The Scent of a Woman
Detail ‘5318008’, photo courtesy Kofi Paintsil and the artist Tasha Marks.
This month is women’s history month, so we are paying aromatic tribute to the power of the female body. Specifically our boobies!! We’ve uncovered a unique artist and her work recently and are excited to share it with you. It is becoming clear the power of collaboration when it comes to olfactory art projects, and this artist is no exception to the strength in interdisciplinary and collaborative approaches to scent.
Tasha Marks is an award-winning UK-based artist and food historian who runs a creative practice called AVM Curiosities®. She works with museums and institutions on projects exploring the intersections between the senses and the gallery space. Her endlessly curious projects are supported by incredible collaborative teams, where she works with sculptors, perfumers, and artisans for prime smellervation experiences.
In 2019 the Wellcome Collection opened an exhibition titled “Being Human”. Founded in 2007, the Wellcome Collection is an innovative museum and library in London. Its mission is to “challenge how we think and feel about health” by studying the connections between science, medicine, life and art. Tasha’s featured work in this exhibition is part of the Wellcome’s permanent collection. So fear not, it is on permanent display for 10 years, so you can absolutely experience it post quarantine, and it's free entry!
The “Being Human” show was broken down into four parts, including - “environmental breakdown” and ‘infection”. So in the same room as Yinka Shonibare’s “Refugee Astronaught”, was Tasha’s “5318008”. Her scented bronze breast piece was featured in the infection section, and his work was in the environmental breakdown section.
So how does a smell-based structure of a breast have to do with infection? Her sculpture ‘5318008’ has been designed to emit an aroma that evokes the smell of human breast milk, as a celebration of the original superfood and the bifidobacteria, which is transferred from mother to child through breastfeeding. This clever bacterium then aids the breakdown of sugars in breast milk via the baby’s digestive system. This powerful aromatic tribute to our bodies, and their complexity is nothing short of fantastic. And seriously playful. The title is meant to sound scientific, but it is simply “BOOBIES” spelled backward on a calculator.
Photo courtesy Kofi Paintsil and the artist.
While we are unable to smell the sculpture now, we can imagine the smell. Olfactory art historian Caro Verbeek last year created an olfactory wheel for breastmilk which we can reference while imagining Tasha’s work. In her Breast Milk Flavour Wheel, she includes many scents profiles including vanilla, salty and earthy. She presented her findings at Mediamatic in Amsterdam titled "Odorama: Milk – Scent of a Woman." If anyone reading has ever tasted breastmilk it’s the answer and foundation as to why on earth we are so obsessed with sweets.
Odorbet’s Installation 21 are words we’ve chosen with Tasha to reflect her practice and inspire all to make more scented art:
Olfactory Curator: The taking care and careful selection of scent for a specific context, concept or collection. Olfactory curating does not imply making a scent.
Sniffsmith: An act of making that is both traditional and physical, yet also olfactory and imaginative. Tasha has always been interested in scenting spaces, there’s something architectural about it. “What I do is often about making the aroma physical in some way, where I am making scent visible.” – contributed by Tasha Marks
Scenterpiece: The landscape of the table, where sensory ideas, especially scent, are played with. 'Scenterpiece' is a well-used word in Tasha Mark’s practice and is the title of her piece up now at Rainham Hall, part of the National Trust. – contributed by Tasha Marks
Tasha Marks - Photo: Philip Sinden courtesy of Grey Goose
Tasha Marks is a food historian and artist that founded AVM Curiosities® which explores the relationship between art and the senses through a series of events and interventions since 2011. She champions the use of food and fragrance as artistic mediums, with projects ranging from museum exhibitions (including the Victoria & Albert Museum and The National Gallery and the British Museum), and scented installations to interactive lectures and limited-edition confectionery.
Tasha was recently published in the Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets, where she wrote the chapter on Mrs. Beeton, one of the Victorian Era’s most infamous cooks. She also regularly writes for the British Museum blog, is a consultant for various TV shows in the UK and curated the UK’s first pineapple museum.
Tasha was Grey Goose ‘Iconoclast of Taste’, Selfridges’ “Bright Young Thing’ and a finalist in the Young British Foodies (YBFs) - Experiential Category. She was also longlisted for the Aesthetica Art Prize.