img 05]

(2) TANGIBLE SCENTS - COMPOSITION OF ROSE IN THE AIR - Soap bubble liquid is impregnated with one of the top five components of rose. Each one is blown (diffused) separately and forms a field of the rose scent. You can not only poke the bubbles and smell the individual scent, but also just stand and immerse yourself in the total scent: the scent of rose.

[img 06]


What is smell for us? In the world of flora and fauna, smell is communication signal (pheromones) for reproduction and survival. However, in the human world, there is no such pheromone in that sense. And as mentioned earlier, due to the changes happening over time, the role of olfaction is changing.

It is not an exaggeration to say that in the world of Kodo, the play that shares the world of imagination among players while enjoying metaphors with smells (for example, the dry aspect of a fragrant wood becomes a metaphor for dry sky in winter), smell carries information.

Such a sophisticated sense of smell only belongs to humans. Now that the role of olfaction is changing over time, would it be possible for us to explore this possibility more?


(1) Smell is used as Morse code: OLFACTORY GAMES For over ten years, I gave a course of olfactory art at the Royal Academy of Arts in The Netherlands, where students made games for olfaction. As an example, I introduced them to a Olfactory Memory Game and Olfactory Duck Duck Goose. The students' imagination knows no boundaries: more than 70 games were being developed in the course in the past.

[img 07]

(2) Smell carries metaphor: KYOTO LOVE STORY In the world of the Tale of Genji (about 1200 AC), the encounter between men and women was over bamboo blinds, and it was not allowed to speak directly. Communication was made through a messenger, poetry, or fragrances. Kyoto Love Story is a blind date event conforming to this communication protocol.

It was an experiment of odor communication in the high cultural context. For example, there was a man who gave a yuzu, a metaphor of the winter solstice, to a woman. Here, the aroma of yuzu is a medium that carries compassions such as: “I hope you get warm with yuzu-bath – they say you will not catch a cold when taking yuzu-bath at the winter solstice.” (Please refer to Yoko Iwasaki’s paper about this work)

[img 08]


Some of my works exclude visual elements and let visitors move around space by relying only on odour. Like a dog, sniffing to the right and to the left, you feel the difference in concentration and you can find the source of the smell. It is also an experiment of omnidirectional smelling.


(1) INVISIBLE WHITE A piece where you walk around by relying only on odor in a blank space. The space has no corners, no shadows, and therefore, you have no sense of distance and orientation. Three odors flowing into the space with its own timing results in the permanent change of spatial scent. It is like invisible RGB gradation. As you proceed, you smell the different scents.

[img 09]

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(2) OLFACTORY LABYRINTH VER.2 A real maze where you always follow the same smell from the entrance to reach the exit. You are required to distinguish four scents.

[img 11]

(3) OLFACTORY LABYRINTH VER.4 A maze with a game-like element where you are supposed to find three invisible cherry-blossoms. Bottles are hung in a matrix of 9 × 9. As you get close to the invisible cherry blossom, you smell stronger. Weber-Fechner’s law (logarithm) is applied to the relation between stimulation and concentration of odour.

[img 12]


An artist is, I think, a person who keeps asking questions such as “What is humanity?” and “What is life?” through works with the power of aesthetic. I might put the question in other words and say: ”What possibilities are hidden in the human sense of smell?”

If I use an analogy of an academic method, my standing point as an artist might be a “hypothesis”, and the final work might be the "answer" or “conclusion". And although the order is reversed, the audience itself may experience it as “proof” or “witness”. I form conclusions while imagining how the audience would interact with the work.

Recently, I have started to create works to search poetically between the olfactory and tactile / visual sense, like TANGIBLE SCENTS. I believe that with many more experiments, I pursue the possibility of human olfaction, and let it evolve even further.

On Olfactory Art (written in 2008)

Maki Ueda





In my artistic practice I use smell as a medium to incorporate the olfactory sense in art. Speaking generally about smell, we often think about its practical applications: perfumery, toiletry, flavoring etc. Contrarily, I focus on the parts that are related to memories, emotions, perceptions, and experiences. The smell that I present is like a piece of painting.

Currently I am one of the few artists in the world focusing solely on the olfactory sense. Honorary enough I have been invited to the unique art exhibition with the smells (and of the smells) “If There Ever Was” held in the U.K. in 2008.

While most of the artists/perfumers use the ready-made aroma ingredients, I make the ingredients from scratch. While the commercial world prefers the synthetic ingredients because it's inexpensive, stable, and controllable, I mainly deal with natural ingredients. I consciously do that because I want to work with the smell as a medium, to know what's happening on the material level. Natural smell has a depth that is incomparable with synthetic smell. Synthetic smell consists of the limited amount of components, while natural smell often consists of thousands of components, often uncountable. We know that the strawberry-flavored candy tastes totally different from the real strawberry, for example.



I extract the natural smell from a material with chemistry techniques for retrieving essential oil, distillation, ethanol extraction, oil maceration etc. Sometimes I refer to the chemistry of cooking. I present the smell with the different diffusion techniques like atomizing, perfuming, incensing, and printing (scratch & sniff). The results are presented in a form of installation, live performance, or workshop. I also collaborate with choreographers as a “scent artist” to develop the olfactory interaction in interdisciplinary performance pieces.


Over the last years I've been researching and finding interesting local scents, and extracting them on- site. The focuses are the scents of daily life; food, drinks, materials, persons, and the environment. The result is a series of the perfume works under the name “Aromatic Journey” ( The local culture is being explored and experienced by means of smell. The audience intuitively experiences essences of a culture by smelling. The results are not a perfume to wear, but to smell and trigger one's memory and imagination. For the foreign people they could smell totally exotic, while for local people they could be redefining and zooming into their native scents.

Olfactory preferences are originally locally oriented. They correspond to the evaporating character of aromatic substances. Each culture has its own special smell representation. Nowadays a lot of natural daily-life smells are disappearing because of the drastic changes in lifestyle. The chemically reconstructed smells made by the mass industry are invading us everywhere, and erasing and replacing the natural smells. On a street in Japan you smell Channel 5 just like you do in Europe. I consider this phenomenon as the nasal globalization.

In the past I was making media art works focusing on global awareness and communication. In 2003 I've realized “Hole in the Earth” , an installation in public space with bidirectional permanent streaming of video and audio for connecting two totally different cultures; Indonesia and Holland. When I was in Indonesia for installing, I became interested also to stream the local (good and bad) smells of the street over the internet. This has pushed me into my current works.



CV (2010-2018): please download from this link:


CV (till 2010)

[exhibitions and workshops]

2011 exhibition (curatorial) Palm Top Theater, at 24.h. by Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, Amsterdam NL, 31.03.2011.

2011 performance Sukebeningen, at Steim, Amsterdam NL, 20.03.2011.

2011 workshop Edible Perfume, organized by Sensational Mix, Rotterdam NL, 24.02.2011.

2011 performance Sukebeningen, at Scheltema, Leiden NL, 12.02.2011.

2011 workshop Palm Top Theater, organized by International Film Festival Rotterdam, Rotterdam NL, 03.02.2011.

2011 exhibition (curatrial) Palm Top Theater, hosted by V2_ Institute for Unstable Media, as a part of International Film Festival Rotterdam, Rotterdam NL, 21.01.2011. - 13.02.2011.

2011 exhibition Aromascape of Singapore, organized by Fringe Festival, Singapore, 05-16.01.2011. (at Singapore Art Museum)

2010 workshop Aromascape of Singapore, organized by Fringe Festival, Singapore, 28-29.12..2011.

2010 workshop Paint with Your Nose, NL, in Amsterdam, NSDSK Theaterdagen voor dove en slechthorende peuters en kleuters 

2010 workshop Paint with Your Nose, NL, in Utrecht, NSDSK Theaterdagen voor dove en slechthorende peuters en kleuters

2010 workshop Paint with Your Nose, NL, in Zwolle, NSDSK Theaterdagen voor dove en slechthorende peuters en kleuters

2010 workshop Paint with Your Nose, NL, in Rotterdam, NSDSK Theaterdagen voor dove en slechthorende peuters en kleuters

2010 workshop Paint with Your Nose, NL, in Eindhoven, NSDSK Theaterdagen voor dove en slechthorende peuters en kleuters

2010 workshop & exhibition AROMASCAPE OF EINDHOVEN, Dutch Design Week

2010 workshop 'SMELL LISTENING', Camera Japan Festival, Rotterdam, NL, 2010.10.

2010 solo-exhiition OLFACTOSCAPE, at Inframince, Osaka, Japan, 10.2010.

2010 workshop 'Lunch for the Muted Senses', organized by NPO Neurocreative Laboratory, Tokyo, 08.2010. 

2010 performance 'The Tatooer', collaboration with Scheveningen, Het Nutshuis, Den Haag, NL, 04.06.2010.

2010 giving a workshop, collaboration with Ukiyo project, Brunel University, London, UK, 01-03.06.2010.

2010 premier of a city expedition 'SMELL x ILLUSION', Urban Explorers Festival, Dordrecht, NL, 21-23.05.2010.

2009 artist in residence / panelist, Artist Summit Kyoto, hosted by Kyoto Zokei Art University, 19-20.12.2009

 2009 SCENTS OF HOLLAND at FoAM, as a part of BAZAAR, in Brussels Belgium, 29.10.2009

2009 eau de parfum PERFECT JAPANESE WOMAN in the exhibition PULS during the Dutch Design Week in Eindhoven, 17.10.2009 - 25.10.2009

2009 Edible Perfume Workshop @ CBK Dordrecht (as a part of Camerajapan Festival), 10.10.2009,  CBK Dordrecht

2009 Workshop & dinner in a restaurant style (Japanese) Dinner for Musted SensesCamera Japan Festival, Rotterdam NL, 27.09.2009, 

2009 Workshop Walk n' Sniff, organized by Wijken voor de Kunst, Leiden NL, 22 & 23.08.2009

2009 Workshop The Scent of Edo Geisha, organized by AOF Karoino aru Seikatsu , on 02.08.2009

 2009 Workshop SMELL BAR, organized by WonderArt Production at Chiriro Museum in Tokyo, Japan, on 01.08.2009

2009 exhibition SMELL BAR, organized by WonderArt Production at Mitaka City Arts Center in Tokyo, Japan,  23-

2009 exhibition at World Technology Network Summit, NY USA, 15-16.07.2009

2009 Exhibition Hollad Mania at Lakenhal Leiden City Museum, 16.05.2009.-30.08.2009

2009 workshop Edible Perfume, Tokyo, Japan

2008 workshop Edible Perfume | Open Kitchen, FoAM, Brussels, Belgium

2008 Open Sauces (contributing a course for the gastronomic event), FoAM, Brussels, Belgium

2008 Body Odor No. 5 (performative installation), Garaj, Istanbul, Turkey

2008 eau de parfum PERFECT JAPANESE WOMAN Camera Japan Festival, Roodkapje, Rotterdam, The Netherlands

2008 Drop a line (performative installation with Heiner R. Avdal), Kaaitheater, Brussels, Belgium on 30 & 31.08.2008.

2008 SMELL BAR, Electric-Eclectics Festival, Meaford, Canada

2008 7 smells - the perfumes of the dancers' body odor - commisioned by eg | pc, releasing at the Holland Festival 2008

2008 If There Ever Was (scents exhibition), Reg Vardy Gallery, Sunderland, UK

2008 Painting with Your Nose (workshop for the baby's and toddlers, with Kristina Andersen), Babelut Festival, Neerpelt, Belgium

2008 The Scents of Holland (perfume series), De Kunstsuper, Rotterdam, The Netherlands

2007 Workshop Essence of Perfume - a workshop extracting the Dutch scents - (workshop & exhibition) Corrosia, CBK Flevoland, Almere, The Netherlands

2007 Drop a Line (performative installation with Heine R. Avdal) Vooruit, Gent, Belgium

2007 Aromatic Journey #1 - my memories of Japan - , Artedove, Fosdinovo, Italy

2007 Aromatic Journey #1 - my memories of Japan - , co-exhibition OL-FACTORY with Martina Florians, Erasmus University Gallery, The Netherlands

2007 Skulpturenpark(proposal), Berlin, Germany

2007 Red Wine Chromatography, Aanschouw, Rotterdam, The Netherlands

2006 Hole in the Earth (presentation of documentation), Electrohype, Malmo, Sweden

2006 Aromatic Journey #1 - my memories of Japan - , Artstore Rotterdam, The Netherlands

2005 Aangenaam (permanent installation based on the poem by Jules Deelder) , Mozaiek School (primary school), Rotterdam, The Netherlands

2005 Hole in the Earth , Beijing International New Media Arts Exhibition and Symposium, China

2005 Menu for A Nose - an artwork for NIKA coffee and Tea -, Kunstroute Noord Rotterdam, The Netherlands

2004 Deconstructing Okonomiyaki, Schouwburg Rotterdam production, The Netherlands

2003-2004 Hole in the Earth (finished), CELL production with Jejaring Artnetworkers, Daarut Tauhid Mosque Bandung (Indonesia) and Diergaardesingeldriehoek (Rotterdam, The Netherlands)

2003 Let the Rain Paint, QI-Kunsteiland, Rotterdam, The Netherlands

2003 Touch-Me-Gently, QI-Kunsteiland, Rotterdam, The Netherlands

2001 Hole in the Earth (preview), CELL production with Biz-Art, Shanghai Library (China) and Rotterdam Diergaardesingeldriehoek (The Netherlands)

2000 TELETEXT ART, on Dutch Television TELETEXT page, The Netherlands

1999 A Trash Day, Earth Vision production, United Nation Gally, Japan

1999 Kawabegawa-dam -what will be made, what will be demolished-, Keio University, Japan

1998-2000 Internet-connected LED display project (finished), Fujisawa Keio Postoffice, Japan

1998-2000 Jack-in-a-Postbox (finished), Fujisawa Keio Postoffice, Japan

1997-1999 Spilt Oil Exhibition, at 14 beaches in Japan



2011 Palm Top Theater Exhibition for V2 + International Film Festival (NL)


[artist in residence]

2009 Artists Summit Kyoto (JP)

2007 FoAM (BE)



2007 PRODAROM-ASFO Grasse Institute of Perfumery Perfumery Summer Course

1999 M.A. Media Art, Master School of Keio University SFC (Tokyo, Japan) Teacher: Masaki Fujihata (Media Art)

1997 B.A. Environmental Information, SFC, Keio University (Tokyo, Japan) 

1991-1992 Scholord Exchange Student, Pearland High School (Texas, U.S.A.)


[awards & grants]

2009 (nominated) The World Technology Network (WTN) AWARD 2009 category: arts

2007 Grant for Young Artists for Overseas Study, POLA Art Foundation

2000 Grant for Young Artists for Overseas Study, Ministry of Cultural Affair Japan


[academic course / lectures / presentations]

2010 lecture @ Willem de Kooning Academy, Rotterdam, NL, 7/14/21/28.04.2010.

2010 project week @ Willem de Kooning Academy, Rotterdam, NL, 22.03.2010. - 26.03.2010.

2010 course [Smell and Art] @ Royal Art Academy NL, 01.02.2010. - 18.02.2010.

2010 lecture @ Keio University KMD, 15.12.2009 

2010 presentation @ UKIYO conference, Keio University, 09.12.2009

2009 How to Confuse Your Senses? whokshop @ Willem de Kooning Art Academy, 12.10.2009 - 16.10.2009

2009 Guest Lecture / Projectweek workshop leader [Sense of Smell], Willem de Kooning Academy, Rotterdam, The Netherlands

2009 1-week-workshop Explore Rotterdam with Your Nose, Willem de Kooning Academy, Rotterdam, The Netherlands

2009 Fragrance Journal Co. Tokyo Japan

2008 Leiden University

2008 Amsterdam Rietvelt Academy

2008 Tokyo Art University, Japan

2008 Willem de Kooning Academy, Rotterdam, The Netherlands

2007 Willem de Kooning Academy, Rotterdam, The Netherlands

2007 FoAM researcher's gathering, Brussels, Belgium

2006 Piet Zwart Institute, Rotterdam, The Netherlands

2004 Art Academy, Bandung, Indonesia

2000 Dog in the Backyard (CBK), Rotterdam, The Netherlands

1999 Mediamatic Salon, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

1999 Keio University, Yokohama, Japan

1998 Japan Design Forum, Fukui, Japan


[experiences besides the artistic carrier]

1999 Part-time teacher at Tokyo University of Art (media literacy)

2002 Researcher(curatorship) at YCAM Yamaguchi Center for Arts and Media



2008 article on If There Ever Was, AROMA RESEARCH°°No.35 2008/8 (vol.9/No.3), Fragrance Journal Co. ISSN: 1345 4722 [JP]

2008 If there ever was (contribution of a smell) ISBN: 978-0-9557478-0-9