Different types of books contribute to the field of scent culture: coffee table books, scholarly books, perfume guides and many more. This book is different. It is original in its approach, writing and design: Nose Dive by Catherine Haley Epstein.
Nose Dive serves as a well informed introduction to scent culture. It provides numerous springboards for further study. What I particularly liked are the exercises the reader is encouraged to do. They turned out to be a valuable way for shifting gears with the nose.
In the context of Wolfgang Georgsdorf’s installation Osmodrama I consciously noticed how many conventions and terminologies are challenged by an increasingly less occularcentric culture. Can we speak of an auditorium? What is the term for visitors engaging with scent? etc. One of the jewels of this book is a list of words to consider when communicating about scent – as Catherine Haley Epstein remarks: “some I’ve discovered and some I’ve made up” (p. 46). Some of the intriguing examples are: air sculptor (a term I first noticed when working on the work Christophe Laudamiel), aroma doodle, fumehead, scensorship and many more. Actually, it should be a promising exercise to further expand this collection: Caro Verbeek for example has been very inventive when curating the “Odorama” series (the term alludes to the pioneer of scented cinema) in Amsterdam and speaking of the aroma jockey who hosts the different scents for the oditorium (a term I discovered in Catherine’s book). Last year, when curating When Fragrances Tell: Olfactory Storytelling (a term I learnt from Brian Goeltzenleuchter) we faced similar challenges. Do we call this a scentbar, a Schnupperbar, sniffbar? It is obvious that terminologies can attract or distract attention. And some of these examples may appear funny or entertaining. Let’s bear in mind that quite a bit of what is done in scent culture is unheard of. Thus, terminologies are pivotal for the scent culture discourse. They potentially legitimize as well as de-legitimize practices and entire contexts.
Above all, the Nose Dive is written in a personal and authentic style, intelligently and entertaining. Catherine Haley Epstein, an award winning writer, lives in Portland, Oregon. Have a look at her blog Mindmarrow!