Perfumer Maria Candida Gentile creates ‘olfactory sculpture’

05th July, 2013

Perfumer Maria Candida Gentile has created an ‘olfactory sculpture’ to feature at the famous ‘Biennale di Venezia’, after a suggestion by Italian artist Luca Vitone.

The work is part of the ‘Vice Versa’ exhibition, curated by Bartolomeo Pietromarchi for the Italian Pavilion at the 55th Venice Biennale art exhibition. Artist Luca Vitone was invited to refer to Luigi Ghirri's work on landscape, described as ‘a place between vision and memory’. His project, ‘Per L'Eternità’ focuses on ‘Eternit’, a theme that has been previously explored by the artist both through his research on landscape and memory, and in his monochromatic painting.

Patented in 1901, Eternit it is a material made from concrete and asbestos, which was at one time widely used in Italy. Due to its monochromatic look and the danger posed by its powdery fibres, the material was chosen by Vitone as a symbol of ‘the changeable nature of our perception of the world and the landscape’. Prohibited in 1992, it is now considered so dangerous that Vitone has not even been allowed to display neutralized Eternit taken from legal asbestos waste disposal sites. To him, the way the perception of this material has changed suggests ‘the transitory nature of our assimilation of world and time’. For Vitone, landscape is the place ‘where memory and the present confront each other’; Eternit represents the memory of a past time.

From this concept came the idea of using ‘an invisible monochrome, able to trespass borders and perimeters’, by collaborating with perfumer Maria Candida Gentile. She has created a fragrance which is then pumped into exhibition room, the walls of which are adorned with photographs. Eternit has no smell, but its fibrous particles can kill if inhaled - however, Vitone's work is meant to be breathed in. Anyone who enters the Italian Pavilion cannot help but inhale ‘Per L'Eternità’ - a sculpture in three olfactive notes: ‘green, pungent and sour’ Swiss rhubarb, Belgian rhubarb, and French rhubarb.

Roberto Traverso of Maria Candida Gentile told me: ‘As far as I know, it's the first time ever that a perfume is officially considered a work of art... it implies that beyond business, marketing and sales there's art in making a perfume....’

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About the author: Judith Brockless

As well as working tirelessly behind the scenes at Basenotes, Judith Brockless is a Jasmine Award shortlisted writer.

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