German perfumer Kim Weisswange has delivered on the age-old longing to bottle time. Her recent scent calendar proposes to capture each day in a different scent based on the mixture of scents that represent a specific month and day to make unique accords for all 365 days of the year.
London designer Amy Radcliff has succeeded in prototyping a camera of the future. Her elegant device, coyly named Madeleine in a wink to Proust fans, uses headspace technology to capture, analyze and reproduce odor compositions of actual objects in small capsules. The product is as disposable as current-day visual captures.
The Art of Scent exhibit at New York’s Museum of Art and Design is a foray into how perfumes are born. It is a minimalist yet visually striking exhibit that surveys a brief history of Western perfumery through key fragrances. The twelve fragrances showcased are all scents that were available on the market at some point. Beginning with Guerlain’s Jicky (1889) and ending with Margiela’s Untitled (2010)ach scent represents a particular trend in fragrance.
The first room is an open airy space with twelve yonic wells installed in the wall that emit a motion-sensitive gust of perfumed air. It is a surprisingly gentle way to experience each scent. There are timed privalite displays in the place of plaques to explain the historical significance and composition of each fragrance.
The second room is even more hands on with a long glass table and chairs where visitors can sit and experience a more potent version of the twelve fragrances by dipping scent strips into small vials of the actual perfume in liquid form. At opposite ends of the table there are two options for contributing feedback on the exhibit that is projected in a real-time word cloud on a wall. One is an ipad that captures word associations for each individual experience of the fragrances. The other is a white notebook in which guests may record their personal associations with scent. The wall installation takes visitors through the process of building a fragrance through different modifications. The walls deliver a card for each of the five “mods” of Lancome’s popular fragrance Trésor (1990).
The Art of Scent evokes the wonderfully subjective and ephemeral nature of fragrance in an immersive experience that speaks to all of the five senses. If only there was more of an aural component other than video recordings of interviews. Nonetheless, the exhibit promises an exciting future for multisensorial art made possible by cutting-edge technology.
The Art of Scent is at the Museum of Art and Design, 11, Columbus Circle, NY, NY 10019 until February 24, 2013
It seems Boris Vian wasn’t the only Frenchman keen on combining music and other senses. In 1922, Science and Invention featured an illustration of a scent organ inspired by perfumer and chemist Dr. Septimus Piesse’s theories about syncing scent and musical notes. When played, Piesse’s scent organ, like Vian’s pianocktail, would produce an odor (or a cocktail in Vian’s case) that corresponds to a given pattern tapped on the organ’s keys. Notorious jazzman Vian took it a step further, however, by simultaneously producing a cocktail representation of a musical tune.
The newly-minted institute for art and olfaction in Los Angeles is currently looking for scent artists to fill their first roster of artists in residence. Deadline is February 1, 2013. We can’t wait to smell the new work.
Here’s a brief account of a scent that rivals Proust’s madeleine in popularity. It’s called petrichor.
It might not be your diet, genes, or bathing habits. The advertising industry has a major hand in perceptions of body odor. A recent Smithsonian article uncovers the history of advertising and odor management.