Surveying her surroundings, Jo Burzynska looks at the ground beneath her feet in inner city Christchurch and takes a deep breath.
She is breathing in the scent of the city. For many this has arguably been more poo ponds horror than joy recently, but the multisensory artist has a different olfactory vision.
Eau Tautahi is an art perfume Burzynska created during her residency at the
It will be released as part of her “sensuous psycho-geographical” exhibition What Might We Find When We Stop Looking? It opens at 5.30pm on Tuesday and is at the Pūmanawa Gallery at The Arts Centre Te Matatiki Toi Ora until May 29.
The exhibition reimagined the city by remapping it into different zones or “quarters” that could be touched, smelled, tasted and heard.
“You can also use these cross-modal connections to provoke surprising sensory experiences, which is something I focused on in my recent PhD and apply in my art,” Burzynska said.
Visitors to the exhibition will be immersed in the smells and sounds of an ancient city forest, feel their way blindfolded along a tactile border, and reflect on connectivity through the sounds of people and nature in the city.
They will also sip a drink sourced from wild ingredients gathered locally by forager Peter Langlands and created by Gatherings chef Alex Davies, while listening to the sensory memories of a historic route taken by musician and urban planning academic Roy Montgomery.
Eau Tautahi is the first release from Burzynska’s perfume label, Osmic Resonance – Cross-modal Perfumery.
“Eau Tautahi is a blend of three accords, which each represent different dimensions of the city,” she said.
“There’s the urban accord, which evokes the dust, roads and wafts of coffee of the central city. Then there’s a river accord that’s fresh and watery like the Ōtākaro (Avon River) with notes of the greenery and wild herbs that line its banks. Finally, there’s the garden accord, which suggests the earth, wood and leaves with native and introduced plants found in the parks of the garden city.”
The initial blend was created as the final project of the Perfumers World course taught by perfumer Francesco van Eerd at Fragranzi in Christchurch.
“This was part of my programme as an artist-in-residence at Christchurch Arts Centre last year. However, when I started showing the perfume to others, people liked it and said they’d wear it as a perfume,” Burzynska said
“I’ve been making olfactory compositions since I received my initial training in perfume six years ago at the Institute for Art and Olfaction in Los Angeles. Encouraged by the response to my initial blend of Eau Tautahi, I refined it to become a wearable perfume.”
Sensuous psycho-geography, Burzynska’s method of creative inquiry that informs the exhibition, draws on the ideas developed by the Situationist group of avant-garde artists and writers.
The idea is to embrace a playful exploration of urban space that redirects pedestrians away from well-trodden paths to alter awareness of their environments.
To develop this work, Burzynska sometimes embarked on “multisensory meanders” alone, but often she walked with members of the public, local iwi, the blind and low vision community and people working in fields of urban-ecology, architecture and foraging.
Burzynska, who performs as Stanier Black-5, has previously combined sound art and wine tasting in the city and around the world.
“These are installations created from the sounds recorded, aromas distilled from materials collected, edible items and textures of found objects which are used to remap and reimagine the city from a non-visual perspective.”
This opens up a path into a dimension of experience that we often “quite literally overlook” in our visual and busy goal-focused passage through the city.
“One of the things I personally did for the first time in this project was to explore the city by touch… However, start exploring the city with your hands and paying attention to what you’re feeling underfoot, and it’s intriguing. It also demonstrates how our eyes can deceive us,” she said.
“In my exhibition there are a number of tactile artworks and signage that says: Please do touch the art.”