- two parallel olfactory environments inspired by the history of Japan and Holland -

installation, commissioned work (2009)

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This work, consisting of two parallel olfactory environments, takes you on a sensory journey to 17th-century Japan when the Dutch were stationed on the artificial island Deshima off the Japanese coast.  The scents are not trying to tell you the truth - they take you to the world of imagination and fascination.

(1) ROOM OF GEISHA

This is a room with the Japanese smells that the head of the VOC was presumeably smelling in Japan about 400 years ago.

[PLEASE TOUCH!] You are invited to sniff around and survey the room. Step into the role of the geisha or that of the visiting VOC chief. Lie down on the tatami mats, powder your face and sample the odours of old Japan, smells that were so exotic to the first Dutch visitors.

(2) ROOM OF THE HEAD OF THE DUTCH VOC

This is a room with the Dutch smells: coffee, cigarette, and meat.  They were introduced to Japan by the Dutch.

More documentations regarding its development: http://scent-lab.blogspot.com/search/label/%5BGEISHA%5D

period: 16.05.2009 - 30.08.2009

place: De Lakenhal Stedelijk Museum Leiden

on occasion of: Holland Mania Manifestation

CONCEPT

Smell is the medium used by artist Maki Ueda. She takes you on a sensory journey to 17th-century Japan when the Dutch were stationed on the artificial island Deshima off the Japanese coast. The Japanese history of smell cannot be told without including the role of the Dutch: the Dutch East India Company (VOC) brought cloves, nutmeg, other spices and essential oils to Japan. The Dutch also introduced new distilling techniques to the Japanese in the 17th century.

Read more: GEISHA - EXHIBITION INFO

The Head of the VOC Visiting a Geisha

This is a room with the Japanese smells that the head of the VOC was presumeably smelling in Japan about 400 years ago.

[A] Geisha cosmetics available for the public to wear

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Ueda has developed 8 fragrant cosmetics that geisha's were presumeably wearing.

>>> view the geisha cosmetics


[B] Live performances in the room installation

In some weekends 'a real geisha' lives in this room with wearing the smells. (cosplay / costume-play)

 

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[C] Head-mounted olfactory display

This is a smell interface that Ueda has developed. In the box you can smell those scents that the head of the VOC was smelling in Japan. (Self-made extracts are being used.)

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smell 1: camphor

The smell of these trees can be found everywhere in Japan, especially around the Shinto shrines. It cools you down in the terribly hot and humid summer. The aromatic crystals that Japanese people obtain from this bark have the same smell as to Borneol but are much cheaper. Therefore we, the VOC, have marketed this product as an alternative to Borneol, with great success. We trade this product for spices like clove and cinnamon.

- The head of the VOC commenting on the smell of camphor -

smell 2: agarwood

This smell surrounds the geisha house and invites me to enter it. They appear to burn this wood permanently as incense. It permeates the entire red light district. It makes me feel relaxed and excited at the same time.

- The head of the VOC commenting on the smell of agarwood -

smell 3: teeth enamel water

Geisha's paint their teeth black with this liquid every morning as a ritual. Since this liquid emits a pungent smell, my geisha finishes her ritual before I wake up, so that I won't smell it. I asked her what the liquid is made from, and she answered, tea leaves, fermented rice, syrup, rusted metal, and insect-induced tree excretion. When she bares her black teeth in a smile, they protrude so much that they make me think of a vampyre.

- The head of the VOC commenting on the smell of teeth enamel water -

Geisha's were using aphrodisiac scents as a tool for their business.  Here are some cosmetics developed by Maki Ueda, to fill your imagination.  They are developed manually by the artist based partly on the historical documents and partly on her imaginations.

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[1] 花の露 DEW OF FLOWER

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“Geisha's love the tonic water 'DEW OF FLOWER', a distilled water made from wild rose.  The top class geisha's first started to wear it around 1640, and then later it became popular also among the middle and lower classes.  Those who cannot afford it make it at home following the fashion book Miyako-Fuzoku-Kewaiden (1813) that illustrates how to distill with kettle and tea cup. “

- the head of VOC -

distillation

application:

(1) As a tonic water: spraying after washing your face will make your skin moisturised.

(2) For the finishing touch: spraying after puffing OSHIROI POWDER will make your face even more shiny.

ingredients:

wild rose water, clove, sandalwood, borneol

 

Read more: GEISHA COSMETICS

The Head of the VOC Visiting a Geisha

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This is a room with the Dutch smells that Maruyama geisha's were smelling in the island Dejima.

Smell 1: coffee

‘The VOC chief factor uses to drink this black drink every morning. It smells slightly burnt to me. He says it's made of beans. I thought it might be similar to Japanese barley tea, so I tasted it. It was terribly bitter, but I managed to swallow it. I have heard that an interpreter had to vomit after he'd drunk it for the first time.’

- Maruyama geisha commenting on the smell of coffee -

 

Smell 2: tobacco

‘For relaxation after eating and intercourse, the VOC chief factor prefers to inhale smoke from a pipe in which some kind of leaves are burned. The smoke fills the whole room. It smells. It smells somewhat sweet, bitter, and rather smoky, as when fallen autumn leaves are being burned.’

- Maruyama geisha commenting on the smell of tobacco -

 

Smell 3: meat

‘On special occasions, this food is often served at dinner. I asked the VOC chief factor where it comes from and he answered, to my surprise, that it comes from the stable at Dejima. He kindly offered me a piece but I could not accept it because I was afraid to receive bad karma by eating it. By the heart of Buddha, we are not allowed to eat four- legged animals.’

- Maruyama geisha commenting on the smell of meat -

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