Vol. 1 No. 1 (2024)

Invisible Kelp Forest: From Smell to Sound

Melody Jue
University of California, Santa Barbara
Anya Yermakova
Center for Humanities at Washington University in St Louis
Jacob Cram
University of Maryland
Eli Stine
Meta Reality Labs

Published 2024-04-15

How to Cite

Jue, Melody, Anya Yermakova, Jacob Cram, and Eli Stine. 2024. “Invisible Kelp Forest: From Smell to Sound”. Plant Perspectives 1 (1):189-203. https://doi.org/10.3197/whppp.63845494909712.


Invisible Kelp Forest: From Smell to Sound is a speculative fiction and an 8-channel sonic composition that explores the possibility that sound is an ideal medium for translating senses of smell, or chemosensation underwater. It invites the listener to smell the kelp forest with their ears, a mode of synaesthesia. We explore the ways that sound and smell can both convey intensity, distance, dispersion, texture and elements of memory that may be specific to particular organisms. We imagine that the olfactory memory of the kelp forest is multiple, linked to what is meaningful for different marine fauna. In a literary narrative that explores the sensations of four different marine organisms, we develop sonic impressions of their chemosensory experiences of the kelp forest in a scientifically-informed manner. Invisible Kelp Forest plays with invisibility in several ways: by denying the listener any visual cues, they must use their imagination to conjure a spatial sense of the kelp forest on their own. We invite listeners to pay attention to the way that listening for smell feels in the body, perhaps deterritorialising the sensorium.