Drawing by Paul van 't hullenaar

Can you experience someone's death up close and personal? Famous people who have died tragic deaths can leave ineradicable scars to our collective memory. J.F. Kennedy, Lady Diana... Till this day, the way they died still toys with our imagination. Many theories about the exact cause of death still revolve around the deaths of J.F. Kennedy and Lady diana. Wouldn't we like to have been there?

FAMOUS DEATHS will recreate a famous person's last few living minutes by using scent. We all know the images of that open car that slowly drives through the streets of Dallas, the President happily waving to the crowd. And then, those few fatal shots. What must it have been like to be near that car? You would smell an autumn wind, the grass, the leather car seats, Jacky Kennedy's perfume, exhaust fumes mingled with the somewhat musty scent of that limousine, and then suddenly the penetrating scent of blood, brains and gunpowder drilling its way into your nostrils.

FAMOUS DEATHS is a series of four portraits of celebrities in their final moments. This installation will reconstruct these moments as closely as possible, using only sound and scents. This will create a short but intimate experience. By taking away any visual keys, visitors experience these portraits more intensely.


Famous Deaths software interface


For the FAMOUS DEATHS installation I designed and developed the software and a large part of the hardware. The software is written in Max/MSP and handles the switching of the pressure valves and playback of the audio. With the software we can record various scent sequences for playback and it let's us 'print' different scent combinations into the mortuary freezers with great accuracy. The software runs on mac and PC.


festo pressure valves and pcb

Scent printer

The scent-printer, as we like to call it, consists of four arrays of Festo pressure valves which pressurize up to fourty scent-containers, an Arduino Mega microcontroller and a custom made pcb for switching the valves. The challenge in designing the hardware lies in the accuracy of the printing proces and how scents are dispersed in the freezers. 


Winner Art & Olfaction Award 2015

Famous Deaths wins Art & Olfaction Sadakichi Award voor Experimental Scent. FAMOUS DEATHS was selected from more than 50 applicants. The jury praised the installation for: 

“its conceptual integration of scent. This combined with complex technology, a concept that felt on the very edge of pop culture and a collaborative process marked it as a work worth recognizing with a Golden Pear."


Famous Deaths impression

Embodied Narrative: Sensory Stories of the Digital Age  @ the Phi Centre Montréal.

Famous Deaths news coverage 

Famous Deaths on tour

Current & Upcoming:

No shows booked at the moment 


07.10.2016 - 09.10.2016 Exhibition at The Future of Storytelling Festival (FOST), New York, (US).

05.10.2016 - 06.10.2016 Exhibition and workshop at The Future of Storytelling Summit (FOST), New York, (US).

30.09.2016  Exhibition at Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, (NL).

14.06.2016 - 21.08.2016 Exhibition at Phi Centre, Montréal, (CA).

18.04.2016 Exhibition at Up the Game conference, Amsterdam, (NL).

16.04.2016 - 21.04.2016 Exhibition at Tribeca Film festival, New York, (US).

16.03.2016 Presentation at Austin Interactive Installation Meetup, Austin, Texas (US).

15.03.2016 Presentation and workshop at The South by Southwest Conference and Festival (SXSW), Austin, Texas (US).

14.03.2016 Presentation and panel-session at The South by Southwest Conference and Festival (SXSW), Austin, Texas (US).

20.01.2016 - 23.01.2016 Exhibition and presentation at Festival International de Programmes Audiovisuels (Fipa), Bellevue, Biarritz (FR).

14.01.2016 Presentation at Interactive Storytelling Meetup #1, Lava Lab, Amsterdam (NL).

16.11.2015 - 27.11.2015 Exhibition at International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (idfa), De Brakke Grond, Amsterdam (NL).

04.11.2015 Exhibition at Playgrounds Festival, Chassé Theather, Breda (NL).

11.06.2015 Presentation at Biotalk 12: Sweat, odor and soap, Mediamatic, Amsterdam (NL).

15.04.2015 Presentation and workshop at Otis College of Art and Design, Los Angeles (US).

22.03.2015 - 02.08.2015 Exhibition at Es liegt was in der Luft - Duft in der Kunst, Villa Rot Museum, Burgrieden-Rot (DE).

05.02.2015 Presentation at Pecha Kucha Vol. 17, Utrecht (NL).

03.02.2015 Exhibition and presentation at Design by Fire Café, Brandpunt, Breda (NL).

02.12.2014 Exhibition at the Sense of Smell Conference, MOTI, Breda (NL).

06.11.2014 Presentation at Crea-Zone, Budafabriek, Kortrijk (BE).

04.11.2014 Presentation at Cross Media Café. Amsterdam E-Week, Club Panama, Amsterdam (NL).

23.09.2014 Presentation at Pecha Kucha Vol. 11, Breda (NL).

18.09.2014 Exhibition at the Vivid Closing Conference, Podium Bloos, Breda (NL).

15.07.2014 Exhibition and presentation at the Tech Open Air 2014 Unconference, Berlin (DE).

01.06.2014 Exhibition and presentation at Coded Matters #7 Extended Senses, Brakke Grond, Amsterdam (NL).

29.01.2014 - 20.02.2014 Exhibition at Void( ) Exhibition at the Ruskin Gallery, Cambridge (UK).


Sense of Smell

Famous Deaths is part of the international research project Sense of Smell, which is designed by Communication and Multimedia Design (CMD) Breda at Avans University of Applied Science, the Netherlands. Sense of Smell shows the current and future possibilities of scent in media, interaction and communication design. In September 2014 the research was published in the Sense of Smell book. A copy of the book can be previewed and ordered at TEC books