Ani Liu, an artist who can store a person's scent in a bottle

Ani Liu, an artist who can store a person's scent in a bottle

Ani Liu, an artist who can store a person's scent in a bottle

Imagine being able to store the scent of someone you love in a bottle. You can inhale it every day and get carried away in the memories with that person. Ani Liu, artists who use science and technology to develop multi-sensory experiences, have found a way to turn those scientific fantasies into reality. National Geographic spoke with this MIT Media Lab graduate about how he managed to store his parents' scent in a bottle. His work involved architectural tools, augmented reality , and synthetic biology. Truly a combination of art and technology.


What inspired you to combine art and technology?


Being the first Chinese-American in the family, my parents felt I needed to learn about math, science, and technology. I started studying architecture — and its tools and software — to design buildings. I'm increasingly interested in seeing how these tools affect my designs. That is, technology really sharpens the way we act. I want to create art that shows how much technology has affected us. Also how science builds social beliefs.


What do you think is the important value of combining art with science and technology?


This is very important because we need a wider perspective. Having multiple points of view on a fact makes our conversation content richer and more meaningful. Being the first Chinese-American in the family, my parents felt I needed to learn about math, science, and technology. I started studying architecture — and its tools and software — to design buildings. I'm increasingly interested in seeing how these tools affect my designs. That is, technology really sharpens the way we act. I want to create art that shows how much technology has affected us. Also how science builds social beliefs.


What do you think is the important value of combining art with science and technology?


This is very important because we need a wider perspective. Having multiple points of view on a fact makes our conversation content richer and more meaningful.


How do you do it?


Part of the process is extracting volatile molecules from the clothes the research subjects have used and then dissolving them. Also Read: Scientist: Cancer Treatment Is Getting More Targeted

It requires a lot of experimentation. I had to try different solutions, concentrations, and settings during distillation. Even so, the process of finding its accuracy is very interesting.


How many scent bottles have you made?


I did it for six people: my husband, myself, my parents, colleagues in the lab, and the chemist who helped me with this. The scent of my parents' bodies can be really emotional. I know there will come a time when they will leave me forever. So, right now, I'm like making a time capsule before they die.

Published by Fiona Cowsix

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