A Growing Vocabulary for Your Nose
WHAT IS THE ODORBET
Please enjoy the growing vocabulary for our nose. Internationally sourced by artist Catherine Haley Epstein and art and olfactory historian Caro Verbeek. Please contact us for submissions, we look forward to fresh-scented new words to add to the Odorbet. We have over 240 words that we will share at random in three-word installations.
While Catherine & Caro are facilitating the Odorbet, it is an open resource for all odophiles. Other contributors will be added soon. If you are interested in contributing please contact us.
CATHERINE HALEY EPSTEIN is a multi-disciplinary artist, award-winning writer, designer, and curator. She wrote a book titled Nose Dive (2019) which explores the intersection of creativity with the science and anthropology of scent. Articles of note include “Primal Art: Notes on the Medium of Scent”, Temporary Art Review (2016). She writes about contemporary art and practice and culture at her platform Mindmarrow. She conducts workshops on the use of scent in creative practices, advises companies on scent-related projects, and continues to collaborate with artists and writers on unique initiatives that explore intersections between art and other disciplines.
Catherine served as Vice Chair of the Board of Directors of Visual Thinking Strategies, a non-profit based in New York City that has developed a proprietary program to teach children to think critically using fine art. She was co-founder of Point & Line, which was an innovative platform testing for deeper dialog with contemporary art and artists. She is a lifelong advocate for arts in schools and has worked with organizations such as Right Brain Initiative, Levi’s Strauss Youth Arts Program, the De Young Museum, and Southern Exposure, on projects, and in advisory roles to advance learning through the arts. She is currently a candidate for her Masters of the Art of Counseling with a focus on Psychodynamic Theory at Northwestern University.
CARO VERBEEK (1980) is an art historian and curator specialized in the senses of smell and touch and the intersensory phenomenon synaesthesia. She is currently finishing her PhD on (art) historical smells (with IFF and the Rijksmuseum).
She has developed several courses on sensory history and sensory skills, including ‘The Other Senses’ at the Royal Academy of Arts (The Hague) and ‘Knowning by Sensing’ at the Vrije Universiteit.
Her books and articles include “Inhaling Memories” (Senses & Society, 2013) and “Something in the Air - Scent in Art” (Villa Rot, 2015). Verbeek is also the founder of the scent culture program ‘Odorama’ at Mediamatic (Amsterdam).
Her aim is to re-narrate history from a sensory perspective by reconstructing and presenting historical scents and tactile poetry in museums and beyond.
ODORBET - INSTALLATION 14
Coronavirus-adjacent words for our Noses
"After six months from her first visit to the Ear Nose and Throat doctor with a complaint of anosmia, Judy had fully regained her sense of smell and was fully normosmic."
Normosmic is a medical term to describe someone with a normal sense of smell.
"In the nasal cavity, the olfactory epithelium contains olfactory receptor cells, which have specialized cilia extensions. These extensions trap odor molecules as they pass across the epithelial surface."
The unique tissue to the nasal cavity that reacts to volatile molecules or odorants.
"Since parosmia was a bi-product of her infection with COVID, familiar smells like coffee and cut grass she describes now as smelling like chemicals, rotting flesh and mould."
Parosmia is a term used in the medical profession to describe a health condition that may distort your sense of smell. If you are parosmic, you will experience a loss of scent intensityand will not be able to detect a full range of smells.
ODORBET - INSTALLATION 13
New Philosophical Nose Terms
"As fellow smellosopher Andreas Keller argues, in his book published four years prior to Barwich's book Smellosophy, a philosophy of olfactory perception would allow, demand, and grant a different language and open up novel ways to study sociospatial dynamics."
Smellosophy is the philosophy of smell, and a title of researcher Anne-Sophie Barwich's book. In her words, "my work focuses on the chemical senses and probes ways to apply philosophical ideas to empirical research on how we should model perception and cognition in the brain." She is also interested in the study of magic tricks.
"What differentiates odoterrorism from other terrorist tactics is that visual evidence can be slight and so offers little to news media eager for dramatic footage. Odoterrorism, however, not only typifies the actions of malevolent agents to weaponize air, it can also serve as the means for a growing genre of performance using smell. War remains a preoccupation of contemporary artists, and odours are a potent means to introduce disgust, abjectness, decay and sometimes danger." - Jim Drobnick
To use scent to terrorize.
"Although he died a long time ago, I can still clearly smell my father's studio with my inner nose."
Equivalent to 'inner eye', the inner nose is the mental capacity to smell things with the mind without actually being exposed to odorants. (word contributed by Caro Verbeek)
ODORBET - INSTALLATION 12
Scented Terms For Books
"The base notes suddenly wrapped her in vellichor: of memories that weren’t hers, but which she had lived; of all the shadows of books left unwritten, words left unsaid..." - Suzy Nightengale
Vellichor is the strange wistfulness of used bookstores, which are somehow infused with the passage of time—filled with thousands of old books you’ll never have time to read, each of which is itself locked in its own era, bound and dated and papered over like an old room the author abandoned years ago, a hidden annex littered with thoughts left just as they were on the day they were captured. - John Koenig (word contributed by Suzy Nightengale of the Perfume Society
"When the materials of a book decompose over time, they give off distinct organic volatile compounds, where the adhesive called lignon is particularly pungent."
The compound used in glue for book making and the source of the unmistakable scent of a book, which is often likened to vanilla Lignin is a class of complex organic polymers that form key structural materials in the support tissues of vascular plants and some algae. Lignins are particularly important in the formation of cell walls, especially in wood and bark, because they lend rigidity and do not rot easily. Chemically, lignins are cross-linked phenolic polymers.
"In the 2008 exhibit "If there Ever Was: An Exhibition of Extinct and Impossible Smells" the curator Robert Blackson asked perfumers and artists to act as olfactory detectives to recreate and preserve historic scents.
Olfactory Detectives are researchers interested in recreating and researching scents from the past. Heritage scientist Cecilia Bembibre and Matija Strlič co-authored a study published in the journal Heritage Science, where they tried to develop guidelines for characterizing, preserving and possibly even recreating old smells. They used old books to study this phenomenon of ofactory heritage.
ODORBET - INSTALLATION 11
Scented Terms From Larger Philosophies
"The heavenly door of self-cultivation is the nostril. Nostrils open to breathe out, and close to breathe in." "The doors of the nose and mout are a way for the primordial qi to come in from heaven and earth. People should breathe slowly, delicately and continuously with the nose and mouth, as if the breath were there, as if not." (page 394, History of Medicine in Chinese Culture, A), Boying Ma
Heavenly Door (expression, Taoist Philosophy) is a Tao expression referring to the nose, where the philosophy of Tao believes the heavenly Tao is the same as the human Tao, and the correspondence between man and the universe is an active essence running between them.
"Citrus and vetiver measure higher in geruchshelligkeit than the darker scent of spikenard."
Geruchshelligkeit (adjective, German) In 1931 scientist Von Hornbostel came up with this term to express the intensity of a scent in terms of shades of darkness and brightness.
"The woods near the ocean gave a synaesthetic verdazzurrodorato impression. I was no longer sure if I was smelling colour, or seeing scent."
Verdazzurrodorato (adjective, Italian, Art History) is a contraction of 'verde' (green) 'azzurro' (blue) and 'odorato' (scented) and refers to a 'bluishgreenscent'. Futurism (Italian: Futurismo) was an artistic and social movement that originated in Italy in the early 20th century that praised and emphasized modernity as a way to liberate Italy from the weight of its past. Futurist artists came up with many synaesthetic words by merging several adjectives belonging to different sensory domains.
ODORBET - INSTALLATION 10
Scented Art Historical Terms
"Sadakichi Hartmann's failed symphony of perfumes in New York's Miner's Theater in 1905, was an example where an artist attempted to capture the odoresque qualities of a moment, versus the visual or auditory elements.
Odoresque (adjective) is a Fin-de-siècle term equivalent to 'pitturesque'. Referring to a scentscape that stirs the olfactory imagination. First used by Sadakichi Hartmann, at the end of 19th century.
"With an olfactory gaze, the still life with cheeses at the Rijksmuseum had a much more sensory and aesthetic appeal."
Olfactory gaze (expression): In Lacanian psychoanalytic theory the 'gaze' is the anxious state of mind derived the self-awareness that one can be seen and looked at. In the arts the 'gaze' simply refers to the act of seeing. The 'olfactory gaze' means analyzing images with olfaction in mind.
"Smelling a similar scent in a different time period would have yielded a completely different reaction. Depending on the period nose, the valerian root smells divine, or of stinky cheese, which may or may not be desirable depending on the culture and belief systems surrounding perception."
Period nose (expression) is just like the term 'period eye' (by Baxandall) that indicates how perception is not just a physiological phenomenon, but rather structured by culture; 'period nose' indicates how the evaluation of smells depends on cultural context. (Classen, 1996)
ODORBET - INSTALLATION 9
Scent Classification Systems
The ethos behind Sissel Tolaas's Nasalo project is to dissuade people from categorizing "good' and "bad" smells, where neologisms such as 'puqsa' and 'phwoarr' are used to describe a scent.
The Nasalo is a proprietary dictionary of over 2,500 scent words created and managed by artist Sissel Tolaas. Born out of her smell archive that began in 1990, the artist has created an alphabet of fantasy words to describe scents. Her goal in creating new fantastical names of scent is to move scent perception out of the usual hedonic realm of "like" and "dislike". Sponsored by IFF she is able to use gas chromotography techniques to capture scents for everything from "money" to "dog poop".
The Odores Medicamentorum contains not only plant smells, but animal smell descriptors such as goat and civet. The seven categories are:
Known as the "father of modern taxonomy", Carl Linnaeus, in 1752 published Odores Medicamentorum, which was the first more complex system of decsribing scent since Aristotle. He was a Swedish botanist, zoologist, and physician who formalised binomial nomenclature, the modern system of naming organisms.
The odors the Serer Ndut choose to classify are self reflective and outward descriptions, demarcating otherness. For example the Fragrant category is used to describe themselves, versus Europeans who land in the Urinous category.
The Serer Ndut tribe from Senegal has a unique odor classification system.
Urinous: Europeans, monkeys, horses, dogs, cats, plants used as diuretics, squash leaves
Rotten: Cadaveurs, pigs, ducks, camels, creeping plants
Milky or fishy: Nursing women, neighboring tribes, goats, cows, antelopes, kackals, fish, frogs
Acidic: Spiritual beings, donkeys, tomatoes, certain trees and roots
Fragrant: Sere Ndut, Bambara, flowers, limes, peanuts, raw onions
Source: Aroma: The Cultural History of Smell by Anthony Synnott, Constance Classen, and David Howes
ODORBET - INSTALLATION 8
Literary Scented Terms
"Last night Huysmans was out in the streets again literally sticking his nose in all kinds of things. He is a true flaireur".
The flaireur (noun) is a smell walker term from the Fin-de-siècle. 'Flair' literally means 'sense of smell' (and intuition) in French. 'Flaireurs' were those excentric figures that roamed the streets around the 1900s looking for interesting smells.
"He was able to create a "Duftbild" in his mind of the perfume that would bring down everyone to their knees in adoration of him". (Patrick Süskind, 1982)
A mental smell (noun), also known as a Duftbild in German, is a fragrance image conjured solely in the mind.
"The fragrant spirals of smoke arose, as odeur opaline (intensely blue colours) in the air."
Odeur opaline is a French expression used in Fin-de-siècle which means an intensely deep blue odour.
ODORBET - INSTALLATION 7
Art Historical Scented Terms by Futurists (1909-1942)
"The caldagrodolce of her natural scent was impossible to bottle, though easy to imagine."
Caldagrodolce (noun) comes from combining the Italian words caldo (warm) and agrodolce (bittersweet). The contraction of the words was used by Italian Futurist founder and poet, Filippo Tommaso Marinetti (1932), in his "Ritratto olfattivo di uno donna".
"It no longer has the acid and warm smell of meat, but the frescacido of lymphs." from "Il Tamburo di Fuoco", by Filippo Tommaso Marinetti
Frescacido (adjective) is an Italian word literally translates as 'fresh sour’ A contraction of ‘fresco’ (fresh) and ‘acido’ (acid/ sour).
"While smell is a continuum certain smells will stop someone in their tracks who have narines excédées."
Narines excédées is a French expression literally translates ‘extraordinary nostrils’, or a keen sense of smell.
ODORBET - INSTALLATION 6
Art Historical Scented Terms by Futurists (1909-1942) & Symbolists (1886-1900)
"The mise en senteur was informed by woods and cool water, and effectively complimented the slow, rolling music, and moody dialogue."
Stench chords (expression) comes from the Italian expression accordi di fetori literally ‘chords of stench’. Futurist, Ennio Valentinelli believed stench could heighten the lyricism of olfactory poetry.
MISE EN SENTEUR
"The scent engineer and artist Christophe Laudamiel designed a mise en senteur for the Guggenheim in 2009."
Mise en senteur is a French expression literally a ‘scented composition’ derived from mise-en-scène; a concept taken from the realm of theatre. It refers to using scent as a theatrical device. It was first used for the scented Total Work of Art ‘Cantique des cantiques’ by Paul-Napoléon Roinard.
CONCERTO DI PROFUMI
"The concerto di profumi was breathtaking. But I feel the 'stench chords' were missing."
Concerto di profumi is an Italian expression literally ‘concert of perfumes’. From Futurist Ennio Valentinelli (ca. 1916), “L’arte degli odori”.
ODORBET - INSTALLATION 5
Completely Made Up Nose Words We Find Make Scents
"Upon entering the school building she read a sign 'no fragrance allowed', an admission that the art school was practicing scensorship."
Scensorship (noun) is to unjustly give restrictions to certain smells, and smell in general.
"An odophile true and true, she dedicated her life to the study of scent and olfaction in all of its manifestations, pleasurable as we"
An odophile (noun) is a person dedicated to the study and appreciation of all things to do with scent and olfaction.
"The odorbet is an excellent starting point to broaden your perception of and biases on scent, olfaction and communicating with smells."
A collection of words and expressions related to the physical act of smelling, that includes art, historical, scientific, and philosophical scent terms.
ODORBET - INSTALLATION 4
Science & Engineering Terms for the Nose
"Due to the aroma jet installed, when the player arrived at the forest, he suddenly smelled burnt wood: a dragon was about to toast him."
The AromaJet (noun) is a device with scent compartments from the 1990s was supposed to be attached to the computer, in order to add smells to games.
"Studying combinatory codes is a way to see how broad a reach an odor molecule may have."
A combinatory code (noun) is the code that occurs when the neuron code (eg. mOR272-1) matches an odor molecule (e.g. geraniol).
"The "KunKun" device is an electronic nose popular with consumers in Japan and helps individuals to detect body odors."
An electronic nose (noun) or eNose is a device intended to detect odors or flavors.
ODORBET - INSTALLATION 3
Philosophical Nose Terms
"While listening to her sing, a smound occurred in his mind, where low notes triggered the smell of chocolate."
Smound (noun or verb) A contraction of sound and smell. Septimus Piesse believed that sounds triggered the olfactory nerve and vice versa.
"The more we study olfactory phenomenology the broader our thoughts will be on scent including the good, the bad and the ugly: current research is focused on pleasant smells, others are just as powerful, though less researched.
Olfactory Phenomenology (noun) is the philosophical study of the structures of experience and consciousness as it relates to the olfactory system.
"After traveling throughout the world in search of cultural traditions in spices, she returned home with a world sniff unparalleled to her peers."
World Sniff (noun) is like a world view but with a nose, in other words: a concept of the world derived from an olfactory point of view.
ODORBET - INSTALLATION 2
Medical Conditions of the Nose
"He lived in a state of confusion, where cacosmia crippled his interactions with the world."
Cacosmia (noun) is a disorder of the sense of smell. It's a type of parosmia. It occurs when there's a problem somewhere along the pathway of smell. When this happens, a person is unable to recognize smells or interpret the odors of different substances.
"After a fierce season of Spring allergies and a head trauma, she was unable to detect the smell of her morning coffee where doctors diagnosed her with a case of hyposmia."
Hyposmia (noun), or microsmia, is a reduced ability to smell and to detect odors. A related condition is anosmia, in which no odors can be detected. Some of the causes of olfaction problems are allergies, nasal polyps, viral infections and head trauma.
"Orthonasal olfaction is used when we detect the smell of something solely through our noses, versus the detection of smell through tasting, which is different."
Orthonasal olfaction (noun) is defined as what your nose detects from sniffing something that exists in the world. Sniffing a rose, unless you're also chewing it, uses the orthonasalroute for smell.
ODORBET - INSTALLATION 1
"While making the fragrances for the exhibition, she took into account the physical space of the oditorium accounting for the size, ventilation, and."
Oditorium (noun) is the equivalent to the auditory or visual audience. That is, who will smell it, experience it, and bring their cultural and erosional histories to bear when experiencing a scent.
"He was commissioned as an air sculptor and created a work in concert with the scent opera performed at the museum."
An air sculptor (noun) is a perfumer, or artist who uses aroma chemicals, or raw materials (e.g. dirt, grass) to create an invisible dimensional object. If someone refers to themselves as an air sculptor, they will likely be following a philosophy informed by art or art history versus historical chemical arrangements used for perfumes production.
"If one claims to be a scent artist, then the first step before formal design of a scent with aroma chemicals must be an aroma doodle, similar to the artist sketch or study."
An aroma doodle (noun) may be referred to as a sketch, a playful arrangement of molecules without concern for the end product, finish or design.
"The sensations of smell which cheer, inform and broaden my life are not less pleasant merely because some critic who treads the wide pathways of the eyes has not cultivated his olfactive scent."
"Smells are surer than sights or sounds to make your heartstrings crack."
Please send your submissions or any questions, we'd love to hear from you!
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