The Little Prince from the children’s story by Antoine de Saint- Exupéry asks the narrator to draw a sheep. The narrator, being unfamiliar with how to draw a sheep, draws the only think he could – a boa with a bulging stomach. This very specific picture of the boa has been previously mistaken by grown-ups for a hat. The Little Prince, however, immediately recognizes what it stands for (a boa with an elephant inside) and demands a sheep again. The narrator makes several attempts at drawing the sheep but all are rejected by the Prince because the sheep looks weak or sick. Finally, the narrator, seeing no way out, decides to draw a box and gives the drawing to the Prince telling him that the sheep is inside the box. The Prince exclaims “that’s perfect.”
The concept “what the mind knows, the eyes see” has been explored by psychologists, writers, artists, historians, and others to show the limitations and the adaptability of the mind. Pre-determined knowledge (in the form of an experience, a memory, a reconstruction of an event, a dream, etc.) has the profound effect on the perception of the outside world. The inner world, communicating with the external world, create a new experience altogether.
2. Theoretical background
2.1. The processing of stimulus information
Traditionally, biologists have defined 5 senses – olfactory, visual,
auditory, gustatory, and tactile. These 5 senses are used, objectively, to reconstruct the reality around. They involve reception of information (a stimulus) from the external world, the processing of that information (a transformation of one type of physical signal into another) in the primary receptor fields, the transfer of the information from the receptor fields to the brain (a translation of the information into an electrical signal), the processing of that information in the brain (further transfer of electrical signals from one part of the brain to another), connecting the processed information with memory and lexical information, interpreting the information, evaluating it emotionally, attaching labels to it, checking if it requires action, executing the action, checking if compatibility between the anticipated and the actual action fit, and so on and so forth.
These 5 senses in the form and function just described, however, are simply the beginning of a chain of processes that lead to the human functioning in the daily environment. Neurologically, it has been shown that the great inter-neural connectivity that exists in the brain allows for the so- called “back projections” (Puce & Perrett, 2003). Back projections refer to the stimulation of specific brain areas not by the external stimulus but by imagining the external stimulus; i.e. the information flow starts at the end of the brain (and stays in the brain) and continues in a backward fashion to the primary sensory cortices where brain regions get activated with the same magnitude and the same patter as they would if they were externally stimulated by a stimulus.
The bidirectional information flow is what is of concern in the context of this exhibition. Specifically, the exhibition will aim at investigating the contradictions and complementary comments created by a simultaneous flow in information from the internal and from the external world. Moreover, just as with the Little Prince, information flowing from inside to the outside may have a much stronger effect and shape the perception. This phenomenon, called top-down processing, has been observed with various forms of perceptual processing and with all the senses. It appears that no system is immune to it. Moreover, it appears to be more automatic than controlled. The internal collection of stimuli that will be of interest to the artists in this exhibition will be concerned with intrinsic cultural abilities and cognitions which shape the internal world differently leading to various interpretations of one and the same external world (i.e. the works of art).
2.2. Cultural issues and perceptions
The cultural dimensions of perception have been of interest to psychologist in the context of determining which features of the human mind are biologically determined and which are determined by the surroundings. Factors such as: the attention that mothers give to their children (both quantitatively and qualitatively) have been shown to relate to the development of the concept of “self” and the understanding of agency (Keller, Kärtner, Borke, Yovsi, & Kleis, 2005); the philosophical background and religious beliefs have been argued to determine the understanding of concepts that contradict each other (in a Western mindset, two opposing statements cannot coexist; in an Eastern framework, however, it is permissible; Peng & Nisbett, 1999); nourishment has been shown to influence greatly the functioning of the brain and as such all of the perceptual and cognitive processes develop much better when adequate nourishment is available (Flynn, 1996); and many others.
Cultural aspects of perception have been hard and controversial to define and describe. Since perception is, theoretically, based entirely on the abilities of the human system to process the information, and since this system is entirely genetically created, it would be impossible to argue that perception is determined by culture. On the other hand, there is evidence suggesting that certain perceptual processes do show such cultural determinations (see Goldstein, 2002). The question would then be if it is possible that such cultural influences come into play at a later stage of perceptual processing rather than, as it has been suggested, on the very first levels. This question, however, is beyond the scope (or interest) of this paper and this exhibition.
What is of importance to the curatorial concept is the ability to read and interpret a sensorial stimulus relying on meta-cognitive, meta-affective and meta-behavioural strategies. The only true way of experiencing the artistic production is the authentic reaction – a self-regulated mechanism that combines the purely physiological experience of the artistic creation with the experiential imagination of that very same creation. The paradoxical difference between what the physiological reality provides as a stimulus, what our senses (shaped by cultural background) make out of it, and what our internal projections create, is what this exhibition concerns itself with.
The Little Prince had summed up these issues into the concept of the exhibition and the questions that it would pose in aesthetical, psychological, and biological context: to what extend to we use inner imagination in interpretation of art, to what extend does the artist rely on our own interpretation, in what context are the different senses integrated, how does the artist uses the lapses of the senses to create illusions, how do the different cultures interpret the same sensorial stimulations, how does the artist uses the different sensorial sensitivities of the different cultural groups to convey a message (many different messages?)?
2.3. Olfactory perception
In the context of conflicting inner and outer senses, the sense that is easiest to manipulate and at the same time hardest to trick, is the sense of smell. The sense of smell is far from being understood as well as the visual or auditory system. Anatomically speaking, the olfactory system is composed of receptors located inside the nose at the olfactory epithelium covering a region of about 1-2 cm2 (Rossiter, 1996). According to Rossiter, this area contains a total of 12 million olfactory cells. When the olfactory molecule reaches the receptors, it is captured by them and evaluated. The specific molecular vibration is paired with a specific quality of the smell (woody, camphoraceous, floral, etc.) and a specific intensity (weak, strong, moderate). (However, the specific authentic reaction, as defined above, is not evident at this stage.) The specific evidence for this theory has been the identification of “receptor subtypes [that] respond not to one, but to many odorants” (Turin, 2002, p. 367). The specifics of the olfactory system have been investigated in the context of memory (e.g. Zucco, 2003), other senses (e.g. Herz, 2003), communication (e.g. Leppänen & Hietanen, 2003), mating behaviour (e.g. Hold & Schleidt, 1977) and others. Olfaction, however, remains open for future investigations (Goldstein, 2002).
Some odours are much more familiar than others – this has to do with specific cultural upbringing and the availability of, for example, specific types of everyday cosmetic necessities. Others are much more ambiguous and although they might be easily recognizable upon second encounter (Zucco, 2003), the first encounter remains ambiguous because the difficulty to place the new aroma. Zucco (2003) found that there is no difference in the recognition possibilities between the different encoding conditions in his experiment (naming the scent vs. creating an image vs. attach it to a specific life episode vs. just smell it). His experiment, however, did not assess the difficulty and ease of retrieval of the information but simply the correct recognition rate. It is conceivable that depending on the four encoding conditions, different level of accessibility will be attached to the smell. For example, in the condition where the smell has to be named, the highest accessibility would be expected because of the direct connection between the smell and the name. However, it is also conceivable that in the memory condition the accessibility would also be high because once a memory is brought up to mind to help the re-recognition of a scent, the aroma must have been paired with that memory on the occasion of the event (brought up from the memory). Creating an image that is to be attached to a scent would perhaps be the least affective strategy because a smell can be perceived as conjuring one image the first time and a second image the second time (Turin & Yoshii, 2002, discussing the scent of phenylacetic acid which smells both of honey and of fresh urine). The no-instruction condition would perhaps be a baseline of different individual strategies so it would perhaps take a middle point.
Individual history differences such as these complement findings on the level of the personality type. It should be pointed out that people with different personalities would use different ways of memorizing the smells. It has been suggested that, for example, extroverts have a lesser need of a stimulus (Logue & Byth, 1993) and for this reason the McCollough effect is much stronger for introverts. Thus, possibly, introverts will rely greatly on several different means of memorizing a scent or would integrate different modalities (e.g. imagining a source of the smell in visual terms). This could be correlated with a measure of their extroversion with a scale.
These intrinsic differences in the interpretation of smell can be explained only on a level that goes beyond mere physiology. The evolutionary explanations of smell have long proposed that smell has deteriorated since it was no longer used for hunting (Goldstein, 2002). The sense of smell still has a subconscious influence on other sensory modalities, however. For example, Leppänen and Hietanen (2003) have shown that a pleasant smell helps the faster identification of a positive facial expression while a negative smell slows it down. The transfer from one sense to another is, if nothing else, indicative of the automatic connection between interpretation and the sense of smell. More importantly, however, the conventions of positive and negative are more of less culturally shaped.
3. Perfumery as art
The aesthetic principles involved in the creation process have been outline on several occasions by perfumers. Functionality of the final product has been a major impediment to the consideration of perfumery as an art form. Legal decrees have recently established perfumery as another form of art and any forgery or copying is punishable by law. The development of perfumery, however, needed a long time to achieve this state. Roudnitska (1980) describes the aesthetic importance of perfumery in terms of the dedication, individual effort, personal attachment, and objective interpretation on several levels. The discussion of these levels that make up a perfume a work of art are beyond the scope of this paper. Suffice to say, the artistic production relies on the same standards as any other means of artistic production.
4. The exhibition concept
4.1. The exhibition space
The presentation space, being part of an olfactory exhibition, need be of simplistic origin. The evidence outlined previously about influence of olfaction on other senses can analogically be inverted. For this reason, it remains vital to keep the essentials of the exhibition space to a minimum. The possibility to smell each of the exhibited perfumes will be of primary importance. Each piece will be displayed in a generic bottle without specific design to neutralize visual influence on this level. The necessity for a well- ventilated space is also very high.
The important aspect of the exhibition is the ability to assess the interpretation brought in by each person together with their cultural background. The psychological background and quantitative and qualitative investigations which can be conducted in the following context become likely candidates for gathering more information. Quantitative analysis of the audience background can be investigated with various psychological tools (e.g. Bem Sex inventory). Qualitative analysis of information and interpretation that each member of the audience submit can then be related to the information provided on the quantitative level and patters of understanding and smelling could emerge.
4.2. The perfume artists and the works of art
The development of a perfume is a long process depending on the guidance that one receives during the creation. The perfume-maker, as described by Jean-Claude Ellena (2007) is usually someone with a degree in chemistry, who has studied in one of the perfumery schools and who has the skills (but not necessarily the vision) to mix ingredients (both natural and synthetic). The unfortunate fact remains that in most cases the perfumer is guided in his work by marketing briefs – investigations into the marketing world aiming at finding a concept that would appeal to anyone from any culture for any time of the day, etc. The creation process is in this instance limited to what the public demands and what is (according to statistics) in vogue at a particular moment in time. The analogical connection between this form of creation and what has been the reasons for criticism of the exhibition “Magiciens de la Terre” (1989) at the Centre Pompidou, for example, is frustrating for the artistic production in perfumery. Edmond Roudnitska (1980) clearly expresses the discontent that exists regarding this system of artistic production (which abolishes the artistic value).
The ability to translate visions, emotions, ideas, concepts, and abstractions from one sensory modality or imaginary experience into an olfactory experience is a simplified way of describing the artistic production. The matière that each perfumer has developed is characterised by a common signature and a consistent way of dealing with the materials and the means of artistic production. These specifics of the creation process can be, however, suppressed by the limitations imposed by contractual agreements and marketing information. The frustration with the mass targeting has lead a lot of perfumers to establish independent production houses where they can use their own judgement of norms and aesthetic standards in the creation process. Houses such as these do not aim at mass-marketing and do not expect universal understanding in the very same way such as modern artists dealing with various traditional and innovative forms address the limitations that they face.
The artistic creations that come out of such processes are guided by the aesthetic principles of the creators and as such are not for mass-market appeal – they require, according to their creators, exclusivity (which is either expressed in high prices, limited distribution, simplistic packaging, or other forms of expression). Such creations are the works of, among others, Edmond Roudnitska, Jean-Claude Ellena, Serge Lutens, and Konstantin Mihov.
4.2.1. Edmond Roudnitska and his creations
Edmond Roudnitska is the perfumer who is, in the eyes of every other perfumer, revered as the father of perfumery as an art form. His publication “Le Parfum” (1980), his numerous lectures, and his creative restrained and perfectionism has deserved him place in the history of perfumery. During his lifetime (of more than 60 professional years), he had commercialized in total 13 fragrances (a number which in today’s standards may equal what a perfumer has to come up with in 1 or 2 years). The creation process, as he describes it, begins with the conceptualization of an idea – an idea based on inspirational vision of the expected final product – a metaphorical idea of a plant, an illusory image of the person who is exemplified in the fragrance, an imaginary emotional experience that would accompany the experience of the perfume itself. Each of these, he describes to be easily achievable when one has control over the means of communicating and when the concept is clear in one’s mind. His approach to this creation focused on the use of the ingredients in a directed way by incorporating both traditional natural ingredients (essential oils, absolutes, tinctures, CO2 extracts and others) and synthetically created molecules (both naturally occurring in the plan world and artificially created for the means of perfumery). Developing individual signature and approach has not been limited to either availability of materials, or economic situation. The individual expression is guided not so much by his use of materials but by the ideas behind it. His cultural background, being deeply rooted in the French world, is a reflection of the pure aesthetics of the French chic as defined by Turin (Burr, 2003). A recurring theme in his creations is the expression of femininity and the awareness of equality. His emphasize on the shape and form of the creation process as well as the aesthetics behind the creation of a perfume have been a manifesto for perfume creators. His numerous investigations on the aesthetics and the art of perfumery have been of major importance both in his theoretical works as well as his perfume creations. Focusing on the creation not as a simple addition but as a complex combination of shape and form, he was the first to explore the possibilities of describing psychological phenomena and cognitions in the creation process (see Roudnitska, 1980) such as applying Fechner’s law to the perception of intensity.
The perfumes by Roudnitska selected for the exhibition will aim at conveying the concept of femininity and the image of a woman with supreme elegance, but also power the way he envisioned her. The fragrances are Diorissimo (created for the fashion house Christian Dior in 1956), Eau d’Hermes (created for the fashion house Hermes in 1951), and Femme (created for the fashion house Marcel Rochas in 1944). Diorissimo plays on the association of the feminine figure with a flower. The perfume is an evocation of an abstraction of a lily-of-the-valley. Its purity in style and yet its austerity in presence is the metaphorical expression which he was seeking. With Femme, Roudnitska is exploring territories of power and chic by the juxtaposition of typically masculine notes and the femininity of plums. The created illusion of contrasts complements the liberating idea associated with the woman of the middle of the 20th century. The creation of Eau d’Hermes was guided above all by the image of the company. The translation of what started as a saddler company into a perfume required a retrospection into the image of the brand, abstraction from what they symbolize and what those symbols stand for, and creating a new vision altogether. The metaphoric use of leather (which symbolically represents what Hermes stands for – exquisite leather goods) and cumin (the refinement, spiciness, unpretentious French luxury) is what makes this fragrance a metaphoric expression not of an image of a person but of a whole concept.
Translating the feeling of luxuriousness into what needs to create the very same feeling is the core of this creation. The concept of luxurious experiences, however, is intrinsically different between cultural groups. Its existence in the Western world differentiates between French chique, German practicality, American purity, Italian opulence which dictates the choice of markets to which any of the creations can be distributed. Despite being created by one and the same perfume, the popularity of these fragrances is different in different parts of the world. An observation outlined by Burr (2003) explains the marketing successes in particular contexts and the marketing flops in other cultural contexts. For example, Eau d’Hermes has been reported repeatedly in Hermes releases to be unmarketable on the US market where the allusion to cumin (which in itself alludes to sweat) is in contradiction to the concept of purity. Thus, the culturally impregnated standards of one and the same smell (sweat, cumin) can be interpreted differently. Historic analogies and historically based cultures (i.e. the culture in France in the 1940s vs. the current culture in France) can also create interpretation differences. This variety in cultural factors plays a role in the interpretation of what has been envisioned by a perfumer and results in conceptual misunderstandings.
4.2.2. Jean-Claude Ellena and his creations
A perfumer working with a similar creative input is Jean-Claude Ellena. Unlike Roudnitska whose life did not begin with the prospect of a perfumer, Ellena was born in a family of perfumers and the traditions have evolved with him. The concept of minimalism plays a particularly important role in the creative process for Ellena. He describes extensively the advantages of the creation process based purely on the illusions that the olfactory system cannot fully understand. The primary idea behind the purist perfumes that he creates is the attempt to trick the olfactory system by relying on the concept “the sum is more than its individual parts”. A primary example of this is described by the journalist Chandler Burr (2005) in an article about the creation of the perfume Un Jardin Sur Le Nil (Hermes). In it, Burr presents interview excerpts in which Ellena describes how with only 2 synthetically generated molecules, one can create the illusion of chocolate for which nature uses (naturally) more than 400 molecules. The logic of purity in the creation (the structure) juxtaposed with the complex illusions that it creates (the form) is of primary importance for Ellena and his creations.
Recently appointed as the in-house ‘nose’ of Hermes, Ellena has the creative freedom that fits the conceptual profile of the company. The conceptualization of each of his recent creations has a direct connection to natural smells and aromas. The abstraction level, unlike Roudnitska, is not on the level of the final product but on the level of the materials. By applying the simple limitations of the olfactory system (analogically to mixing primary colours in the visual world), Ellena creates a representation of a natural smell. His driving force, however, as he has outlined it himself (2007), is not the idea of recreating nature but to create a new image of a natural idea. The specific examples in his recent pallet of creations which will be included in the exhibition are Un Jardin Sur Le Nil (created for the fashion house Hermes in 2005), Brin de Reglisse (created for the fashion house Hermes in 2007), Bois Farine (created for the perfume house L’Artisan Parfumeur in 2003), and Eau de Campagne (created for the fashion house Sisley in 1974). Each of these is an expression of a natural idea the way it was interpreted by the very same sense – the olfactory sensory modality, processed by the memory system and then reinterpreted with the available ingredients until the final illusion (allusion?) is achieved. For Un Jardin Sur Le Nil, Ellena drew inspiration from a mango that he encountered while in Egypt. The smell of mango was the beginning on which he based his idea by analysing the constituent ingredients in the original natural smell (e.g. citrus, vegetable, green grass, etc.) and reorganizing them into a coherent whole. The illusion based purely on the reinterpretation of a mango is an allusion to the formal aspects based on entirely different structural dimensions. This technique characterises all of his creations. With Brin de Reglisse, for example, he aimed at the illusion of lavender in the specific region of Province where he grew up. The idea of the wind bringing the scent of spicy purple and very gentle lavender is a concept of lavender recreated by reworking the already existing material (e.g. essential oil and absolute of lavender) into a mixture of transparent and effervescent blurring nuances. Once again, the minimalism is not purely based on the aesthetic values or the ideas behind the creation process but also relate to the final product and its form and structure. With Bois Farine, Ellena explored territories that have not been conceived of in commercial perfumery. The idea behind it is the fragrance of a plant native to the Island of Reunion. The plant as described has the smell of flour. This unconventional concept was taken up by Ellena and transformed into a perfumery illusion of flour, which, however, does not allude to flour immediately but is rather connected to the plant, which in itself appears to have the smell of flour. This indirect link between the final product, the intermediate inspiration and what the original reminds of is the contradiction between form and structure in this particular case. One of his earlier creations, Eau de Campagne, demonstrates the development through which Ellena went in his creative input. The reliance on unconventional materials to create the illusion of a country garden is what Ellena plays with in this perfume. The inspiration for this perfume goes back to the idea of imitating natural images such as the smell of the countryside. The complexity of Eau de Campagne is, however, also due to the use of particular ingredients (such as essence of tomato leaves) which not only make the direct connection between the initial idea and the final interpretation, but also make a bold statement about the earlier minimalist nature of Ellena’s creations when inspiration about a slightly more complicated image was based on the careful selection of the constituent parts not in terms of perfumery but in terms of conceptual associations (e.g. the connection between the country- garden with tomatoes). The core of Ellena’s work evolves around the reinterpretation of natural shapes and forms into a self-explanatory illusion (allusion?) to a natural idea.
Albeit natural allusions can be recognized more universally, the reinterpretation and the emotional attachment that accompanies the creation process is culturally bound. On the one had, the perfumer interpreting a native plant will have the nose of a foreigner, he/she may be fascinated by it and decides that it is an idea worth investigating, when in fact for a native person it may be a foul idea. On the other hand, the interpretation of Eau de Campagne, for example, will be impossible if one has grown up living in the city (e.g. culture on the level of urbanization), in a tropical climate (e.g. culture on the level of geographical distribution), in a European context before the discovery of America, etc. Culture becomes an invaluable source of information and at same time establishes strong boundaries.
4.2.3. Serge Lutens and his creations
In a total contrast to the minimalist approach of Ellena is Serge Lutens’ visions. Unlike the previous two artists, Lutens is not a perfumer himself and does not have the formal training. He collaborates together with Christopher Sheldrake (his ‘nose’) towards the translation of each of his visions into the final product. To clarify with an analogy, Sheldrake is the hand while Lutens is the head that commands. For the purposes of this paper, only Lutens’ name will be used as part of the artistic process as he is the guide behind each allusion (however, one must acknowledge the artistic contribution of Sheldrake is not to be disregarded as he is not merely a craftsman but someone who understands what the words can convey and translates those images into the perfumery images). Lutens background into other art forms such as photography and film has been an invaluable for the development of the ability to translate from one sensory modality to another, from internal to external modalities. His inspiration is based on the conceptual recreation of situations. While Roudnitska’s approach focused on the idea of a person, Ellena’s on the idea of nature, Lutens’ concepts are developed through the pure experience of a situation with the accompanying emotional state, environmental factors, natural phenomena, geographical locations, and psychological explanations. Throughout the past 20 years, his creative input has focused on finding inspiration in experiences that he has had or that he has read about. The translation of this complex combination of sensory modalities into one single modality requires the sacrifice inevitable in simplifications. The reinterpretation on the side of the recipient on the other hand is aimed at exploring exponentially expanding ideas impregnated into the original concept.
The fragrances that would represent his approach at the exhibition are the following: Muscs Koublaï Khän (introduced in 1998), Chergui (introduced in 2001), Borneo 1834 (introduced in 2005), and Miel du Bois (introduced in 2005). Each of these fragrances carries a concept behind it, which ranges from abstract to concrete on the level of the concept, on the level of the execution, and importantly also on the level of the name which is associated with it. The interpretation of the inbuilt concepts requires background understanding of the thinking that goes into the creation process, the analysis of the situation that is required, of the value attached to the notions in these situations and the associations that are created in the very first instance of the inception. Miel du Bois is of the 4 selected perfumes, the clearest one to interpret. The allusion to honey and woods is accurate to the extent that has the vision of honey to begin with. Physically, however, the perfume plays on the confusion, which the smell of honey creates. Turin (2002) cites that honey and urine contain the same odorous molecules, which can create confusion in some cases. The extremity of this play with the smell is expressed in this perfume where the initial blast of phenylic acid is borderline reminiscent of urine but sweetened and gentle melted into the woods. Chergui, unlike Miel du Bois, was created inspired by a natural phenomenon – the wind, which blows over the desert in Morocco (the current country to residence of Lutens). The specific aspects of the wind that Lutens wanted to recreate have been translated into a fragrance experience. The warmth and the spiciness of the fragrance with the natural allusions to honey, rose, and tobacco are in accord with the historic background of the wind – the transfer of warm air and sand, the Saharan spiciness. The visions that are created guided Lutens into the conceptualization of this fragrance. Borneo 1834 makes a direct comment on the historic root of patchouli. Its origins in Asia have been traced back to 1834 when for the first time it was brought to the European continent together with cloth, which was preserved from insects by putting patchouli leaves in it. The interest in patchouli as well as its symbolic meaning of the 70s of the 20th century and the connection to the hippy movement are not considered belonging to the current concept. Combining patchouli with coconut and chocolate creates a much more opulent experience which does not seem to belong in a world of social revolution but in a world of cultural exchange. The most visionary perfume of the 4 mentioned, however, would be Muscs Koublaï Khän. The historic connection is evident again – Khan Koublai from the 13th century was a figure inspiring other artists and writers. The allusion to him in this context is connected to what a typical warrior person from that period would smell like. The combination of musk, sweat, and wet hair create the illusion of a battlefield. On the other hand, disregarding the allusions to a warrior, the perfume has also been described as the post-coital armpit of a lover (Curry, 2004). This interpretation, not being intentional, one can argue, does not belong in the artistic vision. The question would be, however, if it were not influence by cultural standards, forms, and information.
The invariable strength of associations that Lutens creates between the experiential notion of the real life situation (whether historic or current) and the cultural understanding and familiarity with this notion and situation is the core of his work. The strategic understanding of his creations is guided by not merely experiencing on the level of perception but elaborating and connecting memories, historic knowledge, previous experiences, geographic locations into a coherent picture and reinterpreting the fragrances again to understand that conceptual contents.
4.2.4. Konstantin M Mihov and his creations
Borderline artistic creations (borderline craftsmanship) are the works of Konstantin M Mihov. The conceptual interpretation that goes into the creation of each perfume is in direct connection with a literary work of art and the visions, emotions, symbols, metaphors, and emotions that it describes. Each fiction novel potentially contains an infinite amount of information that can be interpreted in literal or metaphorical sense and then transferred to one sensory modality. Mihov has chosen to work with literary creations as the source for they provide a basis for building an image, a basis for interpretation, a basis that represents a purely subjective reading and puts this reading. The interpreted message is then further evaluated and translated into yet another modality. The translation of the translation (backwards translation if you want) is an attempt at distancing from the allusive reality of the literary work and at the same time an attempt at getting closer to the abstract interpretation.
The selected works by Mihov are two creations that are currently available: Alice in Wonderland (released in 2007) and Eleven Minutes (released the same year). Alice in Wonderland is a parallel to the book by Carroll with the same title and explores the relationship between the innocence of the main character, with metaphoric interpretations of her adventures. The translation using metaphors (such as the parallel between Alice and violets) is the tool for the interpretation. The final vision (that of violet) is a judgement made on the basis of personal reading, of a, to begin with, illusive reflection of reality. The circle of mirrored reality, which is further mirrored, leads to distortions and reinterpretations allowing for personal contributions on each of the subsequent levels of mirroring. Eleven Minutes based on the novel by Paulo Coelho uses yet more metaphors to interpret the aspects of the novel. Each component has been brought into the final composition as a reflection of a singular reading of the novel. The personal attachment that exists between the novel and Mihov encourages the detours of the creation process into boundaries of the imagination, which does not need to relate to a consistent level of interpretation. Paralleling the character with the personality and specific features of the perfume allude to a literary analysis before the development of a perfume concept.
The interpretative limitations of this approach relate to personality characteristics more so that cultural. On the other hand, the selection of Western works of literature clearly positions the perfumer into a framework of thinking which need not be related to the framework in which the perfumes will be discovered.
4.3. The audience – their involvement
The audience as the main receptor of the information is of key importance for the encouragement of artistic production. The aesthetic value that would be attached will focus on dealing statistically with the visitors interpreting the mechanisms that are intrinsically built into the personality or the cultural background that guide the specific conceptual understanding. Various techniques exist in this respect. Understanding the interpretation and the relationship to the background of the audience will provide the opportunity to explain if olfaction is as easily influenced by cultural factors or is a reflection of other intervening variables.
The exhibition concept presented in this paper is focusing on the sense of smell as one of the less developed and less conventional senses in the art world. Perfumers have been argued to be artist on many grounds. Their important contribution to this project would be on several grounds. First, their vision during the creation of a perfume would be juxtaposed with the ingredients they use and the conventional use of those ingredients and the familiarity of the audience with those individual components. Second, the vision of the audience while encountering the perfume for the first time without any other prior information would trigger a new image (authentic experience) or no new image. Of particular importance for the purpose of the exhibition are BOTH situations (when there is an image and when there isn’t). The cultural, personal, and experiential history of the audience would determine the perception that has guided the interpretation of the perfume and the new image. Third, the combination of a methodological investigation of this history and the impression and images that the perfumes evoked would facilitate the interpretation of the cultural factors, which have been observed in marketing.
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