Smell: The Neglected Sense

SYMPOSIUM & EXHIBITION

Though unnoticed, our sense of smell is a major mood determiner. Scents evoke vivid childhood memories. They are part of our identity: we each have a scent that is as unique as our fingerprints.

Even cities have their own specific scent profiles. Still, we tend not to be aware of the profound effects of smell. VU Amsterdam is organizing a symposium on 24 February during which an art and fragrance historian, a psychologist and an artist will elucidate the importance of smell as part of culture. A new VU exhibition will also open that will let you observe that which is invisible, indefinable, elusive and often neglected: smell! Both activities are related to scent historian Caro Verbeek’s PhD dissertation, ‘Aromatic Art (Re-)reconstructed: In Search of Lost Scents’.

A century ago, surrealists like Duchamp and futurists like Marinetti used scents to accentuate their images, exhibition spaces, poetry readings and toys. They used Brazilian coffee beans, erotic perfumes, sulfuric acid, ozone, incense and industrial fumes as means to influence the public. Most of these ‘aromatic interventions’ were intended to provoke, to confuse, to alter people’s mood or to add a sensory dimension. Unfortunately, many of these ‘artistic aromas’ have been lost. These days, artists all over the world are once again working with scents and aromas. The exhibition provides an overview of how international artists and perfumers incorporate scents into their art as they explore the boundaries of ‘visual’ expression.

What does the countryside smell like? The Battle of Waterloo? The moon? The planet Earth? These and other lost and rare scents have been reconstructed thanks to the joint efforts of perfumers, chemists and historians.
Indulge your olfactory sense and give your nose something to sniff at. Register for the symposium and come see the exhibition.

Photo: Copyright Gayil Nalls, People sniffing World Sensorium at midnight 01-01-2000, Time Square, New York

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TED talk Caro Verbeek: Inhaling history and smelling the future

ACCESS board member Caro Verbeek gave a TED talk on ‘Inhaling history and smelling the future’ at TEDx Groningen. YouTube cannot do justice to the synaesthetic experience of Caro’s presentation, but the video is certainly worth watching!

Verbeek stresses that due to the increase of social and digital media, there is more need than ever to pay attention to direct and intimate – non transferable – qualities of smell. According to Verbeek it is time to take your nose out of your books, and start inhaling the environment as a meaningful source of information and inspiration.

 

Caro Verbeek is an art and smell historian, curator and author with a focus on modern, olfactory and tactile art. She is currently a PhD candidate at VU University with the project ‘In Search of Scents Lost – Reconstructing the Aromatic Heritage of the Avant-garde’. She teaches the course ‘The Other Senses’ at the Royal Academy of Arts (The Hague) and moderates the monthly ‘Odorama’-platorm at Mediamatic Amsterdam. She curated a show on olfactory art at Villa Rot (Germany) in 2015 and co-curated the Museumnight ‘Ruiken in het Rijks’ (Smelling at the Rijksmuseum) in 2012. She regularly does olfactory interventions at museums and universities worldwide. http://www.caroverbeek.nl

http://tedxgroningen.com/caro-verbeek/

Odorama 6: Smell-blind – the Anosmia edition

Mediamatic, Amsterdam
7th of  april, bites and drinks 18:00, talks 20:00 – 22:00
with Kirsten Jaarsma, Dorien Scheltens and Sanne Boesveldt

Whether derived from nature, or chemically constructed, odourant molecules have the ability to profoundly effect our behaviour, emotions and associations. At Odorama we’ll actively engage with our senses and explore everything that reaches and effects the nose. What happens if you completely lose your sense of smell and become smell-blind? At this edition of Odorama we will discuss the inability to smell.

For more information and tickets: http://www.mediamatic.net/413977/en/smell-blind-anosmia

Anosmia - Imagine being unable to smell the fresh spring flowers. Image from Mediametic.net.

Anosmia –
Imagine being unable to smell the fresh spring flowers.
Image from Mediametic.net.

ACCESS Seminar on cultural specificity of embodied emotions and smell

The Amsterdam Centre for Cross-Disciplinary Emotion and Sensory Studies (ACCESS) organizes a seminar on the:

Cultural specificity of embodied emotions and smell

In this seminar Zhen Pan and Caro Verbeek address the question of the human universality and historical specificity of emotional expression and the experience of smell. Please be welcome to hear, see and inhale!

De reuk, Cornelis Dusart, 1670 – 1704, engraving, Rijksmuseum Amsterdam

De reuk, Cornelis Dusart, 1670 – 1704, engraving, Rijksmuseum Amsterdam

Place:                Meertens Instituut: Joan Muyskenweg 25, Amsterdam

Date:                 Tuesday 22 March 2016

Time:                15.00-17.00

Register:           Please register using the form below this announcement.

Entrance:          Free

Info:                 erika.kuijpers@vu.nl

Program:

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Nijmegen researchers chart odor lexicon

“In many languages, such as English, there is no straightforward way to talk about smell. For want of dedicated odor terminology similar to that available for color, English speakers are often forced to use odor-sources and metaphors in their descriptions of olfactory sensations. This has long been considered a universal feature of all languages, but there is accumulating evidence that languages with odor lexicons actually do exist. Maniq (pronounced as maniʔ), spoken by a group of nomadic hunter-gatherers in southern Thailand, is one such language. The study by Wnuk and Majid is an in-depth investigation of the semantics of an odor lexicon using multiple methods.”

coffee

For more information and a link to the paper, visit the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics.

ACCESS lecture on the history of smell

Holly Dugan, The George Washington University

‘Seeing Smell: Renaissance Pomanders and the History of Perfume’

ACCESS and Graduate School for Humanities, VU University Amsterdam

Friday 28 February, 15.30-17.00hrs, drinks after

VU University, Main Building, Boelelaan 1105, Amsterdam (room 1 E – 24)

Please register below if you would like to attend.

ACCESS is pleased to invite you to a lecture on a synaesthetic approach to sensory history. Holly Dugan will talk about her research into early modern English pomanders and the smell of old books on Friday 28 February.

Come smell the historical odours of pomander and ambergris, with a brief introduction to her collection of historical odours by Rijksmuseum curator and olfactory art historian Caro Verbeek.

In this paper Holly Dugan explores the decorative qualities of early modern English pomanders in order to examine the relationship between early modern perfume and the objects designed to dispense them. Perfume was an important plague preventative in early modern England: because the plague was believed to be an airborne disease—and because outbreaks of plague in England were episodic, sporadic, and uneven—early modern English men and women often carried small, portable perfume dispensers known as pomanders to protect the nose from surprise engagements with foul air. The term itself—pomander—evolved across the fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth centuries from a description of a small ball of aromatic paste to an elaborate metal container designed to hold such pastes and resins. By the sixteenth century, pomanders were so powerful that they were often invoked metaphorically as a spiritual defense.

pomander

In this lecture, Holly Dugan grapples with the synaesthetic paradox of pomanders: visibly small yet powerfully odoriferous, pomanders vex traditional scholarly methods towards material culture. These small, ornate objects were elaborately decorated and exist in a range of forms, including globes, skills, snails, cathedrals, and ships; very few are engraved with the scent ingredients they dispensed.  By examining the complicated relationship between the olfactory aspects of these objects and their decorative materiality, she argues for the usefulness of a synaesthetic approach to understanding of sensory history.

hollyduganHolly Dugan is Associate Professor of English at The George Washington University. Her research and teaching interests explore relationships between history, literature, and material culture. Her scholarship focuses on questions of gender, sexuality, and the boundaries of the body in late medieval and early modern England. In 2011 she published The Ephemeral History of Perfume: Scent and Sense in Early Modern England (Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press).

 

Directions

The lecture is held in room 1E-24 (PKU-room at PThU). The PTHU is located on the first floor of the main building of te VU-university. Please use the main entrance and turn left past the bookshop to take the stairs to the first floor. The E-Wing is past the yellow elevators. Unfortunately, these elevators do not stop on the first floor. If you have any problems in finding the room or are physically unable to use the stairs, please ask the receptionist for help.

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