Usually, strong smells wafting from the Hudson River are bad news. This time, though, there’s nothing to worry about: household fragrance maker Glade has partnered with the Rockwell Group to create a pop-up branding exercise on the waterfront outside of Brookfield Place. The Museum of Feelings ask visitors to reflect on how the senses, especially smell, contribute to emotion. It’s like raving with James Turrell at the Yankee Candle factory outlet store—plus crystals.
Like a groovy mood ring, a board on the exterior of the museum changes colors to reflect the current mood of the city. Rage triggers like the weather forecast, stock market indices, and flight delays are tracked in real time. The “mood” is translated into color and light. On opening day, the colors, pale blue and deep purple, indicated calm. This being New York City, one wonders whether “calm” is a proxy for “low-level resentment and deep-seated apathy,” a more ambiguous emotion that often masquerades as serenity.
Inside, feelings are compartmentalized into five zones, each themed with a different emotion and corresponding scent.
The first room, Feel Optimistic, is inspired by the soon-to-be-released Radiant Berries fragrance. Before entering the room passageway of hanging cloth panels, staff members hand out reflective (and scented) cards that trigger and reflect bursts of pink and blue light reflected off of strategically placed interior crystals. Ambient music, not dissimilar to Music for Airports, is intensified or diminished as visitors enter or leave the space.
The “Balsam & Fir” room invites you to Feel Joyful. The hanging LED light forest invites comparisons to Yayoi Kusama‘s installations. The strands emit a piney scent when touched, and it’s impossible not to touch.
According to a museum staff member, Blue Odyssey, the “marine scent” of the next room, is designed to invigorate. Upon entering the space, an oscillating LED halo encircles the floor around each visitor. The halo moves with its owner, vibrating as subwoofers beneath the floor thump with a bass-heavy beat.
Visitors can swap halos by jumping into someone else’s halo.
The scent in this, and other rooms, was released through wall-mounted scent diffusers that resemble tissue under a microscope.
“Feel Exhilarated” is a kaleidoscope of floor-to-ceiling video screens that project patterned peony and cherry blossoms, the base of the room’s fragrance. Touch screens arranged around a central panel allow visitors to manipulate the floral patterns. One visitor remarked, “if you stare at the ceiling long enough, you feel nauseous, in a good way!”
After exhilaration comes calm. “Lavender & Vanilla” fragrance permeates a candy purple and pink space. The powerful fog machine creates a sight radius of approximately three feet, giving visitors ample opportunity to bump into one another or trip over small children rolling on the heavily carpeted floor.
What museum would be complete without a gift shop? The “retail lounge” gives visitors the opportunity to buy small and large Glade candles.
The true treat, however, is the “MoodLens.” Visitors place their hand on a sensor connected to a large screen and camera. The sensor allegedly reads emotion and generates a “mood selfie” based on that emotion. The selfie is printed out (for free!) on scratch-and-sniff paper that matches the emotion. Selfies are uploaded to the museum’s website to create an archive of feelings.
The Museum of Feelings is open through December 15th.