Spectacle and the Senses


Performance often appeals to only two of the five physical senses, these are sight and sound. However an interesting aspect of performance is the use of the other three senses, touch, taste and scent. As an audience member, you do not often have the opportunity to experience performance through these mediums; however, when the occasion arises it can make an incredibly interesting impact. The use of scent is particularly interesting to our group, as Helen Paris states “smell permeates the everyday, triggering memories, transporting us through space and time” (Paris, 2010, p.45) this ‘transportation’ could create an interesting array of emotions within the audience when two contradictory smells amalgamate together in a juxtaposing fashion. After considering this, the group decided to bleach the dog leads that will make up the sculpture; this would obviously create a pungent odour of a sterile and almost hostile nature.

To contrast with this scent, we decided to add to the sculptures texture and layers by using baby powder, this has such a recognisable smell that almost everybody will be familiar with. we experimented with the texture of the powder and what effect it would have on the spectacle of the sculpture. The way it moved and worked with movement and breath was so aesthetically pleasing that we decided it would add a depth of natural beauty to the sculpture and aid in the creation of an object that appears rooted and grown. We also considered what it would appear as through lighting, whether it would be seen and which kind of lighting would do the sculpture the most justice. After testing the powder and its appearance on a dim, almost sepia lamp, we decided that having the sculpture uplit with this hue of lighting would be effective.


These two intermingling smells could stir up many emotions within the audience; some of them could be quite disturbing as bleach has been linked with ‘do-it-yourself’ abortions. The mixture of bleach with the baby powder may well make people think of this horrific act, and could cause some distress. These emotions will, however, be questioned and challenged by the text of the piece and the way in which it is presented. “The Art of Scent 1889-2012” is and exhibition by the Museum of Art and Design, led by Chandler Burr, it explores perfumery throughout the ages. By presenting the gallery as a clinical space with “dimples” in the walls with apertures within them, they invite the audience to smell the varying scents. This experience is completely about scent and no other visual or textual things. The importance of scent within performances is becoming more prevalent with time; there are more performances and exhibitions, such as the aforementioned, that do focus on scent. However, with regards to our performance, there will be other performances taking place within the scent, framed by the scent. Immersive performances often make use of scent to completely involve the audience in the atmosphere and world which the artists are trying to create, however 33 minutes is not attempting to create such a bubble of atmosphere, it is not a physically immersive set for the audience, however, for the performers the set is completely immersive and surrounds them wholly. The aim of the use of scent within 33 minutes is to conjure images within an audience’s mind, to add to the experience and create another level of art, the art of scent, into the piece.


Works Cited

Gleason- Allured, J (2013) “The Other Sense: Fragrance as Art Form” Perfumer & Flavorist, 38 (2) p.3

Paris, H (2010) ‘ The Smell of It.’ In Freeman, J. Blood, Sweat & Theory: Research through Practice and Performance. London: Middlesex University, p.45


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