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Installation 37: To Smell a Rat

Apologies to the powerful rodent that likely outnumbers the humans in Manhattan, but there is a case of rat smelling in the scent world. There are many people and practices doing unsavory things, and most will remain quietly existing forever as the rats do in the city. Much like rat sightings increasing 71% in the past two years in NYC, more and more is being exposed for all to see. Consumers are becoming more savvy and mindful when it comes to what we put in our noses, perfumers are becoming more honest and loud about these faux pas in the industry, and generous and savvy folks are sharing actual recipes for perfumes so you can see the actual ingredients.


Today's installation deals with the subtle science of scent detection, what we are capable of, what are boundaries are and where we are fed a mountain of misinformation. While we have presented the term Nosewash, a deceptive use of olfactive language by marketing firms in order to pull the wool over odiences, the following terms are related to the science of smelling that combined paint a picture of our forever vulnerable and unknowing noses when it comes to complicated scents such as the inky word "fragrance' in so many products for house, hair, face, body and laundry.



Stinkflam (Noun) Inspired by the term "flimflam" used to debunk ideas that are passing as science, stinkflam is olfactory misinformation; bunkum; false information presented as true with respect to ingredients being present and/or ingredients as having a physiological function.

It is stinkflam to assume that chemicals and ingredients in fragrance are able to boost your mood, or give you confidence: there is no scientific research or proof to these claims. That said the ritual of putting on the fragrance, or the memory a scent conjures may in fact boost your mood, or give you confidence. Similarly, stinkflam abounds in commercial perfumery where flowers, spice and plants are touted as ingredients that do not actually exist in the fragrance.


Laing's Limit (Noun) Research done in the 1980s and 1990s by David Laing, which proved that humans can perceive no more than four odors at one time.

The insistence on perfumer marketers to list mountains of notes in their descriptions ignores Laing's limit and puts undue pressure on the consumer to conceptualize pretend ingredients.


Cacosmia (Noun) Cacosmia 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.


Trying todecipher all of the supposed ingredients in a perfume as marketed, may lead a consumer to believe that they have a mild to moderate case of cacosmia.


Postscript: Highly entertaining possible stinkflam performance from 2016, an advertisement for a #foreverguilty campaign (tigers, ostrich, laundry, nail salon, grocery store, Courtney Love, Jared Leto and other expensive unrelated ingredients).

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