THE ORDER OF SCENT
Solo Exhibit | Kirkland Gallery | Harvard Graduate School of Design | 2014
The ancient Chinese theory of the Five Elements, or Wu Xing, states that our world is made up of a constructed network of connections based upon the five elements - water, wood, fire, earth, and metal. This order, which is the governing pattern of the universe, unfolds as follows:
WATER produces WOOD
WOOD produces FIRE
FIRE generates EARTH
EARTH produces METAL
METAL produces WATER
These elements are essentially fundamental processes, transforming into each other in a never-ending cycle. Each element creates its own universal order, as it is linked to a specific sound, planet, vegetation, type of government, body part, animal, emotion, scent, etc. The network of systems is essentially infinite. From this basal network, a larger governing pattern of the universe comes into existence.
“ORDER” is an experiment in the creation of structure based upon a singular sense - olfaction. As individuals choose a scent (or a combination thereof) they unconsciously begin to weave a network of associations based upon the intimate connection between scent and memory.
As individual orders are created, they are compounded upon one another to symbolize the idea that although we create a framework for ourselves, we are part of a larger public that is affected by how we live our lives. Creating this order through the lens of scent requires a shift in our cognition of how we view our surroundings. We must learn to SEE with our NOSE and decipher signs through a sense which is not generally at the forefront of ways in which we investigate our place in the world. Olfaction, considered a “low sense”, is seldom separated from our other senses, especially sight. We are constantly smelling, but our receptors become numb after we are able to locate the source of the scent either by physical location of it’s source, or via an internal recognition of what we are smelling. Scent as the defining factor of order may create a NEW framework, a new way of seeing, a new way of SMELLING.
The construction of this olfactory machine calls for us to separate our olfaction from our sight. The industrial materials create a sterile palette from which to smell, and also reflect the immediate environment so as to single out scent and ban other sensual stimuli.
What does your order smell like?
How does your order affect the larger collective?
How do we smell together?