Have you ever noticed how your headphones smell? Do you expect a review of headphones talking about the olfactory qualities of the product? The recent review by Wired demonstrates the necessity of a multisensory product design:
“A couple of years ago, the luxurious leather-wrapped Bang & Olufsen Beoplay H7s were named our favorite Bluetooth headphones. The over-ear H7s sounded as gorgeous as they looked, and they even smelled great. (…) And while the new $300 Beoplay H4s aren’t exactly bargain-bin cans either, they offer nearly the same roster of specs as the H7s for $100 less. (…) The headphones are lighter than the H7s, even though it’s clear Beoplay didn’t skimp on materials. The duotone aluminum-and-stainless-steel skeleton is wrapped in lamb-skin leather, so rest assured they should still smell pretty good.
Avery Gilbert tweeted about this current case on food odors in Italy. It fits in a boarder picture of normalizing a strict olfactory regime. Interestingly, this case is once again connected to migration issues. There is even a new legal terminology: “olfactory molestation” as The Telegraph reports:
Cooking may be a national passion, but Italians who allow the pungent aroma of a simmering pot of pasta sauce or a vat of deep fried fish to waft into a neighbour’s home are committing a crime, the country’s highest court has ruled.
In the best traditions of legalese the world over, the Court of Cassation in Rome even came up with a term for the offence – “olfactory molestation”…
The Times recently reported that a schoolgirl died after being overcome by fumes from her deodorant while on a family holiday: “Paige Daughtry, 12, was so worried about her personal hygiene that she used body spray as if it were “going out of fashion”, a coroner was told. It is believed that she overused it after a swim on July 18 and that a “volatile substance” in the fumes affected her heart rhythm. She was found by her mother, Ann, 36, lying face down in a bedroom of a caravan that the family, from Oldham, was renting at a holiday park near Blackpool. She died two hours later in hospital despite attempts to revive her. Her can of Right Guard deodorant was found near the ensuite bathroom.”
Wool-blend tees are promoted for keeping your outdoorsing stink-free as Wired reported: “Your cotton thrift store tee isn’t going to cut it on days like these. Thankfully, a new breed of synthetic wool shirts offers a lightweight, tough, breathable, and stink-resistant alternative. Combining the durable, sweat-wicking qualities of synthetic nylon with the super-soft, odor-killing abilities of Merino wool, these shirts raise the bar for blended synthetic tees.
Studio Folie is an olfactive design studio founded by Kaya Sorhaindo. It is known for projects that inscribe new meaning long associated with classical perfumery such as Le Cinema Olfactif . The more recent project Olfactive diaries is a collection of interviews and contributions by artists in response to Folie A Plusieur fragrances. In the context of scent culture it is a project worth noticing for numerous reasons: The questions ascribe agency to the scent: “If your scent were a person where would it be?” or “If your scent could talk what would it say?”. Moreover the questions as well as the entire project encourage the user to cross over different sensory modalities: “If your scent were a texture how would it feel?”. Browse through the diaries…
Scent visualization by Cornelia Thonhauser
Artist and writer Catherine Haley Epstein, provides an overview on the role of scent in contemporary art published September 30, 2016 on Temporary Art Review. What is interesting is the broader storyline: “Scent is invisible and profoundly effective in engaging audiences. A painting would never overwhelm the audience – one can simply look away or close one’s eyes. A scent is most direct, affecting our limbic system instantaneously. One must leave a room should an odor overwhelm or disagree with them. Conversely, one may be drawn directly to a scent that triggers their curiosity, their hearts and their minds at once. This makes for a powerful tool in an artist’s arsenal. Much like music can soothe or irritate, scent can explain the vibe of the apocalypse, a garden party or a revolution much more quickly than a painting one might argue.”
A feature on some recent developments with respect to scent culture appeared in The Guardian on 16 September 2016. The article refers “en passent” to Brian Goeltzenleuchter. And above all it is still worth reading : “The more we’re plugged into the virtual world, the more we deeply appreciate the contrast – moments in our human experience,” says designer and olfactory artist Mindy Yang. “Intuitively, we realize that we are starved of certain sensations. With the rise of digital culture, society has, perhaps subliminally, become more interested in the missing sense – what we smell.”
Scents and in particular fragrances are often discussed as enjoable and pleasurable experiences. Thus this recent scholarly book deserves a closer look when discussing Huxley’s feelies or James Joyce and the scent of modernity. In “The Problem with Pleasure”, Frost draws upon a wide variety of materials, linking interwar amusements, such as the talkies, romance novels, the Parisian fragrance Chanel no. 5, and the exotic confection Turkish Delight, to the artistic play of Joyce, Lawrence, Stein, Rhys, and others. She considers pop cultural phenomena and the rise of celebrities such as Rudolph Valentino and Gypsy Rose Lee against contemporary sociological, scientific, and philosophical writings on leisure and desire:
“In Brave New World synthetic perfume is one among numerous engineered sensual pleasures that pacify the masses. It is a feature of public space: restrooms, hotels, and even hospitals are fitted with scent dispensers offering a medley of synthetic odors.”
Frost, L. C. (2013). The problem with pleasure: modernism and its discontents. New York, NY: Columbia University Press, p. 41
Scent has so far remained largely sidelined into the context of the eighteenth-century novel. Reading Smell by Emily Friedman and published in 2016 provides models for how to incorporate olfactory knowledge into new readings of the literary form central to our understanding of the eighteenth century and modernity in general: the novel. The multiplication and development of the novel overlaps strikingly with changes in personal and private hygienic practices that would alter the culture’s relationship to smell. This book examines how far the novel can be understood through a reintroduction of olfactory information. After decades of reading for all kinds of racial, cultural, gendered, and other sorts of absences back into the novel, this book takes one step further: to consider how the recovery of forgotten or overlooked olfactory assumptions might reshape our understanding of these texts. Reading Smell includes wide-scale research and focused case studies of some of the most striking or prevalent uses of olfactory language in eighteenth-century British prose fiction. Highlighting scents with shifting meanings across the period: bodies, tobacco, smelling-bottles, and sulfur, Reading Smell not only provides new insights into canonical works by authors like Swift, Smollett, Richardson, Burney, Austen, and Lewis, but also sheds new light on the history of the British novel as a whole.