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Client: Museum of Ethnology and World Cultures - ICUB / Barcelona Institute of Culture Curator: Meritxell Virgili / 21 June 2019 Revision: February 2020



"Smells are old, ancient, tired, breathed in, used and reused. The air we breathe has been used again and again and again! I'm walking down Avinyó headed towards the sea. The smells here are very complex. Deodorant? Pharmacy? Food? Smoke? How on earth can we describe all these smells?" (Ethnographer 2, morning 11. Gòtic/Raval)




























OVERVIEW The Museum of Ethnology and World Cultures has launched Omuses - Cultural Smell, Management and Facilitation, Heritage Services, a project curated as part of the "Faces of Barcelona" exhibition, under the name "Olfactory Survival in Barcelona". The collection is curated by Meritxell Virgili and Omuses is the name adopted by this entrepreneurial collaboration. This booklet is based on the correlation between ethnological knowledge and ethnographic olfactory evidence, along with innovation in transferring this knowledge to the field of olfaction. Indeed, this book pursues this objective with an approach that combines passion and rationality. In the future, Omuses will coordinate the museographic architecture, accessibility and communication of the museum, through an increased emphasis in beacon technology to be managed by the museum I would like to dedicate the exhibition to everyone who helped to make it happen.



ABOUT THE OMUSES ORGANISATION Meritxell Virgili is not only the general coordinator of Omuses, but also the soul of the organization. She has curated the materials for this exhibition and put together the content. The work has been conducted through adhocracy or lack of hierarchy, coordinating efforts without sacrificing creativity in an innovative form of collaboration known as xarxarquia. The participants include:1 • Ethnographic assistance: Cristina Nieto, Jordi Colobrans and Sònia Múrcia.2 • Museographic architecture: Daniela Longobardi. The museographic element of this curation project was shared with the Museum of Ethnology and World Cultures. • Design of olfactory essences: Sandra Iruela.

1 To view their CVs go to: / About us 2 Múrcia formed part of this curatorship and has also been involved in technoanthropology research groups (ACPA ICA).



PREFACE Omuses looks into the olfactory dynamics. That exist, from feelings, perceptions, memories, names and categories, to the representation of a shared environmental reality. The world and the brain are connected through an "ecology of the mind".3 We are no longer talking about nature, but about the environment, in an attempt to see ourselves situated within the world and not outside of it. Life, of course, is an historical process embodied in fragile and ephemeral organic forms, which move and circulate on a surfaces. This phenomenon is a process of revelation and the key to its meaning is in the way we learn, in the forms of education. Knowledge based on the perception of each culture equates to what can be seen as a "sensory ecology".4 Our historical process in the west has become removed from this "phenomenology of the body"5 due to the rise of modern science. Anthropological literature, linked to didactics and poetics,6 has long been the necessary basis for scientific, technological and social activity. Among ethical and7

3 Ingold, 2000. 4 Ingold, 2000. 5 Ingold, 2000. 6 This is what is done in the STEAM subjects (science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics): transforming science, technology, engineering and mathematics through looking at art and design, whilst encouraging this perspective in education, and promoting innovation in cultural projects.

7 Description of a culture in which the anthropologist uses categories of their discipline or their own categories.


emic8 methods we find dialogues in which the qualities and moral values help us to discover the rich textures of the world. Thus, the smells we constantly breathe in are an opportunity for knowledge. These are what we call cultural or ethnological smells.9Manifestations of the world exist through cognition, in our minds. Tropology is the10 study of this human continuum. In addition, we know that these highly sensitive prisms of "material of the world" originate from evocations of thought, which are in turn able to open the doors to semantic fields11 and narrate states of consciousness with more solidarity and vindictive moral values. Determining evocative olfactory fields will thus help us to study semantic fields. A basic idea posed by Mary Douglas in Purity and Danger12 will be essential to exploring the cultural corpus of our tradition. Perception of the world is built through the imposition of a certain cultural order transmitted in the flow of experience of each population. What we have sought to "collect" for this exhibition, therefore, are the olfactory densities of the areas where pedestrians circulate with in relation to social and cultural aspects, identifying and mapping the environment 8 Description of a culture in which the anthropologist tries to find out about the forms of perception of the members of that culture and the way in which they describe the world.

9 From now on, the text will refer to ethno-smells when talking about this exhibition and cultural smell when talking generically.

10 Study of rhetorical, figurative or allegorical methods, i.e. the use of metaphors and metonymy to delve further into intellectual categories.

11 Set of words, in general, which are not related etymologically, which exactly cover a well-defined domain of meanings, made up, both traditionally and scientifically, of human experience.

12 M. Douglas, Purity and Danger, 1991.


involved. We talk about the taskscape13 and the landscape of smells or smellscape,14 which provide a richer and more dynamic texture of Barcelona. We know that many of the moral values are included in systems of correspondence and suggestively sensory classifications that produce other states of consciousness thanks to the synaesthesia, memory, movement and environment of culturally inter-related groups. This is known as phenomenology of the body.15

13 Ingold, 2000, page 154. Tim Ingold coined the term in 1993 to define the temporal and spatial dimensions of the landscape of human life, through a structural and methodological analysis of the landscape paintings that so inspired him: The Harvesters by Pieter Bruegel.

14 Classen, Howes, Synnott (2002), page 95-122. 15 Ingold, 2000.



INTRODUCTION Key specifications on cultural smell A. Transmission, categorisation, lexicon Classen16 tells us that sensations are private and individual and representations are public and social. This is because sensations consist of the reaction of an organism to an external stimulus and, moreover, there is no way of this sensation passing directly from one individual consciousness to another. Thus, the only way of representing the experience and meaning of our concepts is through incommensurable forms of communication created by human beings, as a specific trait of the species, one of which is language. Classen talks about how the meanings of words are set by convention in each community of speakers. On the other hand, one of the characteristics of the olfactory sensation in our modern and western world is the eort to remember smells. The reason is that they do not form part of our cultural baggage as they do in other cultures; in other words, we are not able to easily recall them in the same way. The inability to recall them is also connected to the way they are categorised. Put dierently, there is no semantic field in place for smells in our cultural package. It is ambiguous and difficult

16 Classen, 1993.


to describe because taxonomy17 is based only on the causes and eects. Recent studies tell us about the "natural language of smells";18 it is a rich and exuberant language and this tropology enables us to partially structure the experience of multi-sensory nature (we are talking specifically about metonymy as a resource).

B. Mutual cognition and learning If we are talking about learning a language, it consists of producing words under appropriate circumstances, so that the word achieves the approval of a group of speakers.19 When we breathe, we perceive through a shared cognitive schema in a stable and common way. We are talking about mutuallycontrolled organisation of knowledge, an intersubjective means of communication and, moreover, a successful one. This is known as mutual cognition.20

C. Memory of episodes, synaesthesia, evocation Cultural smell undoubtedly depends on collective and individual memory, as well as episodic memory. This microhistory is integrated into a specific social environment. This memory also 17 Classification and organisation into groups of things that have some characteristics in common. 18 Candau, 2000. 19 Candau, 2000. 20 Candau, 2000.


maintains a correlation with the place in which a person was brought up, in an ethnological sense. Cultural smell is thus episodic and unequivocally attributed to events or facts. Cultural smell is characterised by being synaesthetic. Synaesthesia is the assimilation of dierent sensations, with one of the sensations stimulating another. In the act of smelling, sensations associated to other senses form part of the same perceptive act, in an automatic and involuntary way. We thus use the lexicon of other feelings and an infinite number of similar resources in the brain in order to invoke them. Cultural smell is always evocative, representative in the memory of a perception experienced or known about in the past, a synecdoche or memorable part that evokes the whole.

D. Biological body The body lives in a social environment and is therefore culturalised, adapted to the smells of each community. We know that the sense of smell (brain) may perceive a smell21 for a certain time, until it adapts and can no longer discern the smell. This happens because the body slots itself into a culture, whether its own or a new one, over time. The smell will remain imprinted in the person's mind so that it can be recognised in the future through synaesthesia.

21 We will cover hedonic judgement - unpleasant, neutral or pleasant smells - in Point E.


Cultural smell is therefore a prototypic symbol, an archetype or an original symbol of an experience, because it synthesises experiences, captures physical phenomena and conveys the ideas and cultural values through which societies organise and integrate the world. It is also a model for representing the most characteristic features of mankind, because it is a principle of testimony to our relationship with the environment.

E. Durability and hedonic sense of smell Smells are intrinsically fleeting; we perceive them for an average of four seconds. During this brief period, humans, on the one hand, distinguish them from other stimuli within a sensory flow and, on the other, eventually identify them and appreciate their quality. We also measure the intensity and, in terms of processing, develop images of them. Perception depends, at the same time, on sex, age, learned olfactory skills and on the asymmetry of the nostrils. When it comes to hedonic sense of smell, unpleasant odours are processed more quickly than good or neutral odours. Candau22 explains that this fact could be connected to an adaptation phenomenon: “nous aurions intérêt à détecter plus rapidement les mauvaises odeurs, certains 22 Candau bases his theories on ethnographic evidence from the following professional groups: fire fighters, health care professionals, funeral officials and forensic scientists.


d’entre elles pouvant être toxiques même si, comme on le sait, il est impossible d’établir une relation d’équivalence entre ces deux caractéristiques”.23 But Candau also points out, inversely, that unpleasant odours give us slow images. The result is thus a sensation of pausing that produces negative emotions over time. Neutral and pleasant smells, on the other hand, tend to be smelt with soberness and frugality, mechanically opening up the whole nostril. In terms of memory and time, we can also quickly connect these to good memories and episodes of evocative experience.24

There are emotions linked to the senses that go beyond time.

23 Candau (2009), page 48. 24 Proust's project: In Search of Lost Time, on sensations and their entire emotional context.



MUSEOLOGICAL JUSTIFICATION FOR THE COMMISSION A. At a recent meeting in the Museum of Ethnology and World Cultures, it was agreed that three ethno-smells that represent the following three areas of Barcelona would be mapped: Pere IV / Poblenou, Port/Barceloneta and Gòtic/Raval. On the other hand, it has been decided to synthesise a fourth ethno-smell that is not related to the episodic memory of the city's inhabitants and that, nevertheless, may be creating a common olfactory reference today. The aim: to give ethno-olfactory value, both representative and tangible, to the three neighbourhoods, as well as symbolic value.25 We are therefore discussing "olfactory survival" in the city of Barcelona. There is also olfactory thick data, which appeals precisely to sensitive knowledge. B. Other research applications B.1 Research in the sense of R+D+I (Research, Development and Innovation).

25 See "prototype symbol" on page 13


B.2 A prototype, in ethnographic terms, to conduct quantitatively larger, and therefore more complex, research studies in urban and rural environments. B.3 A working tool in fields and projects such as: • Accessible museums: audience development, person responsible for accessibility ("Accessible Exhibitions. Criteria for removing the barriers to communication and facilitating access to content", ICUB-IMPD, Barcelona, 2016). • Smell-Smart-City, smellscapes or sensory technoscapes in Barcelona for blind, deaf and deaf-blind people, as both sign and spoken language are used by them. • Initial launch and relaunch of the H/OMM (Hub / Osmoteca de la Memòria de la Mediterrània), through Omuses - Cultural Smell, Management and Facilitation, Heritage Services.


METHODOLOGICAL JUSTIFICATION FOR THE RESEARCH Correlation between methods, aims and results. From autoethnography to collaborative olfactory ethnograph The social science s and, specifically, collaborative ethnographies, arise en force as a method oering solutions to problems, specifications of requirement and proposals for change in relation to new phenomena. Applied research is aimed at providing reports where an affirmation is specified. In addition, it stresses the existence of a social reality that has not yet been verified empirically. Method: once olfactory autoethnography has been completed,26 it becomes de facto subjective knowledge. Personal experience is shared in the collective arena, meaning that this subjective knowledge becomes objective knowledge through the common categories that the team directing the research have explored in designing their fieldwork. These categories are distinguished by convention through words, but, above all, thanks to the metonymy expressed by ethnographers 26 Specifications for conducting fieldwork, page 26.


in each instance of smell.27 Ethno-olfactory certainties have therefore been established from the three Barcelona neighbourhoods, as well as an ethno-contemporary smell. Smells are perceived through a model of shared cognition28 in a stable and common way. These stimuli together create our identity through their durability.29

Conducting fieldwork Research, as we mentioned above, is a prototype and the Museum of Ethnology and World Cultures believes in R+D+i. A. Number of ethnographers: the team collaborating in this exhibition was made up of four ethnographers. B.

Quality of ethnographers.30

C. Conducting fieldwork. The files have been uploaded to a Dropbox folder, so that they can be openly viewed by the community (networking). C.1 Prior information provided to ethnographers. Shared folders have been created to discuss content and methods for 27 See "Introduction. Key specifications on cultural smell", page17 28 See Point B in "Introduction. Key specifications on cultural smell", page 18 29 See Point E in "Introduction. Key specifications on cultural smell", page 20 30 See page 11, footnote 1./2.


conducting autoethnographic fieldwork, including field guide specifications, common conditions in autoethnographic exercises (the cultural, social and biological body must be prepared to smell evocative smells), chronograms, ethnographer itineraries (morning, afternoon and evening). C.2 We have prepared 36 itinerary sheets, which, when added to the 4 ethno-contemporary smells, makes a total of 762 instances of smelling (736 + 26). C.3 We have used the survey technique in “arpentage�31, a technique designed for this prototype and a procedure adopted by Virgili in the Medina de Fes protoautoethnography, which has inspired the ethnologies of internationally renowned ethnographers. C.4 The fieldwork was completed during the summer, between 10 June and 15 July 2018. This allowed for the best smelling conditions on account of the relationship between the olfactory apparatus and the environment. We were able to smell on sunny days, during hot spells, warm winds and breezes, as well as cool evenings. D. The cultural olfactory survivors in each neighbourhood and the ethnocontemporary smell have been suggested in a document forming the palette or the exhibition proposal for "Olfactory Survival in Barcelona". This has been used as a point of reference to design olfactory essences.

31 Lanoix, 2014.



ETHNOLOGICAL STUDY: "OLFACTORY SURVIVAL IN BARCELONA" Consideration and necessary relationship between the report on the results of the olfactory collaborative ethnography and the design of essences. A. Linguistic considerations: A correlation of frequency of ethno-smells has been conducted through the natural language of smells. We talk about tropology, metonymy as a resource that allows us to partially structure experience of a multi-sensory nature. The common shared language also helps us to display shared olfactory sensations.32 B. Technical considerations: B.1 The perception and design that goes into creating a perfume essence is as follows: the composition of essences, 32 See "Introduction. Key specifications on cultural smell", page 17


chemically speaking, is called a note, and these notes include various compounds according to volatility. On the one hand, there are notes that only last for a few minutes on a piece of paper or mouillette and, on the other, there are notes that last for several weeks. The use of an essence is therefore normally divided into three groups with regard to its volatility: • basic or background notes, which are the most persistent over time; • intermediate or body notes, with average volatility and which emphasise the essence; • and the high or head notes, which are the most volatile and provide the immediate effect. B.2 Structure of Omuses; cognitive perception from an ethnological perspective and in this research/curation project.33 Budget: • The research is approached using olfactory thick data such as mutual cognition: the beginning of perception through the smellscape and the taskscape. • We undertake the research by describing ethno-smells that, thanks to language, have emerged as a successive hologram/ kaleidoscope and, nevertheless, are fleeting ethno-smells that resemble the sensation provided by impermanence and proxemics.34 They are, in short, descriptions that have provided us with cultural values. • Other considerations: in the same way that essences designed chemically can be too strong and unpleasant, ethno-smells 33 Also see page 47 34 Also see page 47


taken during field work are also repulsive. Both types of smell cover up more subtle, neutral or pleasant smells. Thus, a consensus was reached between the technical personnel from the Museum of Ethnology and World Cultures, Sandra Iruela and Meritxell Virgili, during the two days on which the olfactory samples were conducted. From them all, we chose notes that we want to bring to the exhibition and, in addition, that characterise each neighbourhood (including the ethnocontemporary smell), all as prototype symbols.35

Ethno-olfactory palette A. Design proposal for essences related to quotations36 or ethno-olfactory evidence from fieldwork in the neighbourhoods, as well as the ethno-contemporary smell. A.1.

Pere IV / Poblenou

A.1.a Quotations: • "Sala Becket or Cooperativa Pau i Justícia. On leaving the cafeteria, I was struck by a whiff of boiled beans." (Ethnographer 3, afternoon 1. Pere IV / Poblenou).

35 See page 20 36 Extract from ethno-olfactory quotations as a reference for creating each essence designed for the exhibition. On page 47, we have also had to introduce other quotations that help to ensure the purpose of this curation project is understood.


• "I leave a shop and suddenly I can smell boiled potato again. This more intense smell is the same one we smell in A2 while walking around Martorell. This smell is stronger in the direction of Barcelona; there is a huge factory next to Llobregat. (The type of factory has not yet been identified) It is a smell that I do not recall smelling for over 40 years; it is a sad memory, because it means that I have come from the mountain to the big city." (Ethnographer 3, afternoon 3. Pere IV / Poblenou). • "I smell boiled potato again... It could be boiled vegetables (potato and pulses)." (Ethnographer 3, afternoon 9. Pere IV / Poblenou).

• "Where Carrer de Roc Boronat meets Carrer de Llull, the smell that comes to me is very immediate: it is the instant stink given off when we open a can of pulses and it disappears once we put them in water and wash them. This smell reminds me of the film The Pianist by Roman Polanski, when the main character is dying of hunger and tries to open a tin of food he finds in the destruction of the city around him. It becomes a very difficult task as he does not have any strength left to open it due to malnutrition and the suffering he underwent during the Second World War. For me, this scene reminded me of the old buildings in Poblenou at times." (Ethnographer 1, morning 3. Pere IV / Poblenou).

• "You can see people drinking beer, coffee and teas on the terraces." (Ethnographer 4, afternoon 42. Pere IV / Poblenou) • "Carrer de Roc Boronat. A scented man has crossed the road; his smell is drier than that of women." (Ethnographer 4, night 19. Pere IV / Poblenou).


• "Terrace atmosphere. People with tables full of beers. The smell of beer comes to me. The smell of never-ending nights with friends." (Ethnographer 4, night 48. Pere IV / Poblenou) A.1.b Perfume proposal: notes of olfactory tubercle and casserole combined with notes of toast and sweet notes of coffee and salty notes of isoamyl.





A.2.a Quotations: • "As I stopped at a traffic light by the statue of Columbus, the smells of tourists' creams reached me. And the smell of cars." (Ethnographer 2, morning 1. Port/Barceloneta). • "There's a breeze and the sea air arrives, an air with a humid smell and a salty, iodine smell." (Ethnographer 2, morning 2. Port/ Barceloneta).

• "Ugh! Now I can smell tobacco smoke mixed with lots of fried foods from restaurants. I am walking beneath banana trees and I can also make out the humid smell of the trees. I'm also getting whiffs of tobacco smoke, both from people walking and those sitting on the benches on one side and outdoor tables on the other side. Finally, cigar. (…) It is a strong smell, one of those that sits like a phantasmagorical statue in the middle of the path. You close those curtains of fried food smell with the smell of tobacco and the humidity of banana trees." (Ethnographer 2, night 4. Port/Barceloneta). • "Just one person smoking is enough because it leaves a wall that is broken by anyone who goes through it." (Ethnographer 2, night 9. Port/Barceloneta).

• "I am getting a smell of cigar. It is an overwhelming smell. You g o p a s t i t a n d i t fe e l s l i ke t h e s m e l l s t ay s w i t h you." (Ethnographer 4, morning 24. Port/Barceloneta). • "I am surrounded by boats and sea water. It smells like sea salt. Like salt water." (Ethnographer 4, afternoon 7. Port/Barceloneta). • "I am coming across people who smell of cream, which reminds me that the beach is nearby." (Ethnographer 4, afternoon 13. Port/Barceloneta).


• "I can smell the sewer as I walk." (Ethnographer 4, afternoon 30. Port/Barceloneta).

• "Smell of sewer, very strong." (Ethnographer 4, night 6. Port/ Barceloneta).

• "Passeig de la Barceloneta constantly smells of sun cream. I can smell it as I walk along the promenade and I can smell the people closest to me; the gusts of wind produce a yo-yo effect with the smell. When accompanied by the heat, I get an urge to shelter somewhere shady." (Ethnographer 1, morning 2. Port/ Barceloneta).

• "The beach front promenade the smell of the breeze is very difficult to explain, but is palpable. As you walk and find yourself among the people, the breeze caresses your face, bringing a smell that represents the sea, sun cream and plants in the distance. It is a pleasant combination." (Ethnographer 1, night 5. Port/Barceloneta).

• "I am walking and... the first few streets in La Barceloneta (part of city, Ronda Litoral) are narrow, small and smell of sewer; as I walk, however, the smells of different businesses come to me. It is not a hologram, there is one smell after another: the shoemaker, the café... You are aware that the breeze coming to you from the sea, as it is humid (not fresh), brings you comfort and so, possibly without you even noticing, you get the smell of salt water. My biological nose is able to become accustomed to this smell and so I do not smell it. The same thing can happen with the sewer smell." (Ethnographer 3, day 4. Port/Barceloneta).

• "I am lying on the beach. Why does it smell so much of sun cream? Are people putting kilos of it on? There is no-one next to me... Or is it salt water plus breeze? My biological body struggles to process the fact that in an open, natural space


there is such an artificial and people-centred smell." (Ethnographer 3, day 6. Port/Barceloneta). • "(My olfactory sense is adapting to the smell of salt water; I think I will have to conduct field work in the morning and the afternoon on La Barceloneta beach). I can still, however, smell the sand on the beach, a smell that could be a mix of salt water with cigarette butt, all with a calm background sea; the atmosphere... the smell is fresh and dense at the same time." (Ethnographer 3, night 9. Port/Barceloneta). A.2.b Perfume proposal: ozone and salt water olfactory notes combined with a fruity, sweet and honey sun cream note, as well as notes of coumarin with tobacco, with a background note of putrefaction and ammonia.





A.3.a Quotations: • "There are whiffs of tobacco smoke and other enclosed and stuffy smells. It is a close and almost spicy smell, also acidic. With a touch of urine. Now I smell a few light smells, I would not know how to put names to them: there is a touch of dried ham or pork fat, but sweaty. Now I am getting smells of Pakistani food, mixed with smells of piss coming from the air in the enclosed alleyways I am walking down. The air comes from the streets and impregnates you with this unpleasant smell of piss and the restaurant smells." (Ethnographer 2, morning 1. Gòtic/Raval).

• "The sensation is of a close, breathy air. Mixed up with things from restaurants and foods. There is an accumulation of smells here that is difficult to describe in words. When passing through narrow places, such as the passageways left in the scaffolding used to restore façades, you find a stronger smell. An old lingering smell of houses, imprisoned in that ephemeral passageway." (Ethnographer 2, morning 2. Gòtic/Raval) • "They are subtle, strange smells. We do not have the vocabulary to describe these smells. They are smells that come and go very quickly, but the overall sensation they leave me with is of ham, that yellow part of the fat, full of fungi. Along the way, I get whiffs of tobacco smoke from people smoking on the corners. The wind spreads these whiffs of tobacco smoke around. I am also getting very human waves from people wearing tank tops and giving off a sweaty smell. Sometimes, I also smell something like roast chicken, but it is not chicken, it is armpit. The heat helps to make this


atmosphere even more intense. In addition, the smoke from cars and motorcycles is especially insistent." (Ethnographer 2, morning 3. Gòtic/Raval)

• "I am going down Carrer dels Tres Llits. It is a narrow street with a heavy enclosed smell, of old things, of dust. I feel a change in pressure. I smell many stuffy smells and fried food. People are going by. The air you breathe in here has been recycled several times. The smell of dust becomes intense. It feels like the air is difficult to breathe. Every now and then there is also a stench of tobacco. In the direction of Avinyó I pass in front of a grille, from which a strong and annoying smell of drains emanates. But the stench does not last long in my nose, because all of a sudden I get fresher, blue, ocean, maritime smells that relax this bad sensation. Those smells do not last long either, because new whiffs of tobacco smoke come back, leaving a disgusting sensation in my nose. Well, there is no way that nice and pleasant smells can still be found in my nose now." (Ethnographer 2, morning 8. Gòtic/Raval) • "Smells are old, ancient, tired, breathed in, used and reused. The air we breathe has been used again and again and again! I'm walking down Avinyó headed towards the sea. The smells here are very complex. Deodorant? Pharmacy? Food? Smoke? How on earth can we describe all these smells?" (Ethnographer 2, morning 11. Gòtic/Raval)

• "I start to get those smells of sweaty shoes again. I do not know of a better way to describe this experience. This image is the closest I can get. There is something of ham with rancid fat. But that is not exactly it." (Ethnographer 2, night 9. Gòtic/Raval). • "Streets: Sant Pacià / Placeta de Miquel Pallés / Santa Elena / Sant Bartomeu. I have walked around the mini neighbourhood;


the smell is not of the sewer. What I can say is that there is a stale freshness of poorly ventilated rooms coming from the houses, where the bad smell of sewers comes out from the pipes. At the same time, there is a dense breeze. I am not aware of it... perhaps I am getting used to it, it is my biological body." (Ethnographer 3, afternoon 12. Gòtic/Raval). • “Carrer de les Carretes: the smell that sometimes comes to me throughout the whole neighbourhood is really prominent on this street, like stagnant water that evokes something of a vomit smell. Sometimes it comes back stronger or it is fainter; it is the main smell in the whole neighbourhood in general." (Ethnographer 1, morning 2. Gòtic/Raval). • "El Jardinet dels Gats: the smell that this place provokes for me is that of the animals living there, female cats and wet sand. It is not so unpleasant that you could not get used to it; the garden seems to be well cared for, although the age of the building gives an air of neglect." (Ethnographer 1, morning 5. Gòtic/ Raval).

A.3.b Perfume proposal: olfactory note of trimethylamine and phenylacetic acid with a background of earthy fenugreek fungus.





A.4 Ethno-contemporary smell in the city of Barcelona • Notes In cognitive terms, not all ethnographers have been able to describe an ethno-smell that did not exist a few years ago.37 An ethno-contemporary smell could also be creating an identity as a process: smells that, over time, have been introduced into our daily work and are now part of our Barcelona olfactory landscape (we are again talking about taskscape and smellscape).38 Other specifications of these ethno-smells are: a) they may be imports, i.e. smells that have been packaged and transported in a container to arrive daily from another scent landscape; b) they may also have developed in the city of Barcelona in the flow and exchange of people's lives. A.4.a Quotations: • "The scent of polyester, in industrial form, can be smelled in many shops, as 30 or 40 years ago it was mass-produced here. It is a pleasant smell, although it is challenged by the industrial processes it occupies." (Ethnographer 1, 1). • "The smell of plastic from a tent you have just taken out of the box and assembled for the first time." (Ethnographer 1, 2). • "At the end of the nineties, shops selling "everything for 100 pesetas" came into being and at the begINNing of the 21st 37 See "Introduction. Key specifications on cultural smell”, page 17. 38 See page 14/15.


century they became "everything for €1". We are used to going in and buying functional objects, whether we need them or not, mostly containing some element of plastic or of a poor quality. This plastic has a processed smell, which emanates from the department store/shop, always towards the public space, which we can smell as we walk along the street." (Ethnographer 3, 1). The smell of plastic now forms part of our olfactory landscape; it has been incorporating itself into our biological bodies and we are getting used to it;39 we are not talking about sensory marketing,40 because no company has requested a plastic fragrance in order to sell products. It has not been predetermined and that is why it is an ethno-contemporary smell. A.4.b Perfume proposal: olfactory notes of polypropylene combined with an inoffensive, toasty and bitter note.

39 See Point D in "Introduction. Key specifications on cultural smell", page 19 40 "Sensory marketing" of some shops: one ethnographer (afternoon, Gòtic/Raval) says: "Pelai smells of Barcelona, exhaust pipe, plus the various smells of sensory marketing: for my taste, it is an invasion of pedestrians' intimacy, it is disrespectful and even violent.”; another (night, Gòtic/Raval) talks of: "Cross La Rambla and Portaferrissa to Cucurulla and Catedral. It really is insulting how these different smells assault your sense, the fragrances of sensory marketing to your left and right, without asking for permission. These smells mix with the breeze, which is less thick in the afternoon." It is clear that this smell is annoying for the ethnographer; we will not go into their hedonic sense. The question is: should olfactory marketing be regulated so that it does not invade the public highway?


B. Quotations that help us to understand the key specifications on cultural smell41 in general and the ethno-smells of this curation project.42 • Thick urban air:43 "Plaça Reial. Barcelona per Medi Ambient Cleaning lorry; once you get there, there is no noise in the square, there is a background of calm, a peaceful atmosphere that allows you to breathe and yet, nevertheless, makes you think that the square will become more lively as evening falls because there are so many people there. Local police, tourist groups with guides, parties, bars and their staff, pedestrians and absent-minded people sitting in the square. I move away from La Rambla... and the smell reminds me, it evokes for me a city full of contaminated exhaust pipes, urine (human and dog) and sewers, but Barcelona pel Medi Ambient - Cleaning works quickly and each day invests in spraying the streets so that this thick stench does not mix with the dazzling sunshine and blue salt water setting; this could be the smell of a contemporary Mediterranean city. All this reminds me of the olfactory ethnography of the Moroccan city of Fes." (Ethnographer 3, morning 3. Gòtic/Raval). • "I want to describe the dense afternoon breeze added to the dense urban air (on such a day as today): it is hot and it comes 41 See "Introduction. Key specifications on cultural smell", page 17 42 Tropology enables us to partially structure the experience, enveloping the olfactory nature. It is also the mutually-controlled organisation of knowledge, an intersubjective means of communication and, in addition, it is shown to be successful; it is the mutual cognition of which we speak in the "Introduction. Key specifications on cultural smell".

43 Let us remember that cultural smell is a prototype symbol. See page 20.


from the sea, although it does not often smell of salt water; a second smell comes that begins to penetrate more and more, the smell is sewer, although you no longer notice this because you have smelt it so often that the biological body has become accustomed to it; it might be accompanied by a smell of urine (human or dog) or it might be alone. The ground is hot. (Post-walk description.)" (Ethnographer 3, afternoon 0. Gòtic/ Raval).

• "Now we are walking along Carrer del Judici. I get a whiff of sewer. There is a particular density of smells here. It is like a brown coloured mixture, but with smells. The smells have become so diluted that they cannot be distinguished from one another. The heat also plays its part, contributing to this mass smell. It is as if lots of small smells were trying to survive to make their identity count, but they end up on in a cesspool where they are mixed and diluted. No smell manages to stand out and can never get out of this pool of smells, where they lose their individuality." (Ethnographer 2, night 7. Port/Barceloneta). • "Cigarettes plus salt water plus sun cream… could it be… I am walking… along the beach, by the Salamanca restaurant. Cities with beaches are dirty... the atmosphere is dirty, as there is no natural landscape (nothing clean, fresh, free of human masses). Lots of noise and planes passing overhead, in the sky which is too near; people arriving on a beach that is too dirty because it comes from a dirty city. Too many restaurants nearby, too many sewers nearby. It is the decline of a civilisation."44 (Etnògraf/a 3, tarda 8. Port/Barceloneta).

44 Let us remember that cultural smell, specifically ethno-smell, is a prototype symbol. See "Introduction", page 20.


• "There are smells that I do not know whether to identify as smells or as sensations. For example, I could talk about the smell of the sun, but in reality it is the sensation of heat." (Ethnographer 4, night 42. Port/Barceloneta). • "I head down Carrer del Bisbe and Sant Sever down Santa Eulàlia. The smell in the atmosphere is similar to the smell I experienced in Fes, […] (episodic memory). So, it is a Mediterranean smell and that of Ciutat Vella, where we find that evocative and episodic memory in a "holographic smell" sort of way. From the ground below me come aromas of Barcelona's damp ground (Barcelona pel Medi Ambient Cleaning), plus drops of cat or human urine and sewers, which Barcelona pel Medi Ambient - Cleaning works hard to get rid of." (Ethnographer 3, morning 8. Gòtic/Raval). • "Crossroads, els Tres Llits / Raurich / Lleona / Escudellers Blancs. Barcelona pel Medi Ambient - Cleaning has cleaned the ground with water again, as the smell that reaches my nostrils from below is sick-inducing; a holographic mixture of the smell of sewers with the wet paving (wet cement).” (Ethnographer 3, morning 5. Gòtic/Raval). • "Rubbish; I notice that I smell things one after the other on my way through the streets and in this case they are: rubbish, perfume from a pharmacy, baked bread from a bakery, garlic and parsley, wet pavement. It is not an olfactory hologram: it is a kaleidoscope in which, at each step, each movement, the mind creates one hologram after another. These smells are fixed like each image in a kaleidoscope, but when you move or it moves, the next image or smell is never the same as any other." (Ethnographer 3, evening/night 4. Pere IV)


• "The cultural smell of Gòtic Sud could be described as follows: a holographic smell […], as I walk, as I move, the smells of sun cream, disinfectant for the ground/street, hot dogs, etc. come to me successively in a kaleidoscopic movement... and, nevertheless, the sea breeze always brings with it a background smell of sewers... and yet my biological body begins not to notice this smell because it is getting used to it. (Ethnographer 3, morning 6. Gòtic/Raval)

• "A bit of a breeze and smells that come and go. Impermanent smells." (Ethnographer 2, morning 14. Gòtic/Raval) • "But all of these smells are ephemeral. A couple of Latin American girls pass by wearing a lot of perfume and the cries of the perfume they are wearing silence the other smells for a few moments. It is as if they were surrounded by an aura of


perfume. The space around them is that of the smells they are wearing, the smells that arrive before them and linger until after they are gone. But, wow, how strong and invasive these smells are! I would like to be able to see smells, to see how they surround people and see them move through space. I imagine they would be like phantasmagorical silhouettes. We would be able to distinguish smells like proxemics, an intimate, personal, social and public space. We should look into how to do it." (Ethnographer 2, night 5. Port/Barceloneta) Could we say that cultural smell is fixed in our cognitive schema, the locus of memory as follows?: episodic visual smells, evocations of a time gone by, which, thanks to synestehsia, send us to the most eective existence (prototype symbol); at the same time, each moment is changed and measured when moving through space, just like when we turn a kaleidoscope. With smells instead of colours and forms. Are they, then, multiple olfactory holograms? And yet we know that smells become elusive shor tly af ter this time/space: it is impermanence and proxemics. However, they remain in our memory as the expression of a place and a time, the first witness of our fusion with the world. To finish, I remember, as explained in the "Museological justification for the commission", that olfactory thick data appeal to sensitive knowledge; on the other hand, cultural smell is shown as a successful means of communication, because the names learned within a community of speakers promote group approval: it is mutual cognition - as expressed in Point B of the "Key specifications on cultural smell".



QUANTITATIVE VALUES OF THREE BARCELONA NEIGHBOURHOODS INTER-LINKED WITH QUALITATIVE VALUES An intermediate attempt to find out about existing olfactory dynamics through the fact of feeling, perceiving, memorising and naming, as expressed in the Preamble; attempting to quantify the three neighbourhoods through the olfactory sense in sociocultural terms.

A. While taking into account all the experiences and the arguments that you have just read and after doing the fieldwork, we explain the following in quantitative terms: a study conducted by 4 ethnographers, adding up to a total of 736 instances of smelling from the three neighbourhoods.




We have established three categories: natural, pollution and artificial, and we have looked into two others: on the one hand, natural plus pollution and, on the other, natural or pollution plus artificial (indierently). A.1.a Natural: We have not separated hedonic sense when they come from nature and natural processes, i.e. human, or not, and environmental from the world of nature. An attempt to research "natural smells" within the city: A.1.a.45 Natural: sewers, waste paper bins/wastewater disposal, Mediterranean (dense and very dense), salt water or sea breeze, urine (human) and dog poo, pulses or casseroles, trees or flowers, food and drink, wet sand, sweat.

A.1.b Pollution due to transport: We wanted to find out exactly how many smells come from the world of transport, of motor vehicles. And yet, the experience and knowledge gained tells us that practically nothing can be discerned separately from the "Natural" category, which is why a new category emerged: A.1.b. Pollution due to transport: exhaust pipe, tar/asphalt, rubber, car or truck smoke, fuel, welding, metal grinders, mechanical grease. A.1.c. Natural + pollution: reheated urban air (dense and very dense), road surfaces, wet asphalt, wet slabs, wet cement, city bird.

45 Each category matches one of the colors that you can see in the later charts.


A.1.d. Artificial: we also know that we are surrounded by artificial materials, i.e. synthetics (chemicals); we wanted to know the amounts of chemicals smelt, also compared to the "Natural" category. Thus, in the same way as happened in the "Pollution" category, virtually no smells can be discerned separately from the "Natural" category or from other categories. We therefore opened a fifth and final category that brings together, in some cases, all the above categories. A.1.d. Artificial: tobacco, printing or inks/kiosk, perfumes/aftershave/ soap, disinfectants or chemical products, solvents, moisturising/sun creams, synthetics; hot lamp with no heat, firecrackers, jelly beans/ sweets, candles/incense. A.1.e. Natural or pollution + artificial (indi erently). Infinite combinations such as, for example: hashish and marijuana joint (mixed with tobacco), old furniture, thick old stone, dense smell and dense urban smell, etc.



























B. B. Schematic note about the qualities of smells linked to quantitative values. Extract from quotations. B.1. Adaptation:46 unpleasant smells disappear in our biological body through adaptation, as happens with salt water; hedonic sense does not matter. • "My olfactory sense is adapting to the smell of salt water; I think I will have to conduct fieldwork in the morning and in afternoon in La Barceloneta beach. However, I can still smell the sand on the beach, a smell that could be a mix of salt water with cigarette butt, all with a calm background sea; the atmosphere... the smell is fresh and dense at the same time." (Ethnographer 3, night 9. Port/Barceloneta). • "I went around behind the Cathedral and Carrer del Paradís, the CEC. Maybe I've got used to the smell of sewer, or to the old quarter, but I do not smell, feel or perceive it. I smell the same as at midday. People who live in the old quarter do not smell their neighbourhood, they have got used to it; it is an adaptation of the brain of the biological body. " (Ethnographer 3, evening/night 3. Gòtic/Raval). • "I keep walking and trying to identify smells. I do not find many. I am forcing myself to breathe in. Perhaps we should talk about a threshold of smell beyond which smells begin to 46 See Point D in "Introduction. Key specifications on cultural smell", page 19.


manifest themselves. Like sounds. Beyond certain frequencies we do not hear low or high-pitched sounds. I would say the same happens with smells. There must be a minimum smell required for our noses to pick up on it. This threshold changes with age. (My 15-year-old son is currently with me he can, of course, smell better than I can.)" (Ethnographer 2, night 3. Port/Barceloneta).


Toxic upset:47

• "C/ Pere VI, 160, the Gaes building along with the café where I stopped to have a coffee are, unusually, quite modern, glass buildings. It is a radical contrast with the older, industrial factory-type buildings. It reminds me of a scene from the world that appears in the film The Matrix. When I walked along this street, a smell of smoke and cement paving came to me, but it is a smell that prevails throughout the city as a whole and I found it difficult to accurately identify it, since I am very accustomed to it. It is not unpleasant, but it is artificial and far surpasses the scent of trees or nature." (Ethnographer 1, morning 4. Pere IV / Poblenou). • "Jovellanos almost at Pelai. Poor quality fried food... I would say the bad cooking is mixed with Oysho's sensory marketing (intense, dry perfume that quickly goes to the back of your throat)." (Ethnographer 3, afternoon 5. Gòtic/Raval) • "Pelai smells of Barcelona, exhaust pipe, plus the various smells of sensory marketing: for my taste, it is an invasion of 47 See Points D and E in "Introduction. Key specifications on cultural smell", page 19/20.


p e d e s t r i a n s' p r i va cy, i t i s d i s re s p e c tf u l a n d eve n violent." (Ethnographer 3, afternoon 6. Gòtic/Raval)


Tobacco smoke:48

• "I cross Carrer de la Maquinista. Whiffs of cigarette tobacco and smoke from cigars. There are people who fill their surroundings with the smell of cigars. I find it very unpleasant! I also find it unfair that I have to smell something that I do not want to because others have the habit of making public spaces dirtier. We should all look after public spaces as they belong to all of us. It is one of the things that 'we' all have." (Ethnographer 2, night 5. Port/Barceloneta). • "Tobacco, people passing by as they smoke. It reminds you of when you used to go to bars and people would be smoking in enclosed spaces." (Ethnographer 4, morning 11)

48 See Points D and E in "Introduction. Key specifications on cultural smell", page 19/20.



“Sens négligé et, à ce titre, méconnu, l’odorat l’est certaiment. Discrédité, disqualifié, voilà qui est contestable. Mon enquête montre au contraire que l’odorat peut être l’objet d’apprentissages explicites ou implicites élaborés qui en font un instrument de premier ordre dans certaines situations de cognition sociale ou partagée.” Candau (2000), page 14



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Enquiry Report Olfactory Survival in Barcelona Booklet Omuses Museum of Ethnology and World Cultures  

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