Somewhere at the edge of the Black Forest, the temperature dips and the seasons change enhancing the natural aromas of the Nordschwarzwald punctuated with the smell of smoking fish coursing through the air to greet the Ornamenta crowd for the latest monthly gathering. Upon arrival, we asked, to what extent do the right fragrances, smells, and perfumes have the ability to spontaneously cue autobiographical memories.
Before our departure, Raphael Mürle’s latest Stadtmuseum Pforzheim performance addressed some of the upcoming themes for the evening’s proceedings. Mürle’s Figurentheatre amused the public with a witty review of the Inhalatorium Gemeinde reintroducing the themes of cultural exchanges between regional and visiting communities. In the forest writer and curator Sumaya Kassim, author of the influential essay, ‘The museum will not be decolonised’, presented a performative reading of a work in progress which explores family connections while addressing olfactory memory; how our sense of smell guides our autobiographical experience in the world, transporting us in and out of time. Also on display at the gathering were the works of Sonja Keppler, an artist drawing inspiration from the art of indigenous peoples she presented a series of her smoke sculptures on an open-air display. Based on historical and traditional smoking vessels these works tap into the olfactory experience and evoke a cultural exchange whilst arousing old and instilling new personal memories. The smells of the forest and nearby industrial surroundings coalesced with the smoking trout from the Räucherofen (smoking oven) of Angelsportsverein Enzberg e.V’s Günther Schulers, for a unique sensual experience as our tastebuds were rewarded with a sample of the smoked fish. Schuler’s smoking process combines rituals and traditions which reminded us of how our senses can be affectively tuned. During the discussion afterwards, we wondered, at what point do cultural traditions and exchange overlap and like smoke drifting through the air enter our senses leaving a faint redolence of memory that lingers through time?