Art And Science

June 1, 2006
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Art And Science

Most food scientists would say that working with ingredients is an art, but rarely are ingredients actually featured as art. International Flavors & Fragrances (IFF), Dayton, N.J., and Monell Chemical Sciences Center, Philadelphia, both recently showed off the creative sides of science by featuring ingredients as pieces of art.
IFF teamed with art publisher Visionaire for Visionaire 47 Taste, a piece that combined IFF’s flavor expertise with contemporary artists and photographers. The limited-edition publication pairs 12 flavors, provided through the use of taste-film technology, with 12 images by artists such as Yoko Ono, Thomas Demand, Vik Muniz, Jenny Holzer, Karen Kilimnik, Gary Hume, Richard Phillips, Bruce Weber, David Sims, Nobuyoshi Araki and Sølve Sundbø.
Taste is the second collaboration between the ingredient company and Visionaire. The first project, Visionaire Scent, debuted in 2003 and featured fragrances developed by the company. IFF spokesperson Carol Brys says the original project marked one of the first times the company’s perfumers had worked without a specific application or consumer group in mind.
“It wasn’t to appeal to [a certain demographic]; they were fragrances to push the emotional boundaries of the images that were represented,” Brys says. “Some were abstract and some were more literal.”
“It put our name out there as a truly innovative and creative company that’s willing to go out on a limb,” she adds.
IFF flavorist Marie Wright managed the Taste project and says the choice to use film to deliver the taste was based on several factors, including the space constraints of the publication’s presentation box.
“We were pushed to think, ‘How can we do this?’” she says. “Film seemed the only option to have the number of tastes we wanted in that box in a form that would be stable and globally acceptable, and we also wanted it to be quite high-tech.” Biotec Films produced the flavor films, which are similar to breath films, for the finished project.
The flavors and pictures are best experienced in a guided format, Wright says, comparing it to walking around an art galley without the aid of a tour guide or guide book. “The experience is enhanced if you have the opportunity to have someone explain it to you,” she says. “We’ve had a couple events where we’ve been publicizing Visionaire, and they’ve been hugely successful because people have loved the stories that go with it.”
The publication launched at a Miami art event that drew front-page coverage for the project, and IFF has since showcased the project for the Research Chefs Association and will present at Copia, Robert Mondavi’s center for wine, food and the arts.
Monell is exhibiting its artistic side at Philadelphia’s Esther M. Klein Art Gallery in a first-of-its-kind exhibit to be held in the city. Called “Scent is Life,” the multimedia art-science experience is a collaboration between perfumer Christopher Brosius and the Monell Chemical Senses Center.
The Monell Chemical Senses Center is a nonprofit organization focusing on research regarding taste and smell. The new exhibition, which began in May and will run through July 1, features a series of interactive installations designed to reveal the influence of the sense of smell on people’s lives. Many of the installations use scent to take the audience to a specific place — scents including “boardwalk,” “sun tan lotion” and “car interior with wet bathing suit” create the experience Day At The Beach, for example.
Commentary from the Monell Center provides a scientific foundation for the experience, and an educational outreach component relates the science of smell to the worlds of art through a public lecture/science roundtable, and through visits from local schools designed to introduce students to the worlds of art and olfactory science.
According to Gary Beauchamp, president and director of the Monell Center. “The art-science partnership will make ‘Scent Is Life’ uniquely appealing to the public.”
“Scent is Life” is sponsored by the Starr Organization, Nickolaus and Jami Heidegger, George Retseck Design, Southwest Graphics, The Science Center, Victory Brewing Co., the Sense of Smell Institute and Philadelphia Style magazine. BI

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