After three weeks of research, we realized that it is very easy to get lost, but it is not as easy to come up with a project that can make people lost in a more spontaneous manner. One path that Caitlin and I explored was manipulating a map. I looked up an old acquaintance of mine that is working as a cartographer in New Mexico, and she kindly responded to my questions. What was interesting is that while there is a lot of manipulation that can be done with maps in general (symbols, how to code things), she felt very uncomfortable with the actual misinformation of the 'direction' part of it. The interview was highly informative and certainly increased my interest in cartography further, it was something that we felt might not be as effective as it first seemed. Another path we have always thought about was how different ways to manipulate one's senses can be a horribly disorienting experience. I thought of diving, where some friends who have done it said it can be terribly disorienting, despite rarely being in danger of being lost. If you go deep enough, there is little light, your ears would be in pain from the pressure, you are breathing through an oxygen tank and you are in water: all of these make one's body feel extremely disoriented, even though there are plenty of safeguards in place. (Here is a link to the interview I had with Wyna about diving) I was once at an art exhibit in London and walked into a 'pitch black maze': within three steps I felt completely lost. Even though all I did was walk straight, the lack of reference points that I could see with my eyes meant I started doubting myself. I was terrified, beating and flinging my arms around until I eventually found my exit (which was not the entrance and there was only one exit there, so I followed the path exactly as intended), but because it was impossible to tell where I was with my eyes, I had no sense of how big that maze was: it could have a tiny space with 15 steps, for all I know. We however came up with manipulating the sense of smell. Smells are such powerful memory triggers, that a familiar smell would let you know exactly where you are. As Elyse said in her interview, smells are one of the anchors of orientation for her. So what happens when we mess with that?
A lot of smells immediately brings a memory to a time and place: if I smell something that smells very fishy, I immediately think about the wet markets of Hong Kong. If I smell cut grass I think about the parks I used to play at in Sydney. Even artificial scents would make me associate it with a place: there is one smell that reminds of me of a hotel that I would walk through in Hong Kong, one perfume made me think of a particular time and space. One medicinal oil would make me think of my grandma's afternoon naps. The list goes on. So what happens when we mess with that?
We had a few ideas. We bought and borrowed some scents, and while we really wanted to try and do something on the subway, the fear of getting into trouble with the law meant the best I could do was poorly sketch them out. But I did decide to use one of the Chinese medicinal oils I borrowed (not the one that reminded me of grandma, but another kind, equally strong though) during peak hour subway. The smell is clovey, heavy, and one classmate said "it smelt like a Catholic Church", I wore a fair amount of it on the subway and there were certainly confused looks on some of my nearby commuters. I wanted to burn incense around the floor but smoke apparently is a hazard and could trigger the fire alarm so I also scrapped that idea. I will perhaps get one of the wall plug in devices and send some strange, non-itp smells onto the floor.
Here is a document of our brainstorming over the past fortnight.