Scent – the invisible code

‘Scent – the invisible code’ is a new temporary exhibition of the Copernicus Science Centre, Institut Francais Pologne and Goethe-Institut. The exhibition presents the history of perfume making and argues that scent is a form of communication.

Scents are as unique as fingerprints. Each place has its specific odour, and each memory has its characteristic fragrance. For thousands of years, people used the power of scents for various purposes. They believed that smells would protect them against illnesses or heal them. That scents will bring them closer to gods and help to gain their favours. Fragrances were used to protect, camouflage, adorn, clothe and distinguish. Perfumes have a long history – starting from smokes and incense, ointments, balsams, oils and perfumed gloves to perfumed waters that we know today.

But scents are not only perfumes – they are the whole olfactory reality that surrounds us. Owing to new methods of scent acquisition and processing, it has become possible to discover the world through smells as it has never been done before. We can now analyse how smells influence our consciousness, communication and the shaping of our environment.

The ‘Scent – the invisible code’ exhibition will show you the amazing evolution of perfume making, and the new dimension of perceiving scents as a form of communication. It will tell you about their history, show you materials that scents are composed of and present an example of innovative approach to the art of creating scents and their meanings.

The exposition is divided into three parts:

  • The history and development of perfume making
    Colourful stories, anecdotes and unique scents recreated especially for the purpose of this exhibition will present the history of perfume making and the role of smell in cultural and social context.
  • Perfumer’s workshop: raw materials and products
    An extraordinary table with ethereal oils will let you discover different fragrance families: wooden, animal, spicy, citrus or flower scents. It imitates the so-called organ, where a perfumer works on the composition of various perfumes.
  • Scent as a message: scent map of the city
    This part of the exhibition is designed by Sissel Tolaas – biochemist, artist, ‘olfactory expert’. Her works are eccentric; they stimulate the nose and the imagination and inspire the audience to take a new look on the world of scents. They were shown in such places as the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Tate Liverpool and the National Museum in Beijing. In the Copernicus Science Centre, Sissel Tolaas will reveal the possibilities of olfactory city analysis and the potential of scents as a form of social communication.

Exhibition concept: Agnieszka Łukasik
– scent expert and enthusiast, co-founder of one of the first Polish perfume houses with niche fragrances.
Perfume history: Annick Le Guérer
– anthropologist and philosopher, specialising in the history of scents and perfumes, researcher collaborating with Université de Bourgogne in Dijon.
Historic collection: Katarzyna Sosenko
– art historian, the owner of a collection of historic perfume bottles. The author of the ‘Scent of Luxury’ exhibition dedicated to the history of perfumes.
Scent map of the city: Sissel Tolaas
– one of the best-known fragrance artists in the world, precursor of projects based on a molecular analysis of scents.

Experts in the art of smells: perfume designers and authors of presented recreated historic aromas, including Dominique Ropion, Daniela Andrier and Polish experts: Władysław Brud and the Polleny Aromy team have been invited to work on the project.

The project has been developed within the Elysee Fund: French-German programme for the support of cultural events.

The exhibition prepared by:

Copernicus Science Centre, Institut Français Pologne
and Goethe-Institut

The exhibition was lasting

22 November 2013
— 19 January 2014