H E L I D O N G J E R G J I
Section curated by the Chamber of Public Secrets
In collaboration with Wooloo, who organized a dark residency for the biennial.
This project was realized in a dark space at Manifesta 8, with the assistance of Cristina Martínez Rodán, who was born blind. The public experienced this olfactory installation in the dark.
2010, site-specific installation
Spices (anise, basil, bay leaves, black pepper, caraway, chamomile, chives, cinnamon, clove, cumin, dill, fennel, garlic, ginger, nutmeg, oregano, paprika, parsley, peppermint, rabogato, red pepper, rosemary, saffron, sage, spearmint, thyme, turmeric, verbena, white pepper)
The Mediterranean, in general, and Spain and Murcia, in particular, are at the crossroads of historical and contemporary routes of cultural exchange. Representations of this exchange, however, have always focused upon its relevance and importance for the education of merely three of the five senses: namely, the senses of vision, hearing, and taste. As a consequence, the protean ways in which the sense of smell has affected and been affected by this exchange have been neglected. Thus, for Manifesta, this project presented an installation of the aromatic landscapes of the ethnic communities resident in Murcia.
At the time of Manifesta 8, the number of foreign-born residents in Murcia was significant and growing. 12.35% of the inhabitants of Murcia were of foreign origin, according to the INE 2005 census, which was 4% more than the Spanish average. The most notable groups of immigrants were Ecuadorians (33.71% of the total of foreigners), Moroccans (27.13%), Britons (5.95%) and Bolivians (4.57%). It bears noting that these statistics did not take into account the integrated but historically multiethnic populations of modern Murcia.
At Manifesta 8, this olfactory installation comprised the spices traditionally cultivated, consumed and relished by the predominant ethnic groups resident in Murcia. With the help of Cristina, a local collaborator, the installation consisted in a series of powerful scent environments that recreated the aromatic landscape of each of the five largest ethnic groups of Murcia: i.e., the Spanish, the Ecuadorians, the Moroccans, the Britons, and the Bolivians. Each environment was the fruit of the participation of the individual ethnic communities of Murcia themselves; and each environment documented the aromas of the gastronomic culture of a single community. To document these aromas, fieldwork was conducted among each ethnic group, which identified the spices they considered most representative of their gastronomic culture. Within the exhibition space at Manifesta 8, the placement and measures of each community’s spices was made to reflect their importance to the community, so that the installation was an assemblage of aromatic landscapes particular to Murcia’s different ethnic groups. The last three days the public was invited to visit this invisible and yet open “museum” of scent, and the public’s own affective reactions to the individual aromas and their sequencing was elicited and discussed.
While odors and perfumes often have contributed to the division of humans, spices have navigated diverse cultural terrains and their successful navigation have both highlighted and cultivated the commonalities of our fragrant desires and quotidian experiences. In most cases, these spices have been, or are imported; and they have been adapted and assimilated in the same way as the movements of human populations. This fragrance wheel (instead of color wheel) was not meant to be a metaphor of Murcia’s rich multicultural texture, but rather a metonym that reminds us of the interconnectedness of humans, and humanity, which does not exactly have a history but is itself history. And by replacing the predominance of vision and hearing by smell we created a new platform from which to investigate that old quest.