Insomnia Festival: Ephemera

23.10.2014 - 26.10.2014

Geza Schoen, Ben Frost, Tim Hecker, Steve Goodman (aka Kode9), Manuel Sepulveda (Optigram), Marcel Weber (aka MFO) - curated by Małgorzata Płysa and Mat Schulz from Unsound.

Insomnia @ Tromsø Kunstforening: A Synesthetic Installation Cobining Scent, Sound and Visual Elements

Bringing together scent and sound, Ephemera is an installation presenting olfactory compositions based on musical resonances and reverberations. The specially commissioned project connects sounds created by Ben Frost, Tim Hecker, and Steve Goodman (Kode9) with scent representations composed by Geza Schoen, a Berlin-based perfumer. The musicians have all worked in various ways with Unsound before; Schoen, for his part, is known for his experimental approach to perfume-making, of which his groundbreaking Escentric Molecules series is the best example. The musicians created sonic raw material which Schoen then reinterpreted to create three different scents: Noise, Drone, and Bass, respectively.

Each sound draws on different contexts in relation to the idea of an olfactory reinterpretation. For instance, the notion of “bass,” by Steve Goodman, connects with his childhood memories triggered by the sound and the accompanying scent he remembers of a broken, burning vacuum cleaner. Geza translated this to the scent which opens with woodsmoke and rhum notes, developing into leather, mastic, and tea notes, and finishing with castoreum and moss, among other scents.
Tim Hecker’s “drone” composition, on the other hand, doesn’t have any direct personal narrative, drawing instead on Hecker’s own imagining of “a speculative day-glow incense from rituals where long-form sound induces levitation.” For Schoen, that translates into aldehydes and air notes, developing to fir and juniper with a base of patchouli, ambergris, and vetiver.

The scent that represents “noise” was created as an effect of Geza’s inspiration by way of Ben Frost’s deepest recesses of olfactory memories: catholic church holidays, Australian bushfire, moisture, and insect drones, among other stimuli. Those ideas Schoen connected with aldehydes, ozone, black pepper, saffron, and labdanum.
The final scents by Schoen were then used to guide the development of further sounds to fit an installation-style environment. To accompany the Tromso installation, three different prints were designed by Manuel Sepulveda (Optigram). These prints are changed for Noise, Drone and Bass.

Different days will feature the various sounds and scents, as follows:
Opening at 6pm on Thursday October 23 – Noise
Friday October 24 – Drone
Saturday October 25 – Bass
Sunday October 26 – Noise

The Ephemera scents Noise, Drone and Bass have also been turned into a collectable perfume series created by Unsound. This can be purchased via the website www.ephemera.pl, or write to info@ephemera.pl for more information. You can also hear Noise, Drone and Bass at ephemera.pl and watch related videos made by Marcel Weber (MFO).
Ephemera is curated by Małgorzata Płysa and Mat Schulz from Unsound.

Steve Goodman on Bass
I don’t really take synesthesia to be just a clinical, exceptional or pathological condition of perception, but rather as the norm, that perhaps lies just beneath consciousness usually with most people. In this way, the senses should instead be understood as primarily overlapping, and only secondarily distinct from each other. It is therefore not a surprise that there are certain qualities such as rhythm and affective tone that are transensory.
My piece ‘Vacuum Burn’ is based on the earliest sound/smell overlap that I can remember as a child. We had a dysfunctional vacuum cleaner that gave off a scent of burning dust, so whenever I hear the sound of hoover basslines, or those kind of crackling low frequency, fog-horn type bass drones, then I always get this burning smell which is not actually present, but rather is a virtual byproduct of this memory in which the smell and sound have become cross-associated. The sound follows this dust on a journey through the intenstines of the machine, and its colouring of the olfactory atmosphere. This would not be considered synesthesia in a proper, clinical sense as it is merely based on a childhood association, but the sound produces such a vivid smell to me, that it made me notice the whole spectrum of micro-perceptions in which notes, tones, rhythms, colours, aromas, tastes and tactile im­pressions map onto to each other constantly. I think its misleading to think we only have 5 senses which are com­pletely separate. There is constant interrelation - one sense contracts as another dilates, or they resonate with each other, interfering which each others domain, intensifying the sensation across the sensorium generally.

Ben Frost on Noise
‘Herein’ is drawn from the deepest recesses of my olfactory memory.
Ash Wednesday: The creeping haze of burning trees, distant crackling, the muffled roar and siren, suffocating wind, heat and the physical noise - the looming spectre of Australian bushfire. We wear wool. Sheep don’t easily burn you see,
My Grandfathers workshop: Soldering, electrical burns- the cycling whine of angle grinders and the showering sparks of an arc welder. The rust, the damp, the wood, the sweat
Church on Sundays: Crackling radio-mic sermon, always cold, bluestone, frost, and frankincense
The back of the hunting truck: Moisture and insect drones, mould and gun powder, empty shells and diesel in jerry cans,
The buzz of flies over sticky blood

Tim Hecker on Drone
A speculative day-glow incense from rituals where long-form sound induces levitation.
The smell of music that has somehow gone on too long, but no one cares.
The confusion around odours possibly coming from an unwashed composer or a fully-washed cleric bathed in smoke.
A chance to ease off from the sensory dominance of sound, where light and smell also hopefully coalesce.
Bringing together scent and sound in startling new ways, the first phase of Ephemera is an installation that will present olfactory compositions based on musical resonances and reverberations. The nose behind the project is Berlin- based Geza Schoen, known for the groundbreaking Escentric Molecules series as well as various avant-garde/conceptual scents. These include Paper Passion, created for Wallpaper and Lagerfeld to capture the smell of freshly printed books, as well as The Beautiful Mind series, celebrating the power and beauty of human intellect.

Scent and sound are both the most ephemeral of senses - without having a visible physical form, an image attached to them, they have the power to trigger emotions, uncover memories and move other senses. Having been working with various types of sound, often abrasive and physical, we have decided to try and blur the lines, adding sense of smell and discovering what the effects could be.

Ephemera’s visual component is an evolving pattern created by London-based Manuel Sepulveda (Optigram) and Berlin-based video artist Marcel Weber (MFO); it includes both video and silk-screened materials that reveal different elements as the light shifts.

Unsound is a festival of music, sound and related visual arts that was founded in Krakow, Poland in 2003. Now with editions in New York, London and Adelaide at the Adelaide Arts Festival, Unsound has also established a reputation for commissioning new work via Unsound Productions.

Tromsø is renowned for breeding innovative artists within the electronic music field. Insomnia Festival seeks to evolve the creative energy this has given rise to by creating a platform for new electronic music and techno culture.

Geza Schoen
Berlin-based Geza Schoen is one of the world's radical perfumers, best known for his minimalist approach and series Escentric Molecules, arising from the concept of reducing perfume to a single ingredient. Reacting against the marketing approach to perfume manufacturing, Schoen's perfumes can be somehow regarded as avant-garde and conceptual, making him the perfect "nose" to create scents for the Unscent installation.

Ben Frost
Born in Australia, now based in Iceland, Ben Frost finds ways of juxtaposing music, rhythm, technology, the body, performance, text, art - beauty and violence- combining and coalescing the roles and procedures of various artistic disciplines in one place. He was selected as a Protégé in the Rolex Mentor & Protégés Arts Initiative, where he worked with mentor Brian Eno. He has written music for dance, theatre, film, installations as well as the opera he directed, The Wasp Factory.

Tim Hecker
Is an electronic and sound musician based in Montreal, Canada. His music is both physical and emotive, and has been described as "structured ambient", "tectonic color plates" and "cathedral electronic music". Exploring the intersection between noise, dissonance and melody, he often works with recordings of acoustic instruments, which are digitally processed processed and distorted.

Steve Goodman (aka Kode9)
Is a London-based electronic music artist and DJ. One of the pioneers of the early UK dubstep scene, he is also the owner of Hyperdub record label, and promotes the more experimental side of club music. Goodman also a member of research unit AUDINT and published the book Sonic Warfare on MIT Press exploring how sound can be deployed to set moods of dread, fear and be used as a weapon.

Manuel Sepulveda (Optigram)
Is a graphic designer, perhaps best known for iconic record covers he has made for the Hyperdub label, Warp and Planet Mu, for artists such as Ikonika, Mark Pritchard, Aphex Twin, Kode9 & The Spaceape, Squarepusher, DJ Nate and Traxman.

Marcel Weber (aka MFO)
German video artist Marcel Weber has worked with Unsound for many years, mainly on commission projects with artists such as Kode9, Lustmord, Biosphere, Roly Porter and most recently Jed Kurzel on Snowtown: Live. His performances have been featured by many festivals, such as CTM, Transmediale, Unsound and Mutek or in prestigious venues like the British Film Institute, Centre Pompidou among others.

Ephemera in Tromsø is a part of the Insomnia 2014 festival.

Unsound would like to thank to the Rolex Institute for their support of this project. They would also like to thank Geza Schoen, Ben Frost, Tim Hecker, Steve Goodman, Marcel Weber (MFO), Manuel Sepulveda (Optigram), Justin Luke of Audio Visual Arts (AVA) and Air Aroma.