Olfactory Art Manifest



On August 11th, 1913 Carlo Carrá published "La Pittura dei suoni, rumori, odori: Manifesto futurista" [The Painting of Sounds, Noises, Smells: Futurist Manifesto]. This is the first manifest in which a reference is made to, amongst others, smell.

However, since then, smell was only used sporadically in visual arts. Smell was referenced to, but smell as a medium for the work was hardly ever applied. Only few knew how to find their way to this medium, but then it was only used once or sporadically. It would take until the end of the 20th century before visual artists consequently used smell in all of their works.

Even though the number of visual artists who only create works with smell or used smell in combination with the visual and/or the auditive was rather limited, in the last decennia there has been a clear increase of artists who see smell as an equal medium to paint or to other classic media. Smell becomes more valued as 'part of the work of art' or as 'smell as the work of art' in itself.

There is also a clear increase in interest from the scent industry, more specifically the world of perfumes, which present their scent creation as a piece of art, whether or not linked to the visual arts. Some classic perfumes are even compared to certain –isms from art history. Some 'noses' do not always see their work in light of commerce and are rather looking for the perfect smell art work.

Cross-overs and cooperations between perfumers and visual artists arise. Artists get to know the world of smell better and noses see the added value to link their work of scents to a certain social context. Smell has never been as hot in the world of arts as the last couple of years and we are only at the beginning of this revelation.

The most undervalued sense throughout (art) history has seldom gotten so much attention in the world of art as the last decennia. Institutes, organisations and several museums show more and more olfactory art. There is an up rise in organisations, institutes and museums who specializes into Olfactory Art. Also colleges are more open to the integration of smell as medium for the work of art in the education of young rising talent.
This makes the young artists more open to the integration of smell into their work. They venture the smell experiment.

Just as sound, photography and video have become accepted media, smell is becoming common goods of the visual arts. Yet, the integration remains limited for now and that is why this Manifest is written, to bring Olfactory art under the attention as a worthy form of art. Thus we can talk about a new art movement. Therefore, with this manifest, Olfactory Art is added to the –isms of art and now one talks about 'Olfactism'.




Olfactism is a term derived from the Latin verb olfacere (to smell). Despite this term also being used in e.g. synaesthesia in which it has more of the meaning of a sensation of smell originated by other senses than the olfactory stimuli, in the art movement, we look at this term as an –ism rather from the smell as a medium that gives context and/or can be the concept of the work. But this does not take away that the manner in which synaesthesia looks at the term is interesting. Eventually it is about a cross-over between smelling and the idea of smelling, the senses and the translation of the observation and / or experience.

In general we see Olfactism as when we talk about art in which smell is used as a medium and is part of the work or whether the smell in itself is a piece of art. A visual representation is nevertheless also possible if it is clear that it concerns smell concepts and / or works of art in which smell is context or gives context.

We can divide Olfactism in Olfactionism and Olfactorism.




Fact & Action

In the word Olfactionism we find the words 'Fact' and 'Action'. Two ideas which clarify the term. Through the use of a 'Fact', one can encourage someone to 'Action', but 'Action' can also encourage someone to reflect on a 'Fact' and even to accept a 'Fact'. So can smell let you think about a 'Fact'. Smell makes you then devolve to 'Action' to question the 'Fact', whether or not to except it or even to react against it or to stride for it. But smell can also be the 'Fact', the result, observation or experience of a certain Action. Smell hereby gives context to the work.

Smell can also be 'Action' when it makes you reflect, ascertain or experience. In other words, smell is 'Fact' and 'Action' but does not necessarily need to be the two together and does not even have to be one or the other to go into Action or to determine a Fact.
The word Fact can also be found in Olfactorism, but then we start mainly from the smell as a 'Factor' and scent as an 'Actor'.



- A 'Fact ' is an event, data or a situation in which the reality is fixed

- A 'Fact can be observed either sensory and / or instrumental measured. The observation in itself can be subjective and dependant of the personal circumstances and interpretations.

- A 'Fact' determines the observation, but the observation can also influence a 'Fact'.

- Facts are at the base of knowledge.

- Facts can be organized by the mind to an understanding.

- Facts are in close connection with the term truth.

- A Fact is usually generally accepted.


From the above, one can deduct that a Fact can give context or can be context. The use of a Fact(s) can also be a concept, conceptually or can support a concept.
Facts can provoke thinking, reflection, observation and can sometimes also provoke action and reaction.




In the word Olfactionism one can see the word 'action' and this is exactly what smell wants to accomplish here. To encourage the spectator to action, but also reaction. A work of art with smell, or smell as a work of art serves to encourage the onlooker to think and should not merely be seen as decoration of the work unless the shape of this decoration also contributes to the contents of the work. In other words, smell needs to contribute to the context of the work. Smell can be the context carrier , but also the context giver in relation to the other elements of the work of art, being e.g. the visual and / or the auditive, the tactile or the gustative. One could say that smell needs to have an associative impact.

Here, smell can also have a normal supportive function, but only when this function is an element which cannot be missed in the work of art in order to come to the correct context of the work. If the smell is omitted, the work would lose the attention for her context and also the 'Action' would be different or would be completely lost.

- An 'Action' is an intent and usually has a purpose in its mind

- An 'Action' can either be physical, mental or instrumental

- An 'Action' is an activity.

- An 'Action' is observable by at least one sense unless the 'Action' is the consequence of an arising thinking pattern and this 'Action' is only played out in the memory, or in other words het thinking or the recalling of a memory.

- An 'Action' usually has a reaction and / or can also make someone think, reflect about a reaction, but is therefore not necessarily the cause or the consequence of a reaction. An Action can give a Fact another insight which causes this reaction.


In general, the term Olfactionism will be mainly used for works of art in which the smell in itself gives context or the smell in combination with the visual and/or the auditive, tactile or gustative has a context. Smell can also be used as concept of the work to reach a context in relation to other senses.

The title of the work can also give another context to the smell or smell can do this to the title. E.g. the title in not understandable at first, but in relation to the smell and/or other elements of the work, - if these are present -, get a new reading content by which the whole does get a certain or other context.




The Olfactorism

Factor & Actor

One speaks about the Olfactorism when smell is only the 'actor' or 'factor' of the work. The term Olfactorism is mainly used in works of art that consist solely out of smell or smell only in combination with colours, shapes, compositions, contrasts, light or darkness. The smell factor of the work in itself is central. The context can be found in how the smell in itself is composed and what it evokes or what is experienced. Under the Olfactorism we mainly find a lot of composed smells including perfumes. Centrally is the smell and the experience of the smell, but also the composition can be determining to be calculated to the Olfactorism. One could compare the Olfactorism with the search to the correct composition, in the same way as one finds movements in the pictorial art in which the composition of the work prevails.


- Composition of smells, composed smells and/ or simple smells

- Use of natural, nature identical and/or synthetic smells in a certain composition to come to a new smell

- Mixed smells

- Use of new smell molecules

- Throughout the time mixed smells, amongst others a smell concert

- Through physical displacement, mix the smells in a room


With the Olfactorism also belongs the letting one smell of scent analyses, or the remodelling of smells of certain locations, bodies, animals, objects and plants to make the spectator olfactory conscious of its environment, identity and/or situation. Also the registering of smells and capturing these on a map with the intention to make the spectator olfactory conscious of its environment is part of Olfactorism. In other words, the creation of smell consciousness of the state in which the spectator finds him/herself by the use of nothing but odors also belongs amongst the Olfactorism. When the creation of smell consciousness of a state does not only happen through odors, but also through another mean or a device which is not a smell, this is part of Olfactionism, same as the encouragement to smelling through smell devices which is part of Olfactionism.

The creation of memories of smell, only through an odor belongs to Olfactorism. The remake of smell memories through an odor can recall, give to a certain location, situation or happening, a context.
The use of smells in architecture, and thus contributing to a form of life or living can also be part of the olfactorism when this does not have a commercial, entertainment and/or medical function. Smell can therefore also support the tactile of building materials or even through smell of the chosen building materials give an added value and contribute to the experiencing of the building. The smell in relation to the building is subjective, but the combination can recall a cognitive thing and / or feeling.

Smell in combination with the tactile, music or sound can also be part of the olfactorism when this combination has an artistic experience or lesson without relapsing into amusement, medical or commercial outbursts. When the combination is the onset to discourse, we will rather speak of olfactionism.

Concretely, one could say that the Olfactorism is the 'architecture van the smell' which gives artistic values, which is more than only the composed.



Olfactionism or Olfactorism?

To prevent confusion between both, the term Olfactism can be chosen as a general description. The subdivision will only be necessary once we want to make a difference between Olfactory works of art.

To classify the use of smells which does not belong to the Olfactism and its two subdivisions Olfactionism and Olfactorism, we use the term Olfactourism. In this –ism, the word 'Tourism' is concealed and it is a clear reference to the non-art form, but to the sub lying reference to the crafty, illustrative, potentially medical (e.g. aroma therapy) and entertaining.



The Olfactourism

Amongst others the following belong to the Olfactourism, unless they contribute to the work of art in which the context is created or unless this is used in an art installation. But then the whole of the work or the installation is considered as a work of art and not the part of the smell separately.

- Illustrative smells in the support of an image/cartoon
- Smell commercials
- Functional odorants
- Atmosphere odors
- Aroma therapy
- Traditional techniques for the creation of odors, see distillation, enfleurage,...
- Smell workshops, perfume workshops
- Smell/scent-dj (use of smell in festivals, performances, parties, discotheques, ....)
- Odor atomization in a non-artistic film, video or documentary
- Use of scent technologies for the amusement of the spectator
- Scratch & Sniff for commercial purposes, movies (except art movies) and publications (except signed and numbered art editions)
- Scented animation
- Smell communication
- Perfumes which do not fulfil the criteria of Olfactorism
- Hobby perfume makers
- ...



Numeration of Olfactory Art forms

Art is free and a numeration of different possibilities to create Olfactory art should not be a limitation, therefore this list is not complete and can be freely completed. Important is that smell is an essential part of the work and that together it qualifies as Olfactism.

- Smell installations
- Scent paintings
- Scent sculptures
- Scent drawings
- Scent rooms
- Scent architecture
- Smell devices which do not have a commercial function, but do have as a purpose to make the spectator olfactory conscious or to give a certain context in which is referenced to the smell or as a device is used to support the smelling.
- Perfumes
- Smell performances which can also be called Perfumances when the medium smell is used.
- Smell videos and smell movies
- The nose (in which the function of the smelling is enforced and not purely as a visual part of the human being or animal)
- Smell maps of cities for which the focus is in the creation of smell consciousness of a situation.
- Smell dancing
- Digital scent technology art works
- ....



About the smell!

Appetising, beautiful, pleasant, wonderful, super, bad and stink!


In the Olfactism, the smell in itself or as 'part' is determining of the work. The smell can be EVERYTHING. There are no limitations, as long as the smell contributes to the work or is the work itself. Therefore not only single odorants are possible, but also composed smells such as perfumes or a mix of smells which is created throughout the time as is the case in smell concerts en smell-dj settings when these do not empower amusement, commerce of the medicinal.
The amusement, commerce and medicinal as smell output can be a part of the work in order to reach a certain context so that it belongs to olfactism, but not when it in only used in its function without and added value or without giving purpose to others.
Odors can smell good, but can also be bad and stink! As long as the choice of smell is consistent with the idea of the artistic work and contributes to its meaning, reading direction and/or experience of the work.
Smell is freedom.


This manifest calls all artists to enter into the smell experiment.

This manifest calls all curators, museum directors, makers of exhibitions and organisers to show more olfactory art.

This manifest calls all spectators to look beyond their nose when they experience an olfactory Art Work, to stand still with the context of the work and to ponder about the function of smell as medium.


This manifest calls EVERYONE to smell harder!


Keep on smelling

Written by Peter de Cupere, 2014

This manifest will be signed by the artist Peter de Cupere with his 'own' smell on August 11th, 2014
Only a limited edition will be printed and signed. More info soon

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