AJ+ Arabic has produced a brief segment about oud: “The price per kilogram for one of the finest kinds of oud incense is $9 million! als does it smell?”
“80 Ferrari cars equal the price of this piece of wood, a very rare piece that weights 16 kilograms. 20 million dollars = 80 Ferrari cars! If you owned it, you’d burn it. Don’t be amazed! This piece is one of the highest quality ouds called kinam. There are many kinds of oud. It prices have risen rapidly due to the high demand on it in the past ten years. The regions of the world that consume the most oud are: the Arab Gulf countries, China, and perfume-producing European countries. The trees that produce out grow in southeast Asia.”
Al Jazeera has also produced a documentary titled “The Smoke of Gold” which examines oud as a social icon in the Arabian Gulf states, a symbol of hospitality and warmth, the smell of which is purported to chase away the blues. The documentary is filled with details and valuable information about this beguiling material and its methods of extraction and production. It charts its journey from India and Southeast Asia (Thailand and Malaysia), the only areas where the trees it’s extracted from grow, to France and Britain. The full documentary is available to watch online (in Arabic, without subtitles) on Al Jazeera Arabic YouTube channel: http://ajar.io/am5j
You can close your eyes but you can’t turn off your nose. Elodie Pong, video and installation artist from Zurich, investigates the invisible olfactory architecture that surrounds us as the point of departure for her solo exhibition at Helmhaus Zürich. Visitors encounter plants that ripened in a 3-D printer, a robot that hurls the names of perfumes at the wall – and a fragrance that has never been smelled before (White, developed in collaboration with Roman Kaiser of Givaudan).
You can find more information (in German) here, or in English (as PDF).
The Smell Lab is a monthly meeting space in Berlin for those interested in experimenting with the sense of smell. It is part of Spektrum, “a space of convergence for cultural communities and trans-disciplinary groups emerging and operating in and off Berlin”. And it has now been featured in an article (in German) in the Berliner Zeitung!
The Smell Lab has been the inspiration for us at SCI to launch something similar in Zurich: the Scent Culture Club. Our launch meet-up will be in a couple of weeks at the Karl der Grosse Center in the heart of Zurich. We hope it’ll be met with the same degree of interest and recognition as the Smell Lab in Berlin!
Carlos Ramírez-Pantanella is a Spanish architect and artist who has recently produced Madrid MDCXXXV (1635), an olfactory installation at Lope de Vega’s Home-Museum in Madrid. The installation attempts to reconstruct the olfactory atmosphere of Spanish Golden Century, and can be visited until next Sunday, from 10AM to 6pm in Madrid (entry is free).
Umberto Eco, the Italian cultural theorist and novelist who became the author of best-selling novels, notably the blockbuster medieval mystery “The Name of the Rose,” died last week in Milan.
Eco was a contributor to our thinking on scent culture. According to various internet entries Umberto Eco once noted the olfactory qualities of books: “I love the smell of book ink in the morning.” This love for the smell of books is, in fact, shared by many writers, including as Ray Bradbury, author of Fahrenheit 451, and was the subject of a recent post of ours.
And in his groundbreaking Theory of Semiotics, Eco thinks of scents as part of the semiotic field. He refers to Baudelaire’s “code of scents” and coins the phrase “olfactory signs”: “If there are scents with a connotative value in an emotive sense then there are also odors with precise referential values.”
In a short essay on television Eco calls for a critical reflection on the social and cultural consequences. In fact, we later paraphrased a key sentence from Eco’s essay when starting the Scent Culture Institute and drafting our foundation statement: “Western Culture & Society will only develop further, if it turns scent into a stimulus for critical reflection – not an invitation for hypnosis.”
Eco, U. (1976). A Theory of Semiotics. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
Eco, U. (1993). “Can television teach?” In M. Alvarado, R. Collins, & E. Buscombe (Eds.), The Screen education reader: cinema, television, culture: 95–107. New York: Columbia University Press, p. 97.