THE THRILL OF WORKING WITH ODOURS

"...PUT SOME SALT ON HIS PLATE, PEELED TWO TINY SHALLOTS, TOOK A KNIFE AND STARTED CUTTING A BUN IN A POMPOUS WAY. WHEN HE HAD CUT IT IN TWO, TO HIS SURPRISE HE SAW SOMETHING WHITE. IVAN JAKOVLJEVISJ HANDLED IT CAREFULLY WITH ONE FINGER. "A STRONG TINY THING", HE MUTTERED, "WHAT COULD THAT BE ?" HE PUT HIS FINGER INTO THE PIECE OF BREAD AND WHAT HE PICKED OUT OF IT THE NEXT MOMENT WAS...A NOSE !.... IVAN JAKOVLJEVITSJ SLOWLY WITHDREW HIS HAND, THEN RUBBED HIS EYES AND HANDLED THE OBJECT AGAIN. NO DOUBT, IT WAS A NOSE AND WHAT WAS MORE IT WAS A ..." (NICOLAJ GOGOL/THE NOSE)

A NOSE HAS 2 IMPORTANT FUNCTIONS, BEING BOTH THE OPENING TO THE RESPIRATORY SYSTEM AND THE ORGAN OF SMELL. LOSING THE OLFACTORY ACTIVITY (ANOSMIA) CAN BE RATHER DANGEROUS SINCE ONE CAN'T SMELL GAS THAT WOULD LEAD TO EXPLOSION OR DEATH FROM ASPHYXIATION.

IN SCIENCE THE PART PLAYED BY THE SMELL-ORGAN HAS BEEN QUITE UNDERRATED, UNTIL RECENTLY SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH HAS PAID VERY LITTLE ATTENTION TO THIS SUBJECT. AND WHAT'S MORE THE RESULTS OF THE EXPERTS ARE OFTEN CONTROVERSIAL THOUGH THEY ALL AGREE ON THE FACT THAT THE SPECTRE OF SCENTS COULD BE UNLIMITED. SO EVERYBODY WOULD ADMIT THAT SMELLING IS AN IMPORTANT ACTIVITY. HOW CAN WE EXPLAIN THEN THAT ONLY TWO SENSE-ORGANS THE VISUAL AND THE AUDITIVE ONE ARE VALUED OR EVEN OVERRATED?

YET IN LITERATURE AUTHORS HAVE FREQUENTLY INDULGED IN ODOURS. A RESPECTABLE NUMBER OF EXAMPLES CAN BE FOUND ESPECIALLY IN (EROTIC) POETRY. BUT EVEN IN NOVELS WE CAN SEE HOW THE POWER OF OLFACTIC ASSOCIATIONS AROUSES A SERIES OF MEMORIES, FEELINGS OR THOUGHTS AS IN MARCEL PROUST'S "A LA RECHERCHE DU TEMPS PERDU."

IN RELIGION SCENTS ALSO HAVE (HAD) A CONSIDERABLE FUNCTION IN THE CEREMONIAL USE OF INCENSE AND PERFUMED BALMS OR OINTMENTS.

IN PLASTIC ARTS ON THE CONTRARY THE APPLICATION OF ODOURS HAS ALWAYS BEEN NEGLECTED, A FEW EXPERIMENTS EXCEPTED. USING AUTHENTIC SCENTS HOWEVER COULD MEAN AN ENRICHMENT SINCE A NEW MEDIUM AND UNEXPLORED FORM OF COMMUNICATION WOULD BE INTRODUCED. THIS REFERS AS WELL TO THE DEPICTION AS TO THE ACT OF SMELLING OR SMELL-SENSATION BY WAY OF PERFUMED LETTERS, SMELL-TUBES, SMELL-OBJECTS, THE EXHIBITIONS OF ODOURS (OR COMBINATIONS) OR SPRAY PERFORMANCES. IN THAT RESPECT MEMORIES, SENSATIONS OR THOUGHTS PLAY AN IMPORTANT PART THAT MAY COLOUR A SCENT NEGATIVELY OR POSITIVELY DEPENDENT ON COINCIDENCE AND INDIVIDUAL EXPERIENCE.

SO THERE ARE LOTS OF POSSIBLE KINDS OF COMMUNICATION OFTEN ENTIRELY UNPREDICTABLE, BECAUSE A SPECIFIC PERSONAL REACTION IS INVOLVED BUT THIS FACT INCREASES THE ESTHETIC ADVENTURE, THE THRILL OF WORKING WITH ODOURS. (1978)

REMARK: A SHORTCOMING OF ELECTRONIC COMMUNICATION VIA MODEMS, FAX-MACHI-NES, TELEPHONES, ETC. IS THE ABSENCE OF TRANSMITTED SCENTS. THERE ARE SIMPLY AND SOLELY THE ODOURS OF THE OWN EQUIPMENT. (1990)


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