Distille at Abbaye de Noirlac / by Brian Goeltzenleuchter

I designed the scents for this multi-room installation. If you happen to be in Paris over the next couple of months please check it out. The process of designing for someone else’s work is somewhat new to me; I often collaborate but rarely is my work subordinate to another artist’s ideas. But Sandra’s project was so well researched that I felt comfortable filling the olfactory niche that she needed filled. (Check out the exhibition brochure for the project!) The process offered me time to research one of my favorite times/places in history - early modern France through the lens of Gustave Flaubert’s novel, Madame Bovary. Sandra’s installation reimagined four scenes from the novel, three of which needed an olfactory component, which was described in the novel. 

Here are the three passages from which I designed the scents.

In researching this, I tried to stay true to the scents that would have been available during this time. I considered the ingredients and formulas used in hygiene and grooming products with which Flaubert would have been familiar. 

Once I created each scentscape, I encapsulated them in a gel polymer. This way, as the gel evaporates scent molecules are released into the air without a high tech distribution system. Sandra can discretely place them where she wanted in the exhibition. The museum's preparators can simply swap out new gels when the old ones evaporate. 

Left: Gel polymer after three weeks Right: Gel polymer after one day

Left: Gel polymer after three weeks

Right: Gel polymer after one day