Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Tower of Babel 2, Duchamp and Art vs. Function, Beauty vs. Novelty

Is ELdO Sécrétions Magnifiques
like Marcel Duchamp's Fontaine?

Etat Libre d'Orange Sécrétions Magnifiques is a polarizing perfume, to say the least. The first and most immediate problem of polarization is generated by the very fact that the people who like it do not seem even to smell the same perfume as those who detest it. This quite naturally raises the question of whether disagreements about perfumes more generally have more to do with our idiosyncratic physiological differences—our peculiar anosmias, hyposmias and hyperosmias—than with the ostensible objects of critique, the perfumes themselves. The problem is even further compounded by the effect of variable skin factors on how perfumes manifest themselves (see: The Myth of the Skin Chemistry Myth for more on this).

The confusion does not end there, however. In an eloquent comment on The Tower of Babel, Exhibit A, Gypsy Parfumista offered a very persuasive case for the claim that ELdO Sécrétions Magnifiques can be coherently understood as a revolutionary work of conceptual art. Gypsy suggests, albeit in his own words, that this is precisely how we ought to understand Sécrétions Magnifiques:

As far as Secretions Magnifiques goes...*cracks knuckles* I have to confess that love it! I think the packaging is just what its creators wanted it to be: PROVOCATIVE! It provokes you to either (think you) hate it, because you find the art (or the actual scent) revolting, or love it (perhaps from the controversy and/or concept) before you even sniff it; or just want to own it to own it. ... I love the whole idea of what is actually exchanged when two people (regardless of gender) are intimate to be infinitely intriguing...and that someone DARED to make a perfume that attempts to capture that a feat of not only artistic vision but courage and a healthy sense of humor! … The thing about this perfume that made me think it was "artful" was that it took things no one ever dreamed of using in perfumery and united them with some interesting twists to come up with what some may be inclined to call the worst perfume in the world!

          —Gypsy Parfumista, January 9, 2012 (comments #15-19 at The Tower of Babel, Exhibit A)

I for one am willing to concede that, as much as I dislike Sécrétions Magnifiques as a perfume, it is indeed a successful piece of conceptual art. I do not, however, believe that it is one of the best perfumes ever created, far from it, in fact, and I certainly do not believe that, in blind trials, it would ever have been selected by any person knowledgeable of the history of perfume as one of the pinnacles of perfumic art.

The people who do not abhor the composition relay, as far as I've seen, rather banal experiences of it. In other words, even if one were to grant that persons anosmic or hyposmic to what are the revolting aspects of this perfume (to some wearers) are qualified to issue aesthetic judgments about the perfume as a perfume, it just seems far too pedestrian to qualify as high perfumic art, judging from the testimony of those who praise it.

That said, Sécrétions Magnifiques is something else. Upon reading Gypsy's words, I was immediately reminded of the case of Marcel Duchamp, who in 1917 submitted a urinal for exhibition at a museum, having christened his piece “Fontaine [Fountain]”, and sparked controversy and debate about the nature of art for decades to come. No one claimed that Duchamp was a great sculptor: he did not produce the urinal out of wet clay. But he was hailed as a great artist all the same.

Now those who are unimpressed with what ELdO has done in launching Sécrétions Magnifiques may dismiss it as a sort of prank or even provocation for the sake of provocation, and nothing like a great work of art. The same was said, of course, of Marcel Duchamp's Fontaine. In fact, it does not even matter very much whether or not everyone agrees about Sécrétions Magnifiques. The logic of the very question of its status is itself self-affirmatory. If everyone agreed, then there would be no controversy, and the perfume would have no value as a conceptual work of art. Again, no one agreed about Duchamp either. “Did he actually create anything?” was, I surmise, the most common skeptical question posed upon encountering Fontaine. Urinals are the most banal, ubiquitous, functional of things, used for the most unsavory of tasks, eliminating waste from the body. Can such an object be art?

What made Duchamp's Fontaine a work of art in the eyes of many was not that he had actually done anything artistic in the sense of brandishing a paintbrush or composing a piece of music or writing a poem—or producing a sculptured facsimile of a urinal. No, he took an object already in the world and decreed it to be “art”. The lack of skillful effort involved in this act was in fact an essential part of the revolutionary nature of his gesture.

One often hears remarks by unsophisticated visitors to modern art museums to the effect that I could have done that! When people scoff at works which are so simple that they could have made them—for example, a canvas painted with one uniform color—they are missing the entire point of Duchamp's act.

It seems to me that we should regard ELdO Sécrétions Magnifiques in this way as well. In the case of Sécrétions Magnifiques, as in the case of Fontaine, it is not even necessary to come into direct content with the object of controversy. No, it is the nature of such conceptual artworks to generate and perpetuate controversy and debate. Thus the fact that some people refuse to give Sécrétions Magnifiques a sniff just constitutes more grist for the controversy mill.

In his quartet of comments, Gypsy Parfumista also made an admirable, if not entirely persuasive (to me!), attempt to defend the integrity of Sécrétions Magnifiques as a great perfume. I myself remain entirely unconvinced that persons who fail to perceive the repulsive aspects of the composition are qualified to judge it, just as I would never even think to ask a deaf person's opinion of a symphony. At best, in the most charitable of possible cases, one might be able to issue a relative judgment of the quality of the perfume, just as color blind persons may well have their own unique takes on paintings which to most of us feature vivid swaths of blue and green.

To reiterate: no one claimed that Fontaine was a great work of sculpture—it was not—and I do not believe that Sécrétions Magnifiques is a masterpiece of perfumery. I furthermore suspect that, in fact, it is not possible to be both a revolutionary conceptual work of art and a masterpiece in the classical/traditional sense. The categories seem to me mutually exclusive, so arguments for one are arguments against the other.

I also think that, notwithstanding Gypsy Parfumista's brilliant defense of ELdO as a conceptual work of art, the case of perfume, in particular, is quite a bit more complicated than that of visual art, for a number of reasons, not the least of which being that there are some reigning and very fundamental confusions about the very nature of perfume in the first place. In order to subvert the concept of perfume à la Duchamp, one must first have a basic understanding and community agreement about what perfume itself is.

Duchamp wanted to say that he created a work of art out of a urinal by putting it on display and giving it a name. What would be an analogous gesture in the case of perfume? It seems to me that a far more revolutionary gesture than what ELdO did would be to launch a bottle of air! In fact, it might seem to some as though Escentric Molecules has come close (and a few other perfumers have followed suit with variations on their theme) by bottling very simple mixtures featuring as their focal note a single aromachemical.

Iso-E-super is the essence of Molecule 01, and ambroxan has been bottled under the name Molecule 02Juliette Has a Gun has also launched a “version” of ambroxan, Not a perfume. In all of these cases, however, in contrast to that of ELdO Sécrétions Magnifiques, the primary polarization between supporters and detractors appears to revolve around not the question of the nature of the scent, but the question of whether buying such an aromachemical at a niche perfume price makes any sense.

The aromachemicals being bottled as prêt-à-porter, as it were, niche perfumes have pleasing aesthetic properties, which is why they have been selected for these projects. They are often incorporated as “boosters” of sorts to more complex compositions, and so are not generally reviled and are in fact familiar scents to people who wear and appreciate perfume.

Accordingly, on their face, the case of the one-note wonder aromachemical perfumes would seem to differ significantly from ELdO Sécrétions Magnifiques, because they are produced with the idea in mind that people really will want to wear them. And apparently they do: I saw at Aedes, for example, that Molecule 01 is one of their top sellers! The distinction between the case of a perfume produced as a provocative work of conceptual art—our example being ELdO Sécrétions Magnifiques—and perfume produced in order to be appreciated and worn as perfume, leads us directly to the question of what, precisely, perfume is supposed to be.

Art vs. Function / Beauty vs. Novelty

While many perfumistas and perfumers may wish for the object of their obsession to be taken as seriously as the products of the seven established arts, certain factors peculiar to perfume and perfumery make the realization of this hope rather problematic, it seems to me. Perfume highlights age-old conflicts between Art and Functionality, on the one hand, and Beauty and Novelty, on the other.

The Tower of Babel is relevant here, in the first instance, because it really seems as though even knowledgeable people are often talking about different things in their reviews of perfume. The problem of disparate perception (selective hyposmia, anosmia, and hyperosmia), conjoined with the problem of variable skin chemistry, is thus triply compounded by the fact that people may have conflicting ideas about what precisely makes a good perfume good!

First off, it is obvious—and I frankly doubt that anyone would attempt to deny—that the vast majority of people purchase perfume for their personal use, in order to “consume” it themselves. I read in a fashion magazine last year that the number one reason why French women use perfume is to attract suitors. What? I thought to myself, recalling my relationship with a fellow who hated perfume more than just about anything else, including crime, war, and poverty. And yet, it appears, many women and men are using perfumes precisely in order to attract someone to them. They use perfume as a means to another end. Perfume is not, for these people, an end in itself.

Other people, such as myself, use perfume for personal pleasure, and I would be very, very surprised to learn of the existence of a single perfumista who did not also cite pleasure as a primary reason for collection (and obsessing) about perfume. Do we value perfume for perfume's sake? Can a perfume smelled by no one, one which is kept under inert gas and sniffed by no one, still be a great perfume? This seems very unclear to me and raises the whole question of the Osmothèque, which we'll be taking up as a separate salon topic in the not-too-distant future.

Now, there is a strain of perfumistas, at least judging by the contents of some of their reviews, who evaluate perfumes in terms of their novelty vis-à-vis what already exists in the world. So I often see people complaining that this or that perfume is a knock-off, a blatant copy, etc., of an already famous perfume.

I myself find it very unlikely that perfumers spend time acquiring samples of other perfumers' works and subjecting them to gas chromatographical analysis so that they can reproduce the same perfume. It just strikes me as incredibly implausible. Sure, maybe some of the industrial chemists at Unilever are doing that, but bona fide perfumers, who enjoy creating perfumes? Let's just say that I would be very, very surprised, if that were the case.

It seems far more likely to me that perfumers working in different places and times may sometimes generate similar-smelling perfumes because they have been acted upon by similar cultural forces, including exposure to a variety of trends. Lots of people have been producing sweet patchouli perfumes in recent years. Does this mean that they are trying to re-produce Angel? No, it means that the idea of a sweet patchouli composition has become an accepted conceptual category from which to commence the creation of a new fragrance.

All of this raises the question of Beauty versus Novelty. What are perfumers really aiming for? My distinct impression is that the vast majority of perfumers are attempting to make beautiful perfumes. Even if they are interested in creating original perfumes, beauty seems nearly always to be a constraining factor. Beautiful perfumes are a pleasure to wear and to smell, bringing us back to the importance of pleasure once again.

I imagine that niche perfumers (although that category is itself a contested one, see: The Question of Niche ) are aiming at both beauty and novelty. What are consumers paying for? It seems to me likely that most consumers are far more interested in beauty and wearability than in novelty. For one thing, the average perfume consumer is utterly ignorant of the vast majority of 16,000+ perfumes in existence. So, from the perspective of people with limited experience, every single fragrance which they try is likely to smell “new”, whether there exist a handful or five hundred other perfumes with very similar compositions and sensory effects.

This is, of course, why marketing campaigns become far more important than perfume quality in successful launches of mainstream perfumes. Most people have no resources by which to decide whether a perfume is great or not. They can say only that it smells good on them, having been lured in to buy it by an effective marketing campaign. Many people probably also receive perfumes as gifts for the very same reasons, but once they own them, they are likely to wear them, provided that it is possible to do so. Thus wearability becomes essential to successful mass market launches and companies such as Proctor & Gamble, which manufacture thousands of personal care products, are obviously aware of this fact, which therefore must serve as a fundamental constraint on any perfume which they launch.

These issues are not new. The truth is that people have been perfuming themselves for thousands of years, and yet, still today, perfumery has not been widely recognized as the huitième art. Why not? Is it because our intimate absorption or “ingestion” (through our cells) makes perfume appreciation a different sort of process than, say, visual art appreciation? Does this bring us back to the question of disparate reception caused by the physiological factors which make perfumes repulsive to some people while having the capacity to induce veritable olfactory ecstasy in others?

What say you, O Fragrant Friends?


  1. Part ONE *giggles*

    Thank you Shera Pop for taking something I happened to blurt out (read: typed frantically) while under the effects of a very strongly brewed pot of Seattle's Best Level 5 coffee and featured it as inspiration for the next installment of the *wonderfully insightful and infinitely interesting* "Babel" series! (I am honored)

    As far as the (much maligned) SM goes: I DO adore it (for reasons mentioned in my Part A posts) and actually wear it! I never said it was one of the best perfumes of all times...or even a classic, for that matter! *winks* A good perfume? To me: Yes, it is! As it brings to life that which is a part of all of us (though not necessarily the most beautiful or aesthetically pleasing of them) and puts it "on display", as it were, for the whole world to see/smell. As disgusting as that may seem to some, I find it not only amazing in its brilliance, audacity and sheer artfulness, but actually a half decent scent..and I truly (this is most important as far as parfumista perception goes) ENJOY WEARING IT!

    The idea of being covered in the scent of another's "magnificent secretions" (or these secretions in general) is perhaps the most sensual and primitive of pleasures! To have the aroma of another's bodily fluids (semen, adrenaline, blood, sweat, milk, et. al.) is to me a titillating concept. These "aromas" may be repugnant to some; I, on the other hand, find them intriguing and beautiful (albeit on an crude and rather animalic level) as they are part of us all. I continue to find it infinitely entertaining that many people swoon over fragrances that contain healthy doses of "white musk" (an aromachemical that which Chandler Burr described as smelling like a CLEAN man's anus!); yet find SM to be revolting. Maybe they "overdid" it, I don't know. Maybe beauty IS truly in the eye of the beholder (...nose of the sniffer...).

    It is (by definition) art! It seeks to take a medium (perfume) and represent something of and from the world (secretions sexual) and without any touching or stimulation whatsoever create and evoke an intense feeling or share a vision (one which many may cover their eyes to avoid seeing...but a vision nonetheless) of something the artist is trying to convey! Many people have said "Sex sells (and it does!) and, thus far, ELdO continues to make and sell bottle after bottle.

    Are the qualities of being a great perfume (or even a pretty good one) and a piece of "conceptual art" mutually exclusive? Depends on who you are asking. I (as you already gathered) think not! Is it a thing of beauty...well now, we have to define beauty! *sighs*


    Beauty is (pour moi) that which the beholder finds aesthetically pleasing, even desirable! Something that strikes a chord somewhere deep in the soul, and brings to mind things which one finds infinitely engrossing and absolutely adores. Was Fontaine (the urinal in the museum) beautiful? The artist who hung it up seemed to think so!

    The act of hanging a urinal in a museum may seem a bit insane (to many) but I believe what he was doing, in essence, was to say okay here is something everyone knows, everyone has seen and/or used, and knows what it is and TAKES IT FOR GRANTED! It is obvious he found the cool porcelain appealing. The sultry curves of the rim, the fact that it took in water (of a sort) and flushed it away with water and despite what it did it was still unchanged and enduring. The shiny chrome colored steel pipe connections accenting and contrasting the soft smooth alabaster body. Perhaps he was just glad people were no longer relieving themselves in the streets, I do not know as I have never talked with the man! I DO know that at some point many of us get so involved with life and the universe and everything that we tend to overlook the intrinsic beauty that exists all around us (yes...even in the loo) and what the artist was trying to say was "HEY LOOK AT THIS! Just because you urinate in it does not take away from or tarnish its INTRINSIC beauty!"

    My ex-husband has an antique "pissoir" (we called it) that resembled a ceramic bed pan; but had a tube/spout for a man to urinate in, that held his penis. It was painted by hand with flowers and some other sylvan details, and was actually (by definition) an antique and worth quite a bit. It was, in fact, rather beautiful despite the fact his father had used it, while dying of ALS, to relieve his bladder really did not took away from its charm as it sat in a glass-door cupboard (cleaned and disinfected) amongst other curios and bric-a-brac.

    Is Secretions "beautiful"? Hmmm...I believe it is, because they have taken other "notes" and such and prettied it up (like the hand painted detailing on the aforementioned pissoir). All this is neither here nor there though, as what we are actually discussing is ART vs FUNCTION or BEAUTY vs. NOVELTY...

    Is it art? Yeah yeah. We have decided, I think at least in its conception and what it was trying to convey, it is.

    Is it functional? (Or "wearable" would perhaps be a better term) Once again, it depends on whom you are asking. I have noticed the three other people I know who love it (and wear it) are two OPENLY AND UNABASHEDLY gay men and the other is an older (but still rather sexual) woman. We all agree it is sexy, it is what it says it is, and we love it (despite what it is intended to represent) for what it is: a stinking *best possible connotation* concoction that tries to find the beauty in the most animalic and banal parts of ourselves. Some may think they are above "all that". I tend to take each and every experience for what it is, and to try and learn something from it.

    Secretions Magnifiques is what I would call an acquired taste, for most. Something you may try once or twice and be revolted. (Did you really enjoy scotch the first time you tried it?) Some will never "get it" or appreciate it and that is okay! Many of the components of this perfume (e.g. the notes and accords, it has listed) were also repugnant to many of us, the first time around. Now, one or two of them I actually find the aroma of rather savory, but I digress...

  3. Beauty? Well, the idea is more beautiful than the actual aromas are (to most) when talking about SM. We could (and most likely will) spend our whole lives trying to describe this or come to definitive answer to the question "Just what is beauty?". Suffice it to say, this fragrance meets the criteria I outlined in my PERSONAL definition for the word beauty...for me and me alone. I would never dream to tell someone they were wrong about what THEY found to be beauteous. And I would surely verbally "bitch slap" them, if they did such a thing to me.

    Is it novel? (as in "new" and/or unheard of) The answer is a clear and rather emphatic YES! Nothing smells quite like this, ever has or probably ever will! (Though I have found many perfumes that vaguely remind me of SM that contain an an abundance of white musk, creamy fruits and cold flowers; metallic accord notwithstanding) Despite the rather explicit artwork (which only portrays one aspect of the listed "ingredients") it is more than a creamy viscous salty protein rich aroma. Many "avant garde" artists were thought to be "off their rockers" when they came on the scene and vilified for what they sought to create or "brought to life". Now they are referred to as geniuses, as far as modern art goes and featured in the MoMA and other equally reputable places.

    A perfumer, at least I would think, aims to make a stunning fragrance. This stunned 'em alright! *winks and giggles* They seek to create (at least the ones I have personally spoken with) something no one else has ever done. I think ELdO (and the two perfumers who created it) have done that *without a doubt* with Secretions. Now...

    Would I wear this everyday? Probably not, unless of course, I found it to have the effect on my boyfriend that catnip does on a cat-that is. *raises eyebrows suggestively* As far as the piece of art suggested in the original post: would I want a URINAL hanging in my living room? An unequivocal NO! Can I appreciate its beauty? Sure! Do I own (and occasionally enjoy) SM?? You betcha! Would I ever buy a FB? Well...I am content with the 10 ml splash bottle I have among those in my ELdO 16 piece set...for now! Do I enjoy the idea of Fontaine and now have a picture of it in my pictures folder? Yes! I revel in the idea that someone saw the beauty of something as banal as a urinal and showed (quite proudly) the world...and had the "stones" to call it art!

  4. As far as ART ABSORPTION I like purple and black over more bright and pastel colors; so, it makes sense I would be attracted to darker and more somber pieces than say...a field of flowers. I can see the appeal to some, but it's just not "my thing". So too with perfume and many other things in is all about what tickles your proverbial fancy, as it were. And mine is tickled to no end by SM, Fontaine and this particular topic, people (for whatever reasons) like what they like. I like older perfumes dripping with civet and full of oakmoss, not everyone does. I can also appreciate and extol the virtues of a well made floral chypre. I like anything that is unique, different and thinks "outside the box" in art, in people and also in perfume.

    I just want to be able to get past this whole "Tower of Babel" thing (at least with parfumista friends) and be able to say "Okay, I see your point, is mine." and then dissect and articulate from there sharing ideas, feelings, experiences and passions. People have been perfuming themselves for thousands of years. Some with animal musk, whale vomit, rodent droppings while others favored essences distilled from flowers, woods, seeds, leaves and fruits (and their various parts and products) will any of us ever agree? Probably not; but, hwat we CAN do is to agree to disagree about things like aesthetics and personal taste and allow them to inspire us to look beyond our own comfort zones and possibly try something that is new and exciting (and quite possibly a bit uncomfortable, at least at first) and realize there is really more out there than what we happen to like or adore. Those who remain rigid and unable to bend and flex seldom grow and often "break". I hope to remain open minded and grow as a person for as long as I can. This Salon is a stepping stone on that path and for this I am so very grateful and look forward to being challenged by other perceptions and ideas in the comments that will inevitably follow.

    Ain't life grand?!!

  5. Please remember too (I forgot to mention this above) that I am not saying that I find no part of this to be revolting or disgusting or cannot "perceive" any said (supposedly nasty) notes in SM...I jusy happen to find the idea of them, the way they are portrayed (in a perfumic way) and the ultimate blend to be something not all that repulsive and have actually come to like it a bit more each time I wear it. Am I "certified" or "unfit" to review this for said reasons of anosmia, hyposmia or hyperosmia? I think not!

    What I am is able to go outside of the conventional definition of what is beautiful to every one else and see the beauty in something others consider downright vile. Call me a whack job, if you like, I don't really care one way or another. But, please, give me my "props" when it comes to being able to see the inner beauty of something and the ability to describe what I feel, why I feel it and respect that. It is only by doing these very things we will all get past the whole "Tower of Babel" thing!


  6. Greetings, Gypsy Parfumista! I am delighted indeed to read that Seattle Level 5 continues to serve you well! You've covered a lot of ground (that was obviously a very BIG pile of grounds prepared in a very big pot (-;), so I'm just going to take one point at a time. Hopefully some other people will interject comments between our back and forth as well...

    First, it occurred to me upon reading your comment "Sex sells!" that part of what ELdO was doing was to point out to many perfume wearers what it is that *they* are actually doing. If it is true, as I read in a magazine, that many people wear perfume in order to attract other people to them, then ELdO might have been holding a mirror up to their faces by launching SM, saying, let's cut to the chase: this is what you're really after!

    What do you think?

  7. I had not actually thought of that, Shera Pop...but now that you mention it, *winks* I think you might be on to something there. I reflect back on the whole "perfume as the means to an end" passage, in which you mentioned that some women use perfume to achieve, in Part B's original post; and I realize (even if they did not put an erect phallus ejaculating an extremely copious amount of semen on the box's "cover art") that is was reminding them (none too gently) that "that" is, in effect, their endgame-something sexy (alluring) and sexual (in the narrowest denotation of that word). What you see *outside* is what you get *inside the bottle*, in other words, at least in respect to the aroma itself and not so much the actual outcome (no entendre intended!).

    What these perspective customers fail to actually realize (or most consumers, in general, anyway) is that sex (in and of itself) is a rather smelly, "messy" and "dirty" (as in not all that clean and sterile) activity. There are sweat, mucous to mucous contact, grunts, groans and moans and, eventually, SECRETIONS!

    I do believe you are onto something there my dear; however, the 'caveat' to any given 'emptor' of Secretions Magnifiques would be this is WHAT (and how) you will smell wearing this...and, not necessarily, what you would get! The mirror has a funny way of showing you things that are there already; but, you may not want to even see or necessarily smell them. Everyone wants to smell good (or at least not horrible); I do believe. The delicious irony here is that you will smell like sex alright...just not all the flowers and romance that I (and perhaps a great many others) like to think leads up to it!

    It is humorous that so many people are offended by this. Also it is quite understandable. Remember the man who saw "the truth" when the magical being 'touched' his brain and "opened his eyes" to what human beings really are (in Lord of Illusions by Clive Barker)? We are all moving blobs of oozing, swirling systems of liquid and *for lack of a better word* secretions held inside a cytoplasmic membrane. People don't always like to be told the "truth" and many would prefer to remain blissfully ignorant of such fundamental truths-especially what our bodies (or the temples of our spirits, if you will) really and truly are-let alone have to smell them! Many are seeking to mask, cover or "pretty up" those smells by using perfume in the first place.

    As I said before (in an earlier comment in Part A), these days I find the truth to be ultimately preferable to a pretty lie. I love to smell sweet, woody, flowery and/or incensey, as much as (if not more than) the next perfume afficinado...but every once in a while I also like to "keep it real" and remember that I am, in fact (in spite of any spiritual goals and inclinations), an "animal": a sexual beast who came into being from the act of carnal sexuality and will (with or without any posterity) continue to revel in said act. Secretions does many thing to many people but one thing it does not do is lie. Not in its packaging, in its PR or in its eventual dry down.

    What a welcome "breath of fresh air" that has been brought about with synthetic aromachemicals, assembled in a lab...does no one else find that even the least bit amusing and achingly poignant?

    There is (at least it seems here) at least a little truth in advertising!

  8. Dearest Gypsy,

    I'm going to play the devil's advocate here (what's new?) and say, in response to your veritable Ode to Reality, that I myself see a lot reality, on a daily basis. We have seemingly endless war, crime, poverty, and general misery all around us. Maybe there's less of it in the environs of a nice middle-class American suburb, but around the rest of the world?

    Folks around these parts would do well, it seems to me, to travel to a Third World nation now and then. Not to a gated-community resort hotel in some poverty-stricken land, where the locals serve the guests in the manner of indentured slaves, but to the inner city, where people actually live. Yes, I'm talking here about the sort of scenario you sketched out in your comments on The Tower of Babel, Exhibit A, in sharing what you witnessed in (I take it) a crack house.

    I do not think that SM is in any sense an antidote to the general detachment from the realities of the broader world or our place in it. Moreover, I do not even think that the reality check which people really need (and the one which SM does provide) is a reminder about the liquids produced when they copulate. I mean, let's face it: people *are* copulating, are they not? Look around you the next time you're in the midst of a crowded place: every single person represents a successful sex act (and, in many cases, a failure of birth control as well!) Enough facetiousness.

    What I want to say is that I don't think that we should go overboard here. No one is really forgetting what bodily fluids smell like, are they? Don't we all use the bathroom multiple times each day?

    Given all of this unavoidable, undeniable, carnal reality, one might wish to seek refuge in, say, a breathtakingly beautiful perfume! One which allows its wearer to cast her mundane worries to the wind in a rapture of olfactory bliss! Which brings us back again to the vexing question:

    What exactly is perfume?

  9. You Sher, devil's advocate??! Naaaah! *winks*

    We all see a lot of reality, sure. We live in it...well, most of us anyway. I do "grok" what you are trying to say about third world countries and gated community resorts and the obvious disparities between them. I was not saying that SM was an antidote for anything even resembling the general detachment of the world (at least I hadn't meant to); I did mean to say that every so often it is necessary to remind one's self that what even the most transcendent experiences (like sex) have their earthly, not so "pretty" side. Some among us are endlessly fascinated by that seedy underbelly, revel in it even.

    There are more people alive now than at any other time in the history of humanity, more people copulating (and far too many, in my opinion, reproducing) as well. I understand that each and every person alive (barring in vitro births) *is* the result of a successful sex act. Many people take the pleasurable aspects of sex at face value and (more than ever before) fail to remember, or even care, that it is these acts that cause more people! I like the comment about failed birth control too by the way! *giggles*

    It would do us well to remember that this "perfume/work of art" that we have been discussing, in the framework of the "Tower of Babel", was *not* meant to represent that which we do many times a day in the bathroom (teenage boys notwithstanding) but the "seedier" side (pardon my pun) of the grander act. Duchamp was not (I believe) glorifying the fact that a urinal, more often than not, held a rather foul smelling form of liquid bodily excrement; but that even though it did so it had its beauty. But now, I see, it is time for the next topic!

  10. Perfume from the Latin "per fumus" means, quite literally, through smoke. A remembrance of a time when beautiful smells (thought pleasing to the gods) were carried to "heaven" in the form of incense and burnt offerings. I do believe, however, that "through fumes" would be a better modern correlation. Perfume IS indeed something we use to make ourselves and (depending on sillage and concentration) that which is around us more beautiful or pleasing. Perfume is an excellent way to get carried away, in effect, by beauty and experience joy and (yes!) even rapture.

    I am just as guilty as the next parfumista of wanting to experience the next thrill of some magically complex juice myself. Often times in my experience, my writing and subsequent reviews a whiff of something can take me back to being a barefoot young lad running in a sun-filled meadow as lilac aromas fill the Springtime air (vintage Vie Privee) or be instantly transported to someplace I have never even been before (a spice market in Marrakesh or a harem tent in India) just from inhaling the fragrance of a bottled liquid!! That is magic, for real for real!!!

    Perfume IS indeed an art, I believe, as it can and does take scenes and inspiration from things from life (like photography and the other visual arts), captures feelings or evokes stories (like cinema or the theater) and can even enrapture the soul (like ballet, opera or the symphony). My four year old niece drew a picture of me, my mom and our animals. Was it art? She seemed to think so, as did I (I proudly displayed it on the fridge) but to a critic at the New York Times-it probably was not. Art exists in various levels of expression, media, quality and skill level. So too, does perfume. Crayon and paper drawings are ubiquitous. By the same token there are many mediocre perfumes that a good many find pleasing, while others roll their eyes and raise their noses to the heavens (after looking down them). My niece's picture, while not all that technically proficient, is indeed HER view at her present station in life of something she finds very inspiring and to me (the beholder) it is worth more than a Jackson Pollock. SM (and Fontaine to some extent) is, in effect, an aesthetic rendering of something the artist(s) involved found provocative and worth trying to capture its beauty and preserve for others to experience.

  11. Art is, as I have said before, not so much the finished product (the urinal on display in the museum, the innocent wax and wood pulp rendering...or even an olfactive impression of blood, sweat and sperm in a fancy niche bottle) as it is the "journey", inspiration and creativity used to initiate an endeavor, provide impetus to and ultimately arrive at the finished product. Art vs. Function/Beauty vs. Novelty was the topic, was it not?

    Rapture, to some, sounds a lot like torture to me, if you are asking someone who leans more toward sadomasochistic indulgences. Also, in that same paradigm, laying quietly and coupling in the missionary position night after night is about as stimulating to some as the next watered down Sport flanker is to me! *yawns* It takes many colors to make a rainbow. If even one of them is lost it loses some of its beauty. It takes away one expression of and detracts from the whole spectrum. Saying BLUE is no longer a color (for example) is limiting one to have to perceive a world through a smaller lens or more restricted palette, if you will. How would any of us now a great perfume, if we did not have to endure a million and three mediocre ones?

    In essence (and answer to the unsniffed perfume question) until we experience a scent (or anything for that matter) we cannot "know" it is bad, good or even great. We may know what is in the hermetically sealed flacon mentioned above; but, until we smell it for ourselves we truly have no way of knowing and can only take the perfumers word for it. I like to experience everything as intensely as I can, and try not to limit my options. Therefore, SM may not be my daily choice for wear (or signature scent, if such a thing exists) but it does widen my experience and give me something to compare against. Until we know darkness we cannot appreciate the light...and all that!

  12. Hello, Gypsy—I'm back! (*cracks fingers, toes, neck, knee and hip joints*)”

    Thank you so much for your fascinating comments, including the etymology of 'perfume', which is, I agree, a reminder of why people use perfume!
    I remain perplexed by the Art vs. Function question in the case of perfume. If perfume is really an art, then do you still want to say "to each his own"? I mean, let's face it: there is doggerel, to take the case of poetry. There is also bad music, isn't there? What is muzak if not music mangled to the functional end of pumping through public spaces and elevators?

    In fact, in your original quartet of comments to this post, you corrected and mildly admonished (-; my false depiction of your having defended SM as a masterpiece (sorry about that, by the way!). You pointed out that saying that SM is wearable—or even a good perfume—is not to say that it is one of the top 100 classics of perfumery.

    This seems to suggest that you do believe that some perfumes are better than others, in an objective sense, just as most of us are willing to say that oil paintings on velvet produced by children (or your niece's portrait now displayed on your refrigerator) are not as good as the masterpieces of the history of Western art. There are relative purposes, of course. Doggerel is undoubtedly better suited for Hallmark greeting cards and marketing jingles than is esoteric poetry incomprehensible to the masses.

    The problem with perfume, it seems to me, is that it really is more like food: we consume it. Paradoxically, it is both more and less personal than other art forms. People do not tend to get exercised over disagreements in opinion about food items: “Eat and let eat!” appears to rule the day. But in the case of perfume, we do have people making claims about quality in what they take to be objective ways.

    So, for example, in her thrashing of Serge Lutens' Serge Noire, Tania Sanchez ends her diatribe with this sentence: “I am not a cultural relativist, and I say this is a disaster.” Obviously, Ms. Sanchez is asserting not only the awfulness of the aesthetic of the house of Serge Lutens (you really have to read the review to see this, since she trashes an entire series of perfumes in a single paragraph), but also her capacity to make such judgments, as an “expert”.

    Now, you might say that the Royal[ties] Coup[le] has self-interested motives ($$$) in promoting the idea that some perfumes are objectively bad and others are objectively good—why would most people read their reviews if they did not believe that “experts” have insight which they lack? Why would they have received a gold-lettered invitation to sniff perfumes at the Osmothèque if they had not first succeeded in convincing lots of people in the perfume industry that they were not merely megalomaniacal bloggers but in fact renowned experts?

    My own view, at least as it has crystallized to this point, is that we often perceive perfumes differently (due to variable capacities to detect certain components—that is, relative anosmias, hyposmias, and hyperosmias), which is compounded by the fact that perfumes actually manifest themselves differently on persons with different natural scents.

    Because of these complexities, I find the idea of rendering supposedly objective or absolute judgments about perfume highly problematic, much more problematic than in cases where we can all stand around an object and assess its aesthetic qualities starting from at least some set of agreed-upon assumptions. Some films are bad, and some films are great. This just seems obviously true to me.

    It seems to me that many people are ambivalent about the status of perfume, but perhaps for different reasons than my own. At one point in your infinitely rich comments you wrote:

    “I would never dream to tell someone they were wrong about what THEY found to be beauteous. And I would surely verbally "bitch slap" them, if they did such a thing to me.”

  13. (reply to GP, cont.d...)

    Is this a statement of cultural relativism? Are you willing to deny that doggerel is bad poetry and muzak is bad music, in an objective sense? If you are willing to herald some films as great, does this not imply that some are less than great? And what are the numbers you include in your perfume reviews, if not expressions of your assessment of those perfumes' quality?

    Pray tell, Gypsy Parfumista, what is your view?

  14. Good Day Sherapop, and Gypsy Parfumista (as well as anyone else reading)...

    I would gladly declare that as some films are great films, some books are classics, some foods are full of nutrition at the same time as having delightful flavor, etc...there are perfumes that are objectively "quality" perfumes. Not everyone will adore fresh steamed artichokes, they will remain luxurious, among a list of simple delicacies.....

    I love surrealism and modern art, but don't count myself as above the average art appreciator, or feel like I am a special viewer, I've never even taken an art history class. What Marcel Duchamp did that was so great was continue in a new way on a long trend of found art, which sometimes results in much more interesting and beautiful "objets d'art". Surely If I were there at the opening of the exhibit with Fontaine I would have just walked by it, as it doesn't the least bit of interest to me. I realize what he was doing, and it makes sense. If it hasn't been done before, and somebody thinks it's art, it's art. Same with perfume. Select pieces by Serge Lutens, Ormonde Jayne, Frederic Malle, Montale, Hermes, Mona di Orio, vintage Balenciaga, Guerlain and Chanel I like to have in my home and on my skin, but every perfume has a presentation, some kind of effort put into it, a bottle, each making some statement...perhaps the statement is too simple and grotesque to be described in words..."Ueeeerrrrrblehhhk. Mmmeh." could very well be a legitimate response to the artwork. As something ingested, it is indeed a special form of artwork that deserves honest criticism and warrants emotional expression that could even surpass a painting or piece of music. We don't have to think about it but you will smell it, whether you choose to or not. It remains on the skin, mystery to wearer which layer of material it will permeate and how long the artwork will remain with your being.

    Perhaps pieces like L'Eau d'Issey, Halle Berry and Tommy Girl are like fuzzy velvet posters made by Big Brother, but they are an experience of the senses that is experienced subjectively. There are plenty of "artists" who put out novelties exclusively, so in the strict sense of the word it's all art...and reproductions of art, like a painting butchered as a pattern on a dog sweater.

    So: "it's just skin chemistry and I am sure somebody will like this" (after howl of terror and thorough exfoliation of perfumed skin) means "sure this is a work of art, but it's terrible, poorly done, intended to be offensive...or perhaps it is of the art class of tacky bows and ribbons mishmashed on a doily, or rhinestones glued on a rock to spell out a banal new age affirmation....)

    As far as Gypsy Parfumista's Ode to Reality, I am perfectly pleased to wear a sex smell if it is one that smells like good sex. Secretions Magnifique smells more like rape to me, sorry to be so blunt....Not all "real smells" are bad, but they can be fine-tuned to smell like a fine perfume, or at least as something that interests and makes one think rather than assaulting and depressing....but I realize that you love SM, and my neverending trashing it is tiresome, so enjoy!

  15. Greetings, Kastehelmi! Thanks so much for stopping by and joining in on our little jousting match here.

    I think that you have hit on the crux of the problem: what Gypsy describes in laudatory terms, you describe in derogatory terms. The problem with perfumes (or perhaps it is simply their richness...) is that it seems as though both of you can be right at the same time. You are simply perceiving the perfume differently.

    What would it mean to say that one of you is wrong? If you were Gypsy, then you would smell it as he does. But you are not. You are who you are, and you're not who you're not. What is relevant to YOU, is only how it smells to you. What is relevant to Gypsy is how it smells to him.

    This brings us back to the public aspect of perfume, which we were discussing in the first Tower of Babel comments. It seems to me that even if there are objectively great perfumes and bad ones, our own subjective perceptions are really what matter to us. If other people disagree, they may think that we are wrong, but that doesn't change how the perfumes smell to us. Whether we should wear in their presence a perfume which actually makes them sick is another matter altogether.

    I was goading Gypsy a bit about whether he is a relativist about perfumes, but I think that most of us, in penning reviews, are relaying our own experience and do not take ourselves to be decreeing The Truth about a perfume. Sometimes when a review becomes excessively strident and condemnatory I think that the writer may have forgotten that they are relaying a perspective, not The Last Word on the perfume.

    But I don't think that there's any contradiction in assigning numerical values to a perfume as a way of indicating that, relative to one's own experience, this or that perfume is REALLY good or REALLY bad, etc. I myself value negative reviews of perfumes which I love because they remind me that it is possible to perceive them otherwise. Sometimes we must agree to disagree!

    I regard people who hold themselves up as the final arbiters of taste in perfume to be confused about the nature of perception (variable hyposmias, etc.) and the importance of our personal histories in what we glean from the experience of perfumes.

  16. I read it all and all I want to do is sigh ;)

    I needed to google the fountaine... modern art is not my forte...

    And I need to sigh again.

    WHAT in the world do people think of when they proclaim such an object 'art' ?
    To me it is marketing avant la lettre, buzz and a feeling of being "in-crowd".


    Is perfume an art. Yes. Is SM art? Well it does what art does: it triggers.
    Do I like this kind of art? It is not my cup of tea.

    I am with Kastehelmi on this one : I like more subtle things.

    Agree to disagree is fine with me :)


  17. Dear Guusje,

    Thanks so much for dropping by to register your dissent! You are in good company, as many people have balked at this turn in the art world. It sounds to me as though you are a big "art is beauty" believer, who rejects all of these "art is not beauty" initiatives as pranks or jokes. I hear you, sister! When it comes to perfume, at least, why in the world would I praise a perfume which smells ugly? Or, put another way: can a great perfume be unwearable?

    I think that the same issue comes up with cuisine. Can a great meal be inedible? If someone made such I a claim, I'd have to say that it must have been some sort of joke.

    In fact, the people who praise SM appear to find it wearable and even pleasureable to wear. So, as you say: we'll just have to agree to disagree!!

  18. Shera Pop (Guus and Kastehelmi, too, if reading): I believe perfume IS an art and say "To each his (or her) own" because regardless of what I think (or articulate) folks are going like what they like, regardless of what I may or may not (like)! I can say "Oh how very ARTFUL or ARTISTIC!" This does not infer whether I think it is good or bad, just that it is ART to me. Is doggerel art? Nah! Are some functional things such as jingles, Hallmark cards and wordless simplified streamlined and "mangled" music? No; however they serve their purpose. Some jingles are well crafted, succinct and get the point across while others are just plain annoying (the bearded "teacher" singing flat and off key in the Target commercial "...Shawn White hoodies and DENim..." when school started made me want to rip my hair out). Art can be art without being great art, no? Again you are asking for objective answers to your questions and for "cut and dry" qualifications in a very subjective area.

    Now we get into the dicey area of the difference between classic and great! A classic, by definition, is something thought to be eternal, beautiful (in whatever context it is judged) and endures. Examples: the Mona Lisa, The Kiss (Rodin), Chanel No 5, the White Album, The Godfather, Gone with the Wind, Catcher in the Rye, The Nutcracker, etc. GREAT is a personal preference. I think Texas Hots (a NY chili dog) are great, but are they classic? THAT is debatable (ie: depends on who you DAD thought so! LOL)

    Expert (def: someone who knows "their stuff") is a word I personally would NEVER apply lightly. It is very easy to drop a few names, throw around some fifty cent terms and be considered knowledgeable. It is another thing entirely to be considered an expert. Just because they got some fancy shmancy invite to sniff at the Osmotheque just means they are recognized in their field. It does not mean that they are the fountainhead of all knowledge and get the "last word", in said field. I know a lot and have sniffed my fair share. Am *I* an expert? Some think so; I do not. The more I know, the more I realize I do NOT know. They (Turin & Sanchez) seem to have convinced everyone they "know it all" and have crossed the dangerous line of believing their own bullshit (pardon my vernacular there)!

  19. Cultural relativism? Maybe, I never thought about it, really, it is just how I feel. I can go on and on and extol the virtues (or lack thereof) of any given perfume (and rate how wonderful it is with my rather crude numeric rating system) and no one (I do not care who they are, or think they are) has the right to deny ME the right to tell me that I think is aesthetically pleasing to me isn't!!

    Exceptions that prove the rule, I love those. Doggerel is bad poetry/prose is it not? Is "There once was a man from Nantucket" doggerel? Oh my gosh, YES!! Is it a classic? By definition, it is indeed. It has lasted decades and is well known my many over three generations. Is it art? Not in my opinion. Clever? Indeed! Witty? No, more vulgar yet it does have some amusement value, for some. I believe muzak (wordless instrumental versions of classic and/or modern "hits") played through speakers is meant to calm and placate the masses while waiting in line and in elevators and so on. I find it is not art (in its purest form) but a rather "watered down" form of an already established art form, music. The perfumed analog would be the next watered down sport fragrance to hit the counters. Oh how I dread trying The One "sport" and Alien and Angel "Aqua Chic". Chrome Summer??! Really? I thought Chrome was "summery" enough as it was! *sighs* These "redheaded stepchildren" of art you have mentioned are (in my opinion) art, albeit the most transparent and "lowest" (if we are ranking them) form of such.

    It is human nature to have favorites, for most of us anyway. Of course if I think something (film, scent, books, etc.) are great I MUST be comparing them to something! I think Jil Sander No 4 edp is great and Theo Fennell Scent as well! And, to me, they are when compared to such things as the latest Miss Dior Cherie (I refuse to use the term Miss Dior, for popcorn and strawberry wine, though I like both, bland mess regardless of what the parent company may or may not have decided to rename or brand something, to do so would *IMO* be "blasphemy"!), and especially when compared to such things as Avon's Fire me Up, or an Adidas perfume/cologne. THAT is my story and I am sticking to it.

    I DO use numbers as these are a framework (other than flowery words and evocative prose) to attempt to bridge the aesthetic gap by making my ultimate rendering of what a scent/fragrance means to me using an objective framework over something as subjective as my opinion on something we all know is triply hard to evaluate (given above said "stumbling blocks").

    MY Bottom Line: Art CAN be functional, it just doesn't have to be. Functional things can be artful (aesthetically pleasing even), that does not make them great art. All of us standing around can (maybe) agree on some criteria for what is or isn't "art"; however, I do believe we should leave what is personally pleasing and beauty to the eye of the beholder (or nose of the sniffer, as it were). And, believe you me, from now on I will use words like "art" and "classic" much more tentatively and think about what I am actually saying (or attempting to convey).

    Sorry for my lateness in responding, dear friends. I am responding to Shera Pop's comments from our previous discussion here; and will, after refilling my mug with some Seattle's Best Level 1 *taking it easy here today*, respond to anything commented on by others as I see fit. Things have been crazy here for me lately. This Salon de Parfum is a welcome respite from the banal "one foot in front of the other" things one must do everyday, and it really does help me to elucidate (my own thoughts and views) and blow out the cobwebs in my mind! I LOVE YOU ALL!!

  20. Greetings, Gypsy, and thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to weigh in on these issues again!

    I especially love your identification of what we perfume snobs might call "doggerel perfume"! Yes, just as some poems seems more obviously artistic than others, so, too, is it obvious that some perfumes are created not for artistic but for market purposes. This is what I find so fascinating about the case of perfume: there seems to be a much greater influence exerted by the market than in, say, the case of poetry. Probably that's because poetry does not sell, and poets do not typically get rich from their art! (-; The more I think about it, the more I become convinced that music is a better comparison, given the market effects upon popular music, for example.

    But that's going to be the next salon topic: The Big Black Bechstein in the Middle of the Room. (I'll probably post it tomorrow...)

    I look forward to reading you here again soon, Dear Gypsy Parfumista!

  21. This is a fascinating topic. I'm sorry I don't have time to read everything that has been written, but, two of my favorite things being perfume and art (classic, modern, abstract, "weird," you name it), I thought I'd go ahead and comment.

    In my view, a major role of art can be presenting the ordinary in a new light. That is, showing us a new way to perceive or "see." Art can be a realistic representation of something, or, in the case of abstract art, the artistic elements themselves: lines, shapes, colors, textures, etc. One reason I love abstract art is that it can go right to the primitive part of your brain and evoke feelings in a way that you aren't even really sure where they come from. What you are viewing is not really "something" and yet it makes you feel a certain way. Some abstract art even strikes me as a direct representation of thought, emotion, sensation, etc. itself.

    As for something like Fontaine, I do consider it to be art in that it challenges us to look at something in a new way, in a new context. Whereas the intended use of a urinal maybe ugly, having seen a picture of Fontaine, I don't think the actual object is ugly when perceived as a collection of shapes and lines. You could even regard it as attractive. I could almost envision some visitor from another world or primitive culture, with no knowledge of the urinals function, displaying it in the same way Duchamp did. You could even go farther and say the object is artful in how it performs it's function. It's all about context.

    Now, I've never smelled SM, but imagine I would not think it smells "good" and would not want to wear it. I think I would admire it though in it's concept and its attempt to juxtapose what many people regard as vulgar smells with the view of perfume as something that should smell "pretty" or "nice". I for one am delighted that perfumers are coming out with these strange, challenging concoctions.

    You know, beauty is a really hard thing to define, and I think can be found in the oddest places if you open your mind and take the time to look for it.

    1. I also meant to say that I do think newness or novelty has a place in defining what art is. I do not think art is all about technical prowess and "beauty" as traditionally defined, but also about communicating a new and original vision. I would call what Duchamp did art (almost in a performance art type way) in part because it had never been done before. Someone could not do it again and call it art, just as someone could not throw paint on a canvas and claim to be a great artist like Jackson Pollack (even if the work was technically identical). Newness and originality combine with technique, composition, etc. to make it art.

  22. Very nice to find you here, Njeb! Welcome to the salon!

    Your comments are very insightful, and I was especially excited to read your explanation of the distinction between abstract and representational art, as the next topic at the salon is going to be about how perfume is actually much closer to music (also a nonrepresentational artform) than to poetry (as I had been supposing in some earlier posts...).

    But I also wanted to comment on your remark regarding the "beauty" of Duchamp's Fontaine. I think that you are right, that part of what he was doing was saying that we only pay attention to certain features in certain contexts. So if you do not assume that it's an art object, then you're not going to notice whatever pleasing aesthetic properties it might have.

    I recall one time having a discussion with a fellow in which I pointed out that, in terms of pure perception, I did not see why headlights at night were considered less valuable than diamonds. He of course thought I was a nut, but the point is very similar: we think of diamonds as intrinsically beautiful objects--which also happen to be very expensive, in part because of that conception--so we value them much more than headlights, which we think of only in functional terms. But when analyzed in terms of pure aesthetic properties, it's difficult to see what the huge difference is supposed to be. So you're not alone, Njeb!

    You are also right, however, that art is defined as such in a social context, so even if a person produces work just like Jackson Pollack's and does it without knowledge of that artist's existence, the "latecomer" still gets no credit for having produced art. It's more like he has reinvented the wheel. The Andy Warhol-like proliferation of bright colored images (Marilyn, soup can, etc.) is virtually ubiquitous right now because of the internet. But when he did it, it was new, and people therefore regarded it as art. What is being done in emulation of Warhol is more like reproducing paintings of great artists to hang in hotel rooms.

    I am delighted that you have decided to join in on this discussion, and I'll look forward to your comments on perfumes as music as well. The same primordial capacity to evoke memories and images in our minds that abstract art possesses is found in both music and perfume, it seems to me.... This may also be one of the primary causes for our radical disagreements about perfumes and the ultimate source of the Tower of Babel problem.

    I hope that we'll be reading you here again soon!

  23. Thank you! I love this type of discussion, so I will definitively be checking back. On the topic of representative versus non-representative art, I just read your review of New York Oud and think the issue you raised there about naming perfumes fits well into this discussion. I completely agree that perfumers do their creations a disservice when they give them such literal names. It just invites comparisons to the "real thing" and takes away from whatever intrinsic beauty each individual could find in a perfume.

    I would prefer to approach each scent without any preconceived notions and just react to the smell itself, not whether the perfume smells as it's "supposed to." And then there is, as you mentioned, the perception that something is more valuable just because it costs more, again distorting a persons reaction to a scent (or anything, for that matter).

    I'm looking forward to the next topic as well. I agree with your thought that scent is like music. It's fleeting, you can't touch it, but it is powerful in it's ability evoke feelings, memories and images.

    Kudos to you for starting this blog. It's great!


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