One person’s trash is another’s treasure surely applies to art, what one might think is daring and innovative may seem trivial and sensationalist to another. When I saw this show at Envoy Enterprises by Martynka Wawrzyniak certainly challenged me to dig deep and think about what she is trying to convey and why.
Polish born Wawrzyniak is a performance/video artist and photographer living in NYC, although she is a young artist, her resume is not pedestrian, she is quite an innovator with a knack for pushing boundaries and daring to go where no other has gone before. Case in point, Smell Me, an olfactory show, where her scent, through her sweat, her tears and her hair reveal her true essence.
This process took a year, working with Hunter College Professor Donna McGregor, she enrolled as a chemistry student for the summer and was given a team of three research students (Charles Paszkowski, Paul Tewfik and Paul Kozlowski).” I was basically a living, walking extraction sample for the whole summer, because I would collect my hair and cry into vials.”
The second part of the experiment was tricky as the oils scraped and pressed during the summer at Hunter were the real, organic oils from her body, which are for sale as the real objects in the show.However, although she also wanted to have an interactive experience for the viewers, she could not squeeze out enough sweat to run the show for 30 days, so she had to figure out how to be able to share this with the viewers interactively, With the help of one of the top perfumers in the business, Yann Vasnier, who works for a company called Givaudan she figured out how to recreate the scents, and collaborating with scent director, Dawn Goldworm they ended up packaging the 4 different “notes”.
Goldworm “smelled me, and we tried to match my smells with natural and synthetic ingredients. Basically all natural smells, change over time, because all the light, green notes evaporate off and you’re left with the heavy, sweet stuff. So Dawn would smell my armpit and hair to try and put back some of what was lost, so it could be even more authentic. I would say that the synthetic recreation is even more close to what I smell like than what’s in the vials now, because they’re already a year old.” Thus, the gallery is effectively a scent chamber , a room that one enters one at a time smelling, rather than seeing each art piece :
“It’s invisible art. It’s also kind of like olfactory terrorism, because you have no choice but to inhale it because you must breathe, so you’ve already consumed the art just by entering the space. But, at the same time, it coats you all around. Right now, we’re doing construction on the gallery and the diffuser was turned on yesterday, and the workers were completely saturated with my essence. The whole street radiates with the smell of my sweat.
So, my final feeling about the show was not so much about sweat, armpits, hair and tears, but about intimacy and bravery. This is an artist who has bared her soul and her essence (literally), a spiritual warrior talking about who we really are, what we really are and sharing her experience with us. And, the adage “You are what you eat” rings true in this case, as Goldsworm wrote in a note she sent her after finalizing the scents, “Overall, being a vegan, your body smells very wet and sweet, like lactones and coconut water, with an infusion of fresh green notes and spices. If I didn’t know you, I would have thought by your smell that you were 12 years old and living on an organic farm. Bright, sparkling, pure, and radiant olfactively,” Certainly makes me want to detox……
Oh, and by the way, she does not recommend lighting the wicks of the candles, they might work as novel objects of body art, but “What’s weird is, those candles have a little bit of a smell liked cooked human,” she said. “The beautiful, fresh sweat … smell turns more into the cooked smell of meat or onions cooking. I wouldn’t recommend actually lighting those candles unless you like the smell of a burning woman.” Burn on, baby……
“Smell Me” will be on view (er, on smell) at Envoy Enterprises in the Lower East Side of New York City through November 18th.
More information at www.martynka.com