JANUARY, 2018: CUNNING LINGUISTS – The Institute for Art and Olfaction

Researching Tapputi, we got lost in an ancient language internet wormhole. Somewhere between ooh-ing at the cuneiform wedges of Babylonian tablets, and aah-ing at the astoundingly alien sound of Ancient Greek, we found these radio announcer tests.

Take note: “Professional announcers would be asked to perform the entire speaking test within a single breath without sounding rushed or out of breath.”

One hen
Two ducks
Three squawking geese
Four Limerick oysters
Five corpulent porpoises
Six pair of Don Alverzo’s tweezers
Seven thousand Macedonians in full battle array
Eight brass monkeys from the ancient sacred crypts of Egypt
Nine apathetic, sympathetic, diabetic old men on roller skates, with a marked propensity towards procrastination and sloth
Ten lyrical, spherical, diabolical denizens of the deep who hall stall around the corner of the quo of the quay of the quivery, all at the same time.

So… What the heck does this have to do with scent? Simple: Language.

Many intelligent people have put good work into how we speak about and classify smells. Most famously, perhaps, there is Sissel Tolaas’ brilliant work with ‘Nasalo‘, as well as a dazzling array of fragrance wheels, made by folks like Michael Edwards or Mandy Aftel. It is with all this in mind that we team up with Klara Ravat, Caro Verbeek and the good people at Mediamatic in Amsterdam to present a weekend “hackathon”, devoted to dismantling and re-thinking how we talk about, classify and signify smell.

Meanwhile, we start the year off with our usual eclectic mix of classes and events – most notably Joe Merrell’s IAO take over for his exhibition ‘I am the ____.‘ which – in so many ways – explores the notion of the natural, physical world as a metaphorical map of human consciousness.


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