The Archivist Speaks ... [10]

A look at the V2_archive on occasion of the Museumnight 2012 and Test_Lab Smell This.

Both the Museumnight on March 10th and the Test_Lab Smell This! on March 15th focus on 'smell', still probably the most underestimated of our senses, and certainly underrepresented in the art of the Information Age. The Norwegian smell artist Sissel Tolaas is a guest on both occasions, she also was one of the speakers of Test_Lab Multi_modal in 2008 (with archived live stream). Maki Ueda will 'decompose' Chanel 5 at Test_Lab Smell This!, she was also the curator of the Palmtop Theater exhibition. In 2001 she developed the word Hole in the Earth at V2_lab.

The fact that smell is not present our network communications, has attracted some attention of artists who worked on virtual spaces and communication – at least it is mentioned time and again in the description of installations and other works. Of course, again, Mignonneau & Sommerer's Mobile Feelings (includes video) comes to mind – as a device which transmits smell, sweatiness and tactile 'information' instead of sound and image.

'Smell' is also mentioned in the description of Masaki Fujihata's Global Interior Project, a multi-user virtual environment which was part of the 1996 Dutch Electronic Art Festival. Smell was one of the 18 categories in the work, or rather one of the 'rooms' in the virtual environment. One can imagine that there was no real smell in this probably in retrospect technologically rather primitive 'chat room'.

Real smell was part of The Gyroscope by Just Merit, which emitted – on purpose – the smell of ether. This installation was shown in 1993 during the Synesthetics-project. Erik Hobijn, famous for his fire-installations, made Olfactoric Nervous System, which was shown at V2_ in 1995, and apparently it was a 'smell-installation' – though the available description is quite minimal.

If smell was intentionally part in the installation Headspace Boxes by Laura Kikauka, also shown at V2_ in Den Bosch in 1993 at an event entitled Four Corners Get Obtuse, is a bit unclear. This work alluded to the idea of Virtual Reality, and consisted of head mounts that the viewer could wear to hear sounds which reacted to the movements of the head. The Dutch description makes no mention of smell, and neither of light, but the English description states "The audience can stand under these objects, and put its heads into them. Then, sounds, smells and light effects are generated." Certainly the work did not make use of any type of electronic transmission of smell – no smelling interface for VR or Internet, but it is possible that Laura Kikauka, who at the time collaborated with Norman White, included 'smelly' parts in the installation which helped to stimulate the imagination of the viewer. Yet it could just as well be a mistake copied from a PR-text. Googling does not provide an answer to this question, we'll have to ask the artist, or the curators of the exhibition (assuming they will remember it correctly) ...

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