Earlier this month we reported that Melbourne based artists Gavin Bell, Jarrah de Kuijer and Simon McGlinn of Greatest Hits had teamed up with with Air Aroma to create a unique fragrance – the scent of a newly purchased Apple MacBook Pro being opened for the first time.
The fragrance was created and is currently being featured (image below) at an exhibition at West Space, in Melbourne, entitled ‘De facto Standard’ .
Macworld Australia’s Publisher Liana Pappas was fortunate enough to have a chat with the members of Greatest Hits to find out more about the concept and development process of creating the fragrance, whether there are any plans to manufacture the fragrance and how Apple reacted to the news.
Can you talk us through the process of developing a scent as unique as this? And how long did it take to get the final result?
We initially spoke with a few local independent perfumeries, who despite being keen, felt they couldn’t accurately replicate what we were after. The scent, being synthetic and subtle, required a professional with the right knowledge, skills and equipment. From there we approached Air Aroma, who had the capabilities to do the job, while their standing as an international specialised marketing company seemed to fit well with the conceptual side of the work.
We purchased a brand new MacBook Pro and through the company mailed the sealed box to their fragrance lab in the south of France. There, the scent that was emitted during the unpacking of the computer was recreated by expert staff. Six weeks later we had both the laptop and the reconstructed scent back in Melbourne.
Many people have been asking, are there any plans to manufacture this as a product to sell?
The scent was created as part of the artwork and isn’t our intention to sell it commercially as a product for the perfume market. However the artwork itself, being the Aroslim diffuser and the scent, is for sale as a one-off work.
How close to the actual experience is the fragrance? What has the response been from people who have seen and smelled the exhibit?
The perfumers were very happy with how accurately it represents the actual smell. As far as the experience goes that’s a whole other ball game. One interesting question that came up in the early stages of the idea was whether the smell was recognisable if removed from the actual act of unpacking.
The smell of a new product for some is connected with positive emotion and excitement, which is no surprise, our sense of smell is highly sophisticated as the receptors in the nose are closely connected to parts of the brain that are responsible for memory and emotion. It’s believed the nose effects a large part of our daily emotions and is important for memory recall. It’s hard to say exactly what the response of the audience has been, but people seem to be interested in the work and want to engage with it.
Are you Apple fans yourselves? If so, what devices do you use the most?
We have Apple products but we probably wouldn’t go so far as to say we’re fans. We use them and enjoy using them, but aren’t in any way fanatical about it.
Does Apple know about the exhibit and fragrance?
Maybe, we don’t know.
Once the exhibit closes, will the fragrance still be available to the public?
We may exhibit the work again in the future, and if anyone was to buy it, it would be up to them. So we’re not really sure what will happen with it yet.
Why did you choose an Apple product as the subject of your fragrance? What is it about the company that people love so much?
Initially we were attracted to the idea of transforming a material object, both physically and symbolically, into one that was immaterial. We also have a current interest in the prevalent enthusiasm surrounding consumer technology, something Apple products can be seen as exemplifying. We’re interested in trying to understand the implications of this kind of thing, the meaning it has for people.
With regards to the high success of the company, it can be largely attributed to the marketing of the brand and their particular combination of function and aesthetics. However, it also has a lot to do with what people want and how they see themselves. In a symbolic way, the work attempts to capture the ‘essence’ of the product in an effort to understand the aura surrounding it.
We were also considering the idea of what is ‘new’, particularly in current times of increasing obsolescence. The transience of a freshly opened product, of technological innovation and of trends and fashion in general, seemed to align themselves with the nature of smell, a transient and elusive medium. In a way the work will act as an archive, prolonging the lifespan of a particular point in time, allowing it to live on after the obsolescence of the laptop itself.
Can you tell us about some other upcoming projects you are working on? Are there other Apple products you want to ‘bottle’?
We have a few exhibitions coming up this year including solo shows in Melbourne at TCB Art Inc. and Boxcopy gallery in Brisbane as well as some works in shows overseas. We don’t have any plans to work with scent in the immediate future apart from possibly reshowing the work.
Why was the decision made to choose the MacBook Pro product, instead of the more-popular iPad?
The Macbook, for us, serves as an example of popular consumer technology, so it wasn’t so important which specific Apple product it was. Whether an iPad, iPhone, etc. the overall concept is still essentially the same. The idea for the work also emerged around the time that one of us was considering buying a MacBook, which stimulated a number of related discussions. So in a way it wasn’t so much a choice exactly, but emerged out of the circumstances of that time.
Are you surprised by the worldwide coverage this has received?
Yes, it’s been quite surprising to us.
About Untitled 2012 MacBook Pro fragrance:
Aroslim cold fusion diffuser – anodised aluminium natural finish, scent of new Apple 13 Inch MacBook Pro replicated through Air-Aroma in the South of France 23 x 23 x 125.5 cm (3355 x 5660 x 3140)
[Image: Cristo Crocker]