Josely Caravalho: Shards

The olfactory sense, though often forgotten, is a powerful connector to memory and emotions. Diary of Smells: Shards (Estilhaços) is an on-going multi-sensorial interactive & interdisciplinary project comprised of various stages of smell production, photographs and sound design.


Shards started in 2006 with a series of lithographs printed at Wildwood Press in St. Louis, MO on different types of hand-made paper especially produced to my specifications by master-printer Maryanne Simmons. After researching the looting of the Iraq Museum and the archeological sites during the war of 2003, the artist approached Dr. Robert K. Englund, director of the Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative/UCLA, Los Angeles, for a collaboration and permission to use the digital archive. The presentation at UCLA is documented here.

The presentation at Carvalho chose sixteen cuneiform tablets from their virtual library, enlarged them, manipulated them digitally, and transposed those images to lithographs. She made three different series of prints and in the process it became clear to me that the actual tablet fragments were safer in a virtual library, than in museums. One of the series was exhibited as part of a sculptural installation, Disenchanting Salmu at the Octógono of Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo in 2007. The sculpture consisted of a filament of water coming from the forty-eight foot high ceiling into a basin molded in resin in the shape of a Sumerian sign. The prints were fastened to the floor, and the public walked over them. As part of the artwork, the artist designed a four-channel sound piece with speakers on the four walls of the Octógono.

From a collective experience of cultural destruction, Shards is now an artwork based on Carvalho’s personal collection of broken wine glasses. The first artwork was a series of photographs of the shards, Carnivorous Flowers exhibited at Galerie Drei in Dresden, Germany in 2011.

The artist is now developing a new olfactory artwork based on the memory brought by the smell left at the moment a wine glass breaks. The artwork consists of a book/object (edition of 100) and a sculptural installation. Carvalho invited a group of writers to create texts on the event surrounding the moment of the break. The imagery from these writings became the source of the creation of seven original smells with the collaboration of Givaudan do Brasil (Affection; Absence; Persistence; Illusion; Emptiness; Pleasure and Glass).

The book/object is encased in a box covered by hand-made paper from recycled cigarette butts and banana leaves. In the paper, they have added microcapsules of the smell Glass that is actuated by individual touch. In collaboration with the Department of Visual Arts of the University of Brasilia and the Nanotechnology Department of Givaudan do Brasil in Paris, Carvalho developed the scented paper and the boxes for the book/objects. Besides the texts, the book includes six photographs in postcard format of broken glasses in imaginary landscapes.

Shards, as a sculptural installation, will be constructed with the same elements of the book/object. It will consist of smells dispersed from seven sculpted wooden tables, broken glasses, texts manipulated as separate sound channels, and photographs printed in large format.

Josely Caravalho

Josely Caravalho, a Brazilian multi-media artist lives in New York and Rio de Janeiro. Over the past three decades, she has assembled a body of work in a wide range of media that gives eloquent voice to matters of memory, identity and social justice while consistently challenging the boundaries between artist and audience and between politics and art. She received her BA from Washington University, St. Louis and has taught at the School of Architecture, National University of Mexico and SUNY at Purchase. She is founder and director of The Silkscreen Project, St. Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery in New York City.

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