Exhibition on Impossible & Extinct Smells {Scented Paths & Fragrant Addresses}




The University of Sunderland is organizing an olfactory exhibition on Extinct & Impossible Smells. Fully embracing the idea that there exist no good or bad smells, the recreated scents include classic seductive smells like that of the hair of Cleopatra but also more repulsive ones - at least morally - like that of the smell in the atmosphere after the drop-out of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, which is a rather clean abstraction of the smell of human suffering, mangled bodies, and consequent genetic sicknesses that it created. One can wonder if they had proposed the smell of the forest not far from the gas chambers and bodies burning at Auschwitz if that would not have met with some public outcry. One fears that there might be an element of "olfactory voyeurism" and spectacle involved at the same time that it temperates the original violence of the reality by only alluding to it in order to make it tolerable.

More neutrally-connoted smells and requiring even more of an effort of representation is found for example in the possibility of sniffing the "surface of the sun",

"It is hard to sum up. It is an atmospheric smell, like walking into a room when the sun has been pouring in," says Blackson. "It gives a freshness, a sun kissed feel with a bit of metal. If you can say something smells hot, this is it."

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