A Trip to Japan in Sixteen Minutes, Revisited
by IAO + collaborators
Hammer Museum, Los Angeles
In 1902, a New York based art critic, writer and grand eccentric presented the first recorded public scent concert in North America: A Trip to Japan in Sixteen Minutes. This man was called Sadakichi Hartmann, and the concert was an unmitigated fiasco.
Sadakichi Hartmann had a deal to present his show at New York’s Carnegie Lyceum – a favorite with the turn of the century avant-garde. Years in the making, the concert required a fitting environment for its subtle and sensual journey, so when the Lyceum fell through Hartmann struggled to find the right alternative.
After much delay, the show finally found a home as the second to last act on the bill of a recurring Sunday burlesque series at a theatre devoted primarily to musical comedy.
Nonetheless, in late November in 1902 Hartmann’s lofty artistic conception had its premiere– introduced by song and dance acts such as the ‘Rossow Midgets’, and the ‘March of the Jolly Students’.
Faced with a rowdy and animated crowd unaccustomed to the subtleties of his refined mind, in a room dense with tobacco smoke that made his scent compositions impossible to perceive, Hartmann – after a barrage of audience interruptions – was forced to make his final bow mid-performance.
Hartmann was incapable of ‘reaching Japan’ in such antagonistic conditions. It was a humiliating flop, and he never publicly attempted the performance again.
‘A TRIP TO JAPAN IN SIXTEEN MINUTES, REVISITED’
In January 2014, The Institute for Art and Olfaction and a group of collaborators re-attempted Sadakichi Hartmann’s calamitous scent concert, re-staging and re-investigating his singular vision in a series of six sold out multisensory experiences: A Trip to Japan in Sixteen Minutes, Revisited.
Honoring and updating Hartmann’s original intention, the team revisited the original concert with one question in mind: How would Hartmann have accomplished this concert if he were alive today?
The narrative of his imaginary journey was conveyed through scent. sound, machinery and aesthetics. Perfume compositions by Sherri Sebastian (Sebastian Signs) were propagated using an updated version of Hartmann’s ‘scent machine’ by Eric Vrymoed and Kamil Beski (Beski Projekts). The whole was elucidated by an audio composition by Bennett Barbakow (Huma Huma) with live foley and sound recording by Julia Owen. Each guest left with a limited edition program designed by Micah Hahn (AutumnSeventy).
Sherri Sebastian, Perfume Composition
Fragrance West & Sebastian Signs
A perfumer with her feet in both the independent world (with her fragrance company Sebastian Signs) and the west coast’s only fragrance house (Fragrance West), Sherri Sebastian is a veteran perfumer: Adaptable, smart and conceptual. Sherri will oversee and create the six scent compositions, providing the interpretive olfactory narrative to our modern-day trip to Japan.
Bennett Barbakow, Sound Direction & Composition
Growing up with pianos, drums, and turntables, his addiction to musical toys has only gotten worse. An all around Renaissance man in the creative media world, Bennett is a sound maniac – equal parts composer, sound engineer, audio designer, storyteller and inveterate tinkerer. He is the composer and owner at Huma-Huma, a music/sound house in LA and NYC. Bennett will oversee the sound design, composition, and general aural narrative of the concert.
Julia Owen, Foley Artist & Sound Recording
Julia Owen has always been intrigued by the way our perception depends on the sounds we hear. This fascination brought her to Los Angeles where she studied audio engineering and fell in love with putting sound to picture and spoken word. Her sound editing, recording and Foley work can be heard on feature films and television shows as well as in museum installations both in the United States and abroad. Julia Owen will oversee the live foley elements for the concert, as well as sound recording and audio composition.
Eric Vrymoed, Scent Mechanism
A graduate of UCLA’s Fine Art Department, Eric’s art practice has him working with large scale, mechanical kinetic sculptures. In addition to his independent work as an artist, Vrymoed serves as one half of Beski Projekts. In that capacity, Eric oversees and executes mountmaking, exhibit design and rigging projects in large institutional settings. A California native, Eric works and lives in MacArthur Park, near downtown Los Angeles. Eric and Kamil will collaborate on the conceptualization and interpretation of Hartmann’s original scent propagation machine.
Kamil Beski, Scent Mechanism
Kamil is the owner and principal at Beski Projekts, a professional art installation, rigging, mountmaking, exhibit design and production service serving major art institutions, patrons, galleries and private collectors. Kamil brings years of experience making the impossible happen in institutional settings, working with museums such as LACMA and The Huntington Library (among others) on projects that span the globe. Kamil and Eric will collaborate on the conceptualization and interpretation of Hartmann’s original scent propagation machine.
Micah Hahn, Graphic Design
An award-winning graphic designer by day, and a prolific typography designer by night, Micah Hahn has spent over twenty years as a professional designer in both the television industry and the art world. He’s been the recipient of well over a dozen Broadcast Design Awards (including the coveted Gold Award for his 2013 rebrand of Fuse Network), and his typographic and graphic design work is collected in the French National Archives. Micah will oversee the visual language surrounding the concert.
Saskia Wilson-Brown, Direction
The Institute for Art and Olfaction
Born to Cuban and English parents, raised between San Francisco and Paris, Saskia received her MA in fine art from Central Saint Martins in London. A producer and curator for visual art and film, she co-directed LA’s seminal Silver Lake Film Festival, ran international outreach and filmmaker development for Current TV, and has consulted on a number of arts and film projects, internationally. In 2012 she launched The Institute for Art and Olfaction, a non-profit devoted to education and experimentation in perfumery.
Dr. Christina Bradstreet, Research
Dr. Christina Bradstreet is an art historian specialising in the role of scent in art. She is close to completion of an academic monograph called Scented Visions: Smell in Nineteenth-Century Art which includes a chapter on Sadakichi Hartmann’s perfume concerts. Her publications include ‘A Trip to Japan in Sixteen Minutes: Sadakichi Hartmann’s Perfume Concerts’ in P. Di Bello and G. Koureas, Art, History and the Senses (Ashgate: Farnham, 2010) and ‘Wicked with Roses: Floral Femininity and the Erotics of Scent’ in Nineteenth-Century Art World Wide (March 2010). She works at Sotheby’s Institute of Art, London.
FOR HAMMER MUSEUM
January Parkos Arnall
Curatorial Assistant, Public Engagement
Gil Kuno, Sound recording, Japan
Our man in Tokyo, Gil did a series of initial on-site sound recordings for the Trip to Japan. Gil received his MFA at UCLA in 2010, achieving recognition from Ars Electronica, Japan Media Arts Festival, Canon Digital Creators Contest, Timothy Leary (Leary.com), among others. His recent work, “Six String Sonics, The” ranked second place in a public survey held by the Japanese Government for “Top 100 Japanese Media Art Works“. This resulted in an exhibit at Japan’s largest contemporary art museum, The National Art Center, Tokyo. In the summer of 2012, Gil debuted the performance in the U.S. at the Fringe Festival NYC.
Rob collaborated on the on-site surround sound construction for the music and sound element to ‘A Trip to Japan’. A Los Angeles native, Robert has making music for as long as he can remember.
Richard collaborated on the video documentation for ‘A Trip to Japan’. Parks is the maker of Music Man Murray, the writer/producer of Wayne Coyne’s Human Head-Shaped Tumor (McSweeney’s/KCRW) and a contributor to McSweeney’s, the New York Times, Lucky Peach, and many more. On twitter @reechardparks
Ashley Eden Kessler
Dr. KJ Baysa
UC Riverside Special Collections