The exhibition La identitat perduda. El rostre, colección olorVISUAL is a display of over forty pieces by national and international artists from different disciplines, ages and artistic styles. Curated by Natàlia Chocarro, deputy director of art of the Fundació Vila Casas, and Cristina Agàpito, director of conservation of the olorVisual collection, the exhibition is structured around the concepts of memory, concealment and dissolution. These concepts result in a show that acts as a mirror reflecting back the many faces of contemporary human beings.
As the saying goes, “the face is the mirror of the soul”, the mirror of our deepest and most authentic selves. It is an indicator of what we are, although we sometimes alter it to a greater or lesser degree. However, there are studies which contradict this maxim to a certain extent and turn it on its head. They maintain that the face is reflected in the soul, since our brain and face are directly connected to each other and, therefore, if we modify our physiognomy, our soul is emphasized by these changes.
In this exhibition brought together some fifty works of contemporary art by artists of a variety of generations and origins, all making up part of the collection. Each of these pieces is special for Ventós, since all of them “make a scent”, arousing in him a specific fragrance.
From a young age, the perfumer and businessman Ernesto Ventós was aware of the importance and potential of the sense of smell, the sense that most deeply touches feelings and memories, as it is the only one that awakens an emotional area of the subconscious mind. With this as his starting point, combined with Ventós’ capacity to create fragrances when a work of art suggests a scent to him, he sets about to create it. We see flasks beside each work of art, an invitation to broaden our way of experiencing art. When we open one of these bottles our olfactory sensations will be enlivened.
The guiding concept of the exhibition is to question the identity of individuals in postmodern society, a subject sociologist Zygmunt Bauman (1925–2017) explored with his theory of liquid modernity. This term was used to define the current moment in history, where the solid realities of previous generations (such as life-long work or marriage) have diminished, giving way to a more precarious and provisional world. His theory speaks of the fear of an identity bound up in oneself, the consequence of the speed of our time, conscious that relationships with people and material belongings cannot last for very long. This context affects our identity, how we evaluate ourselves and the image we have of ourselves. The flexibility required of us as we adapt ourselves to change is what creates this liquid circumstance that Bauman refers to. In his own words, they are “like a liquid in a glass, where the slightest push could change the shape of the water everywhere.”
The reflection we propose in relation to this position begins with works of art (painting, photography, installations and video) that bring individual faces to the fore as the principal subject matter, the face being the most representative feature of our identity, which is either lost or, in some cases, not quite lost yet.
In reference to the face, there is a well-known saying, that it is “the mirror of the soul”, yet some studies contradict this phrase, turning it around by affirming that the face is reflected in the soul. Therefore, if we modify our physiognomy, we might be able to lose our original identity. As the photograph Pierre Gonnord said in 1963, “the face is not the mirror of the soul, but rather the map of our lives.”
With these thoughts on postmodern society, on our identity and our faces, we invite you to enjoy the work of these contemporary artists, all of whom have either directly or more broadly referred to this question. At the same time, you are also encouraged to explore yourselves by awakening olfactory memory, which is so often dormant. If we liberate it, we will find it will bring us to hidden, forgotten places.
Do you remember who you are? It is possible to do so by rethinking yourself through smell.
Museu Can Framis, C/ Roc Boronat, 116-126. 08018 Barcelona / Spain