Meet Me in the Cloakroom
Artist James Turrell recently released a fragrance collection in collaboration with French glassmaker Lalique, expanding his work with light and perception into the nonvisual domain. “I created these two fragrances, Range Rider and Purple Sage, to capture the scents of my country,” Turrell says. “A concentration of skies, horizons, and light.” It’s a fascinating synesthetic experiment and a perfect statement about the contemporary nature of brands, which issue forth from individuals and companies alike (or from both jointly), striving to engage all of our sensory receptors and expanding like gases to fill every cubic inch of available space.
Turrell is an artist first and foremost but he also represents his own coherent brand, and his work is perfectly adapted to the present-day spectacle economy as well as the digital plumbing that circulates those spectacles as content. The art itself almost seems like a metaphor for the media that amplify it: ethereal hazes, glowing rectangles, perceptual disorientation, the confounding of background and foreground, the suggestion of the infinite. You can easily imagine overhearing someone at a Turrell installation describing him as a whole vibe.
Turrell’s expansion into the olfactory sphere makes perfect sense, claiming new territory for his brand while establishing yet another compelling metaphor for its presence in the world. Marshall McLuhan would consider a fragrance “content,” for which the atmosphere is a medium. Like Turrell’s light installations, a scent can unite the conscious and the subliminal while seeming to completely fill a given space—the way brands seem to fill today’s sensory environment.
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