THE SKIN OF 100 SCENTS

The archive started ten years ago in Paris, as an imperative to record “evidences of life”, became the research incentive for my Master degree, “L´intime à l´oeuvre. La peau des 100 odeurs” (Performing the intimacy. The Skin of Hundred Scents). The research studies the autobiographic art works, foremost those in the field of fine arts and the implications of turning the intimate space into an art medium.

The last chapters of the book describe the experiences of the “self-imposed exile” from the sensorial perspective. Paying homage to the proustian texts, the premise of the work is the privileged nature of the olfaction in the activation of memory. Reclaiming the deep-rooted scents would be the equivalent of re-constructing the architecture of intimacy within unfamiliar (foreign) boundaries. The research is based on diary notes that take the form of a self-reflective documentary in the book. During the research, several scents and flavors have been analyzed in order to anatomize elements and pieces of the early memories, specifically those organically related to the native land.

The “hundred scents” have been then organized into an “olfactory atlas” and classified into ten color-coded categories: Green/The Sap (vert – les sèves); Reds/The Earth (les rouges – les terres); Translucents (les translucides); Heavy Whites (les blancs onctueux); Grey/Smoke (les fumés); Gold (l´or); Pinks (les roses); Blue (le bleu); Placenta (placenta); Penicillin (pénicilline).  The Skin of Hundred Scents is a work in process.

Having set the glass “capsule” at the center of the aesthetic code, the aim is to render the identity and realm of each category and to realize over the time 100 capsules – 10 capsule to each category, according to each category´s elements portrayal.

EARTH SHADES AND RED

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The green scent led me to the heated exhalation of the soil, just after the last ice. The earth, where i used to mold my female characters had shades between the fresh meat color and coal black.

The earth is a dark and humid gut populated by colonies of annelids and fluorescent gastropods emanating sweet steams of vanilla and cinnamon, cloves, cumin, baked poppy, saffron and ginger incenses from the Sunday cakes, mixed with the smell of wet brick and the stench of the moist fur… Red was taking shape not through the color of blood but through its vibrations. Blood meant the army of stinging fire ants which would leave sour traces on the skin.

Red was back then, in the earliest fiber of the memory, the overwrought breath of the horses and the irate beat of the orthodox wooden music tools; red would erupt from exhaustion and revulsion; it would emanate in its harrowing shades from the hidden carnage of the newborn cats and from the animal corpses found after attacks of nocturnal predators. The smell of earth and red could be found between the most atrocious stench and the bounty of incenses. It was in the eyes of the dead rats. It was in the madness of the priests. This scent unifies the ghastly cry to the violent eruption of life.

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

GOLD

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Gold was the plenitude of the scents. Among the farmers in the hills, all fruits apart from the apple are referred to as “plums”: the cherries, greengages, mirabelle plums, peaches, apricots… The veins of their flesh glimmers richly in the light and their secretions alike the human skin flows possesses a bouncy smarmy scent, reflecting golden hues.

Other golden odors: the fried onion which embraced almost every cooked meal, in a heavy perfume; honey, the epitome of liquid gold… The rum in which the grains from the “cake of the dead” were soaked; the egg yolks stirred with sugar and smeared on the Easter dry and flat figurines. There was the plum brandy which smelled like the apotheosis of all “plums”…

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

GREEN

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Green was not only a visual perception. In order to reclaim the sensation of green, my body would turn into a sort of a primal membrane that would function through inhaling and exhaling the sap. This elemental integument would feed itself with the smell of freshly cut grass and with the sweet-peppery taste of raspberry beetles that would nest inside the fruits. Green were the vapours of the trimmed celery leaves in the morning, the whiff of mint, the touch of nettles, the smell of chive and savory plucked during the rain; it was the salted lovage, the thyme, the tarragon and the peas in the hot drinks… It was the greasy juice of the green walnuts husks. It was the acrid dry basil that covered the shelves of the wardrobes at the countryside, used as insect repelling and which perfume would envelope the Sunday clothes in a stiff and spicy breeze. Together, these green fluids would cut into the skin´s layers, to refill them with a rain of heavy incenses, acid, stinging and bitter.

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

PINK

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“Pink” were the hyperpalatable confectionery exuding nauseous amounts of strawberry flavor. The strawberry powder bounced breezly from boxes, cans, cartons, bags, packs, pockets, patches, sticks, batons and bars, foils, tins and wrappings; it was the smell of holidays with the family reunited, with aunts and cousins who would bring these happy gifts from abroad to the kids home, before and after the Revolution days. “Pink” were the squashy and spongy pastes, the pulpy soft candies, the lollipops, the chewing gums and bubble gums, the hard candies, the fudges, the jelly candies, the gummi bears, the gummi worms, the pastilles, the gumdrops, the dragées, the gumballs and the candy balls, the marshmallows, the fondants, the jellies, the syrup, the juices, the sodas, the fluids, the puddings, the mousses, the mushy sugary vanilla sauces, the flavored mints, the sweethearts, the glucose drops, all in a variety of shapes and colors that always captivated me as a child. The scent was homogeneous, furtive and frangible. Far from genuine, the taste was a sort of a silly cover up, a clandestine, and all-day-craved prêt-à-manger allowance.

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

TRANSLUCENTS

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Another category is the “Translucents”: the unseen, meticulously spun, twisted manifold webs that use to cover, to sheath and embrace. The animal fat, the lard, is a basic ingredient in the making of the soap in the village households. The lard would smell like the skin itself. It was, for me, part of the same olfactive family as those of the waxes, the milk, the pollen, the fiber of the flax and hemp, made to thread through a tremendously laborious process and then weaved into precious tissues that would wrap the bodies, cover windows, walls, floors, beds, tables, foods and corpses. The Translucents were the sunflower and pumpkin oils and the wool of the first shearing of lambs.

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

PENICILLIN

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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)

 

© Luiza Mogosanu 2018