GEISHA - EXHIBITION INFO
period: 16.05.2009 - 30.08.2009
place: De Lakenhal Stedelijk Museum Leiden
on occasion of: Holland Mania Manifestation
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.
(1) ROOM OF GEISHA
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
Ueda has developed 8 fragrant cosmetics that geisha's were presumeably wearing.
[B] Live performances in the room installation
In some weekends 'a real geisha' lives in this room with wearing the smells. (cosplay / costume-play)
[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.)
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.
 花の露 DEW OF FLOWER
“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 -
(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.
wild rose water, clove, sandalwood, borneol
(2) ROOM OF THE HEAD OF THE DUTCH VOC
The Head of the VOC Visiting a Geisha
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 -
AROMASCAPE OF SINGAPORE
- olfactory representation of the city -
workshop & installation (2011)
Aromascape of Singapore consists of two parts: a workshop and an exhibition.
In May 2009 and March 2010, Ueda conducted a 3-day workshop for Aromascape of Rotterdam at Willem de Kooning Art Academy, Rotterdam, The Netherlands. The workshop format will be adopted for the Singapore version of the project.
What do you smell if you walk around the city of Singapore? Savoury fragrance from food stands and restaurants, green and fresh scent in a market, salty sea bleezes, or stinking garbage? Singapore has an international reputation to be the clearnest city in the world. In this project, participants are going to explore Singapore on the level of smell.
What is it that we are smelling, what does it make you imagine, what does it make you feel? This workshop will deal with these questions through a combination of lectures, hands-on workshops with fieldwork. The result of the workshop will be used for the exhibition.
Some of the smells are extracted and exhibited. Just like a perfume shop, the visitors are free to touch them, open the bottles and smell them. They are not perfumes for wearing, but for evoking your emotion and imagination.
[Relationship to Art and Education]
For Aromascape of Singapore, the relationship of the work to the theme can be seen as follows: the purpose of working with art academy sudents is to raise the awareness for their sense of smell. As these students will be in their late teens or early 20s, they have the maximum physical capability of smelling, because as you get old you can smell less. They still have the clear memories from their youth that are attached very much to smell. It's the perfect mement for them to learn about smell and totally different dimensions will open up in front of them.
More documentations regarding the workshop
NO. 1: IXORA FLOWERS (AMARYLLIS SEAH HSUEH TING)
NO. 2: SUGARCANE (BRENDAN POH KAI JIE)
NO. 3: CHEESEBURGER (NG YI HUI MARY ANN)
NO. 4: NEWSPAPER (KANAKO FURUKAWA)
NO. 5: CEMENT (ORANJE)
NO. 6: RICE (AMARYLLIS SEAH HSUEH TING)
NO. 7: INDIAN INCENSE (SHERYL LAW)
NO. 8: BAK KUT TEH (HO BAOXIN)
NO. 9: BARBECUE (MACK ZHI FANG WENDY)
NO.10: CHAR KWAY TEOW (DEVA RAJ)
NO.11: COFFEE (YU DANYA)
NO.12: TAIWAN SAUSAGE (CHUA TIAN LI)
NO.13: GARAM CIGARETTES (HEMA LATA D/O VEERAMOHAN)
5- 16 January 2011 (Mon-Sun 10am - 7pm Fri 10am - 9pm)
Glass Porch, Level 2, Singapore Art Museum
World Premie (Supported by Singapore Art Museum)
as a part of: Fringe Festival @ Singapore
relating workshop: 29 - 30 Dec 2010, 11am - 2pm at Singapore Art Museum
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