Volatile and shapeless, smell resists all our attempts to contain and define the world. Olfactory perception is so fleeting and subjective that we can only comment on the properties and qualities of aromatic materials by examining groups of cases. When talking about odors, language stumbles, becoming evocative, and our logical brains are tripped up hundreds of times. If we stick to its aesthetic dimension, perfume appears to be the peak expression of diaphanous beauty that, like fashion, overruns everything in its path in its frenzy to be.
Yet it is paradoxal: this inconsistent, fickle entity, smell, creates the strongest of bonds with memory. The ”Proust Effect”, the ability to relive past sensations and lost emotions starting from a smell, is a phenomenon that inspires many, that continues to be studied, and that finds applications in a wide variety of fields. The faint trace of perfume thus reveals its mirror identities: it embodies the ephemeral yet remains the faithful caretaker of time.
Smell 2013 will touch on the heart of this paradox: the Ephemeral Paradox, that combines and illustrates the contradictory soul of smells and our olfactory perception. It will trace the fine line between transience and permanence, inviting these opposites to meet, with solemn lightness.
As a perfume doth remain
In the folds where it hath lain,
So the thought of you, remaining
Deeply folded in my brain,
Will not leave me; all things leave me –
Arthur Symons – You Remain