The Bartlett School of Architecture



Huisim Chan

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Adorning the wearer’s head, Neoteny is part piece of jewellery, part wearable. The project uses the body of the designer as a site upon which to experiment with possibilities of enhancing memories by referencing body movements with olfactory stimuli.

Neoteny, as an amplification device, uses bio-sensing to detect muscle activity levels to trigger the blending and delivery of personalised scents to the wearer. This has the effect of encouraging associative cross-sensory connections and acts as a memory reinforcement and retention paradigm.

The sense of self underpinning our experience of reality is a radically embodied process. As we move through and negotiate the world, our muscle activity consistently changes and localises us in our current surroundings. As our everyday lives become ever more sedentary and muscle activity and scope is minimised, the richness of this experience is threatened.

By introducing unusual cross-sensory correlations and creating synesthetic connections across muscle movement and olfaction, Neoteny explores how experience can be diversified and enriched, allowing memories to be more deeply reinforced to assist everyday performance. In part a critique of the contemporary tension between biopower (the power to control bodies) and noopower (the power to control thought), the design project acts as a case study which plays out in and on the body of the designer to explore interpersonal and intrapersonal environmental mediation. Neoteny further suggests potentials for symbiotic relationships between wearer and wearable, and aims to provoke a debate about current notions of transhumanism.