Nadia Wagner: "Recent addition to the permanent collection"
Date: July 18–August 8, 2009
Cabinet is pleased to announce the opening of Recent addition to the permanent collection, an invisible modification of the Cabinet event space by Nadia Wagner that invokes change, decay, and prestige via the use of a signature of the scent of oak moss.Oak moss (Evernia Prunastri) is a natural lichen which has a very lovely, smooth, and slightly musty odor. Highly sought after as an ingredient in perfumes in the nineteenth century, the use of natural oak moss declined after 1898, when a single part of its odor profile, Evernyl, was isolated and synthesized for the first time and became an ingredient in a range of famous 1920s perfumes and, via the vagaries of cold war fashion, 1970s men's colognes.
Oak moss itself is no longer easily available in commercial quantities. It grows chiefly in old stands of oaks, moldering slowly in very still groves. It has been close to unobtainable since 1986, as many of the best remaining natural sources are deep in the Ukraine, around a small town called Chernobyl.
Evernyl, for its part, remains a staple of the flavor and fragrance industry. Also known as Mousse Metra, Veramoss, or more rigorously, methyl 2,4-dihydroxy-3,6-dimethylbenzoate, the scent of Evernyl was described in Stephan Jellinek's classic technical text Perfumery: Practice and Principles with a single, oddly untechnical word: "dusty". He elsewhere classifies it as erogenic, in accordance with his unusual application of Freudian theory to the sense of smell.
For her installation at Cabinet, Nadia Wagner will be bombing the building with Evernyl, a scent that is much stranger and more persistent than the landlord has been led to expect.
In her artist talk preceding the opening, Wagner will be presenting and explaining a library of ninety scents, some attractive—such as cis-3-hexanol, the smell of fresh cut grass—and some less attractive, such as scatol, the smell of feces, and costus, the smell of dirty hair.
Cabinet kindly requests that patrons refrain from wearing any perfume or fragrance to this exhibition.
About the Artist
Nadia Wagner is researching the classification of odors, the relationship between odor and space, and its applications to architecture and design. Her article, “Notes on Scent,” on the problem the sense of smell poses to description, appeared in issue 32 of Cabinet magazine. She teaches at the College of Fine Arts, the University of New South Wales, Sydney, and has also exhibited her work in Beijing, Edinburgh, and Berlin.
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© 2009 Cabinet Magazine