Gunpowder has a smell

Art series about smellThe moon smells like gunpowder

"Ten nine ..."

Twenty-nine small NASA white balloons and a very large one - "... seven, six ..." - are about to burst. Live Moon Smelling in the New Wuppertaler Kunstverein. With a countdown, of course:

Apollo Mission: "Five, four, three ..."

For Hagen Betzwieser, artist of this happening for a good hundred visitors, it is not "one small step for man", that one step by Neil Armstrong - "two, one ..." - but what the Apollo 16 astronaut Charles Duke 1972 said: The moon would smell.

"It smells like gunpowder and has the taste of gunpowder, too. So he compares it to gunpowder and that smell is a bit sulphurous. Good description, as you can imagine: It smells like a cold New Year's Eve, 45 minutes after the fireworks . "

A last balloon bursts; the visitor says, however, that it smells "of rubber, I think the moon is a big balloon."

The scent of moondust

This is because the two milliliters of fragrance that Hagen Betzwieser put into the balloons evaporate quickly. It becomes clearer when the big balloon bursts: You can sniff out an intense chemical smell with a slightly organic finish. The artist has it produced exclusively in a British odor laboratory: an odor reconstruction. Moon dust had adhered to the spacesuits at that time and after re-entering the probe, under precisely these spatial conditions, the astronauts could have smelled something like that. It is interesting that Betzwieser receives inquiries from natural history museums who apparently want to speculate on how it might smell on the moon.

Smells, a fleeting and very subjective matter. "Olfactism - about smell" is the name of the six-part Wuppertal series.

"Slowly, in the last twenty years, it has been recognized that smell can also be art. In other words, that artists who work with smells can also be rated positively in art," says organizer Holger Bär. Odors are now really difficult to exhibit.

"The evaluation that has been made so far was: It was devalued because it was not that important and it was also not a product in the sense of value: So you can sell a picture of what you have for a lot of money, but a smell You can't sell it for a lot of money. In the art market, in museums, it doesn't have this value. There is a large perfume industry, that is, an odor industry, and the artists have to separate themselves from it and position themselves differently. "

Fragrances as a theme of art

Fragrances as a subject of art have been around for a long time. There is the famous jar "Merda d´artista" - artist shit - by the Italian Piero Manzoni from 1961, and much earlier the foul-up of the perfume industry by Marcel Duchamps, who made flacons with - yes - air inside. But the step towards current olfactory art is, for example, the Berlin Thomas Rentmeister: In recent years he has smeared huge canvases with Nutella and Penaten cream: You don't have to see the pictures. It smells one museum hall further: of childhood, of home, somehow to Germany.

Smells. As what makes art: In Wuppertal, visitors to "Olfactismus" will be able to stick their noses into something else after "Live Moon Smelling":

"Something completely different, that's true, something absolutely earthly, namely something edible. It will be a big piece of bacon."

The artist and cook Arpad Dobriban will exhibit half a pig, sausage and smoke it. And it's really about how the individual parts then smell on site. Although not directly nutritionally educational in its approach, this performance with an integrated banquet will nevertheless show the difference between smells that arise during home slaughter and what evokes when you open a package of cheap meat sausage and - oh yes - not so you can be absolutely sure whether the note is organic or inorganic in the finish.

"Olfactism" - that is a pointed, small art series with performances, happenings, science cabaret, seasoned at the end with a lecture that - again quite speculatively - lets the smells of bygone eras "smell" again. Why is Chanel No. 5 synonymous with the smell of modernity? How could it have smelled in the morning toilet of the Sun King, Ludwig, the 14th, in baroque times, when it was said: cat wash is enough, first of all a lot of perfume! An art series that promises fun.