Electronic Ether – The Institute for Art and Olfaction

Lutyens_250pxx300pxThe IAO teamed up with artist Marcos Lutyens to create a scent exploring the intangible world of social media.

The project brief was to create an olfactory interpretation of Facebook, with a conceptual focus on the alienation one might feel after too much social networking. The IAO team, working closely with Lutyens, came up with a perfume that is as otherworldly as it is chemical, dehumanized and ascetic, yet with an organic base of human musks and woods.

The scent is called ‘Electronic Ether’, and was originally created as part of the Social Pharmakon exhibition, which opened October 25, 2013 at Arte Boccanera in Trento, Italy. The scent has since toured to several exhibitions and institutions, including the Smell-Festival dell’Olfatto, May 21 to 25 2014 in collaboration with MAMbo-Bologna Modern Art Museum

More about Electronic Ether

Technologies create social media as “temporal objects”, which can have both separating and unifying power. They can steal our time, but they can intensify the synchronization of our minds and bodies. It might be considered as a well-known meaning of pharmakon – cure and poison at the same time. This work is based on research to do with inter-personal group communication on the Internet and is a further development of Lutyens’ interest in our social interactions, as new technologies change the way we are.

Marcos Lutyens first presented Electronic Ether at Arte Boccanera Gallery. The scent has since toured to various institutions, such as MAMbo-Bologna Modern Art Museum.

pharmakonlogoInspired by a dialogue born in the Reflection Room with Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev in dOCUMENTA (13), Lutyens explores electronic communication networks as an extension of the existing social world as we extend from one realm to the other and back again. The interchange between these two realities invites the visitor to consider the two different positions, and how we navigate between them. The contrast between broadcast media – tv, radio – that uses one-way communication and social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, or online networks has provoked a drastic change in the way we relate to each other, but more crucially it has impacted the way our psyche deals with the kaleidoscopic world around us.

In the first area of the gallery, which path is totally redefined, Lutyens has set up a kind of inner diary which tracks a process of extreme exposure to social media, using brainwave scanning equipment and robotic renderings. The next spaces relate to the visitor, who is, as always, the focal point of Lutyens’ research projects. These spaces explore the impact of push notifications as well as immerse the visitor in a smell-augmented journey through, into and beyond the social networks. The scent – called ‘Electronic Ether’ – is derived from a collaboration with Saskia Wilson-Brown and the Institute for Art and Olfaction in Los Angeles.

Social Pharmakon was curated by Chiara Ianeselli and Kristupas Sabolius. More information can be found at

marcos_250pxAbout Marcos Lutyens

Born in London in 1964, Marcos Lutyens lives and works in Los Angeles.

His research is based on consciousness and social dynamics, and he has worked on large-scale projects that involve interactivity, the environment and new technologies. These interests have led him to exhibit all over the world, including the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2013), dOCUMENTA (13) in Kassel, Los Angeles County Museum of Art (2012), Centre Pompidou in Paris (2010), and Royal Academy of Arts, London (2009).

His website can be found here.