Now that I have a firm idea of the direction I want ‘Perfume as Practice’ to go in, I have decided to create this blog post, listing frequently asked questions about the project. Why? Well aside from the fact that writing all these questions down helps me focus my thoughts, it also gives everyone the opportunity to further understand and clarify my project. If these answers don’t do anything to resolve any query you have about Perfume as Practice, please feel free to get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Many thanks!
So why perfume?
Well physically creating a perfume isn’t all that different from creating a painting. The essential oils act as colour, and mixing them together allows you to create something meaningful and coherent. There is certainly potential and intrigue in aligning the status of perfume to the status of painting, which could unlock the possibilities of perfume and what perfume can be.
But isn’t Perfume just about memory, sex or wanting to smell kinda nice?
Well, what if it wasn’t? Part of my concerns as an artist is providing alternatives to preconceptions, allowing us to assess and understand objects, thoughts and concepts differently. Indeed, I would suggest that my project speculates how art would exist should scent be the primary means of experiencing the world. How would art and how would artists adapt to this? …I’d say that it is pretty logical to suggest that perfume would become a viable and meaningful means of expression.
Isn’t scent-based work in art sort of gimmicky?
I can understand your point of view here, because I believe that scent in art has been somewhat misrepresented: It is presented as gimmicky. This is mainly due to the fact that scent is a relatively unknown and mysterious sense. But it is nevertheless still a means of experiencing the world. Scent still enables us to process information, identify with the world and enable social interactions. Historically, scent has been essential for survival, and something of that instinct still exists. There is a value to scent that transcends the preconception that is is somewhat auxiliary and frivolous. Art has pandered to this frivolity, but it doesn’t have to. It can treat scent in a similar manner to vision. They are both universal and identifiable ways of experiencing the world, after all.
Why are you specifically trying to make portraiture with your perfumes?
It’s more a question of why I’m using perfume as a vehicle for portraiture, and the reason is to allow perfume to act in the opposite manner to it’s expectations. Using perfume as a vehicle for portraiture means that – rather than using perfume as a tool to mask, alter or embellish identity – it will instead be a tool for unmasking and uncovering identity; for capturing the essence of someone and attempting to answer the question of who someone is in a tangible, meaningful and innovative way.
But why do you want to ‘unmask’ artists?
A few reasons. Possibly some of the reasons are quite introspective as I myself feel like an actor rather than an artist – masquerading as a cook when considering food; an alchemist when considering paint; and now a perfumer when considering perfume. Perhaps this journey is more a social investigation – to uncover the different social groups found within art in attempt to feel included and to allow others to feel included, and to be in the knowledge that there are people like them.
…but do keep in mind that, again, I am looking to investigate the possibilities of perfume. If perfume can act against it’s preconceptions, then it will further our understanding of it – allowing us to experience perfumery in a new, informed and engaging way.
Why are you using artists rather than just anyone to make a ‘perfume portrait’ from?
Because I have a theory that there is an inherent parallel between why art is made and why perfume is worn. Both can act as a mask – a tool people use to behave, interact and express themselves in a certain manner for a certain effect. I think there is a rich vein of intrigue to be explored there, as the parallels can be embraced or disrupted for desired creative ends.
And why artists rather than artists’ work?
I believe that artwork is an extension of the artist, but probing and investigating artwork alone will fail to address the individual and therefore the true nature of portraiture.
So, if I were to spray some of your perfumes on myself, what would I be wearing?
You would be wearing an artists’ answer to the question what makes them an artist, and as such it would allow you to essentially masquerade as an artist with predefined concerns and thoughts. It’s a sort of wearable and tangible form of portraiture that an audience can exploit. Of course, this opens up questions of identity, authorship and ownership, but keep in mind that my perfumes behave differently to convention – as they have captured a raw, sincere and unmasked essence of an individual. This means that you would be wearing all of the artists’ fears, vulnerabilities, insecurities and concerns that make them do the things they do.
Why are you specifically asking the question ‘what defines you as an artist?’
Well, it’s a deliberately open question that is open to broad interpretation. The idea is to not necessarily take the answer given at face value, but rather to probe, ask further questions and examine the artists’ creative output. If I were to make conventional portraiture, questions like this would be essential to capturing the true essence of people: It would act as a relevant starting point, enabling me to create a portrait that would combine personal truths, traits and confessions with analysis, deduction, and interpretation – thus making a meaningful social observation. It’s no different here.
What defines you as an artist?
I think providing alternatives to preconceived concepts and the idea that my work could further, alter, question or reinforce a perception of the world is my defining characteristic. It is certainly why I make the art I make. I also believe that providing alternatives can instigate change which, on a grandiose level, can act as a potent social, moral, ethical or political force. Though also on a personal level, assessing things differently can be healthy, can further your relationship with the world and make you feel connected in ways previously unimaginable. So take from that what you will – and make a perfume from it if you like!