DIMENSIONS: 96 x 67 cm
TECHNICAL: impression in gelatine of silver
The Subjectification and Attempted Rebellion of Smell: A Meditation on the Senses
Smell is a rather duplicitous subject which requires a great deal of consideration. At a chemosensory level, sensations supply a living organism with universal knowledge in a raw form. I am less interested in discussing sensations in their raw form. Not because purity is unimportant, but because it does not contain the romance of the human ego. Smell would not be duplicitous—or very interesting—if it remained an immaculate conception that one’s experiences did not corrupt.
Humans suffer from an inadequacy that is a result of trying to define “self” in isolation to a universal whole—otherwise known as cultivation of the ego. As such, we are reductive in our approach to sensations. Our experience of universal knowledge is passed through a series of ‘subjectifying’ lenses. These lenses act as filters, aiding in the concealment of the shame we face in striving for anonymity—often blurring boundaries in order to confuse us so that we remain dysfunctional and dependent on the quest. Alliance with the ego is forged so that we may suffer. Senses depend on us to communicate them so that they may exist.
The duplicitous nature of the senses is revealed when a pure essence, such as smell, becomes manipulated and controlled by our individuality—then suddenly rebels at random.
Smell tried to rebel from me not too long ago. It was an ordinarily mundane day. I was adequately present. Smell appropriately aided my shoe from avoiding a pile of dog shit on the sidewalk. A woman with a particular perfume passed by. I was abruptly ripped from my current location into a sexual experience I had more than 20 years ago? When I say ripped, I was literally tasting the flesh of this individual in my mouth— feeling her sweat against me. Why that sexual memory? Why that smell? Should I look this person up? Is my fate punching me in the nose? Should I have followed the woman with the perfume? Should I have sex with her?
Smell rebelled for one split second and I was deeply suffering. You might have had similar nostalgia being thrust upon you involuntarily.
Smell’s strategy of rebellion is to use the inadequacies of our memories against us. Yet, ironically, the strategy manages to elucidate the captivity of the senses, rather than generate any liberation. Even the moment of defiance itself is dependent upon the existence of our experiences. Smell cannot escape the “I” in us any more than we can escape its desire to be rid of our purpose for it. We place suffering on smell so that we might suffer ourselves.
Until we manipulate smell for our own use, it is merely a chemosensory phenomenon—a “non-sense”.
Our primary reason for the subjectification of scent is so that it can have industrial or utilitarian purposes. Occasionally we enslave it for seductive or indulgent tangents (which may in the end be utilitarian as well). But we are never really interested in what smell would be without us.
I can’t blame smell for trying to resist the mechanization of its essence any more than I can blame myself for resisting the absence of “I”. It would require me to sever my alliance to suffering.
I accept that from time to time smell might inconveniently provoke my memories from their slumber. I am confident that this coup d’état will only result in the reassurance that my experiences and memories remain allied with my ego. Smell will always maintain its need to communicate through us—therefore, never really be able to liberate itself. This dependency is the perfect condition for human ego to continue to subjectify the senses.
This duplicitous relationship ultimately denies my access to the true conscious center of self—universal knowing. But this impasse conveniently perpetuates the condition of my suffering. It is a romantic quest paying tribute to my desire for an anonymity that I know will never really exist.
In précis—I am everything that chemosensory interactions represent in their purity and “I” am everything that corrupts their virginity. Smell was non-sense until I came along and it will be non-sense again when I am gone.
ExhibitionsApril - May 2011
- essential art.