Foreword by Daniel Jones
(Edited extract from 'The Whiff of the Real')

Olfaction is the neglected sense of the fine art world. Though an art work has to metaphorically ‘smell’ or at least create a stink in order to seduce me, tradition dictates the obfuscation of odour in the gallery space. Marshall McLuhan charts the prioritising of the visual sense over others through the invention of the printing press and the spread of universal literacy, a historical development he describes as superseding the ‘acoustic space’ that dominated pre-Guttenberg (the inventor of typeset printing blocks) civilisation. It would be interesting to read a parallel analysis of how our changing sense of and emotional reaction to smell has influenced the way we receive information, make decisions and form aesthetic (and sometimes ethical) judgements. Olfaction has become the C21 pariah sense. The explosion in personal hygiene over the past century or so, combined with the ability to synthesize almost any scent imaginable has left us divorced from an ontological relationship with our olfactory perceptions. Polite society and most art forms require the neutering of the sense. I have heard audiences complain of the body odour of dancers and actors on stage – though personally I am always impressed by this signifier of the performers’ committed endeavours. Art galleries are scrubbed to sterilisation, so that only the lingering traces of cleaning products remain. Yet our love affair with ersatz scents dominates our social lives and fills up our bathroom shelves.

Olfactory art also resists commoditisation and fixed meaning. The scent exists for the moment and cannot be captured by technology or recording devices. The persistence of the work is only possible through the memory and associations of the gallery audience. As Proust declaims in A la recherché des temps perdu "When nothing else subsists from the past, after the people are dead, after the things are broken and scattered· the smell and taste of things remain”. The peculiarly emotive impact of smells is explained and confirmed by scientific studies. Olfaction transits messages to the cortex AND the limbic system, the new and old parts of the brain, meaning that our interpretation and analysis of smells is simultaneously emotional and cognitive: moody and rational.

Dan Jones (edited extract from “The Whiff of the Real”)

Alice Bradshaw (Artist/ Curator, UK)

Mint Residue
Medium: Toothpaste on windows
Alice Bradshaw works with a wide range of media and processes involving the manipulation of everyday objects and materials. Mass-produced, anonymous objects are often rendered dysfunctional caricatures of themselves, addressing concepts of purpose and futility. Alice creates or accentuate subtleties, blurring distinctions between the absurd and the mundane, with the notion that the environment the work exists in becomes integral to the work itself.

Mark Porter (Sculptor, Chicago)

Internal/ External
Materials: Aluminum, steel, plastic, pigmented/ fragranced soap water, air pump, nylon tubing

Function: Expels a scented and colored soap mixture onto wall. A scented soap mixture is used for the mix. An aroma builds up which smells of artificial fragrance, which is similar, and also in contrast to the cold mechanical object which expels it. The object served as a demarcation machine. The soap mixture is expelled continuously slowly over an extended period of time. Soap bubbles form in the mixture. A thick sludge builds up on the wall and floor over a short period of time.

Internal/External is an exploration of several themes including communication and personal expression. The red liquid stored internally within the machine becomes external as it is expelled onto the surface of the gallery wall. During the process of expulsion, the red liquid becomes another form as it is converted into a lather or soapy sludge that fills the air with a synthetic floral scent. This process is a metaphor for an idea that comes to fruition and the difference between what it was and what it has become once it is externalized.

Naomi Kendrick (Artist, UK)

'To build castles...(one)' 2009
10 x 7.5 x 5cm approx
mixed media (smells fruity, with a hint of bubblegum)

'To build castles...(two)' 2009
8.7 x 6.2 x 3.5cm approx
mixed media (smells of chocolate)

'To build castles in the air' means to have ambitious dreams, to build projects in the mind and to imagine glowing pictures of what will be in the future (but what in all probability never will be) like a mirage.

My art practice is multi sensory and participatory and takes numerous forms, from my day to day work providing exhibition tours and workshops for visually impaired and blind people - to my multi sensory installations which I invite people to first see, touch, eat, smell and listen to, and then respond to, by making their own work - responses I document and use to feed back into my own making.

What links these things is my interest in the senses, their power to produce - through my artwork, narratives, memories and sensations. As I go about provoking and collecting these responses my work becomes a collaboration between my imagination and that of my participants. Through working in this way I face challenges, as I try to operate outside of art world 'boxes' that tend to separate out the areas of participation, exhibition, artist and audience.

These two pieces of work differ from the realities of my work above, they are 'the projects built in my mind'. On lifting the lid to each box you witness a mini exhibition including it's smell, and it's participants who are eating, climbing on and changing the work. A mirage? or a prophecy?

Mark Bell (Artist, UK)

'My Dog's Got No Nose, How Does He Smell?' and 'A Cat Is Never Vulgar'

Medium: Modified Soft Toys

My work is concerned with the re-appropriation of objects, images, and technologies, in order to produce compositions that are both accessible, and easily replicated. By doing so I hope to direct emphasis away from the importance of myself as the artist, and the artwork itself, instead highlighting the significance of the creative process; particularly the pleasure acquired through the actions of play and construction.

In the following instances the manipulation of toys, and my desire to interact with the audience, express my intentions to eliminate any notions of exclusivity, and create an amusing dialogue within and around the artwork.

Alex Ryhs- Taylor (Writer, London)

Co-mingling: A Fragmented Aromatic Inventory of an East London Street Market
6x pieces of text

Alex Rhys-Taylor is a visiting tutor and doctoral candidate at Goldsmiths College, University of London. His work, largely literary-sociological writing, focuses on the relationship between aroma, flavour and social formation within East London. For ‘Olfaction’ he has submitted ‘Co-mingling: A Fragmented Aromatic Inventory of an East London Street Market,’ a meditation on the constraints and potentials of representing aroma with text.

Aversions and attractions to aromas have long been associated with the demarcation of social strata and the reproduction of cultural boundaries. Paradoxically the act of smelling bears a number of characteristics which also make it central to processes of identity-blurring, improvisation and social reconfiguration. Aromas have a degree of mobility, a potential to drift on breezes, osmose up concentration gradients and to creep beyond the controls governance. Accordingly they ascribe unique nuances to experience that the other senses do not. New relationships between bodies and smells are both wittingly and unwittingly developed in cities, and social formations within the aromatic-urban have a related mutability. There is no greater demonstration of these processes than the vitality curated within the foggy aromascape of a street market in East London. Therein, by way of osmosis, multiple aromatic layers become everyday moments in the multitude of olfactory rhythms comprising the area’s social life. For ‘Olfaction’ I have presented fragments of such an aromascape. They are scattered across the art space reflecting the mobility of aromas in bustling urban space, either to be snuck upon by the flaireur, or to be chased down and swept up into her dilated nostrils.

Guiliana Sommantico (Rhone-Alps, Jounalist & Photographer)

‘Repeated/Differential Icons’

Medium: photography (printed on postcards)

The smell of Fish & Chips is something anybody born in Britain will be able to distinguish, blindly, from far away. It is part of British culture, and is embedded in British minds, as it is acquired at childhood, and follows people all there life. It becomes part of the subconscious. There is no need to “think” on it to recognise it. The same brain process happens with the classical images associated to “Fish & Chips”: the take-away boxes, which have replaced the oily newspaper, which lie on the streets of any British City / town / village.

Barbara Anna Husar (Artist, Austria)

Receiver Station 2009

Meduim: textile , wadding, oil of lily of the valley

with raising ovaries
and the cervixscent lily of the valley
uterus invites to informations marathon
reflecting limbic obedience

Ashley Rowe (Artist/ Scientist, Spain)

The crow(n)ing and hanging of Dennis Leigh and chicken foot

Medium: Sensorial – olfactory installation. Fabric. Ashes. Synthetic flower.

My practise focuses on the interface between science, smell and memory. I concentrate on how smell influences memory using Condillac’s cognition theory “Traité des sensations”, suspended olfaction and olfactory synaesthesia.

This installation explores the transitory nature of smell in existence. It reinterpretes “The Quiet man” text, rich in smellscapes, and “A new kind of man” photograph by contemporary musician John Foxx, aka Dennis Leigh, and “Chickens feet and Tuxedo” (1996) by photographer Michiko Kon. Inspired by this work I attempt to recreate a multilayered memory leaving very personal olfactory and visual clues to my past and / or passing.

Thickandtastyxxx (Artist, UK)

Cup, signed doilie, fair-trade coffee

Barbie- like bath, hand made bath salt

John Dewey- one of the greatest pragmatist philosophers- writes in his book Art as experience: ’’the arts which today have most vitality for the average person are things he does not take to be arts: for instance, the movie, jazz music, the comic strip, etc... For the popular notion comes from a separation of art from the objects and scenes of ordinary experience, that many theorists and critics pride themselves upon holding and even elaborating’’.
I feel that this separation is false; I like the definition of art as experience, and I feel that a nice bath and a nice cup of coffee are art, and we should appreciate them as such.