I hope this project will attract scent spectators and artists to play and delight in the least celebrated of our human senses: smell. Olfactive invites you to pay attention to your nose, listen to its input, its wisdom, its whimsy. Submissions to Olfactive including fiction, news, and other media are strongly encouraged.
I am a lifelong scent-monger. Since I was a child, I have constantly sniffed out pleasurable smells and unique aromas. I have always apprehended the world first and foremost through my nose.
It is scent that unites my artistic and analytical selves. Years of living in Paris where I studied French culture nurtured my passion for scent and gastronomy. I have an MA in French Cultural Studies from Columbia University and a PhD in French from University of California, Berkeley.
Olfactive emerged through my creative writing explorations about scent memories, personal portraits and fantasies. These scent stories begin with a tale about the scent of maple as recalled by my 5-year-old nose. A more recent story scent story N° 7 ponders some of the most unpleasant smells.
Most people think of scent as limited to personal scent, a thing to be bought and offered as a gift, used for seduction or sometimes even as therapy. Scent is also, more commonly, something to avoid. It is increasingly unwelcome in places of business, especially in health care, where, paradoxically, the right scent might do wonders for patients and employees’ well-being.
Scent cannot be reduced to any one of these things and it simply cannot be avoided. We encounter scent everyday of our lives in food, clothing, soap, makeup, cleaning products, plant-life, buildings and furniture, and of course, other people. Nearly everything we see and use has a scent, however faint, however mundane to our overstimulated noses. It is a personal, highly subjective experience, like taste, touch or sound or sight, and it complements these more privileged senses. The sense of smell has just as much power to excite, teach, warm, enlighten and inspire. Whether you are a scent expert or novice, I invite you to explore and share the wonders that greet us through our noses.
As we embark on this journey into the fifth sense, let us remember, as Luca Turin said, that “everyone can smell as well as everyone else!” – quoted by Chandler Burr in The Emperor of Scent