We hesitate to make any comment about appropriate names, but we couldn’t help noting the happy coincidence that an intriguing new exhibition in Zurich about scent has been put together by the Swiss video and installation artist Elodie Pong.
In this solo show at the Helmaus Zurich, Pong, who trained as a sociologist and anthropologist, charts new perceptual territory with art that you can smell. As she points out, scents establish nonverbal connections between people, objects and places, and while you can close your eyes, you can’t turn off your nose.
In Paradise Paradoxe, as the show is called, Pong probes the invisible olfactory architecture that surrounds us, with the help of plants created by a 3D printer and a robot that hurls the names of perfumes at a wall, not to mention a fragrance that has never been smelled before. In the accompanying video works, she juxtaposes ideas from current olfactory theory with the dancing human body, as a literal source of many and varied odours
In another room a mobile projector, mounted on a robot, displays the names of real perfumes on the walls, names that enable the hugely profitable perfume industry to build linguistic ‘boxes’ round something that – by its nature – transcends words. In addition, Pong has enlisted the help of scent scientist Roman Kaiser, one of the pioneers of headspace technology, to create a new perfume for the exhibition, which will also include concerts, talks and music workshops, not to mention a performance of pop songs on a theremin.