FOUNDING STATEMENT – The Institute for Art and Olfaction


Why here? Why now?

Here on the Pacific Coast, we reside at the far reaches of western expansion – at the proverbial end of the line. There’s nothing left for us but the broad expanse of the ocean.

Living on the edge of the Euro-centric world has made us work harder to create our cultural identity, and we’ve succeeded mainly by integrating broad elements of non-European cultures: Looking southwards to Central and Latin America, westwards to Asia, inwards to our native cultures, upwards to outer space.

Los Angeles is the ultimate west coast city, the place that launched a thousand strange ideas: The aerospace industry and the movie industry; fast food, lowriders and Disneyland. This city popularized yoga, Korean barbeque tacos, and method acting; gangster rap and reggaton. Here, you can live – and make a living – in the most post-modern of ways. Indeed, innovation and synthesis, populism and sophistication are all practically requirements to be a proper Angeleno.

This is the city, then, that will host the IAO, and – with it – a new approach to the olfactory arts.

Used for medicinal and religious purposes in ancient societies and considered a vital aspect of daily existence, for most of the 19th and 20th centuries perfumery has been largely perceived as mere luxury. And yet, spurred by the internet and the DIY ethos of our current time, we are experiencing what can only be described as an explosion of activity.  New, self-educated perfumers are thriving, the scents themselves are becoming progressively more audacious, and the art of perfumery as a whole is going through a deep re-examination.

We are launching The Institute for Art and Olfaction to help support and remix this happy renaissance. We want to highlight the innovation and artistry in perfumery, to instigate greater engagement with the art and science around scent, to juxtapose it with other creative practices, and to bring it into the big bad world.

We will do this through a public education program, by building a living archive of educational materials, by creating an accessible laboratory for scent experimentation, and by inciting cross-genre collaboration between perfumers, folks on the cutting edge of other fields, and – most importantly – normal, everyday people from all walks of life.

In better connecting these different types of people with the olfactory sense, and in encouraging them to experiment outside of their comfort zones, we hope to facilitate strange and beautiful new projects. If we play our cards right, we might help instigate things yet to be seen: An aerospace engineer might collaborate with a perfumer to create a scent for outer space, a designer might develop a typeface around the idea of ‘gourmand’, or a prisoner might work with a molecular biologist to create the scent of fear at midnight.

Who knows? The potential is limitless.

Please join us!

Saskia Wilson-Brown
Founder & Executive Director, The Institute for Art and Olfaction
September, 2o12