lundi 30 septembre 2013

Notes on Pitti Fragranze, Exhibit 2: The world's ultimate customized perfume

Here’s the second installment of the thoughts inspired by three unusually attired brand owners during my visit to Pitti Fragranze in Florence. To read the first, click here.

Angelo Orazio Pregoni hovered around the O’Driu booth dressed like a cross between a Jedi knight and the mad monk guru of an apocalyptic cult. His portrait stared at visitors with a baleful “Sleep, I will it” glare. The buzz going around Pitti was that he’d created scents to which you were meant to add a drop of urine to “complete” the formula.

First thought: Wait, what? Gross.
Second thought: niche has finally become shithouse-rat bonkers.
Third: after SécrétionsMagnifiques (sperm, sweat, saliva), the Blood Concept collection, La Petite Mort (lady juices), and that English artist who based a scent on the smell of his shit, Peepy™ was bound to happen. Someone was bound to take all that perfumista talk about pee and poop notes literally, and rub their noses in it. Of course, that someone would be an artist.

Pregoni seems to have taken a page from Nicolas Bourriaud’s relational esthetics (definition, drawn from Eye Magazine: “The purpose of Relational Aesthetics is to explore art that concerns itself with creating encounters or moments of sociability within […] ‘communication zones’ for non-scripted social interaction.”) He has used scent in provocative performance art featuring nude “models” whose briefs or pubic hair was sprayed with perfume, which visitors were invited to sniff – driving home the fact that Western perfume is conceived to be worn on the body, not smelled through, say, slots in the wall. And that smells, whatever aesthetic heights they may have reached when integrated within artistic composition, are still linked to the animal and the sexual in us. And to the unease either can elicit.

In another, long-drawn relational art project – the very one that has come to fruition at the 2013 edition of Pitti -- the “O’Driu Helpdesk” interacted with Basenotes members with a slow tease about the “secret ingredient” to be added to a new blend, which fostered a lengthy, funny/earnest online discussion. Basenoters have always prided themselves on proving their perfumista mettle, and spritzing pee is certainly a step up from learning to embrace civet.

Is this a snarky Dadaist take on the “personal chemistry” trope the industry has been feeding us – i.e. that a perfume sold by the millions will somehow become unique once you wear it? The ultimate in natural perfumery? The final frontier of bespoke? Or the trashy consummation of the art/perfume flirtation that’s been going on for the past decade? And what would Andres Serrano make of it?

I’ll be frank: I haven’t smelled the O’Driu. I haven’t even spoken with Pregoni: the aura he cultivated felt both creepy and somehow twee, and I kind of wimped out. While I haven’t quite made up my mind about whether this is good art, it certainly exemplifies the transfer of avant-garde gestures from art-art to luxury industries pioneered by Martin Margiela (in fashion) or Comme des Garçons. Or, conversely, the increasing annexation of a new field (scents) by artists. Still, all said, I think I’ll be keeping my precious bodily fluids away from my perfume bottles, grazie just the same, Angelo…

Illustrations sourced from Bonsai TV, Il Fatto Quotidiano and Inside Art.

14 commentaires:

  1. I think you were wise not to get into an interview with Angelo, Denyse. It might have been a bit too interactive. It's interesting to hear about these new approaches though. ~~nozknoz

  2. No way he was getting near my short & curlies with that spray...

  3. Thank you for the revealing post! It laid bare some of the concerns I've had about the merger of contemporary art and niche perfumery....

  4. Marla, our Italian artista has clearly gone for provocation, but I can imagine very different stances...

  5. Must confess that I couldn't get through the post without speeding down to the French version to find out la version francaise (I can 't make my stupid work keyboard circumflex) of "crazy as a shithouse rat" and am surprised to learn that the truly nuts in France are actually "carpet munchers" which as you probably know is a WHOOOOOOLE 'nother thang here in the States... Conversation for a different day, I think.

    Anyhoodle, um, no. I'm as comfy with my own bits & dribs & drabs as the next gal (and probably more so than many Americans), but just no. That's not gonna happen.

    Isn't good perfume by itself enough? I mean, when I take a good long huff of Chanel No. 5 or Tolu or Sacre Bleu or Ambre Sultan, I cannot imagine wheat else someone WANTS. I don't need tricks & gimmicks. The magic's already in the bottle.

  6. Amy, munching the carpet is kind of a made-in-Denyse expression, I'm afraid. Couldn't find anything as expressive as the English expression off the top of my head. Probably comes from my one-track-mind. Or else, blame Mr. Angelo for puttin' them un-Christian thoughts in my head.

  7. Well, with that Rasputin-eyes thing he's got going on I wouldn't wonder if he's dabbling in (::crashing organ chords::) miiiiiind controoooool.

  8. See, now, that's the thing. He didn't look as though he had a lot of laughs. Maybe when he gets home he's just snorting his ristretto out of his nose, he's laughing so hard at his own antics? I kind of hope he is.

  9. SO RIGHT: "The magic's already in the bottle", Fear is in your mind, the fetish in any religion, even that of luxury.
    Grazie just the same, Denyse.

    Angelo Orazio Pregoni

    "La Nature est un temple où de vivants piliers
    Laissent parfois sortir de confuses paroles;
    L’homme y passe à travers des forêts de symboles
    Qui l’observent avec des regards familiers."

    Charles Baudelaire

  10. So call me utterly bourgeois, but I just want to smell nice. I don't really want to make a totally up my own a*** neo-artistic statement. And I really, really think this is just pretentious and has no real merit in the art of perfumery - or the art

  11. Angelo, thank you for dropping in. I understand how fear can be linked to luxury -- because a flutter of fear in controlled, experimental conditions *can* be a luxury. How fear can be part of the *religion* of luxury, not so much. Unless you count scaring the ladies in the marketing department, but that's no fun, they scare easy. So I'd be interested to know what you mean by that.

    I do think that scaring les bourgeois is part of your strategy, as it's been since the era of the Bohemian dandies. In that aspect of my write-up, that's what I'm engaging with. I don't think you can have found the gist of the text dismissive, au contraire, Arto...

  12. Anonymous, I think you were so annoyed you forgot to sign! There's certainly nothing wrong with wanting to smell nice and leaving the more conceptual endeavors to others.

  13. It is no use to blame the looking glass, it is no use to spray your dress, it is no use to think for others!
    I always think of myself as possessing a critical intelligence!.
    And I’am happy about this article. Really!

  14. Angelo, the idea for it came as a sort of an après-coup. Now I'm quite sorry we didn't speak. Forse l'anno prossimo...