Monday, July 22, 2013

Cult




I left Los Angeles nearly twenty years ago. I go back to visit family at least once a year, so in a way one foot is still there, and the place still beckons: the energy, the art, the variety, the feeling of being at the leading edge of well, everything. 

When I read about the opening of the Institute for Art and Olfaction last year, it made me want to go back. For a few days, anyway. It is fitting that this center arose in Los Angeles, as there is still an odd sort of purity associated with California that simply doesn’t exist in all-business New York.  (I don’t think I was the only blogger who was disappointed in MODA’s extremely well-sponsored and mainstream scent exhibition there.)  Anyway, if I was still in L.A. I’d be involved with the IAO. Sweep this ground floor. 

The IAO’s first conceptual scent project involved a collaboration between the filmmaker/software architect Mark Harris and conceptual perfumer Josh Meyer. Harris’s film “The Lost Children,” is described thusly on the IAO website:

“The Lost Children is a sci-fi thriller that tells the story of Evelyn Hamilton, a NYC socialite turned would-be messiah. Running from her troubled family, Evelyn joins The Lost Children cult, who believe they are aliens from another world, stranded on Earth and awaiting rescue by their mother ship. Evelyn’s family hires professional cult deprogrammer, Jared Allen Tyler, to extract her from the cult and to “un-brainwash” her. But soon everyone in the film questions what they know to be real as the cult’s beliefs all seem to come true.”

I haven’t seen the film. To my knowledge it hasn’t screened here in  At-Lanta. But I did order a sample of the scent that goes with it. It was featured in two live “immersive experiences” presented at The Film Society of Lincoln Center last January.

It would be silly to do a straight perfume review of “Cult,” but here’s an impression. Right away, I get the flat knockout punch of human body, not stale sweat, not cumin, human. (It fits. Cults are decidedly human.) That punch sticks around, too, through the mid tones of the scent, along with citrus and geranium. Later, it fades, and the result is a more pleasant drydown, with leaves and woods. Still, no mass-market fragrance distributor would touch this. It would give a niche perfumer pause. I’ll wear to some opening or other art event and see if it gets noticed.

But that’s not really the point here. 

Upcoming IAO projects involve a lot of multimedia and multimodal materials which serve to place the scent components within a broader structure, make them more familiar, perhaps more acceptable, to the rather, ahem, insular Art World. This should help disassociate art-based perfumery from the concept of “Perfume” as it exists today: celebrity-driven, fashion-associated, designed to seduce, certainly downmarket as compared to Art. 

While I would like someday to see conceptual scents stand alone as a painting would, this form of introduction works. I look forward to much more from the IAO. 


Click here to visit the Institute for Art and Olfaction's website. The link offering further information on the "Cult" project is here.

The photo is from the IAO's website.


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