September 12, 2019

Anna Virnich

Schering Stiftung

Courtesy of Timo Ohler.

A floor made of wax, holding clay bowls filled with aromatic oils and surrounded by iridescent walls: In her exhibition, Hyperdrüse, the Berlin-based artist Anna Virnich creates a space that is saturated with shimmering colors and a complex choreography of smells. The latter has been developed in cooperation with the collective Scent Club Berlin on the basis of essential oils that have been enriched with synthetic molecules. This collaboration resulted in two complementary smell compositions, whose individual components overlap within the space so that it is almost impossible to clearly identify the individual aromas.

And yet it is possible to detect differences: While one composition emits seductive fragrances that may be experienced as warm and perhaps sticky, the second odor could be described as intrusive, bitter, metallic, even sharp. But what are verbal descriptions when it comes to smells? As justly noted by the psychologist Bettina Pause in her contribution to the accompanying publication, it is almost impossible to predict what smell a certain molecule evokes in humans. On the contrary, smelling is a thoroughly subjective experience, with the same odor triggering different emotions in different people.

“A smell is a slightly repelling reminder that we exist on Earth. A place where everything is made of the same stuff. You might not notice an atmosphere before it is disturbed and it makes itself felt, it vibrates and communicates, air moves, sends signals, matter changes, entries and exits link up, metabolism happens, substances circulate. Smell marks a constant transition. It is a weird intimacy with all things when the environment manifests as interiority. A smell is the feel of breath, a quasi-linguistic touch of the world.” This is what the art historian Baptist Ohrtmann wrote about Anna Virnich’s recent work Warm Milky Acid, Silver Slip (2018), thus giving voice to key ideas that also undergird the present exhibition.

Hyperdrüse is a fantastic landscape traversed by few predefined paths. The artist has put the functional structures of the Schering Stiftung’s Project Space in a state of transformation. As a result of artistic interventions that appear ecstatic and parasitic, the space turns into an environment that poses a sensory challenge to visitors. The exhibition therefore is also an aesthetic engagement with the conditions provided by a specific space that is re-calibrated both olfactorily and materially.

The exhibition is accompanied by a dialogue between art and science: It will be accompanied by an artist’s publication with brief texts by Bettina Pause, smell researcher and professor for biological psychology at Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf. Pause has investigated the implicit influence of smell perception on human behavior in numerous studies.

The exhibition takes place in cooperation with Berlin Art Week and with kind support of Scent Club Berlin.

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