Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Olfactory Art Take 2: Smell Graffiti



Urban Prankster spotlights artist Mitchell Heinrich who is playing around with “smell graffiti” in Vienna. Spray bottle + scent + urban environment is pretty much all you need to know.

Mr. Heinrich’s claim of creating “a new form of street art” generates some flack from commenters. True, he is a bit pretentious. At my high school, at least, the kids with the stink bombs didn’t style themselves as artists.

Then there’s this:
As part of this project I’ve been sourcing natural scents like dirt and freshly cut grass and spraying them in urbanized public spaces where these scents are never encountered.
C’mon, Mitch. Enough with the eco-piety. Are you a graffiti artist or Glenda the Good Witch? Pour something subversive into your spray bottle!

Jack Daniels at an AA meeting. Pizza at a French restaurant. BO on the yoga mat.

6 comments:

Mitch Heinrich said...

Hi Avery, thanks for posting about my project. I have to say that I am a little disappointed at your view of my work. It seems that considering your background and life's work you would be more likely to get behind a project that brings the forgotten olfactory sense back into the public dialog. Whats wrong with using the smell of freshly cut grass and dirt to remind people that there is a whole world outside of the concrete pastures of the city? The whole point is to open peoples minds by keeping it fun.

Avery Gilbert said...

Mitch Heinrich:

I was once scolded by an olfactory art curator for making fun of a particularly lame example of scented performance art. He was mad because I zinged him for taking the piece waaaay too seriously and also because, like you, he thought I am under some sort of obligation to applaud every inanity that presents itself as olfactory art. Well, he thought wrong. I’m not a cheerleader. I prefer to separate the shit from the shinola.

Don’t get me wrong—if I thought your efforts fell into the former category you’d know it. Just ask Toni Morrison or Chandler Burr.

For the record, I think your scent sprayer technology is clever. It’s a simple, robust device that opens a lot of creative doors—just the sort of thing olfactory artists need, as discussed here.

So “what’s wrong with using the smell of freshly cut grass and dirt to remind people that there is a whole world outside of the concrete pastures of the city?” Well, nothing, except that the whole notion is rather precious. It’s fine by me if you want to be the Healing Angel of Urban Aromatherapy. But doesn’t the spirit of graffiti have a little more bite?

You’re the guy who created a Cocktail Robot that crushes a green fairy to squeeze out a shot of absinthe. So I bet you know what I’m talking about.

Olfacta said...

"I was once scolded by an olfactory art curator for making fun of a particularly lame example of scented performance art."

Take out the words "olfactory" and "scented" and you've pretty got the artworld by the short hairs, imho.


" I am under some sort of obligation to applaud every inanity that presents itself as olfactory art."

Same.

No bitter traditionalists here -- I have seen quite a bit of good installation and even performance art. But taking it all very, very, very seriously sorta goes with the territory. I've rarely met a more humorless bunch that these art curators (especially the self-appointed ones.)

Anonymous said...

On the other side, have you seen the Graffit-e-nose - an electronic nose developed in Australia that detects volatiles from spray paint and texts the police if it gets a whiff. Supposedly several graffiti artists nabbed so far.

Avery Gilbert said...

Olfacta:

You may be right. In my limited experience olfactory curators are batting about .250 in the humor department.

Anonymous:

I was laughing until I googled. Holy crap. Worst part is I know the Graffit-e-nose co-inventor Graham Bell. Like most Aussies he’s a fun guy to have ten or twenty beers with. Didn’t realize he’d gone all 1984 on us. Does this mean Mitchell Heinrich has to set up a legal defense fund? Maybe he can get the Ă–sterreichische Rasenmäher Vereinigung to kick in.

Nathan Branch said...

I agree with you regarding the scent of freshly cut grass in an urban neighborhood as a bit of a graffiti snooze. I thought that graffiti, in and of itself, was supposed to be an urban revolt against passively accepted notions of art and public space, and somehow fresh cut grass just doesn't hit it out of the ballpark in that respect.

Now, if someone came up with a way of getting an urban neighborhood to smell like the interior of a new car, that might be fun.

Btw: the pizza at a French restaurant concept made me laugh out loud.