“Rancid perfume. Stinky babies. Sweaty clothes. Garlic hair. Human bodies putrefying and I think my own is beginning to smell,” declares artist and researcher Dawn-joy Leong in her installation, An Olfactory Map of Sydney, at Customs House in Circular Quay.
At times confronting, at times funny, Leong’s graphic description of the assault of odours while travelling by bus forms a series of video monologues about her sensitivities to smells, sounds, light, colour, tastes and movement.
Leong is autistic and regularly feels overwhelmed due to hyper-sensory perception. This can trigger extreme reactions such as nausea, headache, vertigo and sometimes excruciating pain. Through Leong’s work, the viewer gets a real sense of how exhausting having such a heightened awareness must be, particularly in a world designed for “neurotypicals” – people who are typically wired or non-autistic.