I will be artist-in-residence at The Institute for Art and Olfaction in Los Angeles. A warm thanks to Saskia and KJ Baysa for supporting my work.
The project that I will be developing is a participatory public artwork called Sillage. It's specifically designed for an LA art museum and will unfold like this:
Sillage begins as a collection of 11 fragrances designed for the ten major communities that comprise Los Angeles. Each fragrance is designed to evoke an aspect that is core to that community’s (zip code’s) identity. In order to draw a large participant base, the project unfolds in conjunction with an event planned at the museum (e.g., exhibition opening, family day, art after dark party, etc.). Event patrons would approach the Sillage perfume booth, identify their home community to the museum’s staff, who would log the data and spray a corresponding scent on the patron’s wrist. A collective scent of the museum’s demographic soon fills the entire space. After the event, the artist and perfumer will use data from the event to formulate a bespoke perfume that will be donated to the museum.
This project is a challenge to conventional notions of what makes art “public”. In public art, the idea of collective memory is often considered when designing monuments and memorials. Throughout the world, the built environment is full of such objects that claim to embody a public’s memory. However, as opposed to embodying collective memory, such artwork has been criticized for displacing it; through its permanent materials, masculine nature, and rigid meaning, the conventional monument has been challenged for being an impotent, symbolic marker unable to adapt to a public that is constantly in flux. With the olfactory public artwork, this is inverted. These “counter-monuments” are highly ephemeral, feminine (not physically imposing) and capable of generating dialog chiefly because they embody memory. As a form of socially engaged art, the ephemeral nature of smell calls for public dialog now, because the smell itself will soon be a memory.