Geosmin & Rosaphen

Sea Foam Home

February 8, 2020 - March 31, 2020

The scent of a rose is composed of hundreds of natural chemicals, which IFF (International Flavors & Fragrances) captures by passing an inert gas through a sealed vessel. It then analyses the constituents in order to reproduce the scent -- an elusive goal. Traces of hard-to-identify elements are essential contributors to the total fragrance as perceived by the human nose.

As smells are mechanically divorced from matter (ie. floral, animal, or mineral matter), then patented and replicated, the small nuances that imbue our experiences of the natural world with meaning are flattened. How can an artificial smell claim to accurately portray the full range of scents and complex olfactory processes undergone by a given plant, creature, or atmospheric condition? 

 

Geosmin & Rosaphen is a project that comprises a CMYK print of a magazine advertisement published by the IFF (quoted above), promoting technological advancements that allow smell molecules to be captured and accurately emulated. The screenprint is paired with four distinct scents that contain natural tinctures made from plant cuttings taken from the Sea Foam Home apartment. Other fragrant components include: sweet basil, matsutake, bois des landes, aloe, pink pepper, patchouli, salt, ozone, Geosmin (the smell of wet soil) and Rosaphen (the formula found in most rose-scented cosmetics). Language being an additional layer through which experience can be mediated and abstracted, these synthetic scents were selected, for the most part, based on their elusive nomenclature.

Over the course of an intimate gathering and dinner hosted at Sea Foam Home, the scents prompted conversations about manufactured experiences of nature; about the memories, abstract narratives, and synesthetic experiences evoked by each fragrance; about the exploitation, circulation, and consumption of harvested goods; and about the extinction and preservation of various species and specimens.