Olfactory Accountability in an Age of Chemical Sensitivities
2019, talk

What are the ethics around creating olfactory work at a time when chemical sensitivities are on the rise? This talk began to parse through navigating the new responsibilities of perfumers and olfactory artists amidst a growing cultural and medical concerns around scent in public spaces.

Talk Abstract:

Although it's apparent that the cause of ailments such as Multiple Chemical Sensitivity are due to larger sources of environmental toxicity and chemical usage rather than perfume and other scented artworks, my encounters with several 'scent-free' policies have pushed me to think about the ethics around showing, and even producing, olfactory work. Furthermore, I would like to question what the larger scale implications are/might be for the field of olfactory art in the face of this cultural shift. Some questions I will explore through the presentation: how can we practice our art while remaining respectful of people's health concerns? do we have a responsibility as olfactory artists and perfumers to be learning more about issues of chemical sensitivities through a disability justice framework? can olfactory art as a discipline continue to grow in recognition while simultaneously facing the growing cultural and medical concerns against scent in public spaces?

This talk was part of the third annual Experimental Scent Summit curated by the Institute for Art & Olfaction and Smell Lab Berlin, and was presented on May 4, 2019 at Treehouse NDSM, Amsterdam. To watch a video recording of it, get in contact. 


Scent Education as Protection Against the End of the World
forthcoming 2020, chapter in Debra Riley Parr and Gwenn-Ael Lynn’s book “Olfactory Art & the Political in an Age of Resistance” 

Chapter Abstract:

While once the exclusive domain of right-wingers and conspiracy theorists, the looming reality of climate change is nudging doomsday prepping into mainstream consciousness. As Silicon Valley tech magnates and leftist communities alike begin to ready themselves for changes to come, this chapter argues that olfactory education is a powerful addition to any "go bag" of skills to survive an uncertain future. Once crucial to human survival, the chapter will argue for the ways in which a sharpened sense of smell can serve as a skill of resistance today, becoming an important addition to our collective toolkit for species survival.

Though Western authorities have historically devalued smell as a skill and a valid way of learning about the world, the most powerful scent capture and dispersion technologies are currently in the hands of top level governmental and corporate interests. The chapter will outline the many ways in which awareness of the scents in our surrounding environments can serve us in a variety of potential "doomsday" futures, from protection against immediate environmental dangers in a literal climate apocalypse scenario, to protection against growing surveillance and scentscape manipulation strategies created by the disaster capitalism of technocrats, politicians, and corporations in possession of these technologies. This scent-based resistance can only happen, however, if we begin to prioritize strengthening our sense of smell.