Today we often spend more time covering up smells than we do experiencing them, but Belgian artist Peter de Cupere is exploring and exposing fragrances in revolutionary new ways. De Cupere creates smell paintings, smell installations, smell moves and smell performances that toy with the relationship between scent and sight.
While often smell is dismissed as a fleeting pleasure or annoyance, De Cupere's works remind us of the poetic powers resting in our nostrils. Scent, more than any other sense, directly affects our limbic systems and prompts a visceral, almost uncontrollable reaction. While sight can be processed from a distance, scent triggers your memory, turns you on, makes you nauseous, even poisons your body... all outside of your consciousness.
In one work, entitled "Sweat," De Cupere collected the sweat of dancers wearing plastic suits as they performed a choreographed dance. He then bottled the sweat and applied it to a wall at the dance company's home base, where it is open for visitors to smell. The work draws off De Cupere's recurring fascination with the social guidelines regarding the shame of our natural body odors and the precautions we take to eradicate sweat and stench. The bottle of sweat captures a usually ineffable "essence" of dancers in motion. You can watch the somewhat disturbing video at the bottom of the page.
In another work, "Tree Virus", viewers enter a plastic dome that has been pumped with intense mixture of peppermint and black pepper, driving those who enter to tears. While normally an artwork that drives you to tears is emotionally moving, this installation skips past the emotional and taps right into the physical. The work elicits a mass reaction that crosses the line between sentimental and biological, poking fun at the alternate ways of constructing a 'moving' work of art.
The list of scent-centric works continues. There is an piano-like instrument called an olfactiano that plays smells instead of notes. A garbage city installation looks like trash but smells like a pleasant garden. And his smoke room is made of over 750,000 cigarette butts. De Cupere's works inspire us to pay more attention to our most under-acknowledged scent, to wake up and smell our own armpits.
Smile Room: 2010, a smell installation made with 3400 tubes toothpaste, pu-components, creating an intense minty toothpaste smell.
Garbage City Holiday Park: 2004 - 2012, In „Garbage City Holiday Park" Peter De Cupere makes a number of reflections on the pollution of society and its effect on our environment.
Garbage City Holiday Park: 2004 - 2012,
Peter De Cupere
Earthcar: 2002-2003, Car covered in and outside with earth and plants, natural fragrances added
Fragum Cardamomi: first Scratch 'n Sniff Sculpture in the world, 9 meters high. Made of epoxy, metal, 1000 strawberries and cardamon, measures H 9m x Ø 3,2 m, used fragrances: cardamom and strawberry
SWEAT: 2010, Sweat is a performance where the sweat of 5 dancers was caught. They wear specially designed costumes that were made out of plastic and connected by tubes. Before the action, the artist made a separate dish for each dancer. The intention is to catch the sweat from the dancers and to distill it. The sweat will be sprayed on a wall of the dance lab and protected by a glass box. In the glass is a small hole where visitors can smell the sweat. The performance is shown by video in the glass tank. More info will follow soon. The performance is shown for a selective audience (200 people). Other artists who are invited to realize an art integration are: Luc Tuymans, Michael Borremans, Koen Van den Broek, Berlinde De Bruykere, Joep van Lieshout, ...
Olfactiano VII: 1997 - 2004 the first scent piano in the world. IFF was the sponsor for the smells of the first scent concert.