Saturday, 7 February 2009

Take a Young Raven from the Nest.....

This post is a little off-message since i'll be writing about a book of smells rather than a book about tea. But bear with me, because you'll love it.

Anyone interested in smells will find "If There Ever Was" fascinating. Subtitled "A Book of Extinct and Impossible Smells", the book was conceived to accompany an exhibition collecting a number of odours whose context has vanished (end of political era, extinction of plant components), or whose smells can only be imagined, such as the surface of the sun - mostly hydrogen, helium and copper.

The book, printed using a press, is a work of art in itself. Collecting together fourteen smells on scratch-n-sniff cards, each scent or odour is accompanied by a description of how it was imagined.
So, putting together the olfactory components that made up the scent of a medieval plague shield included "vinegar as this was the purifying base used at the time . We reconstituted rose leaves using rose oil and true raspberry leaves. We added different elements commonly used at the time to try preventing the settling of the Yersinia pestis (plague) bacteria, such as beeswax, angelica, orange peel, and clove. Also present in the plague shield is a smoky feeling because many fires of aromatic wood were lit at the time to try and fend off the polluted air."

Rub the scented page opposite and that's what you smell. A visceral historical experience as well as lesson in contemplation and in privileging our 'lesser sense'.

A proper review can be found here. One of the contributors Maki Ueda has a blog which can be found here. It's a delight.
Copies can be found at the ICA bookshop or online. (ISBN: 9780955747809)

1 comment:

Rowena said...

You can get the belt hanger from Ikea. X