Is This Concept...

 

Since perfumery catapulted into a commercial industry we left behind its artistic potential in creating real impact on art and culture. Just the words “fragrance” and “perfume” cary so much baggage. There is the aspect of wearability (what constitutes a wearable fragrance, should a perfume actually be unwearable if the art requires it and is there artistic value in a unwearable fragrance), and then there is the restrictions of the object, the luxurious perfume bottle (a treasured vessel of traditional aesthetics).

In perfumery we are guilty of over evaluation and interpretation, “the story of this perfume is…” (fantasy’s rhymed off from every sales person in an apothecary, brand or fragrance fair); assumptions of what this perfume is or what it should mean to its end user. They take on similar functions of an art critic. I am also guilty of this…but it leads me to several questions. In trying to tell an audience what a fragrance should be or what it should mean (beyond its inherent qualities or experience), have we cheapened or reduced the value of fragrance (the art)? Is the statement of a perfumer (the artist) about a perfume (the art) sufficient? Or does the end user collaborate in giving the perfume final meaning? And if this is the case what kind of art would it be? Abstract? Concept?

 
John Baldessari “I will not make any more boring art” 1971

John Baldessari “I will not make any more boring art” 1971

 

“THE FUNCTION OF THE CRITIC AND THE FUNCTION OF THE ARTIST HAVE BEEN TRADITIONALLY DIVIDED; THE ARTIST’S CONCERN WAS THE PRODUCTION OF THE WORK AND THE CRITIC’S WAS ITS EVALUATION AND INTERPRETATION. DURING THE PAST SEVERAL YEARS A GROUP OF ARTISTS EVOLVED THE IDIOM OF CONCEPTUAL ART, WHICH ELIMINATED THIS DIVISION. CONCEPTUAL ARTISTS TAKE OVER THE ROLE OF THE CRITIC IN TERMS OF FRAMING THEIR OWN PROPOSITIONS, IDEAS, AND CONCEPTS.”

 
 

There are few prominent figures in perfume industry that speak of fragrances in relation to traditional aesthetic movements in art. However, recently I have been thinking of perfume as a conceptual art - especially the scents created by some of the more experimental perfumers? An aspect of conceptual art is self-reference; conceptual art is best explained through itself, rather than any assumptions outside of itself. I believe similarly a fragrance is best explained in itself, and reveals itself in a private performance for its end user - especially in more concept or contemporary perfumery. For example, a perfumer (the artist) states that this fragrance is cracked concrete with a dying flower, and ultimately this is his intention and the desired effect. In analytic conceptual art there is the separation from its contextual dependency (museums, galleries, etc.) and the isolation of the art from any material representation, which is a natural property of fragrance - it is invisible.

But can we obliterate the art object (the traditional perfume bottle) like the conceptual artists and is it possible for a perfumer to create a perfume that eludes interpretation. If the perfumer succeeds will the art-world validate scent making as an art-form of real cultural significance?

 
 
Hans Haacke “Blue Sail”

Hans Haacke “Blue Sail”

 
Robert Barry “Private thoughts transmitted telepathically by the artist during the exhibition” 1968

Robert Barry “Private thoughts transmitted telepathically by the artist during the exhibition” 1968

 
Vito Acconci's “Soap & Eyes,” 1970

Vito Acconci's “Soap & Eyes,” 1970

 
 
 
John Baldessari “Hands Framing New York Harbor” 1971

John Baldessari “Hands Framing New York Harbor” 1971

 
 
Dan Graham 1981

Dan Graham 1981

 
 
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John Baldessari “Solving Each Problem As It Arises” 1967

John Baldessari “Solving Each Problem As It Arises” 1967

 
Gavin Sorhaindo