Monday, April 20, 2009

'Icon Meets Icons' Exhibition at the Al Sabah Art & Design Gallery...

Postcards of the displayed work...

Managed to finally visit the 'Icon Meets Icons!' exhibition at the Al Sabah Art & Design Gallery yesterday, which consisted of a number of, predominantly Western, designers interpreting the classic Chanel No. 5 perfume bottle. In many ways it's a nice exhibition, with the various bottles, or bottle compositions, displayed on what seemed to be burned or charred wooden trellises, scattered around the gallery space. Many of the pieces are quite '7elo' (pretty) and do provide their fair share of eye-candy...

On two points, however, the exhibition was somewhat of a lost opportunity.

Firstly, it would have been great to include a bit more of an explanation why the bottles were manipulated and interpreted the way they were. There were a set of postcards by the stand of each individuals stand, but these, beyond including the designer's name, didn't include much more. It would have been helpful to to know, for example, what Pepe Heykoop attempted to say or explore with his expanding foam coated perfume bottles, or why Hassan Abdallah decided to cover his bottle with artificial flowers and enclose it within a hermetic vitrine. This wouldn't necessarily have to entail a set of essays justifying the work, but at least something that would illuminate the guiding ideas and processes involved in their realization.

Secondly, for an exhibition examining a perfume, there's a surprising lack of exploration of the fragrance itself. Even though the Chanel No. 5 scent itself is probably protected to the hilt, there's still ample space to fiddle with how the perception of its smell, the most elusive and primal of our senses, is perceived. If the Chanel No. 5 bottle represents the recognizable physical form of the perfume, which in the context of this exhibition has been abstracted in various ways by the designers involved, how could the fragrance of Chanel No. 5, the protagonist of the product, be played with in a similar manner? Perhaps by manipulating the context in which the fragrance is experienced, or even by varying the physiology of the person exposed to the aroma. As most of our senses are inherently connected (or overlap) how we sense a smell can be influenced by modifying some of the other senses. Thus, the way we perceive a smell can be varied by controlling the size, degree of air moisture (to smell something moisture needs to be present), the temperature, or even the air movement in a space. Also, by combining different sensations the overall impression can be affected. Taste and smell are intimately linked, so is memory as smell (a scent from the past can trigger a stream of recollections). This last notion would also allow one to question the connection between appearances and expectations - as the glass-bottle of Chanel No.5 is so intimately linked to its particular fragrance, i.e. the bottle and the scent are considered unified, part of the same package, what would happen if this link was dislodged? If, say, the bottle was filled with gold coloured gasoline, or something that looks correct, but smells of baked-beans? Would this act of intentional 'mixed-messaging' allow one to view Chanel No. 5 in a different light? All such elements could have been used to provide a more enriched and multi-dimensional (sensational) expression of the exhibition's fragrant icon...


2 comments:

sarah said...

lost opportunity:
That is a fascinating term in Kuwait.
Given the means available, what else could have been achieved?
Given the unbelievable possibilities, could it have been more creative, more sustainable?
Given the full potential of Kuwait in its history and its people, why do we often face a feeling of lost opportunity

your angle on the "Chanel 5" is a very inspiring one... thank you

Thomas said...

Hi Sarah,

Thanks and I agree...

Now all we have to do is make sure it won't happen again...

Tom