Semiotics and Other Sciences: Intentionality and Interpretation. Employing an Interdisciplinary Approach.

The formal attributes of language have fascinated the research disciplines for the shear volume of possibilities in explaining the birth, evolution and development, use and abuse of language. The available material for analysis provides a prolific inspiration to the curious minds. This fascination has been explored by literary theorists, ethnographers, linguists, evolutionary and developmental psychologists, communication scientists, neuroscientists and many other disciplines. Combining the available literature on this topic from all the disciplines would perhaps facilitate the investigations into questions which have remained unanswered in the years by the individual scientific approaches. This paper aims are combining two approaches - a classical semiotics approach to language understanding and a neuro-psychological approach. Notably, the paper will first outline the classical understandings of semiotics and the semiotic theory applied to language including the view points of Saussure, Peirce, and Eco. This paper will aim at pointing out possible ideas for further discussions of the importance of the sender and receiver in the semiotic context from a psychological-communications point of view. The paper will then outline the neural construction of the brain that takes care of language processing. The neuroscience approach provides basis for further transdisciplinary interpretations of semiotic structures. Finally, the paper will combine the two approaches into an attempt to explain the concepts and phenomena reported by semioticians such as language evolution, communication, and understanding with the means of the psychological findings reported in the literature. Throughout the paper, a story by Paulo Coelho will be used as an illustrative tool for various hypothetical communicative situations.

1. Semiotics

1.1. Saussure
Ever since Saussure explained that language is a system of signs, the concept of communication is changed. As a pioneer of the semiotics theory, Saussure formulated the basis on which subsequent theorists developed their viewpoints. His definition of language as a system of signs, he points out (1916/1986), is comparable to the alphabet, forms of politeness, military signs, and others. As such it is part of the social psychology, he continues, and its existence becomes deterministic. The rigorous rules that would determine the classification of signifiers and signified (sign-vehicle and meaning, respectively) are the basis for semiology. The relationship between the signifier and the signified is the basic system of “language” and serves as the outline for the linguistic theory of Saussure. The signified appears to have been defined more clearly although it also leaves several questions. Eco (1979) sums up the definition as “half way between a mental image, a concept and a psychological reality” (p. 14). The signifier comprises of the idea and the image. With these two concepts at hand, it appears that communication should be effortless. Eco concludes that “the sign is implicitly regarded as a communicative device taking place between two human beings intentionally aiming to communicate or to express something” (p. 15). What remains questionable in this idea, however, is to what extent the “meaning” is intrinsic to the signifier and the signified. In instances when it is not, the “meaning” needs to be shared between the communicative parties in order that “language” functions as a communicative device.
1.2. Peirce
To this dual perspective of a sign and an object, Peirce adds the “interpretant” - a third integral part of the chain of semiotics. In this sense, with Peirce the importance of communication becomes more prominent. The three abstract semiotic entities in Peirce’s semiosis are defined as explained: 1. sign is something that will convey a message only to those for whom it fulfills a certain capacity; thus sign will exist only in its relationship to the interpretant (one can already see the greater connection between the parts of the semiotics chain  in Peirce’s version as compared to Saussure’s); 2. the object, for which a sign would stand, would exist as an entity only as long as what it stands for can be interpreted by the interpretant; and 3. the interpretant needs to share this meaning in order to understand what the sign stands for in connection to the object. This triad is the core of what qualifies intentionality and artificiality in the communication context. An advantages characteristic of this definition is the needlessness of a sender. For example, symptoms may be present without any intentionality but they may still be understood. For Saussure, reducing symptoms to signs would not have been possible. An important point that is yet to be added to the equation is that of intentionality.
1.3. Eco
Eco’s definition goes beyond what Peirce and Saussure define. As long as the sign is “taken as something standing for something else” (Eco’s emphasis), it is considered a valid participant in semiosis. This re-evaluates the importance of an interpreter as any possible interpretation can be made by any possible interpreter. This definition relies on what Eco calls “culture as a semiotic phenomenon”. He explains that “the systems of meaning are organized as structures which follow the same semiotic rules as were set out for the structures of the sign-vehicle” (p.27). Culture is what contains the set of codes to decode and encode information and this can define every entity as a semiotic phenomenon. This definition liberates ideas to define “intentionality”.
1.4. Limitation, questions to address, and some further discussions
The three approaches, although they fulfill the need for definition of the semiotic context, do not succeed in explaining broader communication contexts and specifically the evolution of the processes which moderate the exchange of information. The ability of the receiver to decode the message is what the encoder will aim at facilitating. But how? This creates a systemic interaction between sender and receiver with the message in between. The paper will now present several questions that pure semiotics cannot addressed because of the different methodological approach. 
If one were to characterize the type of information, one can observe either “natural phenomena and symbols” or “artificially (and/or intentionally) produced phenomena”. This presents the first and simplest to interpret dimension of the type of information. Next would be a dimension on the side of the sender that one could refer to as intentionality. Finally, the interpretation level would round up the 3rd dimension of the semiotic space. In an even more ambitious space, one can include a time dimension. It, however, will not be discussed as it can only provide a momentary snapshot which can be position in the 3-dimensional space at any time and would simply necessitate moving around with the change of time. 
(Eco does not clarify such a structure - for him, natural signs are “(a) physical events coming from a natural source and (b) human behavior not intentionally emitted by its sender” [p. 16]. In this context, it was considered necessary to come up with a clearer structure and this lead to the definition of the 3-dimensional space. Although, it is somewhat true that all physical events coming from a natural source would be classified as not intentional, the proposed classification is especially necessary in the context of human behavior as outlined below). 
Having these 3 dimensions, one can observe the following semiotic scenarios: a) unintentional physical events coming from a natural source which are not being interpreted b) unintentional physical events coming from a natural source which are being interpreted, c) unintentional events coming from a sender in a communication context which are being interpreted by a receiver, d) unintentional events coming from a sender in a communication context which are not being interpreted by a receiver, e) intentional events coming from a sender in a communication context which are being interpreted by a receiver, and f) intentional events coming from a sender in a communication context which are not being interpreted by a receiver. 
(A question from the systemic point of view may come here - the presented model assumes that information flows constantly only in one direction - always from person 1 to person 2 and that person 1 is the sender and person 2 is the receiver. However, the reality of the situation requires the consideration of the fact that person 1, while sending any type of information, will always also receive information which they would interpret as a receiver and would thus modify the information that they are sending. This constant circle of exchange of information creates a complex situation which may pose additional questions. For the time being, this paper will focus on the more stripped-down communication and semiotic contexts where information flows from the sender to the receiver without other information flowing the other way at the same time. In other words, for the purposes of this paper, the sender will be considered independent of their function of a constant receiver and vice versa.)
Semiotics as it appears to be summarized by Eco limits its interest to scenario b) and not to a full extent to scenarios e) and f). The intentionality dimension on the side of the sender does not appear to be relevant for a semiotician such as Saussure, Peirce or Eco (although, Eco is more lenient in this respect). One can illustrate the importance of the other scenarios with an example of a metaphoric description by Paulo Coelho. In “Like The Flowing River: Thoughts and Reflections” (2007) Coelho retails a metaphoric image of several functions of a pencil (see Appendix). In this scenario, the boy is the receiver of the information and the grandmother is the sender of the information. The pencil on its own can be considered on many different levels from different points of view as Eco outlines: a) the physical level, b) the mechanical level, c) the economic level, d) the social level, e) the semantic level. 
The physical level of the pencil concerns the fact that it is made of wood and that it encloses a graphite in the middle (although one must note that there are pencils that are made entirely of graphite without the wood - which changes the semiotic meaning of “pencil” - for simplicity’s sake, we would not consider those pencils “pencils”). The mechanical level defines the function of the pencil as a writing equipment which needs to be hold and controlled by a hand (or robotic mechanisms) in order to function as such. The economic level can define the pencil as a commodity with exchange value (ranging from few cents to several euros) which closely links it to the social level where a particular pencil can indicate a certain social status (Faber-Castell pencils, for example, would often be associated with higher social class). 
None of these 5 levels, however, addresses the metaphoric “information” that is associated with the pencil in the story by Coelho. The levels that Coelho create a quite different and they can only be characterized as metaphorical. The information that they contribute would be considered semiotic only when the intentions of the sender are clear and when the interpretation of the receiver are clear as well. For example, if the boy was to use the same semiotic metaphor to tell a friend of theirs that they are like the pencil without explaining prior to that the meaning of the metaphor, the friend would not interpret the information, despite the boy’s intention. On the other hand, if the boy talks with a friend of theirs and the friend just happens to mention a pencil that they have lost and that had sentimental value to them (because it was, for example, a memento from the hotel they stayed at during a vacation where they had a great time), the boy’s association may be that of empathy but may also immediately trigger the metaphoric semiosis created by the grandmother explaining the multi-faceted meaning of the pencil. Thus, the intentionality of the message remains absent, although a certain interpretation is made (an interpretation bound to the recipient's semiotic background). 
These small scenarios were meant to illustrate the dissociation that exists between intentionality and interpretation which semioticians seem to ignore partially. Although Eco does mention approaches that are sender-focused or receiver-focused, he seems to be oblivious of the fact that both are equally important. 

2. Alternative perspectives on semiotics

2.1. Communication theories
Communication has been a focus of research in psychology and sociology for centuries with Charles Darwin establishing a solid background in the development of the understanding of facial expressions and their communicative and evolutionary form. The importance for semiotic theories lies in the explanation that has been put forward to transfer message and how that message can be contained on many levels of the communication context. The subsequent paragraphs will summarize how Darwin viewed the evolution of facial expressions which to these days are taken to have a communicative function and how that evolutionary background would help in the understanding of the distinction between intentional and unintentional communication. 
In his book “The expression of emotions in man and animals” (1872), Darwin summarizes his observations on his son’s facial expression development, as well as what he had observed on his many travels to indigenous tribes. He speculates that facial expressions had first and foremost a specific function associated with specific behavior that has only later has come to be associated (similar to conditioning) to an emotional state. For example, the expression of disgust which is characterized by curling of the lips, drawing back of the head, perhaps even putting the tongue out of the mouth and other. This can perhaps best be illustrated by an improvised experiment as described by Cornelius (1995). What he describes is a process for comparison between the actual observed behavior and the expression of disgust. The characteristics of both appears to be identical which, as suggested by Darwin as well, shows the connection between the functionality of a particular expressions and how it has become associated with an emotional state. Because disgust appears often in the context of one wanting to spit some ingested product out (an unpleasant product), the facial behavior has come to be associated with the unpleasant experience of having something unpleasant in one’s mouth. This simple illustration has been part of the research focusing on the universality of facial expressions for the past 50 years when research in this field shifted to cross-cultural investigations which will be addressed later in the paper.
This related to semiotics in two ways. First, it appears that there is a certain non-communicative aspect of every facial expression but the communicative function has come to be associated with the other functions. This suggests that as soon as the emotion has been recognized on the face of a communication partner, the other function of that facial expression is also activated in the semantic network of the receiver of the information. For example, if the boy hears that the story that the grandma was writing was about a pencil instead of him, the boy may show the expression of surprise which is characterized with wide opening of the eyes, perhaps opening of the mouth, moving the head forward. The evolutionary background of this facial expression has been traced back to the collection of information from the environment. Because of the wider opening of eyes allowing for better vision, and the better smell perception with the opening of the mouth, and the movement towards a source of information associated with the movement of the head forward, the grandmother would interpret the facial expression of surprise as the attempt of the boy to get more information. And then she would proceed giving more information about the pencil story. The boy would be sending, perhaps, a signal of surprise intentionally but the meaning that this surprised expression would convey (i.e. “I am surprised, please give me more information”) is not necessarily conveyed intentionally because the boy may not want to disturb his grandma when he hears that the story is not about him (if it were not, the grandma would probably not provide an explanation without receiving the encouraging question from the grandson) but it is understood in a particular way despite the obvious lack of intentionality. 
The second important point connected to the semantic understanding of emotions has to do with the implicit influence on the understanding of the other levels of information conveyed in a communication context. It has been established that particular facial expressions are processed faster than others (i.e. the correct recognition rate was faster). This can again be explained in evolutionary terms when it is important to recognize danger (i.e. emotional expressions of anger are recognized faster than expressions of disgust, Cornelius, 1995) but also it is important to recognize positive facial expressions (i.e. happiness is recognized faster than surprise, Cornelius, 1995). This recognition rate has been shown to influence the processing of other emotionally charged information (e.g. Goldstein, 2006). This has to do, perhaps, with the convergence of the emotional information in a specific area of the brain which deals with putting together emotional information from all sensory modality and all sensory contexts. This means that an emotional expression of happiness will influence the perception of emotionally neutral picture. And so when the boy is fascinated by the multiple facets of story of the pencil and shows that smile to his grandmother, the boy may not realize that this communicates a positive experience which may be interpreted by the grandmother as a confirmation that the story that she was writing was exciting and insightful which she may not have been so certain of before. This example illustrates how the unintentionally sent message is understood by the grandmother. But at the same time, it may also influence her perception on an unconscious level; i.e. both parties of the communication context have processed (encoded and decoded) information without their intention. 
2.2. Cross-cultural communication
[Culture in this context will be defined as broad as shared knowledge between a group of people. As such, a person may also share cultural background with several groups and belong to different cultures at different times or at the same time.]
With the development of the post-industrial society, traveling and cultural exchange has become part of the political, economic, cultural, and other spheres of exchange. When it comes to communication in these exchanges, misunderstandings occur more prominently. In particular, the situation becomes complicated when intentionality of sending and the understanding is compromised because of the impregnated differences in values, norms, beliefs, cognitions, and many others. These discrepancies are connected with the underlying question of “nature vs. nurture” - a question that must not be ignored in the semiotic line of arguments.
There is a general understanding that there is no phenomenon that would be purely natural or purely nurtural and that would be immune to influences from both levels. In understanding facial expressions, for example, if it were not for the universal evolutionary development of emotional expressions, one would not have observed a list of universal facial expressions recognized by various cultures, including ones that have never had interaction with other cultures (e.g. the Fore from Papua New Guinea investigated by Ekman & Friesen, 1971). In his study, he found out that there are 6 facial expressions which the Fore clearly recognized as the same that a Westerner would have. This consistency, according to Ekman, can only speak about the universality and the evolutionary nature (as outlined by Darwin) of emotional expressions. [Of course, the picture is slightly more complicated but the complications do not contribute to the further understanding of semiotics and thus would not be discussed here.]
An interesting example of a cultural pattern that impregnates and influences the perception of emotional expressions has been reported by Ekman in the same study. According to his results, the emotional expressions for surprise and fear were often confused for one another by the Fore. The explanation that he proposes based on his subsequent investigations suggest that the two are confused because they often occur in conjunction to each other in the daily reality of the Fore. In other words, the cultural background, in which they grow up, influences the evolutionary in-built mechanisms of recognition. 
In the context of information transfer and communication, it appears that culture would play a role in the possible interpretation of emotional expressions (such as with the Fore who confused the pictures of fear and surprise). If the grandmother and the boy had not been sharing the cultural background that they are, perhaps the grandmother would not have been able to point out the clear meaning of the boy’s surprised facial expressions and may have interpreted it as partly fear (for the sanity of the grandmother whose writing a story about a pencil?). The lack of intentionality does not need to be related to the understanding of it in cases when the language for “decoding” the facial expression is not shared between the two parties. The context also plays essential role in the understanding of the signs and symbols and the intentionality impregnated in a communication context would then rely also on the interpretation of that context.
2.3. Contextual influences
The decoding of emotional expressions has for long been hypothesized to be universal for some expressions. However, there is evidence for the different interpretation depending on the context. A smile may be a smile but a smile may indicate happiness while another one may be perceived as fake because of complex contextual cues. An example of a contextual cue for the understanding of facial expressions would be the time dimension of a smile’s onset, apex and offset (Krumhuber, Manstead, & Kappas, 2007; see also Mihov, 2007). It appears that only a facial expression with specific duration of the onset, apex and offset would be considered genuine. Any deviation from that pattern would lead to the smile being perceived as fake. 
In terms of intentionality, it is possible after a certain amount of practice to acquire the necessary skill to fake a smile. It is not, however, possible for every person to fake a smile 100% and the intentionality to convey a smile when one is not necessarily happy is not communicable in all instances. Moreover, the dissociation is also present on the level of the decoder who needs to understand the cues that suggest a fake smile and the recognizability of the fake smile is not 100% either. An even more complicated scenario exists when the sender of the emotional expression creates a very convincing fake expression, which is interpreted as an indication for a certain emotional state, but other levels of the contextual situation contradict this emotional state. In yet another situation, the emotional expression may be very genuine but the contextual information may create a contradictory situation, which would necessitate a reappraisal of the expression. For example, if the boy starts crying when the grandmother tells him that he is like a pencil (a genuine emotional expression) and if the grandma had been told by (just for example) a teacher of the boy how much more sensitive than his peers he is (a contextual cue), the additional information may enhance the interpretation of the boy’s emotional expression and lead to a different behavioral response from the grandmother with greater emphasis on certain aspects of the pencil story which she may have not emphasized otherwise. The same phenomena can be applied to linguistic understanding, where language is even more an expression of cultural difference than in facial expressions.
2.4. Metaphoric language understanding and language development
Metaphor understanding has been the focus of interest for creativity researchers. A metaphor is simply a sign with a symbolic meaning which is attached to it by a group of people sharing this symbolic meaning. As such, metaphors may be understood by as few as 2 people only. Being embedded in a specific background knowledge/situation/context, they carry unique meaning beyond the face value associated with the words. Whether a metaphor consists of one word or a phrase is irrelevant. 
Investigations of the way the brain processes metaphors have unveiled that, compared to non-metaphoric phrases, the brain requires additional brain areas located in the frontal part of the brain. For non-metaphoric language (mother tongue only), the brain possesses a specially designated brain area (Broca’s area - language processing happens mostly on the left side of the brain despite the presence of Broca’s areas on both sides of the brain). To understand the metaphoric meaning, however, the additional brain areas also become active due to their connections to Broca’s area when the information encoded in the phrase cannot be decoded singly in Broca’s area. 
The additional brain areas associated with the understanding of metaphors have extensive brain connections to the memory and emotional system in order to process the information effectively. On the level of the language, a metaphor will not differ from any other word/phase in terms of the information that it brings. However, the additional background knowledge will “attach” the supplementary symbolic meaning. Thus the sign acquires new signification.
The story that the grandmother was writing implies the creation of a new metaphor - attaching new meaning to the sign “pencil”. By telling the boy the story, she creates common knowledge between them. The word “pencil” becomes a metaphor to the boy and every time he hears pencil (independent of the context), the 5 characteristics of the pencil that his grandmother outlines will become activated. Thus, even if a friend of the boy mentions “pencil” in some context, this friend will be unintentionally sending information to the boy who will be interpreting more than has been encoded in the message. Moreover, if the boy wants to intentionally make a reference to the metaphoric meaning of “pencil” when talking to a friend, he will need to explain the metaphoric meaning (and create the common background) to the friend in order to convey the intended message. Otherwise, the intentionality of the encoding will be present but the understanding (i.e. the decoding) will not be successful.
2.5. Semantic and conceptual networks and hemispheric specialization
Understanding and creating metaphors requires another important between the language decoding and the symbolic decoding - the activation of the associative network that links the language with the abstract meaning of the metaphor. The semantic and conceptual connection between words is an essential aspect. In the same way as a spider web one can connect a junction of the web with another one by simply following the web, the connection between the words can be achieved. Some words would be closer to others and thus it would take less time and effort of the cognition to associate the two words; for example, “love” and “heart”. The two words are closely linked conceptually and if presented with the word “heart”, a person would be much quicker at identifying the word “love” than the word “muscle” which is also a descriptor for “heart”. 
Research from neuroscience has uncovered several interesting aspects of the processes that happen in the brain with respect to semantic connections between the words. Evidence from various methodological investigation (discussed in greater detail in Mihov & Denzler, 2008) have suggested that the two brain hemispheres function differently from one another when it comes to language processing. Specifically, Gott, Rossiter, Galbraith, and Saul (1977) already suggested that the left hemisphere handles lexical processing better. They investigated the performance of commissurotomy patients (patients whose corpus callosum, establishing the connection and communication between the two hemispheres, is partially severed) on various lexical tasks. Under special experimental conditions, the patients were presented a word either to the left visual field only (reaching only the right hemisphere) or the right visual field (reaching only the left hemisphere). They were asked to provide the meaning of the word. The results suggest a strong left hemispheric specialization to process words and to identify their meaning. 
Connecting the identified meaning of two consecutively presented words is also carried out in the left hemisphere if the words have semantic connection only (e.g. “plane” and “train”) but not conceptual (e.g. “foot” and “shoe”). Drews (1987) presented pairs of words separately to one of the two hemispheres of slip-brain patients and only when the words were presented in the right visual field (left hemisphere) were participants able to identify the semantically related words as being related to each other (but they were not able to do that with conceptually related ones). The semantic networks with their unique separate knowledge structures with various levels have many extensions to other networks and depending on motivational state, mood, emotionality level, and other situational factors may have a facilitative or inhibitory effect on the accessibility and activation of other concepts. 
Interestingly, however, studies report that children do not exhibit the same specialization. Kempler and his colleagues (Kempler, van Lancker, Marchman, & Bates, 1999) observed that children perform equally well on lexical tasks independent of the hemisphere. There is a well-established consensus about the inverse correlation between the number of years at which one start acquiring new language skills and the proficiency in that language (in particular with respect to syntactic understanding and phonology; e.g. Johnson & Newport, 1989; Weber-Fox & Neville, 1996; Flege, Yeni-Komishan, & Liu, 1999; Oyama, 1976). This suggests that the early brain plasticity diminishes with age and settles (always) with specific functions being attached to a specific hemisphere. 
Although the primary language structures for language processing are always in the left hemisphere, certain functions relate to the right hemisphere. In particular, processing units of distant semantic knowledge (i.e. conceptual) appear to be associated with the right hemisphere. An experiment that illustrates these processes has been reported by Beeman, Friedman, Grafman, Perez, Diamond, and Linsay (1994; see also Drews, 1987). Participants in the study were presented with a series of seemingly unrelated words (e.g. foot, cry, glass) to only one of the two hemispheres. Immediately after the three-word presentation, another word was displayed on the screen (e.g. cut) and participants were instructed to press a response key if the word was spelled correctly and another key if the word was misspelled. The left hemisphere performed worse (i.e. slower) on this task because of its inability to connect the first three words into a new concept which was closely related to the target word. The right hemisphere, however, did not. 
It appears that metaphor understanding is not limited to one part of the brain and that both left and right hemispheres are necessary to fully understand the concepts. Considering the automatic transfer of information between the different brain areas, it is no wonder that the pencil metaphor will be activated in the boy’s mind even if “pencil” is mentioned by someone else but his grandmother without the intentionality of conveying the 5-fold meaning of the pencil. 

3. Semiotics and the other sciences - the future (?). Conclusions

The questions of semiotic decoding and encoding and intentionality, appear to be under the umbrella of certain biological and cultural factors. Examples of these factors with summarized methodological investigations had been discussed in the paper. There are still questions, however, that had not been addressed and that would provide curious opportunities for future research (by an interdisciplinary field). 
For example, the connection between language and emotion needs to be explored further before one reaches the next level of metaphor understanding. A phenomenon that has not received attention by researchers so far can be observed daily by people using different languages for daily communication. Cursing in a foreign language is perceived to be much easier to do than in a mother tongue due to their detachment from the primary language center, which has direct connections to emotional sectors which regulate the use of language. As such, one does not experience difficulties or discomforts in using the words. Analogically, one may also not feel identical when saying “I love you” in a mother tongue and a second language. 
Another fascinating field in need of further exploration is the existence of internal representations of the sign-function, which are back projected in the brain from the higher level cognitive processing regions to the lower levels. The brain possesses systems for the creation of an image to stimulate the same areas in the brain that would be stimulated if an actual observation is made (e.g. the verbalization of a word creates the visual characteristics of this same word - when one says “spoon”, one literally can see a spoon). This has great implications for cross-modal communication and cross-modal plasticity. These findings have even greater implications for semiotics when coupled with the emotional hypothesis as they suggest that the sign-function relationship is not necessarily intrinsic to the object, but are rather created by the interpreter who put the meaning in the object. The same would be implied by the metaphor development outlined in section 2.4 and by the context influences as outlined in point 2.3. 
Further support can be derived from an brief analysis of the “pencil” story. With her intention to create a particular background, the grandmother tells the boy the story. The created context of the boy’s surprise urges the grandmother to explain more. The intentionality to convey the message of the pencil and its 5 associative descriptions, is conveyed to the boy who learns the 5 characteristics and activates those associations every time the boy hears “pencil” when someone else mentions it. He can very actively visualize the pencil with its 5 characteristics (plus all the additional levels which are more intrinsic to the pencil as they have been outlined  according to Eco’s guidelines). 
The connection between the understanding of the communication context from the perspective of theory of semiotics and that of other disciplines appears to be very strong. The different approaches only support each other emphasizing different aspects and explaining different parts of the process. Semiotics is concerned with the human conception while psychology and neuroscience are interesting in how the human conception works in terms of processes in the brain and cultural differences. It appears that the sciences complement each other. 
The understanding that has been accumulated since Saussure has achieved new levels. It is now clear that there is a dissociation between interpretation and intentionality, that there are multiple meanings associated with a sign and that there is no single correct interpretation - these features are part of the new theory of semiotics. The story by Coelho have been used here to illustrate this new theory. The dissociation between the interpretation and the intentionality of a message has been illustrated to rely on the created contextual information, on the displayed emotional expression, and on the semantic network created at the moment of transferring the message. The connection between the sign, the function and the attached symbolic meaning can be explored even more with the input that affective neuroscience can bring. Coelho’s story is a starting point. All that is left to do is to create the metaphors and rationalize them for the communication partner.

4. References:

Beeman, M., Friedman, R. B., Grafman, J., Perez, E., et a. (1994). Summation priming and coarse semantic coding in the right hemisphere. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 6, 26-45.
Coelho, P. (2007). Like the Flowing River: Thoughts and Reflections. London: Harper.
Cornelius, R. R. (1995). The Science of Emotion: Research and Tradition in the Psychology of Emotion. NJ: Prentice Hall.
Darwin, C. (1872/1965). The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Drews, E. (1987). Qualitatively different organizational structures of lexical knowledge in the left and right hemisphere. Neuropsychologia, 25, 419-427.
Eco, U. (1979). A Theory of Semiotics. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
Ekman, P., & Friesen, W. V. (1971). Constants across cultures in the face and emotion. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 17, 124-129.
Flege, J. E., Yeni-Komishan, G. H., & Liu, S. (1999). Age constraints on second-language acquisition. Journal of Memory and Languages, 41, 78-104.
Goldstein, E. B. (2006). Sensation and Perception. CA: Wadsworth Publishing.
Gott, P. S., Rossiter, V. S., Galbraith, G. C., & Saul, R. E. (1977). Visual evoked response correlates of cerebral specialization after human commissurotomy. Biological Psychology, 5, 245-255.
Johnson, J. S., & Newport, E. L. (1989). Critical period effects in second language learning: The influence of maturational state on the acquisition of English as a second language. Cognitive Psychology, 21, 60-99.
Kempler, D., van Lancker, D., Marchman, V., & Bates, E. (1999). Idiom comprehension in children and adults with unilateral brain damage. Developmental Neuropsychology, 15, 327-349.
Krumhuber, E., Manstead, A. S. R., & Kappas, A. (2007). Temporal aspects of facial displays in person and expression perception: The effects of smile dynamics, head-tilt, gender. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 31, 39-56. 
Mihov, K. M. (2007). Encoding and decoding dynamic and static facial emotional displays: Conceptual similarities and methodological considerations. Unpublished Manuscript, Jacobs University Bremen, Bremen, Germany.
Mihov, K. M., & Denzler, M. (2008). Creativity and hemisphericity revisited: A meta-analytic review. Under review, Jacobs University Bremen, Bremen, Germany.
Oyama, S. (1976). A sensitive period for the acquisition of a nonnative phonological system. Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, 5, 261-285.
Saussure, F. (1916/1986). Course in general linguistics. IL: Open Court.
Weber-Fox, C. M., & Neville, H. J. (1996). Maturational constraints on functional specializations for language-processing: ERP and behavioral evidence in bilingual speakers. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 8, 231-256.

5. Appendix:

Paulo Coelho, Like the Flowing River: Thoughts and Reflections

A boy was watching his grandmother write a letter. At one point he asked: ‘Are you writing a story about what we’ve done? Is it a story about me?’
His grandmother stopped writing her letter and said to her grandson: ‘I am writing about you, actually, but more important than the words is the pencil I’m using. I hope you will be like this pencil when you grow up.’
Intrigued, the boy looked at the pencil. It didn’t seem very special. ‘But it’s just like any other pencil I’ve ever seen!’
‘That depends on how you look at things. It has five qualities which, if you manage to hang on them, will make you a person who is always at peace with the world.
‘First quality: you are capable of great things, but you must never forget that there is a hand guiding your steps. We call that hand God, and He always guides us according to His will.
‘Second quality: now and then, I have to stop writing and use a sharpner. That makes the pencil suffer a little, but afterwards, he’s much sharper. So you, too, must learn to bear certain pains and sorrows, because they will make you a better person.
‘Third quality: the pencil always allows us to use an eraser to rub out any mistakes. This means that correcting something we did is not necessarily a bad thing; it helps to keep us on the road to justice.
‘Fourth quality: what really matters in a pencil is not its wooden exterior, but the graphite inside. So always pay attention to what is happening inside you.
‘Finally, the pencil’s fifth quality: it always leaves a mark. in just the same way, you should know that everything you do in life will leave a mark, so try to be conscious of that in your every action’

The Little Prince: An Exhibition Concept. Olfactory Stimulation and Imaginary Experiences

1. Introduction

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.

5. Conclusion

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.

6. References

Burr, C. (2003). The emperor of scent: A story of perfume, obsession and the last mystery of the senses. NY: Random House.
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Art Theory Questions – About Existentialism

[This short introductory text was delivered at an exhibition opening for the artist Sands Murray-Wassink in 2007.]

Finding and exploring new paths is an entertaining experiences. Whether this is done in the context of writing a novel, writing a research paper, preparing a presentation, solving a mathematical problem, developing a computer program, designing a work of art, composing a piece of music … It is the change, the inspiration, the intrinsic and internal need for stimulation that drives the creator. It is not about the final product but about the feeling of the creative process. It can be excruciating, it can be rewarding, it can be a torture, it can be a fortune. It is the birth of a child to protect, to pamper, to educate, to bring up according to the moral standards that one subscribes to. The artistic creation is a path.

In 1989 in Paris there was an exhibition entitled “Magiciens de la Terre” in which for the first time artists from the so-called “marginal” world parts were approached to represent their cultural heritage. This show was criticized on many levels in the framework of post-colonial studies and meta-colonialization. A problem established with that exhibition was the code – the lack of code to understand the background of the artistic creation. Artists from different cultures have a different set of values, different set of aesthetic norms, different set of the mind. This makes it impossible for a person unfamiliar with the specific context to immerse themselves in this world of artistic creation and to understand it without first understanding the set of values, the set of norms and the set of the mind. When an artist (any artist, from any culture, with their personal past and their personal worldview) sets to create a new piece of art, it is a venture that is bound to remain misunderstood. The set of norms, values and mind is bound to be different as an individual venture and a personal heritage.

Would this be a failure? How does one define art? How subjective or objective is the definition of art (let alone the label “art”)? But was the piece of art in the first place created for the sake of transferring a message? What happened with the concept of art for art’s sake? Here is how things are these days – the value of art is not determined by the artist, or by the critics, or by the art historians, or by the art philosophers, or by the public. It is the market and specifically the auction market which determines the value of an artistic creation [overgeneralizing; but just a bit]. Is it then that the people who buy art have understood its message? Or are they simply believing in a message that they have created because of their own values, norms and mind to go along with that piece of art? Is the art defined as art because of the message it carries or the message the observer impregnates in it?

One could argue then, very controversially, that the successful artist will be one who plays not with his uniqueness but with plainness – on the themes that everyone can relate to (and I think Freud will be exceptionally pleased with your works Sands because you do play with things that we all relate to). You may then ask what happened with the artistic creation as an internal need. But then what is the internal need? The need to give birth to a baby or the need to bring something in the world that has the potential of contributing to this external world? Is it a matter of self-sufficient, self-centered, self-focused, self-ful creation or a creation based on the idea of giving, of cloning, of spreading, of evolving and of evolutionarizing? Is art the message or rather the language of communication?