If your scent wrote a song…

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…

Bildschirmfoto 2017-04-01 um 00.31.31Scent visualization by Cornelia Thonhauser


Scent as a medium in contemporary art

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.”


Guardian: ‘The missing sense’

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.”

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The problem with pleasure!

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



Olfactory language in British fiction

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.


Perfumism, manifesto (2010)

In 2010, Andy Tauer  reflected on his observations as a perfumer and initiated perfumism.com. With perfumeshrine’s Elena Vosnaki at the editorial helm and joined by perfume writer and vendor Rebecca Veuillet-Gallot, the code of perfumism articulated the desire for true craft in perfume in opposition to the purely economic rationale of the industry. Perfumism culminated in the manifesto worth revisiting:

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Why do we post a link to perfumism today?

Scent Culture News follows an exploratory approach of highlighting and connecting fragmented ideas and references that relate to the sense of smell in culture, business and society. Some of these have been out there for a long time, some have just appeared somewhere, and others may just be emerging on the fringes.

Scent Verse: Muse Booze

Scent Verse is a poetry project curated by Basenotes writer Eddie Bulliqi that seeks to explore scent language and metaphors by publishing poems from contributors across different industries that either take scent as their inspiration or are very evocative of smell. What is interesting about the project is that it activates the potential of scent for translation processes. It stimulates to think through scent across various media and artifacts…




Beyond the little trees

The air freshener Little Tree epitomizes the state of contemporary scent culture. This might sound provocative.You might not have thought about it this way. But think about it: The tree-shaped air freshener was invented by Julius Sämann in Watertown, New York, in 1952. They are made of a specially formulated absorbent material and offered in a variety of colors and scents. And today Little Trees seem to be ubiquitous. The Car-Freshner Corporation fiercely defends its trademark on the tree-shaped air freshener. Yet, the scented trees have been featured in popular media, including the movies The Fisher King, Seven, and Repo Man. More recently however, an entrepreneur in Bern, the Swiss capital, came up with the idea of personalized air freshener: Deluxe Air.

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Olfactory Magazine “NEZ” in English

The emergence of publications have always been milestones for the development of fields and discourses. Thus the publication of an English speaking olfactory magazine is of significance. Bringing together articles, interviews, surveys and critical analysis with an olfactory focus, nez challenges us to use our noses to explore the world. Art, literature, science, history, perfume… Nez is unique in its diverse and informative approach and helps us understand how our sense of smell connects us to the world.