The Eyes Are Always There – The Institute for Art and Olfaction

The IAO collaborated with artist Joe Merrell and Johnny Woods on four scents for The Eyes are Always There – an immersive multi-media installation at Machine Project, in Los Angeles.



“Always… the eyes are there!”
– Barney Hill, 1964 hypnosis session with Dr. Benjamin Simon

The Eyes Are Always There is a multimedia installation that explores the subjects of UFOs and alien abduction. Led by video artist Joe Merrell and featuring work of artist and animator Johnny Woods, the installation transforms Machine Project’s Echo Park storefront gallery and underground theater into an immersive environment with a series of works that draw inspiration and content from research into these mysterious phenomena.

The 1961 Betty and Barney Hill abduction case provides the starting point for The Eyes Are Always There. The Hill’s alleged abduction by extraterrestrials, which occurred on an isolated road on their drive back to their home in New Hampshire from a vacation in Montreal and Niagara Falls, has been extensively documented through government reports and hypnosis sessions, and has been the subject of many television programs and publications. While not the first reported abduction experience, the Hill’s case was the first to gain worldwide attention.

Visitors enter the show through a darkened greyscale space containing elements evocative of a psychiatrist’s office, where actual archival recordings of the Hill’s hypnosis sessions can be heard while a trance inducing animated eye—also visible in the storefront outside the gallery—illuminates the room. A horizontally placed projection panel in the corner displays a 3D animated “phantogram”: a trompe l’oeil of a psychiatrist’s desk top with 1960s dictaphone running and cigarette burning.

The second larger space, resembling a bedroom, contains a series of video, sound, print, and light pieces that delve further into aspects of reported ufo and abduction experiences. Signaled by a series of raps on the door at the back of the bedroom, visitors are led down to the Mystery Theater where the show culminates in a video-based animated abduction experience.

The Eyes Are Always There leads visitors through various modes of perception, exploring a range of subjects such as hypnosis, memory, anthropomorphism, cultural projection, privacy and surveillance. The artists have used specific UFO and abduction research in developing their work for the show, with a focus on aspects of well-known and more obscure cases. The installation includes performance, mapped and projected 3D video, computer-controlled lighting and sound, as well as print and sculptural works.

Scents designed in collaboration with The Institute for Art and Olfaction will be diffused throughout the exhibition, including those based on witness descriptions of UFOs and extraterrestrial beings.

Opening: Friday Feb 5 2016
7:00 to 10:00 pm
Machine Project, Los Angeles
Free and open to the public Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 7-10pm through March 13th, 2016.
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Working with Joe Merrell, the IAO created a scent to accompany each room in the installation.

Dr. Benjamin Simon’s Office: Inspired by Barney and Betty Hill’s psychiatrist/hypnotist’s office. Tobacco, coffee, wool sweaters and furniture
Bedroom: Vaguely floral, musky with a hint of static electricity
Forest: A leafy and wet pine forest
UFO Abduction: The scent of abduction, as reported by alleged abductees

The scents were broadcast into the space using fans and sachets of scent-infused beads.