I SMELL THE SMELL OF YOUR BODY, I SMELL THE SMELL OF YOUR BODY IN SOCIETY, I SMELL THE SMELL OF YOUR BODY IN CONNECTION TO ME
“The other, who is apparent only as a symbolically represented body or as a controllable artifact, no longer appears in his or her irritating alienness.” B. Becker — Cyborgs, Agents, and Transhumanists
“Driven by dreams of taming nature and so escaping its constraints, technical development has always invested in unification, light and flight, the struggle for enlightenment, a dream of escaping from the meat.” S. Plant — On the Matrix
“The self and the other are losing their quality of being a rationalistic opposite— instead they become a subtle game of questions and answers” D. Haraway — Die Neuerfindung der Natur
produced by: Juliette Pépin, Bingxin Feng, Julia Creuheras
Realised by Julia Creuheras Marti, Bingxin Feng and Juliette Pépin, ISTS is a textual analysis and tubular dispositive inviting the smeller to explore: a body with enhanced smells, a body technologically deprived of odour and, lastly, a concatenation of society's body smell. By being wired in submissive position, the installation wishes to cynically reflect our olfactory neglect within the clean dystopian dream we find ourselves in. In making the public aware of this absurd deprivation, we hope to create a breach towards new pleasurable horizons in otherness and smelly communion. Our project is a celebration of the pervasiveness which our bodies enhance as matters of promised putrefaction.
Bodies as interfaces — We evolve in a society where all that is sensible is congealed into images, perpetuating exhausted dichotomies of mind and body, subjects and objects, consciousness and materiality. However, discussing the Cartesian dualist dream, our collective believes that if dominating its sensuosity, the body partially loses its interactivity. As Caroline A. Jones proposes in her essay “The mediated sensorium” bodily sensing is what structures the way we think and interact with the world. Hereof, we consider that before thinking comes sensing and that it is quintessential to address the lack of sensuosity in today’s media landscape and its technological apparatus. Hence, the skin becomes the genesis to the screen, our tongues, the archeological premises to the keyboard and our hands, the prototypes of computer controllers.
To propose this re-configuration, our group looked at the way senses hierarchisation was and still is influenced by a patriarchal imperative to dominate “nature”. Thereby, we looked at; Descartes dualism’ theory to whom mind and body are distinct entities and the cognitive consequences such division subtends; Aristotle hierarchisation of our sensory faculties and the allocation of "sight" as highest one; Locke’s observation on the absence of language to describe smell as the reason for its discredit. Additionally, reviewing the Caroline A. Jones analyse of the modernist subject and its relation to senses, we came to the hypothesis that sight is too often associated to knowledge. Meanwhile, senses like olfaction (a random pervasive and hazardous feature) are associated with sensuous pleasures therefore of zero interests for the man. Interestingly, we find out that K. Marx and C. Fourier criticised this modernist obsession for classification as well. Indeed, for them the frenzied reflex of segregation and ranking of human nature is a “disease” of capitalism which can merely be fought through a rehabilitation of the senses toward social change. Confirming our intuition in the necessity to criticise suchlike modernist phallogocentric model of sensing, we then investigated some of its consequences on art and technology. Thereby looking into sight-centered theories of Clement’s Greenberg (Formal art criticism) and Gibson’s (on VR’s immersive qualities) and how their discourse casts shadows on our multi sensory modes of aesthetic experience.
Farther in our study, we became aware of the double existence of olfaction as natural feature and social construct and how it is embedded in essentialist racist and heteronormative structures. For Caroline A. Jones “modern smell is both deeply individual and socially constrained“, yet we “experience the individual as ideally, instrumentally odor-free.” To illustrate this semiotic complexity, we based ourselves on two mainstream examples from the current mediated landscape. On one hand, we looked at Jacques Chirac’s (former French president) declaration on “the noise and odor” of other populations. On the other hand, we dived into heteronormative results found while stumbling upon google search on “masculine/feminine odor”. We then challenged those findings with neuroscientific researches on gender, ethnicity and smell, seeking to understand the scientific approach to olfactory determinism. Yet, as a consequence to the limited amount of time and our finite knowledge in neurosciences, we were unable to draw conclusions from those studies.
Ultimately we decided to inquire the slowly growing interest in olfactory technologies and art to draft a recon-figuration of our bodies as stinky united entities. To sustain such plan we looked at digital scent technologies and artists work from Peter de Cupere, Susana Shares, Clara ursitti, Ani Liu and several others. As a theoretical framework, we decided to use Suchman’s theories on human-machine corporeality, Sadie Plant writings on cyber-feminism and virtuality and Barbara Becker critical study about “ Cyborgs, Agents, and Transhumanists”. Our artifact was created with the impulse to (in Sadie Plant's words) “bring a fluidity to identities which once had to be fixed”. Yet, following Barbara Becker’s research according to which cyber posthuman dreams are deeply entailed in an eradication of the physical body as “ no longer imprisoned by the resistance of their own materiality”, we argue that it is through technological hybridization and augmentation of natural features such as smell that we can propose new corporealities. Hereby advocating for the cyborg rather than the post-biological avatar. Following this partial unpacking of our olfactory semantic-material, we created a modest artifact with the conceptual and aesthetic intention of addressing the role played by physical smells in our re-understanding of the self and the other.
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