chasing the fragrant silence

smell,performance


Culture has an undeniable effect on our experience of reality. Our perception is as much a consequence of awareness as it is of education. We learn to see, and hear, but what about the other senses?

The five-sense division established a cultural predominance for sight and hearing above the remaining senses. In the occident, smell has had a secondary role, whereas in other contexts the relation with olfaction is indissociable from cultural and social organization. Philosophical tradition has denied olfaction aesthetic capabilities and consequently, artistic ones too.

Chasing the Fragrant Silence is a performance that adresses this. Through personal exploration of smell as a medium, as a means of clarifying my own relationship with smell, and its artistic capabilities, a contribution has been made to the development of a poiesis of smell.


There are two main parts in the disseration.

Smell and Culture — focusing on rituals of smell across several cultures, followed by a collection of olfactory artists and works. Chasing the Fragrant Silence — focusing on learning through experiments and experiences, leading to the performance's presentation.

Smell and Culture

  • Rituals of Smell
    • Roman Exuberance
    • Egyptian Transcendence
    • The Three Magi Gifts and Christianity
    • Trobriand Magic
    • Andamese Nature Cycles
    • Sight in a Dense Forest
    • Serer Ndut Acidic Spirit World
    • Incense and Koudou「香道」
    • Hygiene
    • The City of Smell
    • Artistic Movements and Smell
    • Aesthetics of Smell
  • Olfactory Artists and Works
    • Maki Ueda
    • Peter de Cupere
    • Paul Vanouse
    • Oswaldo Maciá

Chasing the Fragrant Silence

  • Learning Through Experiments and Experiences
    • Changing Seasons
    • Ripping a Tangerine Apart and Yoshimura
    • A Vague Sense of Presence at Semibreve
    • The Smell of a Forest Fire
    • The Smell of Time on Matter
    • “How to Confuse Your Senses?”
    • The Seed from the Sacred Ceiba Tree
    • Spring Flowers in Church
    • Sea Breeze
  • Smell Performance
    • Extracting the Smell of the Sea
    • Dispersing the Smell of the Sea
    • Preparations
    • Performance

The complete dissertation is available here.


Images of the performance. To better focus on smell, stimuli to other senses were diminished. Light and sound were barely present.