Human Pheromones—The Emperor’s New Clothes?

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two-part workshop
at The Institute for Art and Olfaction
Join artist-in-residence Susan Barbour for a scintillating two-phase workshop designed to explore the hotly debated role of human pheromones. While scientists have long acknowledged the importance of olfactory signals in the animal and insect kingdom, the jury is still out as to how--and even if--they affect human behavior. Do we each possess an olfactory imprint that affects our social and romantic relations? And can we alter or augment their power through commercially available pheromone compounds?
06/22, 7:30PM - PHASE ONE
During phase one of this workshop, Susan will guide us in an organoleptic assessment of one another’s body odors, sniffing and commenting on each other’s (anonymously numbered) well-worn t-shirts. We will conduct this round-table discussion by sharing objective notes and subjective associations, the same way a professional perfumer would assess an aromatic compound or a sommelier would evaluate a wine’s bouquet.
07/06, 7:30PM - PHASE TWO
After exploring the manifold ways that the human armpit ignites the imagination, each participant will receive a sample spray vial of six different commercially available pheromone products (one of which will be a placebo). Over the course of the next two weeks, each participant will test out the various pheromones by wearing them at work, at home, and at play, observing and collecting experiential data for our next meeting. During phase two of the workshop we will share and discuss our observations, and Susan will reveal which samples contain which pheromones (or the absence of them). She will also discuss research findings from the past decade of scientific experiments with pheromones. Together we will discuss how our experiential data squares with theirs, and form our own conclusion about whether human pheromones do indeed exist. She will end by giving us a sneak preview of “Modern Mating,” her sculptural installation with fellow artist Elise Wells that is scheduled to appear at The Museum of Sex in Manhattan in Summer 2018.
Cost: $20 materials fee
Notes: Limited to sixteen participants. In order to assure anonymity and control variables in this experiment, each participant will be asked to procure a Hanes 100% cotton white crewneck t-shirt in their size. Be sure to wash the shirt with unscented detergent before wearing. Subjects should wear the shirt to bed for one week (and preferably also while exercising or in the sauna) and store it in a gallon-sized ziplock bag. Please refrain from using scented products or deodorant while wearing the shirt.
WARNING: This workshop is not for the humorless (no pun intended) or the feint at heart. Although t-shirts will be sniffed from anonymous bags, we advise you come only if you are prepared to receive uncensored feedback about your body odor from a room full of noses—including (egad!) your partner’s, should you dare to bring them along.

Venue Location

  • The Institute for Art and Olfaction
  • 3023 W. 6th St.
  • Los Angeles
  • CA 90020
  • United States