Monday, October 22, 2012

Martynka Wawrzyniak - Smell Me - Envoy Enterprises

Martynka Wawrzyniak

Richard Kern

About a year ago I went to a group show at Bullet Space. I had seen Martynka Wawrzyniak's film "Chocolate" on the internet, loved it, and I was excited to see it projected. While at the show I was thrilled to meet Richard Kern (Martynka's husband) who's one of my favorite photographers. While speaking with him he mentioned that Martynka had begun work on a project in which she would chemically reproduce the smells of her body and present them as a gallery show. I loved the idea but it seemed impossible to me that such a show could actually be practically realized. Who would dare to stage a show in which the primary product was to experience a smell?

A year later I stood at Envoy Enterprises in a line that snaked around the back of the gallery, dozens of people patiently waiting their turn to enter the smell chamber and take in the various scents that make up the essence of Martynka. The visual component of the work consists of a collection of beautiful, hand-crafted vials that contain the various scents, and what appeared to be aromatic candles.

To stand in a room and suddenly pay careful attention to the smells around you is a little overwhelming. It's like stopping to really listen to the room you are in and suddenly hearing all the little background noises you'd been subconsciously ignoring. Once in the seclusion of the 'smell chamber' the viewer(?) is given access to Martynka's private, primal data-stream that's typically reserved only for those granted close proximity. It feels almost intrusively intimate, even a little embarrassing, like an olfactory peep-show. The smeller is left with a raw, human-animal portrait.

For an in-depth bit of actual journalism on the show, and to learn exactly how it came to fruition, go here