Exploring scent as
a creative way of life


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Language matters. Discourse matters. Culture matters. There is an important sense in which the only thing that does not seem to matter anymore is matter.

Karen Barad
physicist & feminist theorist
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Barad, K. (2003). Posthumanist Performativity: Toward an Understanding of How Matter Comes to Matter. Signs, 28(3), 801–831, p. 801.

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There is a tendency to regard smells purely on the level of phenomenological immediacy, yet the manners and reasons people engage with the sense of smell are influenced by numerous cultural factors relating to the constructs a society creates integrating the environment, the bodies of its citizens and its symbolic worldview.

Jim Drobnick
art theorist & curator
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Drobnick, J. (2006). Olfactocentrism. In J. Drobnick (Ed.), The Smell Culture Reader (pp. 1–9). Berg, p. 1.

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One simply cannot turn up one’s nose these days at the role of scent in design.

Ashraf Osman, Claus Noppeney & Nada Endrissat
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Osman, A., Noppeney, C., & Endrissat, N. (2017). Culturalizing Scent: Current Steps towards Integrating the Sense of Smell in Art & Design Education. In V. Henshaw, K. McLean, D. Medway, C. Perkins, & G. Warnaby (Eds.), Designing with smell: practices, techniques and challenges (pp. 169–177). New York: Routledge, p. 173.

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Some might argue that perfumery is the «art of odors» and that it is hence unnecessary to call for an olfactory aesthetics. To limit olfactory aesthetics to the productions of the perfume industry, however, would be like limiting the visual arts to the field of fashion design. There is a whole world of vital olfactory imagery and meaning which cannot be, and is not meant to be, encompassed within a perfume bottle.

Constance Classen
Cultural anthropologist
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Classen, C. (1998). The color of angels: Cosmology, gender, and the aesthetic imagination. London ; New York: Routledge, p. 151.

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The «scent sculptures» are the work of perfumer Christophe Laudamiel, who has designed high-end fragrances for Ralph Lauren, Estée Lauder and Tom Ford. The exhibit [...] marks his latest effort to establish perfumery as a fine-art form. Scent is the last frontier,» said gallery founder Valerie Dillon, who signed Mr. Laudamiel to her roster of 24 artists last summer. […] Now, with his first solo gallery exhibit, Mr. Laudamiel is testing the commercial possibilities for scent art. All of the seven scent sculptures on display at Dillon are for sale; prices range from $15,000 to $20,000, depending on the complexity of the formula, Ms. Dillon said. Collectors will own the formulas—which are closely guarded secrets in the commercial fragrance industry—as well as a supply of the fragrance itself and the electronic «scent player» that releases the smell. To experience the scents, visitors enter tents set up around the gallery floor. The tents concentrate the smells and prevent them from merging into an olfactory stew. Concealed electronic boxes use lightly compressed air to pump out the vaporized smells.

Alexandra Alter
Wall Street Journal
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Alter, A. (2012). What’s That Smell? A Fragrant Downtown Exhibit Makes the Case for Scent Art. Wall Street Journal, January 26, 2012.

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Man’s sensory perceptions are abundant and overwhelming. He cannot attend to them all at once. In great part a given culture teaches him one or another way of productive specialization. It brings him to organize his sensorium by attending to some types of perception more than others, by making an issue of certain ones while relatively neglecting other ones. The sensorium is a fascinating focus for cultural studies.

Walter Ong
cultural anthropologist
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Ong, W. J. (1967). The presence of the word: Some prolegomena for cultural and religious history. Yale University Press, p. 6.

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Every (sub)culture has its own collective olfactory memory.

Caro Verbeek & Cretien van Campen
Art historians
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Verbeek, C., & van Campen, C. (2013). Inhaling Memories: Smell and Taste Memories in Art, Science, and Practice. The Senses and Society, 8(2), 133–148, p. 138.

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Creative projects are not constituted by «social factors» as previous sociological studies of production of culture have suggested. Instead, it has outlined a socio-material approach that pays attention to how objects are participating in the processes of their making, and how objects and processes are thereby co-produced.                                                

Sara Malou Strandvad
cultural sociologist
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Strandvad, S. M. (2011). Materializing ideas: A socio-material perspective on the organizing of cultural production. European Journal of Cultural Studies, 14(3), 283–297, p. 293.

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