A Sense of Smell

How to preserve, essentially capture the stench of a place when the scent is no longer wafting through the air, no longer lingers on the surfaces of the place and the only evidence of its past presents is a suspicious stain if there is anything at all.

A smell can be pleasant, sweet even like a bouquet of roses but it is always fragrant whether sweet, savoury or pungently noxious.

Smells have an undeniable essence, some would almost say a flavour. Depending on what it is a smell might be delicious or rotten. It’s no mistake that “something smells fishy” exists, you just have to walk past the fish markets to grasp a nostril full.

Our daily lives are saturated with scents from perfume, deodorants, cologne, air fresheners and surface, floor and other cleaning sprays too numerous to mention and all scented! The scents are uniformly sweet, savoury, neutral, uber feminine or urb masculine. Aiming to disguise, diffuse and remove foul scents, over saturating our nostrils. And of course there are the aromas of the kitchen and unmentionable olfaction odours that always prop up when someone lets off a silent but deadly…

We’ve invented air purifiers! To rid our air of unwanted particles and scents. But air was never virginally pure nor was it historically sanitized and scentless. It has always had a rich flavour, rooms had an ambience that lingered. They were saturated with aromas potpourri, oils, herbs, drying meat and bed pans to name a few.

The Industrial Revolution that brought forth the air filtering technology that would lead to air purifiers, invented in order to combat the heavy industrial pollution a by product of coal (the main source of power and heat) that produced heavy smog and foul smelling air.

The purification of air and the sanitisation of scents is problematic, we are forgetting what life historically smelt like. Smells of the past are an abstract idea. Disconnected from memory, the source of smells and essentially left lurking in the background. When smells can do so many wonderful things! Unlock memories, be a warning, create a calming effect, an ambience, a mood, make mouths water and stomachs growl, and even to high heaven!

But where would we be without a sense of smell?

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