Smell Me installation by Martynka Wawrzyniak at envoy enterprises

Some may find it repulsive. Others simply gimmicky. The artist went through a painstaking and time-consuming process to collect the essence of her sweat, tears and hair among other things. What makes this very interesting is that she collaborated with Yann Vasnier to recreate these essences in the form of a conceptual perfume. The original essences are on display while the recreated scents will be used to create an olfactory installation. The technology of perfume synthetics is used to recreate  body smells closing the circle of perfume: while perfumes were originally created to mask body smells they are now capable of recreating them and allowing us to experience them in a clean, sterilised and controlled context.

I do not know what the artistic value of this is but I appreciate the collaboration of an artist, a perfumer and a couple of scientists to create a real piece of olfactory art.

If you are interested here is the link to the New York Times article Vain Glorious | Get a Whiff of This Girl – NYTimes.com and the link to the Callery site http://envoyenterprises.com/#current87

Image via the New York Times

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About Christos

Scientifically minded but obsessed with the subjective aspect of things. Photos copyright of MemoryOfScent, with special thanks to Pantelis Makkas http://pantelismakkas.blogspot.com/. You are welcome to link to my blog but you are definitely not allowed to copy text or use the photos without my permission. All text and main photos are originals and property of MemoryOfScent All perfumes are from my collection unless stated otherwise.

10 comments

  1. Interesting conceptual piece to have perfume do the opposite of what it’s meant to do. But I’m not sure if I ever get the opportunity, whether I’ll be able to muster up the courage to sniff sweat and hair! :D

    • I have a tendency of trying anything at least once so I know that given the opportunity I would definitely like to try the experience. On the other hand we tend to automatically assign negative associations with body smells. This is not necessarily true though. The awful smell of sweat does not come from sweat itself but from the decomposition and metabolism of bacteria that are part of the normal fauna of human skin. I do not know if you have heard of the experiment where they invited women in a room with two exactly similar chairs. The difference was that one was unused and on the other a sweaty athlete had sat for a few minutes. His sweat was clean so there was no perceptible difference. Surprisingly the majority of women who entered the room chose to sit on the chair that had been already used.

      What I am trying to say is that body smells are not necessarily bad but they can have a primordial effect on us. Body smell does not equate with filth. Who can deny that the clean hair of a loved one or the head of a baby smells heavenly?

  2. Clean hair and babies’ heads definitely do smell lovely. Guess I’ll just have to put my preconceived notions away and “blindsniff” them!

  3. I find this idea strange at best. But then… I’ve read about stranger things.

    • Not that strange in the modern art context. But I find the envolvement of Yann Vasnier very interesting. Instead of trying to convince us that Bang or Loud for Him are works of art he actually tries to compose a scent under the directions of an artist and with the collaboration of scientists.

      I do not expect these scent to be violently stinky. I expect some moderate weirdness.

      • I grew up in a country where there was no lacking of all possible bodily odors in daily life, well beyond my comfortable zone. So now, when I luckily escaped that, I do not appreciate that type of “art”. Though, to be fair, I do not consider as art a lot of modern creations in different areas.

        • Whether something is art or not is a big discussion, too big for this blog probably, although we all have our opinions. For some reason I feel a lot more comfortable talking about “scent as art” in the context of this exhibition rather tham when refering to commercial scents that just happen to smell nice.

  4. I think that this is interesting primarily because the olfactory element in the world of art is as of yet obscured and largely unexplored compared to the other senses; however, it is also mildly disappointing because I’m not sure where it’s taking me – it feels like a big idea with a claustrophobic execution. As comparison, for example, Amouage Lyric celebrates and creatively interprets the straightforward rose note and to me is a work of art and beauty. Again not sure where the artist here is taking me with a straightforward presentation of sweat. And who I am to say, really? But maybe it’s a step through a door.
    Have you seen the Institute of Art and Olfaction site? This type of collaboration is what they are about, I think.

  5. I agree that the execution is a little claustrophobic but on the other hand one would actually have to see the installation to appreciate the impact of it. I understand what you are saying about Amouage Lyric (for me the equivalent would be Serge Lutens Sarrasins) but still this is closer to decorative craft in my opinion.

    Thanks for pointing me towards IOA. Very promissing!

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