You may be familiar with exhibitions that have presented perfume as olfactory art. However, olfactory art is a genre of fine art pertaining to smell that traces its roots back to the avant-garde, early in the twentieth century. A new exhibition at Museum Tinguely in Basel, Switzerland, establishes these historical origins of the genre while showcasing a wide range of practices to the present day that could be understood under this rubric.

Explore the old town of Bern by nose: How does Bern smell today? What stories do the fragrant and the foul smells in the city tell? How does smell permeate life in the city?
The Urban Scent Walk explores the old town of Bern as a smellscape and an olfactory exhibition: informative, discursive, performative. The guided walk opens up unfamiliar facets in spaces of everyday life. The Situationists spoke of “dérive”, meaning the exploration of cities by wandering through varied environments: natural scents, cloying designer fragrances, fresh site-specific interventions, and cosmetic urban smells.
Odors are hardly ever specifically noted, although they interact with each breath: in a direct manner, volatile molecules produce the moods that characterize the atmosphere of the city. “Smells make it possible to identify locations and to identify with places,” says the philosopher Gernot Böhme. In other words, the nose brings experience that the eyes, mouth and ears are shut out of.

Artistic research is an increasingly popular term to conceptualize research activities in the world of art & design universities. The concept highlights the epistemic aspects of artistic practices. Accordingly, certain artistic practices are driven by questions and aim at generating knowledge. Iconic cases from art & design history (e.g. Bauhaus) show that at least some artistic practices have been related to knowledge practices througout history. Thus, it might even be more a matter of terminology and explicit framing of that is a more recent phenomenon.