Art and our Senses

Projects exploring approaches to sensory engagement and our artistic practice.


Library of Smells

Current Project

LEVEL’s ‘Art and our Senses’ programme has investigated how the individual senses can  allow people with more complex needs to explore art, emotion and space through sensory based approaches. This has included, taste, touch, sound, smell and sight  within highly sensory environments.

Library of Smells builds on this work, creating an environment in which people can experience books in a different way. Any book lover can tell you: diving into a great novel is an immersive experience that can make your brain come alive with imagery and emotions and even turn on your senses. It sounds romantic, but there’s considerable evidence that supports these things happening to your brain when you read books.  What if we turned that around? Can the senses help you to ‘dive’ into a story, into a world of fictional narratives and imagination?

A library is a place where books and other literary material are categorised and kept for reference. The ambitions of a public library are to make culture and learning accessible to all people; to ensure access to information and equity of access and to push for education and desire to share knowledge.

Smell is a powerful sense. What we end up smelling is a complex conversation between the chemical properties of a smell, what we might have been expecting, and what we already recognise. In other words, the discrete odour that we perceive is a product of our ability to categorize and to learn the categories.

Library of Smells is still under development and will explore the essence of the public library using smell and visual references. You will literally be able to get your nose into a book to take you on a journey of discovery. This will take the form of a new installation at LEVEL in 2020 which will launch the Library of Smells Project.

Project Lead: David Ottley (email: for more information)

Art and Our Senses: Five Sense R&D Project

The 5 SENSE Project was a research action project focused upon delivering high quality stimulating and creative experiences for people with PMLD (profound, multiple learning disabilities).

The aim of the 5 SENSE project was to investigate participants’ response and engagement by focusing upon one sense at a time, exploring different creative approaches to stimulate sensory awareness for each participant. We measured the level of engagement, perceived benefit and potential development through observation, feedback from participants, digital monitoring (where possible) and detailed reports from carers/support workers.


Images above: Gelatin encased tastes

Pilot Projects

These  operated within a modular structure comprising several projects. Each project worked with a small group from a day centre, care home or hospital over a period of 6 weeks. For 5 weeks, sessions took place in the centre/venue. Week 6 was a dedicated training/development session for carers held at the Level Centre. The number of participants was limited to 3-4 people per session, plus carers/supporting staff. For continuity and training purposes the same carers/support staff and (where possible) participants were required to be present at all sessions.

5 SENSE was an action research project and the opportunity for CPD for supporting staff designed to help discover a suitable research strategy to help us best understand the impact of this “enriched” artistic practice and in particular seek to measure the effects upon participants’ eudemonic (an internalised, long-term) sense of well-being.

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