Efemmeral's Perfume Blog

8 years ago - 27.06.2014

Keep Calm and Carry On Consuming


This is a very interesting article discussing the recent provocative (apparently!) promotion-without-a-product (apparently!) of the unpurchasable Eau de M by Martynka. Eau de M can only be sniffed on scent strips in a fashion magazine. The article also raises ideas around scent in art and gives a small history (via art historian Hannah Higgins) of avant garde olfactory projects in the last century.

The exhibition (Smell Me) and advertising of Martynka Wawrzyniak that prompted Barbara Herman's article are worth a minute's attention too: what the artist has done conceptually and in marketing *herself* is fascinating. Do not be thrown off the scent by the appearance of her advertising a slightly edgy "fragrance" in Harpers Bazaar, she is promoting *herself* not armpit scent per se.

But witness the consumerist resistance (comments on fragrance forums) and downright hostility (quoted in the article from bewildered would-be buyers at Martynka.com) to not being able to buy the damn product already! (or at least to be permitted to exercise the equally satisfying flip-side of consumption, proving one's consumerist discernment by smugly-not-buying-on-this-occasion). But to be told you cannot buy?

You could relax. The subtitle to all this is Keep Calm and Carry On Consuming. Because of course you are *not* left with nothing to buy, you have just misunderstood the product. And you are not at fault, you have been misled for the purposes of the *real* consumer in this case. Here it is the artist and her work that is on the market. Her collector who funded the Harpers advertising does so astutely, it is an investment in the artist's profile and caché. No doubt the prices of her work and her collectability will not suffer from the broader attention.

It's an interesting spin on the prevalent use of fragrance to monetise celebrity. Here the artist uses a little of the tame edginess that made Etat Libre d'Orange great to celebretise the money. I'm tongue in cheek because I find it bewildering that human odours are quite so taboo in some circles and cultures. But American Harpers would have to be taboo HQ on this, so the Eau de M strip was well placed to disquiet.

I like it. I feel Wawrysniak has said things about consumerism, intimacy and celebrity in a new way. She is certainly engaging a new (albeit somewhat unwilling) audience with Art, and I do appreciate her expanding the world of art and ideas beyond the gallery walls. It's pleasing to see people engaged with a concept and grappling with ideas on different levels. And my goodness, the mini-reviews of the scent strip on Fragrantica with scent-lovers heartily enjoying another woman's body odour are wonderful!

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