PETER DE CUPERE

PETER DE CUPERE

source: nytimes

Peter De Cupere’s “Tree Virus” sculpture wasn’t much to look at: a dead, black tree rooted in a craggy white ball suspended over a dirt pit, all of it covered by a plastic igloo. Built on a college campus in the Netherlands in 2008, the whole thing might have been leftover scenery from a Tim Burton film if it weren’t for the outrageous smell.

Inside the igloo, a heady mix of peppermint and black pepper saturated the air. It flooded the nose and stung the eyes. Most visitors cried; many ran away. Others seemed to enjoy it, laughing through the tears.

Such is the strange power of olfactory art.

“When you walk into an installation with scent, you cannot hide. Your body starts to react,” said Mr. De Cupere, a Belgian artist who has been using odors to trigger visceral reactions for nearly 20 years. “When you look at something, you start to think about it. I want people to also feel how work can impact you.”

Yes, Mr. De Cupere makes art that stinks. Sewage, sweat, rotten fish, cigarettes, urinal cakes. But also grass, toothpaste, candy, flowers and soap. All have figured prominently in the installations, paintings, perfumes, performances and even an iPad app of this provocateur. He is just one of several contemporary artists using odor to create art that delivers an intensely personal, emotional and sometimes physical experience.

Smell has an unfair advantage over the other senses when it comes to eliciting a response, researchers say. “There is a unique and directly intimate connection between where smell is processed in the brain and where memory is stored,” said Rachel Herz, a psychologist at Brown University and the author of “The Scent of Desire: Discovering Our Enigmatic Sense of Smell.” The olfactory bulb — the bundle of neurons that transmits information from the nose to the brain — is part of the limbic system, which supports emotion, long-term memory and adrenaline flow. “This is where that special characteristic that really distinguishes olfaction comes from.”

Just as Proust’s madeleines opened a floodgate to childhood memories, scents can recall different feelings depending on how a person first encountered them. “The classic example is wintergreen mint,” considered a very pleasant odor in the United States but unpleasant in Britain, Dr. Herz said. “In the U.K., wintergreen is the scent of bathroom cleaning products or medicine. In the U.S., it’s candy.”

Dr. Herz added that she had always enjoyed the smell of skunk, because before she learned its source, she recognized it as the smell of the woods.

Mr. De Cupere, 44, is well aware of the physiology he exploits. By using smells that are both familiar and out of place — like a cityscape carved out of soap or a gas station with pumps that smell like grass — he not only comments on environment, beauty and climate (three of his favorite topics), but interacts with people’s memories.

“With odor, I can make work that’s universal, that everyone can understand, but still there will be a personal aspect to it,” he said in a telephone interview. “It’s more intimate than seeing, and it’s very subjective. It adds another dimension to the work.”

Art that incorporates scent has always been an outlier, and not without reason. Smells, which start with microscopic chemicals floating through the air, are hard to control and susceptible to environmental conditions. In 1902, a poet and art critic named Sadakichi Hartmann tried using perfume and a fan to stage a “scent concert” in New York, but was foiled by clouds of tobacco smoke and was eventually booed offstage. Smell-o-Vision, a method developed decades later for pumping odors into a movie theater, failed in part because the smells took too long to reach the balcony. Even today, Mr. De Cupere needs galleries showing his work to take it easy on the air conditioning.

Mr. De Cupere discovered the power of scent at a young age. At 9, he distilled grass from his backyard to make a perfume, and saw it brighten the mood of people on the bus. “It’s 7 o’clock in the morning, everyone is tired, but you enter the bus and there’s this smell of fresh-cut grass, and people start to smile,” he said.

Though there is a definite ick factor to much of his work — last year he distilled his bodily fluids to produce a cologne he calls “Own Smell” — Mr. De Cupere has a playful side. In 1999, he installed 333 bronze clown noses in a children’s cancer clinic in Brussels, then pumped in the scent of Fruittella, a European candy.

Working with Cartamundi, a Belgian card game manufacturer, he recently produced Olfacio, billed as the first smell-recognition app for the iPad, in which a drawing by Mr. De Cupere appears to react when scratch-and-sniff cards are placed on the screen. (In reality, the screen is reading a special ink in the cards.)

More often, he uses smells to provoke. He has made statues of the Virgin Mary out of urinal cakes, holy water and vaginal secretions. And “Warflower,” on display at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London, is a grotesque plant that smells of gunpowder, growing out of a soldier’s helmet.

Mr. De Cupere has a high profile in his home country, and there is evidence his appeal is spreading. He is having his first exhibition in Cuba, and will have others in Switzerland, Italy, the Netherlands and Germany this year.

He’s never exhibited in the United States — a tough market, given Americans’ conventional tastes in both art and odors, said K.J. Baysa, chief strategy officer of the Institute for Art and Olfaction in Los Angeles. Mr. De Cupere’s work “is certainly not what one thinks of when one mentions artworks that involve scent, because we are accustomed to its association with the pleasing notes of perfumes,” Mr. Baysa said. “Art with an edge is not meant to appeal to the masses.”

Mr. De Cupere is more optimistic. “People are not used to it yet,” he said. “They find it crazy. But smell has a lot of possibilities.”
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source: lagaceta

La escultura de Peter de Cupere, “Tres virus”, no era una gran cosa para contemplar: un árbol muerto, negro, enraizado en una arrugada pelota blanca, suspendida sobre un hoyo en la tierra, todo cubierto por un iglú de plástico. Hecha en un campus universitario en los Países Bajos en 2008, todo parecía residuos de la escenografía de una película de Tim Burton; salvo por el olor escandaloso.

Dentro del iglú, una mezcla intoxicante de menta y pimienta saturaba el aire. Inundaba la nariz y picaban los ojos. Lloraron la mayoría de los visitantes; muchos salieron corriendo. Otros, parecían disfrutarlo, riendo entre lágrimas.

Ése es el extraño poder del arte olfativo. “Cuando entras en una instalación con aroma, no te puedes esconder. Tu cuerpo empieza a reaccionar”, dijo De Cupere, un artista belga que usa olores para disparar reacciones viscerales durante sus muestras. “Cuando ves algo, empiezas a pensar en ello. Quiero que la gente también sienta cómo la obra te puede impactar”, agregó.

Sí, De Cupere hace arte que apesta. Aguas negras, sudor, pescado podrido, cigarrillos, desodorante en pastillas para inodoros. Sin embargo, también usa pasto, pasta de dientes, dulces, flores y jabón. Todos han tenido un papel prominente en las instalaciones, pinturas, perfumes, representaciones y hasta aplicaciones para iPad de este artista provocador. Claro que de Cupere sólo es uno de varios artistas contemporáneos que utilizan el olor para crear arte que aporta una experiencia intensamente personal, emotiva y, a veces, física.

El olfato tiene una ventaja injusta sobre los otros sentidos cuando se trata de generar una respuesta. “Existe una conexión única y directamente íntima entre el punto donde se procesa el olor en el cerebro y donde se almacena la memoria”, explicó Rachel Herz, una psicóloga en la Universidad Brown y autora de “The Scent of Desire: Discovering Our Enigmatic Sense of Smell”. El bulbo olfativo -el bulto de neuronas que transmite información de la nariz al cerebro- es parte del sistema límbico que apoya a las emociones, la memoria de largo plazo y el flujo de adrenalina. “De ahí es de donde proviene esa característica especial que realmente distingue al olfato”, sostuvo.

Tal como las magdalenas de Proust abrieron una puerta a los recuerdos infantiles, los aromas pueden hacer recordar distintos sentimientos, dependiendo de cómo la persona se topó con ellos la primera vez. “El ejemplo clásico es la menta de gaulteria”, considerado un olor muy agradable en Estados Unidos, pero desagradable en Gran Bretaña, comentó Herz.

De Cupere, de 44 años, está muy consciente de la fisiología que explota. Al utilizar olores que son tanto familiares como que están fuera de lugar -como un horizonte urbano tallado en jabón o una gasolinería con bombas que huele a pasto-, no solo le permite hablar sobre el medio ambiente, sino que interactúa con los recuerdos de las personas. “Con el olor, puedo hacer obras universales, que todos pueden entender”, dijo.
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source: peterdecuperenet

Exoten zijn uit het buitenland afkomstige bomen die een plaats zoeken tussen inheemse flora en fauna. Het Belmonte Arboretum is als verzameling van bomen, planten en struiken al vanaf haar ontstaan gastvrij voor exoten. Juist daarom is het Arboretum een geschikte plaats als tijdelijk nieuw onderkomen voor beeldende kunst. Is de kruisbestuiving tussen kunst en natuur een waardevolle aanvulling op het bestaande of een verstoring van de normale natuurlijke omgeving? Het Arboretum kan ook gezien worden als een metafoor voor de culturele diversiteit van de huidige samenleving. Waardevolle mengvormen zijn zichtbaar, maar ook uitsluiting, verlies aan identiteit en concurrentiestrijd. De tentoonstelling Exoten beweegt zich rond deze twee uitgangspunten.
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source: source: peterdecuperenet
Smell-installation with intensive peppermint smell. Visitors start to cry by entering the smell-installation.

Peter De Cupere made especially for this exhibition a new smell-installation, ‘PTDB – Tree Virus’. The main fragrance is an intense mix of peppermint in combination of black pepper. The whole installation is presented in a hemisphere (ø 7 m and H 3,70 m). The PTDB- Tree Virus excists of one big peppermint ball which has a dimension of ø 150 cm. On this peppermint ball grows an old tree. The smell is so intensive that it could be posible that visitors starts to cry by the scent reaction of these excellent mix of fresh peppermint concentrate with the black pepper spieces. In the tree grows little PTDB – Tree Viruses. The idea is a reflection about half-parasites (cfr. the plant: maretak).
exoten.jpgThis summer sees the ninth Beelden op de Berg outdoor exhibition in the Belmonte Arboretum on the Wageningse Berg. Entitled Exoten (Exotics), the exhibition runs from 8 June to 21 September 2008.

Exotics are trees from elsewhere that seek a place among the native flora and fauna. Since its inception, the collection of trees, plants and shrubs in the Belmonte Arboretum has always welcomed exotics. This makes the Arboretum a perfect temporary setting for works of art. Do alien surroundings add an extra dimension to sculptures and

installations, photos and computer animations, performance art, olfactory and audio works? And does the crossover between art and nature result in a valuable addition to what already exists or is it a disturbance of the natural environment? Are you irritated by the presence of art or does it inspire you to look anew at a park landscape? What is more, the Belmonte Arboretum is a metaphor for the cultural diversity of contemporary society. It is a collection of all sorts of species that share a defined space. This leads to valuable hybrids, but also to exclusion, loss of identity and competition. The works of art on display in Exotics revolve around these two perspectives.