This scent- and sound-based installation was exhibited as part of Ami Barak’s curatorial project “Off to a flying start” for Toronto’s Nuit Blanche 2013, which marked the centenary of Marcel Duchamp's use of the readymade as art-object. In l'air du temps, I aimed to utilize scent and sound as potent physical media – though invisible and intangible – and explore qualities the air of Paris might have possessed in 1919 with specific reference to Duchamp’s fragile post-WWI piece 50 cc of Paris air.
In the context of the populous and spectacular event of Nuit Blanche, I was interested in presenting a work that was primarily non-visual, and using scent’s capability to trigger memory and produce a unique, individual experience.
Sited in the lobby of an office building, the installation consisted of a three-channel olfactory component and a three-channel audio component. For the former, three scented fabric banners were suspended in the space, each emitting a set of notes - top, mid and base. The top notes were cool, hygenic, ozonic, and metallic. The heart of the scent consisted of herbaceous medicinal florals. The base notes were woody, smoky and weathered. These structural elements co-mingled in the air to create the complete composition.
Conceived in collaboration with Clara Venice, the three-channel soundtrack relates to Duchamp’s experimental “Erratum Musical”. Track 1 is a female vocal deeply inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth. As she breathes/smells it’s unclear whether she is in a state of rapture or hyperventilating. Track 2 is an instrumental featuring piano, violin, glockenspiel and flute. Using computer software programmed to play a note by each instrument in random sequence in real time, the resulting composition was a unique 12-hour live performance. Track 3 consists of words and phrases extracted from an audio recording of Marcel Duchamp reciting his 1957 text “The Creative Act”. As the track plays these in random order, Duchamp communicates new, sometimes incoherent ideas across space and time.
With thanks to Tracy Pepe, Nose Knows Design and Clara Venice .
This project was generously supported by PLAZA