Earlier this month I exhibited at Platforms Project, Athens as part of a group exhibition that looked at the contemplation of our solar system. I, alongside artists Sharon Mossbeck and Alison Whitmore, took 3 planets and interpreted them through our own modes of enquiry with reference to Ancient Greece.
Sharon’s work comprised painting and cross-stitch, Alison’s comprised sculptural and works and I presented 3 perfumes, each representing the Greek gods of Zeus, Kronos and Ouranos.
Platforms Project – which is an art fair – was well attended. It reached 16,000 people and our exhibition was well received. I even managed to sell a thing or two, which is great. There are, however, a few caveats with regard to my own work that should be addressed if I am to learn anything and develop from the experience. You see, after much consideration of how to translate three Greek Gods into a scented experience, I decided ultimately to play it straight – simply designing 3 perfumes that acted as portraits of each God. I assumed that this would result in a clear connection between object and concept and would transcend language barriers.
Ironically, by playing it so straight I exposed just how obtuse the notion of a perfume portrait actually is. While the audience did seem to rather like the scents and visual embellishment on display at a base level, the link between the perfumes and the Greek Gods wasn’t as clear as I thought it would be. It required further explanation, which wasn’t always easy to do due to a combination of a complex concept and the language barrier. (although this is partly my fault – I really ought to learn Greek if I’m going there every year.)
Interestingly, a volunteer who also helped out with Platforms Project last year said that she remembered the scented experience I designed last year and that, while she liked what I did this year, she loved what I did last year, which was essentially a narrative based on the notion of The Grand Tour, which incorporated scent:
So perhaps scented sculptural work designed to tell a story, rather than a straight perfume portrait, would actually be more successful in engaging a wider audience? Or maybe the Greek Gods and the complexities of their narratives would benefit from a different approach to a straight perfume portrait? Perhaps a more careful consideration of why I’m choosing specific scented designs is required, based on the concepts I’m trying to reveal.
Either way, it was once again a pleasure to exhibit at Platforms Project and naturally it was another great chance to visit a beautiful city. But maybe next time I’ll leave the perfume at home.
I don’t tend to structure blog posts around specific perfume making workshops but my most recent workshop – delivered at Access Space just last Thursday – felt rather significant.
It’s been almost two years to the day since embarking on Perfume as Practice. initially, I felt something of a chancer; equipped with nothing other that a desire to learn more about the craft of perfumery and how to apply it to contemporary art practice. Two years of persistence, experiments, empirical and scholarly research, however, and I feel armed with knowledge enough to deliver meaningful learning experience.
It’s very satisfying to see the fruits of my labour translated in this way, with feedback from the workshop consisting of people explicitly saying they feel they’ve learned something; I’d provided an alternative way of thinking and I’d highlighted scent as a viable mode of communication.
Feedback from previous workshops had been a little more vague, still positive, but consisting largely of general terms such as ‘fun’ and ‘different’. While I really appreciate any positive feedback, it’s nevertheless pleasing to see the weightier, conceptual side of Perfume as Practice emerge from workshop delivery.