The Art of Memory: The “100 Scents” Revisited

“The Art of Memory” arrived unscathed throughout the yesterday transportation home… Reading last night in the exhibition guest book i strongly need to express my gratitude and joy to every one who made it to the exhibition – especially during that freak flood mayhem in the city! Thank you for your words, thank you for being there and making the night into such a wonderful moment!! Beating Heart Emoji, Google style 💖


The Art of Memory archive started roughly 10 years ago, as a necessity to record “evidences” of a new experience that was just unfolding – the “self-imposed exile” as i used to call it, in an unknown country, isolated from familiar environment and native language and being delivered to puzzling challenges where the every day justification and questioning of my identity was probably the most painful of them.

This archive turned slowly into an artistic practice and became the research incentive for my Master degree, L´intime à l´oeuvre. La peau des 100 odeurs. The theoretic work studies the autobiographic works – foremost those in the field of fine arts and the implications of turning one´s intimate space into a work medium. The last chapter, “La peau des 100 odeurs. 100 odeurs de l´intime” (“The Skin of 100 Scents. 100 Inner Scents”) decomposes the experiences of a “self-imposed exile” from the sensorial perspective. There are certain scents, smells, flavours, fragrances and odors that are playing a critical role in the building (or rebuilding when it had been lost) of identifiable (communication) structures.

These scents are organized in the chapter into an “olfactory atlas”, according to the earliest memories of childhood and classified into ten color-coded categories: Green/The Sap (vert – les sèves); Reds (les rouges – les terres); Translucents (les translucides); Heavy Whites (les blancs riches); Grey/Smoke (les fumés); Gold (l´or); Pinks (les roses); Blue (le bleu); Placenta (placenta); Penicillin (pénicilline).

I started this week to build actual capsules for each of the described scent using the depicted materials. I started with the last category the “Penicillin” which is described as it follows:

The last category is the Penicillin. The smell of anxiety, phobia and the fear of disintegration of the flesh. The smell of penicillin is under the sign of inorganic decay, of isolation, of  miserable helplessness, like the taste of exile in its dire light. In this category belong the smells and scents that are linked to the primary safety needs. As a child, the nec plus ultra of fear was represented by the stench of antibiotic that i use to take in large quantities over long periods of time. In this category belong as well, the smell of hospital disinfectant, of fresh cast and of concrete – a material which marked a demolishing political regime prone to dismantle a society of its individual traits.

(© Transl. from French, Luiza Mogosanu, L´intime à l´oeuvre. La peau des 100 odeurs, PAF, 2013)



Dresden, 34. Deutscher Kunsthistorikertag and Studio Visit at HfBK


2017 started with exciting teaching assignments and with the preparations for an exhibition which will open later in May this year (updates to follow). Conjointly, i began working on the translation into German of my Master research, “L´intime à l´oeuvre” (“The Intimacy as Artwork”) – first and foremost as a redraft into the language and culture i live in now, and also as a stimulus to further develop its pivotal idea – the autobiography at the core of the artistic process…

In this context of building up incentives for further research, we drove Friday to Dresden, to the 34. Deutscher Kunsthistorikertag, a biennial event organised by the Verband Deutscher Kunsthistoriker e.V. The co-partner of the event this year, having as topic global art vs. local art, was the Institut für Kunst und Musikwissenschaft of the Technischen Universität Dresden. The Kunsthistorikertag lasted from 8th to 12th of March and had numerous art historians guests with various backgrounds and very engaging talks. As the introduction word conveys, this year´s event had a spotlight on the present-day political aspects. Obviously, the art history is, malgré tout, about the position of the Images and these days in a more straightforward way it is about the politics of the Images.

In the words of the organizers:

“It is the abundance and the frequency of this images, along with their mass-media processing, that are emotionally impacting and affecting us, just as well as they irritate and make us skeptical. The present-day political context shows us even more, in our global world, how profoundly, the interlinking between politics, culture and science works and how strong the consequences and shocks can be felt, as well at a local level.”

(Transl. from original text/German.)

How does today the notion of identity change within this process of cultural transformations and how can it be defined in the context of a diverse society marked by divergent religious and political models? – Was the challenge question that brought the lecturers together with debates from different perspectives.

We opted for the day with the lectures focused on the “Identity of The Islamic Art and Architecture After 1798” and we´ve witnessed a few very engaged and engaging talks, as for instance on the relatively new research field of the Islamic cultural heritage in the Balkans, followed by an enthusiastic prologue to the “Skopje 2014 Project” and a compact, substantial talk on the urban planning in Kuweit City after 1945.

Later that evening was the closing party at the Hochschule für Bildende Künste (HfBK) and we´ve pondered for a while whether going or not. The eventuality of joining in a stiff cocktail reception was not exactly in tune with my cogitating mind. We decided to go out for dinner and just out of sheer curiosity to check at the HfBK if the ateliers were open to the public. I couldn´t have been more wrong about the hypothetical stiffness and could not have felt more gratified for deciding to go inside the university. The ateliers were open to the public for the entire evening / night (a brilliant and sensible idea for a closing party hosted by HfBK). It was a gratifying and unexpected flashback into the golden days of experimenting. We´ve wandered around between the Graphic and Painting departments with their respective studios packed with students, attending friendly their spaces with “that” gaze of poised confidence, an unsullied form of idealized trust towards their métier that only one that has already experimented such quixotic, incurable, impractical passion for her/his trade can pick up the vibe.

I asked the authors if i may photograph and clicked now and then on my camera, while avoiding to chase and decontextualize the object from its system. The whole film was to be experienced then and there: yet what i would´ve loved to capture unobtrusively was that acute state-of-the-art sense, that cuts beyond art history and theories, the one that urged the students into assembling their in situ, micro installation out of working wear, private items and statement objects.




The Art of Memory


The last days of the last year i have been taking some time to get through the “Art of Memory” ongoing installation-archive, ongoing inventory of objects and images. During the last year, after several design concept tests and trials, it seemed like a suitable choice the black lid glass container as a “preservation” solution – sort of a direct recourse to a shape and form with functions and aims very much bound to our cultural idea of conservation… There is something visually and tactile pleasing in the plain form, the compact solidity of the glass and the unexpected (playful) convergences between the original purpose of the recipient and its new content.

But there´s also something peculiarly satisfying in the process of preparing/cleaning/altering the jars, covering in opaque black paint the previous lids´patterns and glossy adverts…

The most enjoyable, yet is the sensual exercise of going through the items, touching their skins and selecting, smelling the matter across layers of dust particles and inventing categories, arranging then, the assigned jars to the new section, family, type, level… For now there are named: “tickets”; “notes”; “identification cards”; “silver and golden gifts”; “writing tool gifts”; “Paris goods”.

It comes to mind Walter Benjamin´s “Talk about Book Collecting”, an essay that starts like: “I am unpacking my library. Yes, I am.” and formulates the mechanisms of the relationship between a (book) collector and its obsession (possession) such as:

“Every passion borders the chaotic, but the collector´s passion borders the chaos of memories.” (…) Thus, there is in the life of a collector a dialectical tensions between the poles of disorder and order. Naturally, his existence is tied to many other things as well: to a very mysterious relationship to ownership, something about which we will have more to say later; also a relationship to objects which does not emphasize their functional utilitarian value—that is, their usefulness—but studies and loves them as the scene, the stage, of their fate. The most profound enchantment of the collector is the locking of the individual items within a magic circle in which they are fixed as the final thrill, the thrill of acquisition, passes over them. Everything remembered and thought, everything conscious, becomes the pedestal, the frame, the base, the lock of his property. The period, the region, the craftsmanship, the former ownership—for a true collector the whole background of an item adds up to a magic encyclopedia whose quintessence is the fate of his object.” (Benjamin, Walter. “Unpacking my Library: A Talk about Book Collecting,” in Illuminations, New York: Schocken Books, 1969; translated by Harry Zohn, edited and with an introduction by Hannah Arendt , pp. 59-67./ p. 60

Enjoy a healthy new year!