For this week we focussed on the work of the artist Oswaldo Macia who uses both sound and smell in his work. Oswaldo gave a lively introduction to his 'symphonies' in smell and sound.
Listen to a short clip of artist Oswaldo speaking about the sense of smell Download smell.mp3 (45 seconds)...and a longer clip about his work Provoke/Evoke Download provoke-evoke.mp3 (4 minutes 15 seconds) - this uses animal excrement - for uses of human excrement in art, see this link.
Oswaldo's website is at www.oswaldomacia.com. It includes versions and illustrations of many of his pieces and several articles about him.
If you want to find out more about the science of scent and its perception, Luca Turin's book The Secret of Scent is fascinating, though it gets a bit technical at times. Turin makes a useful distinction between flavour and perfume. Flavourists make equivalents to real smells - the smell of a ripe mango, for example; perfumers make perfumes that resemble nothing in particular, dealing in abstract effects. As Turin puts it (p.17):
'Flavourists are to perfumers roughly as Stubbs is to Kandinsky...The job of the flavourist is the olfactory still life...Very seldom does a perfume reveal its sources of inspiration.'
Turin makes the controversial assertion that perfumes are not about memory and sex, but about beauty and intelligence...I'm not sure Im completely convinced about that [see evidence from one scientist who thinks there is a strong link between smell and early memory here]. There are many interesting asides such as one about the fugitive nature of fragrance memory that made me wish Turin had had less to say about the chemistry and more about the subjective experience of smell.
Learn more about the basics of our sense of smell on Smell 101.