The first instalment of “Olfactory Memory” took place in 2007 at the Wilhelmina Gasthuis Gate building in Amsterdam.
The WG terrain was the location of the hospital for plague victims in the 16th century. The buildings of the terrain carry this history with them. The installation was reﬂecting on this history via architecture. During the plague epidemics, vinegar had a speciﬁc role. It was used for disinfecting, and against the odor of illness. When entering the terrain, the doctors covered their faces with pieces of cloth, which were soaked in vinegar, for self-protection. This can also be seen as an allegory for much larger fields of human actions as well as of processes of contamination and virulence.
Today, the terrain has become a living-working place, through architectural changes. Many elements still remind us of its history, but their function has been changed and the “unwanted” elements have been modiﬁed or destroyed. Instead of leaving the history behind the installation reﬂects on it by means of “multisensory” memory.
The installation in the Macau Biennale (2021) does not only refer to the historical epidemics of the bubonic plague but is simultaneously drawing a parallel with our current situation with the SARS-CoV-2, and the rigid methods and practices of sanitation, hygiene and protection this entails. The rows of cotton cloth hanging on the walls have been soaked in vinegar. The odor of the wet clothes is not too strong, but recognizable. The rows of the cloth and the evaporation of the liquid is reﬂecting on the movement of the people, walking through the passage – like breathing or purification ritual.
Courtesy of the artist and Lumen Travo Gallery