Los Angeles

The Scent of a UFO: An Echo Park Exploration

Machine Project will explore the olfactory side of extraterrestrial life.

Southern California is no stranger to surreal and sometimes supernatural experiences involving one's sniffer.

There was the Santa Monica Museum of Art happening that tried to pin down the distinctly representative smells of various Los Angeles neighborhoods in 2014. And then, in 2015, a group of ghost hunters, along with The Institution for Art and Olfaction, sought local odors of an ethereal, otherworldly nature.

Now Machine Project, those spirited thinkers recently involved with the Floating Library of Echo Park Lake, are asking a big question, and it is this: What does a UFO smell like?

There's no easy answer here, one would imagine. Is the fragrance rather metallic, as one might imagine when one pictures a classic saucer-style spaceship? Does the scent invoke the cold of space? Is it a scent no earthling would recognize?

On Thursday, Feb. 25 Saskia Wilson-Brown of The Institution for Art and Olfaction will join artist Joe Merrell to take on the topic, one inspired by "first-hand accounts of alien encounters." But it won't just be a discussion; rather, guests at the art space can sniff the "custom fragrances" that the pair designed, using extraterrestrial contact as an inspiration.

Machine Project's Echo Park headquarters have been looking into interplanetary tales for a few weeks now, via "The Eyes Are Always There," the gallery's current installation.

It's free to attend.

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Perhaps "The X-Files" will be what guests murmur about — the series just ended its six-episode revival — or perhaps anecdotes will be shared, from drives in the Mojave to lights over the mountains.

Los Angeles isn't Roswell, but stirring up a spirit of wonder and cosmic pondering is something we do quite well here in Southern California. So, what does a UFO smell like? Answers, or maybe more questions, await.

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