So too can we introduce personal daily rites with scent to bring an aliveness into spaces where there existed before only familiar containers: a corner, a room, a home. Much has been written about the properties of scent to improve focus or modulate mood, the terrain of aromatherapy, herbal medicine and passed-down wisdom. Scent can also be used as a daily, intentional routine that offers insight into the self. Take for example kōdō, the ritual code of conduct and appreciation of incense that developed in 16th century Japan. It is considered one of the three classical arts (alongside flower arranging and tea). One is challenged to “listen” to incense, a slow, mindful and wholly present experience precisely because of how elusive it is. The ten virtues of kōdō, passed down over centuries, represent the full complexity of how this scent practice replenishes the body and spirit, while offering a sustainable ritual for life.
Setting an intent to pay deep attention to scent, just as we pursue visual beauty around us, leads to a more immersive, multi-sensory experience of life as we have a hand in creating it. Fragrance can be employed to carve out character and tone in emptiness, the lonely hours dictated by a quarantine, for example. It can be a force for expansion in small spaces, or intentionally mapped to create invisible architecture and olfactive poetry that flows through a space. Scent can codify habits, allow for flow of deep thought, or simply transform air into something else worth experiencing. Scent exists somewhere between the embodied and the intangible, forging a bridge between these two understandings.
Words by Natalie Toren.
Images by Se Young Au.
Natalie Toren is a Los Angeles-based writer with a special interest in olfactive culture and the narratives of scent. She has studied at The Institute for Art and Olfaction alongside multimedia artist Se Young Au. Natalie's writing spans food, beverage, and scent spheres, often highlighting the intersection of all
Se Young Au is a multi-disciplinary artist living and working in Los Angeles. Se Young's varied strengths utilise both stylistic and formal elements, which facilitate the composition of vivid and atmospheric imagery. Her interests lie in creating visual experiences and her work dissects notions of displacement, quantifies the intangible, and explores beauty as the sublime.
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