There is no single word in the English language exclusively devoted to the description of a scent. When trying to define a smell, one is always compelled to the use of synesthesia, borrowing terms commonly used to describe other senses and affects. Far from trying to describe scent, this exhibition proposes smell as a language with which to address a series of socio-political issues.
In 1992, artist Clara Ursitti collected her vaginal and menstrual secretions and secured them in a solution of alcohol and coconut oil. The result was Eau Claire, an organically produced perfume that, rather than masking human smells, pays homage to the bodies own odours and pheromones beyond any artificially created fragrance.
John Thomson and Alison Craighead’s complex fragrance Apocalypse (2016) is based on olfactory materials detailed in The Book Of Revelation as it appears in the King James Bible first published in 1611. Collaborating with perfumer Euan McCall they developed a scent based depiction of the biblical end. The perfume is presented in a box with a label designed by Steve Carroll, and the lining of each box is sprayed with a secondary scent intended to recall decay.
Following his interest in the language of corporate systems and the use of financial data, Fabio Lattanzi Antinori’s work Flashcrash. A perfume (2017) is an attempt at providing a bridge between the invisible fast digital domain of high frequency machine trading and the physical level of reality. On 6th May 2010, the largest flashcrash to date hit the US market, burning a trillion dollars in minutes. Housed under a glass dome, the scent is the result of applying data from the flashcrash to the gas chromatography process used extensively in forensic science to find criminal evidence. Here, the ethereal quality of the scent itself echoes the volatility of these financial anomalies.
littlewhitehead’s work He’s a liquid (2017) is the combination of designer male fragrances with water in a perspex case. Signature fragrances are essences: ethereal illustrations of the brand’s notion of idealised masculinity. When mixed with water, the liquid clouds, resembling milk or semen. This milky haze resembles the brewing of something sinister, like special effects from old horror movies, the liquid?cation of some undefined being. When mixed the individual scents become indistinguishable, male essences mixing to create an odour of artificiality as opposed to something that defines a particular gender or identity.
Kentaro Yamada’s Neandertal Parfume (2015) is inspired by the history of Neanderthals and the possibility of an alternative reading, one in which Neanderthals continued to survive into the present day. Collaborating with a perfume designer to create a scent based on the elements and materials found in sites inhabited by Neanderthals, the work questions human centricity while recognising Neanderthals’ sophisticated attributes.
Thomson & Craighead have shown extensively at galleries, film festivals and for site-specific commissions in the UK and internationally. Solo shows include The Academy of Saturn, Cooley Gallery, Portland, Oregon (2018); Wake me up when it’s over, Young Projects Gallery, Los Angeles (2017); Party Booby Trap, Carroll/Fletcher, London (2016); Maps DNA and Spam, Dundee Contemporary Arts, Dundee, UK (2014). Recent group exhibitions include I Was Raised On The Internet, MCA, Chicago (2018); Perpetual Uncertainty, Z33, Hasselt, Belgium (2017); Electronic Superhighway, Whitechapel Gallery, London, UK (2016); Big Bang Data, Somerset House, London, UK; Art In The Age Of…Asymmetrical Warfare, Witte de With, Rotterdam, Netherlands; and How to Construct a Time Machine, MK Gallery, Milton Keynes, UK (all 2015). They live and work between London and the Scottish Highlands.
Fabio Lattanzi Antinori, born in Rome, earned his MFA in Arts and Computational Technologies