Sunday, January 15, 2012

This is What Democracy Smells Like?

OWS on parade in S.F.

FirstNerve has followed the career of olfactory artist Gayil Nalls ever since I interviewed her back in 2009. This week she’s launched her latest project, “The Smell of a Critical Moment.” It seems to be a group olfactory portrait of Occupy Wall Street. The expected headline from the New York Post (‘Occupy’ art a stinker) led me to look at how Nalls herself describes the show:
This exhibition is concerned with the conjunctions where art, olfaction and politics intertwine.
Neato! That’s also one of FN’s favorite triple conjunctions.
With this work, Gayil Nalls argues that the sense of collective experience has distinct olfactory aesthetics.
OK. Every crowd has its own smell.
While predominately imperceptible, the sense of smell allows for a binding power contributing to the sensus communis, or the power of the people, demonstrating that the sociocultural Zeitgeist or mood of this movement has an olfactory truth.
Olfactory truth of the Zeitgeist? Uh . . . I guess so. In my experience, “power to the people” smells like pot, patchouli, and jug wine.
Visitors will experience chemosensory messages of Occupy Wall Street protestors from tee shirts worn by 99 participants: physical Occupiers, working group members and solidarity marchers.
“The comrades of the Park Slope Organic Arugula Collective sweat in solidarity with the oppressed brothers and sisters of the Noam Chomsky Anti-Imperialist Study Group!”
A tag hangs from each shirt revealing identification and contact information for each individual and their [sic] statement of dissent.
Hmmm . . . that could backfire.
The shirts give form to a body of messages, having been worn for the previous week, absorbing the molecular form of this enigmatic moment.
What was enigmatic about it? I went to Zucotti Park and saw a bunch of neo-hippies pissed off about their student loans, along with a lot of the usual protest fringers (LaRouchians, Krishnas, anarchists and stoners). I found it emblematic of the stale state of the “progressive” movement.

If you missed Zucotti live, you can get a nostalgic nose full of it courtesy of Gayil Nalls at Doorways, 62 Van Duzer Street, in Staten Island, NY, through February 11.


NadineisthatU said...

You have cited what a gathering would smell like in your experience. What would your imagination think the current crowd would smell like absent the mary jane, and jug wine, and all the new deodorants since Right Guard. What would a bottled water, non-smoking, Axe deodorized crowd smell like if there is no wool to carry a scent? What does anger and frustration smell like, with a smattering of diabetes.

Anonymous said...

from democracy to justice... what about this