The Senses: Ô d’Oriane (sense of smell)

13 perfumed glass-framed photos with text, 5076 cm (4.5 square metres)

Edition of 7
Cata­logue ISBN 3980435423, 10 Euro

The photo series was produced as digital compositing version for projec­tion with sound­track (English: 11:15 minutes, trailer 1:27 minutes and German: 13:30 minutes, trailer 1:33 minutes) in 2009, digital processing: Ingolf Pink, edit Mirco Sanftleben – Pixel 2 Motion, Cologne (D)

The Senses – a collec­tion of works:

The Senses: Play in Camera (sense of sight)
The Senses: Play it by Ear & An Ear for You (sense of sound)
The Senses: Ô d’Oriane (sense of smell)
The Senses: Zucchini (sense of taste)
The Senses: Inti­macy (sense of touch)

A set of 13 perfumed photographs each 5076 cm, are arranged on a wall (4,5 metres square) anti­clock­wise, in a not quite symmet­rical circular shape. The sepia-toned, black and white photos taken in 1997 are of fashion stylist Claudia Stauch presenting herself as a model might, adver­tising shoes, under­wear, different arti­cles of clothing and herself.

The images have been digi­tally re-worked to incor­po­rate English texts in black and gold tints. The quota­tions are from two short stories by Primo Levi and Italo Calvino: The Mnemogogues, from the book The Sixth Day” by Primo Levi and The Name, the Nose from the book Under the Jaguar Sun” by Italo Calvino. The extracts indi­cate how similar the two stories are. Both are about memory and pre-history asso­ci­a­tions with the sense of smell. Sensu­ality and perfumes are the preoc­cu­pa­tions of The Mnemogogues set in Italy and The Name, the Nose a story span­ning epochs and different loca­tions: the Savannah, France of the belle époque and contem­po­rary London. Although love and the mysti­fi­ca­tion of the female sex is primarily addressed in both the short stories, the writers Levi and Calvino also concern them­selves with mortality and the illu­sory nature of bodily plea­sure. The photo series Ô d’Oriane is intended to resemble fashion photog­raphy where youth and beauty are icons. The fashion maga­zine world is peopled eter­nally by the young.

Tanya Ury


The title Ô d’Oriane has other impli­ca­tions. Dorian (Gray), the androg­y­nous char­acter of Oscar Wilde’s novel written in England 1891, remains fatally attrac­tive and unmarked by time while his portrait ages; in order to quench his insa­tiable desire for life, Dorian develops a multiple person­ality. The art of perfumery becomes one of his obses­sions. Smell is said to be the lowest of the senses according to Patrick Süsskind, whose book Das Parfum’, written in Germany 1985 but set in a France of the Ancien Régime, is specif­i­cally about the search for the ulti­mate expe­ri­ence of this sense. Grenouille, Süsskind’s protag­o­nist who becomes a perfumier, has an olfac­tory sense more highly devel­oped than any sense of morality. He is prepared to go to any lengths to achieve his ends and, like Dorian Gray, is not appalled if this implies destroying another life.

Story of O, Histoire d’O’ — Pauline Réage, France 1954, is an unsen­ti­mental and graph­i­cally detailed account of the willing sexual enslave­ment, of a woman named O. In order to prove the depths of her love for her master, René, O is prepared to allow the most extreme limits of humil­i­a­tion, depravity and pain to be inflicted upon her.

O is for opening.

Another O, another unnamed woman, where O’ may stand for anything, for Omega, the ulti­mate woman, is Die Marquise von O…’ by Hein­rich von Kleist written during his impris­on­ment in Napoleonic France, but published in Germany 1808. This short story set in Italy, uncovers the mystery of the apparent immac­u­late concep­tion of a French widow. The O’ of the title might there­fore poet­i­cally, as in the case of Story of O’, describe the shape of her womb, the myste­rious internal universe of a woman. In the event, it tran­spires that during a deep and death-like swoon, the Marquise von O…, has unknow­ingly been pene­trated and impreg­nated, (the word rape is signif­i­cantly missing from the text) by a Russian mili­tary officer, the Graf F…, who had just hero­ically rescued her from a hoard of marauding soldiers of the same army. The Graf F…, smitten in love and hoping to conceal his shame, conse­quently asks for her hand in marriage.

The name enclosed in the title Ô d’Oriane also suggests a char­acter in Proust’s Remem­brance of Things Past’ (À la Recherché du Temps Perdu). In the film Swann in Love’ made by Volker Schlön­dorff in France, 1983 after Proust, Fanny Ardant plays Oriane, the Princesse des Laumes. There is a distinct simi­larity in appear­ance between Claudia Stauch in the photographs and Fanny Ardant in this film.

They say that when good Amer­i­cans die they go to Paris,” a quota­tion from The Picture of Dorian Gray’ (Oscar Wilde himself, died prema­turely in Paris, as an exile). In the liter­a­ture I have mentioned here (apart from Levi’s The Mnemogogues), France or anything French has become a metaphor for the exotic and danger, attrib­utes excited by the sense of smell. In nearly half of the mentioned texts, sensual feel­ings are aroused by the sense of smell. Against their better judge­ment, the male protag­o­nists allow desire to control their reason. The female, perceived as a foreign body, is possessed through means of violence in most of the cited literature.

There is still more word­play at play within the title Ô d’Oriane. Odor is the Amer­i­can­ised spelling of the word odour, a scent or perfume. Or’ is the French for gold. D’or’, is of gold’. Gustave Doré was a 19th century French illus­trator. In an attempt to quite liter­ally embody the meaning of his name, he covered his entire body with gold dust; as a result he died of asphyxiation.

There is a famous perfume named: Ô de Lancôme. The Ô (o circum­flex), in this instance, replaces the word eau’ (eau de toilette — toilet water). The cipher: Ô, here and in the title for the photo series, repre­sents an essence, essence of Oriane, Ô d’Oriane.


The text extracts are from:
The Mnemogogues from the book: The Sixth Day’ by Primo Levi, published in 1966 and trans­lated from the Italian by Raymond Rosen­thal for the Michael Joseph publi­ca­tion, London 1990.

The Name, the Nose from the book: Under the Jaguar Sun’ by Italo Calvino, written in Paris 1972 and trans­lated from the Italian by William Weaver for the Jonathan Cape publi­ca­tion UK 1992.

Primo Levi was born in Turin in 1919 and trained as a chemist. Arrested as a member of the antifas­cist resis­tance during the war, he was deported to Auschwitz and survived. He later wrote many accounts of his expe­ri­ences. The Drowned and the Saved’, Levi’s impas­sioned attempt to under­stand the ratio­nale’ behind the concen­tra­tion camps, was completed shortly before his tragic suicide in Turin, 1987.

Italo Calvino was born in Cuba in 1923 and grew up in San Remo, Italy. He was an essayist and a jour­nalist. In 1946 when he was 24, he wrote his first book: The Path to the Spiders’ Nests’ which draws heavily on his expe­ri­ences in the war. Calvino had been a partisan. In 1972, Calvino started writing a book of the five senses. At his death, in 1985, only three stories had been completed.

Italo Calvino and Primo Levi were friends.

Tanya Ury


2000 Frauen Blicke, (Women Look) with Anna Halm-Schudel, In Focus Galerie, Cologne (D)

2001 Solo, Hotel Seehof, Zurich (CH)

2004 Lies, Lust, Art & Fashion — Signale der Klei­dung (Clothing Signals), Podewil, Berlin (D)

2009 (1.11) The Senses, a solo multi­media event during the Inter­cul­tural Days, Ô d’Oriane: digital compositing version for projec­tion with sound­track (German), 8 pm Arkadas Theater — Bühne der Kulturen (Stages of Diverse Cultures), Cologne (D)



Publi­ca­tions & Press

2000 Ô d’Oriane Kölner Stad­tanzeiger Artikel Sabine Müller (D) article as PDF

2001 (67) Announce­ment of the exhi­bi­tion Insensed” Hotel Seehof, Zurich (CH) with image no. 1 from Ô d’Oriane in Kunst­forum Inter­na­tional, edition 155 (D)

Artist’s Writ­ings & Publications

2009 (1.11) The Senses on the Arkadas Theatre, Bühne der Kulturen (Stages of Diverse Cultures) website Cologne (D) www​.buehned​erkul​turen​.de

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