Presentation Olfactory Survival in Barcelona · Ethnological Museum and World Cultures
La traducció d’aquest dossier ha disposat d’un ajut de l’Institut Ramon Llul
ENGLISH Video Transcription
TRANSCRIPTION OF THE FILE: museo etnologic_meritxell_olfactives_semana ica
VIDEO LENGTH: 00:56:06 FORMAT: .MP4
LEGEND: ORIOL PASCUAL MERITXELL VIRGILI
CODES: [Inaudible]: Unintelligible terms.
Timestamps: Beginning and end of the transcription and every 10 minutes (approximately).
Beginning of the transcription
#matrixcultura2050 ANTHROPOLOGY WEEK FIFTH EDITION from 16 to 21 November 2020 NETWORKED ETHNOLOGY OLFACTORY SURVIVAL IN BARCELONA
By: Museu Etnològic i de Cultures del Món in Barcelona and the Laribal Gardens (Font del Gat) at Montjuïc Park With: Meritxell Virgili and Oriol Pascual, coordinator of the Museu Etnològic i de Cultures del Món ORIOL PASCUAL Hello and good morning. We’ll begin the day with this activity, the first one for Anthropology Week. We will start off the week, which is a gathering for everyone devoted to anthropology or interested in anthropology. I say this because, for example, I may not be an anthropologist, but I am the head of programmes at the Museu Etnològic i de Cultures del Món, so I do have a connection to anthropology in a way. I would like to present this exhibition: “The Faces of Barcelona”. It is an exhibition that we have conceived as a kind of laboratory, an observatory of what our life is like in a certain place such as the city of Barcelona. In this laboratory, we have set ourselves the goal of trying to explain the aspects of what we could call the everyday landscape that have meaning and therefore help to build our image of our city. These aspects often go unnoticed, simply because they are part of our daily lives, and to the extent that we internalise them, they are virtually invisible. The job of the anthropologist, and this is what we have somehow tried to do in this exhibition, is to highlight what those aspects mean, as they are part of or, rather, they shape our imagination, and therefore our idea of how we build the city and how we symbolise it. This is a streaming exhibition, which will be put together as we provide new content. We also call it a changing exhibition, because it changes as we show a whole series of anthropological studies being carried out and give them an outlet in the sense of showing them as a kind of immersive experience, as is the case we will discuss now, in which we explain all the symbolic aspects I just mentioned, which are hard to capture because they are intangible. With us here today is Meritxell Virgili, from the organisation Omuses, who will share with us her experience of what Barcelona smells like. It will be a participatory experience, and one that I think… Well, why don’t you explain what it’s about? MERITXELL VIRGILI I’ll explain it in detail now. ORIOL PASCUAL
With this anthropological idea that we build knowledge collectively and cooperatively, since our subject of study is people and as people, obviously, we are living people with memories that we can share, with images that we also share, as such, we must build these interpretations collectively. I don’t know...
MERITXELL VIRGILI All right, I’ll explain the experience, because it’s a commission from the Museu Etnològic. I’ll explain this commission, and if there is anything that you want to ask me, Oriol, go right ahead and we can enrich the discussion a little more, okay? Great, so welcome to the Museu Etnològic. I’d like to thank the museum and LIVEMEDIA for this moment. Thanks as well to the ICA for being able to present this experience. So, I’m Meritxell Virgili and I’m the coordinator of Omuses. Omuses.barcelona, I tell you this so you can find out who my partners are and you can go snooping around. Omuses is a consultancy firm devoted to ethno-scent and ethno-scent is a heritage, a heritage for everyone and therefore it needs to be created, and that is what I do. What I do is communicate. At Omuses, what we do is communicate. We do research and we also do training and educational participation. We also work to preserve scents. So this will be the first part. I’ll explain this experience, and then there will be a second part, when we will go to the garden. Many of you know that there is a garden back there, the Laribal Gardens, and that is where I will conduct an artistic experience. It will be a stroll in which I will perform an activity, a performance, an improvisation that I use as innovation, an Omuses innovation strategy and a background. But we’ll get into that a little later. What I’m going to explain now is the commission from the museum. The first thing I want to say is that this commission is a co-creative and collaborative process and that I merely coordinated it. Yes, that’s the big idea, but there are a lot of people involved here and it’s not just “The Faces of Barcelona” and the museum’s idea, but it’s also the method I use in my own work as well. And so Oriol, the head of programmes, commissioned me to conduct an olfactory activity in three neighbourhoods of Barcelona and a contemporary scent. Well, first I will explain the method I used: collaborative olfactory ethnography. This a method, a prototype. What we created was a prototype, because it had never been made before and what we wanted was to experience what would happen. So what I did, as I’ve told you, is accept this commission for three neighbourhoods of Barcelona and a contemporary scent. And why this contemporary scent? Because there are smells that are the result of 2.0 activity and are the result of this contemporary activity that certainly did not exist when we were little. Now, among the new generations, they do exist, and I’m sure they’ve always smelled them depending on the scents of these 2.0 activities, but back when people who are 30 or 35 years old and older today were little, these smells didn’t exist. Later, in relation to the three neighbourhoods, I did the opposite with this collaborative olfactory ethnography, and I will tell you exactly how I did so in a moment. What we went to look for are scents that linger, but that have always been among us. And what is collaborative olfactory ethnography? Well, I sent four ethnographers walking through three neighbourhoods: Gòtic/Raval, Port/Barceloneta and Pere IV/Poblenou. I told them to stroll through the neighbourhoods at their leisure and that every time they smelled something, they should try to create a narrative or a give a dense description. This knowledge and these descriptions, these narratives are subjective, and not objective. However, what we did next was we put them all together We came up with almost 800 descriptions. There are many of them. And with these scents, what I could see is that if we laid them out and put them together, this knowledge that is subjective became objective, because I could see that there were some categorisations, some semantic fields that were shared. This was also due to a shared language, in our case Catalan, because I said they should do it in Catalan, but it is also shared across a Mediterranean area, as a Romance language. ORIOL PASCUAL Let me make a point. MERITXELL VIRGILI Yes, of course. ORIOL PASCUAL
I say that because very often… You see that there is something that’s important to keep in mind: all the research that has been done here has always been based on a similar approach or structure. What I mean is that there is a hypothesis from which we start, then the experiment and conclusions. This all comes together in a studio, which is 32 pages long, because it was originally supposed to be edited, but which we now transmit through beacons, which are these devices out here. These devices, the beacons, track mobile
devices because what they do is then anchor it with the data we have stored in the cloud, so that we can download it. [00:10:32] I say all this about research because the structure is always the same. With scents, for example, we started with a specific hypothesis. The question was: What does Barcelona smell like? In other words, what is the scent that we would identify with the city and that therefore distinguishes it from other cities? To do this, we started from the principle that there is a big difference between sensation and perception. Sensation is always individual, meaning it is the reaction you receive from external stimulus. This causes a state in you, a certain state that you try to explain in some way. When you socialise or communicate this state to other people is when perception begins to work, because perception is social, meaning it is something that we construct as you said, in a semantic field, with meanings that we build from this exchange of individualised experiences. Each culture has different perceptions because it is a closed semantic field. What spiciness, saltiness or sweetness may mean to us, for example, has nothing to do with what they would or could mean to a Mexican or, say, a Polish person. MERITXELL VIRGILI Exactly. That is why it’s so important—and thank you, Oriol, for that comment—because as we anthropologists know, it is the environment that is so important in explaining culture, the environment in which we move. That is why there ends up being a common language and that common language is what we can study in the end, these semantic fields. They are the narratives, in the end. ORIOL PASCUAL The experience. MERITXELL VIRGILI This experience. But what are the narratives made of? Of metaphors and metonymies. And these metaphors and metonymies are the ones that are interesting. And they are interesting because it is an effort we had to make. You see, with these metaphors and metonymies we can do research. This is the tool with which I could work on collaborative olfactory ethnography and later manage these communication activities for the museum. ORIOL PASCUAL If you’ll allow me, we didn’t choose. I don’t know if you remember, but we didn’t choose these neighbourhoods at random. MERITXELL VIRGILI No, no. ORIOL PASCUAL Or completely arbitrarily, there was meaning behind it. If we were to look for a persistent scent that we could identify as typically Barcelonan, we had to start from what we might call the social reality of the city. MERITXELL VIRGILI Yes. ORIOL PASCUAL The old town is obviously the historic part of the city, meaning that there is a scent of the city and it is where we think that a series of smells have been lingered since the beginning. MERITXELL VIRGILI
ORIOL PASCUAL The reason why we later chose Pere IV is because it is the main thoroughfare in Poblenou, where the city was industrialised, and we think that new scents arose there at a certain point that overlapped with the old ones. MERITXELL VIRGILI Yes, it’s that mediation, right? ORIOL PASCUAL Because there were different activities. Then we chose Barceloneta with the port because, obviously, there is the whole relationship with the sea; the relationship with the sea, the relationship with what we can call port activities, the relationship with a neighbourhood even, which is Barceloneta and has remained almost like an isolated ecosystem. MERITXELL VIRGILI Yes, yes, yes. Also, what’s interesting is the spatial planning itself. It’s also very interesting. In other words, orography is very important when circulating through these spaces and describing them and how you enter these spaces, right? Obviously, there are no borders, but how did you enter them? Then, another thing that is very interesting about all the research we did is that we later did some smelling sessions and nobody chose the essences. What we did with our collaborating perfumer was… Remember, I was telling you that I was able to lay out some common semantic fields in each neighbourhood and what I did with these semantic fields was go to the perfumer and tell her: “Look, the Gòtic neighbourhood smells like...”. ORIOL PASCUAL Yes, but explain what happened a little earlier, otherwise it won’t be understood. What was the experience like? You took some ethnographers... MERITXELL VIRGILI Yes, the four ethnographers went for a walk. ORIOL PASCUAL They walked through the neighbourhoods for a month and a half, morning, afternoon and night. MERITXELL VIRGILI It was summer. It wasn’t winter. ORIOL PASCUAL The only thing they had to do was: “You sit down somewhere, or you walk around and take notes on what you feel as an individual”. MERITXELL VIRGILI Of course, of course. And these metaphors, from each one. ORIOL PASCUAL What you smelled, that scent that you perceived… Try to describe it. MERITXELL VIRGILI Of course, that’s why narratives are so important. They are posted, they are posted at… ORIOL PASCUAL
Yes, yes, all their descriptions.
MERITXELL VIRGILI Yes, they are posted. ORIOL PASCUAL Which is a lot of fun, because as time goes on... At first, they are very, very short and very schematic descriptions. MERITXELL VIRGILI Yes, and then they get more lively. ORIOL PASCUAL Of course, then they get more lively because, of course, when you commission someone to “give this description,” the first time they say: “Well, look. It’s such a day, such an hour… I’m sitting here and this smell comes to me”. But when they have been doing the same thing for a week, these people liven up. They need to explain more. MERITXELL VIRGILI Of course, of course, and here’s where they have to go and really investigate how the sense of smell, how ethno-scent, works. And you start to become aware of this sense, which is so atrophied among us. ORIOL PASCUAL They are much more sensitive, much more prone to giving longer descriptions. MERITXELL VIRGILI Yes. ORIOL PASCUAL I even remember some that are very poetic. MERITXELL VIRGILI Yes, yes, of course, because we roughly enter the field of this metaphor or metonymy, right? ORIOL PASCUAL Now this is the important thing. We have gone from the hypothesis, meaning what perception is and what sensation is. Therefore, how can we come to describe the lingering scents in a place, which in this case is Barcelona, divided into different places, then produce a synthesis? We have gone on to explain what the method has been like, the ethnographers who have been collecting experiences for a month and a half, and now I would ask you to explain the conclusions, based on the ethno-olfactory palette. MERITXELL VIRGILI Exactly, the palette. The palette. ORIOL PASCUAL Can you explain this thing about the ethno-olfactory palette and the conclusions? Then I’ll explain how we exhibited it. MERITXELL VIRGILI
Yes, yes, what you’re saying about the palette is very interesting because it isn’t the perfumer, it isn’t a person who invents a scent, because really at that time we had to work on the process, so it was not something the perfumer invented. As such, the only way to do that is for there to be many smelling exercises behind it, for there to be many or all of us who could or are smelling it, and for us to go and dig into our memory and the episodes of our lives to reveal how we remember these three areas.
Then, as I’ve told you, I laid out these semantic fields, I went to the perfumer, we did two smelling exercises with the perfumer and she worked hard on it. The truth is that she is a great professional. Then, with this session, what we did was we came here to the museum and I don’t know if you remember, but we did two more smelling exercises and chose it from among them all. ORIOL PASCUAL Yes, because when we talk about the ethno-olfactory palette, and I say this because I think it will be understood much better, the sensations that ethnographers have been collecting are varied and multiple. There are many of them, but we can say that there is a series of elements or sensations that are repeated in each place. For example, if you go to Ciutat Vella or if you go to Poblenou, the insistent smells were coffee and cooked legumes. It was, for example ... MERITXELL VIRGILI Now we will do a smelling exercise, which you will do, Oriol. ORIOL PASCUAL The fact is that the sensations that were repeated in each place the most often are what shaped the ethnoolfactory palette of that particular place. MERITXELL VIRGILI Yes, yes. ORIOL PASCUAL This means that we could identify the most… not the most subtle elements, but quite the opposite, the most persistent ones, the most predominant, which are the ones we used afterwards because the perfumer could synthesise those scents into a substance through a chemical formula. MERITXELL VIRGILI Yes, in an object in the end. ORIOL PASCUAL In an object that synthesises the smell that we can identify from these spaces. MERITXELL VIRGILI Yes, yes. So, these narratives… I really stress narratives because they really are the tools we have to work with and these narratives are the ones we have to keep working with, in the Mediterranean context and in a local context. And by local, I mean everything in the Mediterranean. Meaning, as a hub project, as a kind of osmothèque of the memory of the Mediterranean, because very little work has been done on this tool, this way of understanding the world. Smell is a tool that connects us most directly with the world, with our beings, with our experiences, with our ancestors and with our episodes from an individual, collective memory. It is synaesthetic, above all it is also synaesthetic, meaning that sometimes you take a step and the very process of stepping on the ground reminds you of a smell, a space, an episode or certain scenery. [00:20:50] So I, Oriol, invite you to smell a mouillette, one by one. It was made on 11 March 2020, which is this one that has a mark, so you’ll still smell the base notes. ORIOL PASCUAL Yes. Whew! MERITXELL VIRGILI
That hasn’t been opened, you know. It hasn’t been opened since 11 March and it still smells.
ORIOL PASCUAL It smells strongly! [laughs] MERITXELL VIRGILI And the other one beside it is the same essence, but I prepared it three days ago. So, we have the top notes and we will have the base notes, so you can take it home. ORIOL PASCUAL You can take this one home with you? MERITXELL VIRGILI Yes, yes, of course. Once you’ve touched it, you take it home with you. ORIOL PASCUAL Or rather, each of the display cases has the same process. MERITXELL VIRGILI Of course, the same process, the same process. ORIOL PASCUAL A description of what the smells are. MERITXELL VIRGILI Of course. So, at Pere IV/Poblenou, we have cooked legumes and coffee. Do you remember the cooked legumes? Oriol, do you remember that we were talking about cooked legumes? I told you that it smelled like cooked legumes and, in fact, in those factories, now that everyone brings their lunch box, especially now that we can’t go to restaurants, women used to make cooked legumes. ORIOL PASCUAL I always say it was the first take away in history. MERITXELL VIRGILI Take away, yes. ORIOL PASCUAL And that was done precisely in an industrialised society such as Barcelona, especially in this area. You already know that there are cooked legume shops here, the only place you can find them in the world. MERITXELL VIRGILI That’s in Barcelona. ORIOL PASCUAL In Barcelona and similar cities that have had the same type of industrialisation as the Barcelona metropolitan area. You’ll find it in Terrassa, you’ll find it in Sabadell, you’ll find it in Badalona, you’ll find it in Mataró, and so on, where you had these types of... MERITXELL VIRGILI
Yes. It’s just that, moreover, I remember it very well, Oriol, because it was at the start of all the research, because I said that Poblenou sometimes smelled like cooked legumes.
ORIOL PASCUAL Yes, that’s very likely. MERITXELL VIRGILI I’m sure that it wasn’t cooked legumes, but that smell came to me from time to time. ORIOL PASCUAL I want to emphasise the subject of cooked legumes a little, because I suppose that someone, if they are listening to us, will think: “Wow, how come there are only shops here and not elsewhere?” Well, it’s very simple: we have to bear in mind that the legume was a plant that gave rise to the agricultural revolution in the late 18th century, among other things, because it allowed for crop rotation in such a way that in societies, for example, where [inaudible] [00:23:42], one of the plots was always fallow, so it was resting. What the legume does is it oxygenises, it adds nitrogen to the earth, fertilising it, so you don’t need to let one of the plots rest and you can cultivate it by rotating, and therefore work all the plots constantly and boost production. We know that the legume is an energy-rich food, meaning that it provides a lot of energy. MERITXELL VIRGILI Protein. It is rich in protein, vegetable protein. ORIOL PASCUAL And then, as there were so many legumes, their price could be kept sustainably low for a long time. Therefore, it was an easy food to buy and it met people’s dietary needs. So what happens next? In an industrialised society, many women started working in the textile sector, because our industry was basically the textile industry. These women, who worked very long and therefore very strenuous days, did not have time to leave their jobs to go home to make lunch, so they could not prepare typical Spanish stew, which is cooked for four hours over the fire. There was a shrewd person who thought: “Hey, why don’t I boil them first?” For this woman to avoid wasting time, she could prepare the food by mixing it with other things, like bacon. Everything related to the economy in the agricultural revolution is also linked to the use of the pig, which is a stable animal, which was not the case, for example, with sheep. You left the sheep on the fallow land so they could graze. But if these lands were producing and therefore no longer resting, where did you send the sheep to graze? You couldn’t. Therefore, the pig is what was the substitute for the sheep. And that is why, if you look, our cuisine (I’m talking about the Catalan environment now, and especially the industrialised part of it) is legumes and pork. In fact, the national dish of Catalonia is botifarra sausage with beans. And yet if you go to Castile, where this did not happen, in the interior of Spain, you will find that there is lamb and grain. MERITXELL VIRGILI Of course. The pig does not pose a social contradiction for us, for our culture. ORIOL PASCUAL There is a historical reason why we might think that this smell endures, and right now ethnographers have been able to capture it. MERITXELL VIRGILI Yes. Well we just did the smelling exercise. Did you catch it, Oriol? ORIOL PASCUAL Yes, I got it. MERITXELL VIRGILI
All right. So, let’s go to the Gòtic and the Raval.
ORIOL PASCUAL The Gòtic and the Raval. This is controversial. MERITXELL VIRGILI Here we did find… Here we did find that old stone. We really smelled that old stone, that dampness that comes from the water that comes down from Barcelona, that dampness that always stays in the lower part, in those sewers, and it’s rancid, isn’t it? A rancid smell. ORIOL PASCUAL A rancid and very powerful smell. MERITXELL VIRGILI Which accumulates in this part of the city. ORIOL PASCUAL In a poorly ventilated area due to how the streets are laid out. MERITXELL VIRGILI Exactly. And it was constant. And there are other olfactory, ethno-olfactory nuances in the descriptions that are very interesting. I really urge people to read them in the pamphlet that is posted at Omuses. ORIOL PASCUAL It is posted at Omuses and if you come to the museum, as I explained before, you can download it through the beacon. MERITXELL VIRGILI Yes, yes, with the beacon, and then in “Innovation and creation—Osmologies”, which is the part of Omuses that lets me innovate. The pamphlet is also posted there. You can find it in three languages. And I urge you to read it because it has the entire methodology and, moreover, all these descriptions. I also urge you to smell it once again. ORIOL PASCUAL I don’t know if I will dare, because I know it is very powerful. MERITXELL VIRGILI It is powerful. This one is strong. This one is very strong. ORIOL PASCUAL This one is very strong. MERITXELL VIRGILI But it’s real. We agreed on that. ORIOL PASCUAL You’ll see. MERITXELL VIRGILI No, I don’t want to stick my nose in too much [laughs]. ORIOL PASCUAL
MERITXELL VIRGILI Yes, yes. So, the other one… This one is still from 11 March. The one you took is the one from 11 March and the one next to it is the one I made three days ago. ORIOL PASCUAL And so it's even more preserved. MERITXELL VIRGILI Well, there are the top notes. ORIOL PASCUAL Yes, tell me a little about the structure of the smells, which you once explained to me and which I found very interesting. It was like a pyramidal structure, and at the base you had the most resistant ones and then, instead... MERITXELL VIRGILI Yes, there are three cycles. It’s not pyramidal, it’s... The perfumers work this way: perfumes are designed to work with top notes, notes that also linger on people’s skin, and then notes that remain permeated in the skin due to its pH, which are the base notes. That’s why perfumes are different or smell differently to each person. But it’s not a very good pyramid, it's like there are top notes, there are medium ones and there are base ones. And here the operation, in fact, is the same. There are notes whenever you... because they are also permeated so that the smell lingers. And in fact, it is also like that in our study, in our research, in the commission. When you were walking around, in fact, there are also some smells that when you leave the Raval, those who no longer live there, because it fits the culture, the scents fit the culture and your everyday life, so those who don’t live there any longer smell it. But if you live in Vallvidrera or live outside Barcelona or you come from the Pyrenees and land in the Raval or Poblenou, suddenly you smell and it fits for you. You smell some scents, but when you leave, you remember that scent again. So, it works a bit similarly to perfumes. It’s also another framework of knowledge. [00:30:52] And here’s what else we could explain: Do you remember the smells from Grandma’s house or when you arrive at home? They are essences, I’m talking about essences. I’m not talking about perfumes, I’m talking about essences. They work the same. Memories, when you arrive... All this is created in our brain, in our mind, which is ecological. I’m always talking about the ecomind, the ecological mind. ORIOL PASCUAL What I see is that if we have been able to distinguish these three neighbourhoods by their scents and therefore by the persistence of certain scents. I would now like to see how the new scents have overlapped. MERITXELL VIRGILI Exactly. I was thinking the same. ORIOL PASCUAL Which is this display case here, where we can capture them. MERITXELL VIRGILI Exactly. Grab it yourself, Oriol. ORIOL PASCUAL
These smells have come from what would be new activities, which were previously unknown. This reminds me a lot of when I smell the mouillette. Whew! It smells like a kind of tyre, a synthetic material, like plastic, the new plastics. It is a very special smell, a smell that differs precisely from the others because it feels like it
is much more synthetic, more artificial, but it is a scent that is also beginning to permeate much of our environment. MERITXELL VIRGILI Yes, it reminds me a bit of sometimes when we pass by plastic shops, which sell household items, or sometimes they have all the stuff outside, because that’s the smell. Or, for example, think of the shop in front of the Fundació Tàpies, made of plastic. ORIOL PASCUAL Ah, yes… I can’t recall the name. MERITXELL VIRGILI Servei Estació. ORIOL PASCUAL Servei Estació. MERITXELL VIRGILI Servei Estació. So that place, when you enter there. ORIOL PASCUAL Like porexpan. MERITXELL VIRGILI Yes, synthetic plastic. And then there is another scent that I would like people to start smelling quite a bit: all these electronic materials, computers and cables have a special smell, because as these materials heat up, the fans… ORIOL PASCUAL They spread all this scent around. MERITXELL VIRGILI Yes, because computers are made of synthetic materials, all that. I really smell all the wiring. ORIOL PASCUAL Everything that you’re telling me makes me want to explain something else. These open research efforts have an open architecture in the sense that we have produced an x-ray from what would be the individualised sensations that these ethnographers have been collecting in different areas, and from here we have synthesised certain aromatic substances. But now comes the second part, which is everything that it evokes in us. MERITXELL VIRGILI Exactly. Yes, yes, yes. ORIOL PASCUAL Which are not only memories, but also other types of sensations. Which means that, as I said before, this is open architecture research. Now, what we’re going to try to do is improve everything we’ve shown here based on the contributions of the people who pass by here and leave their sensation. MERITXELL VIRGILI
This is one of the interesting questions, and one that I introduced when we started, which is that you need to train and that you need to undergo educational processes or workshops, because when it comes to people,
we may already be clear, but when you tell people to start describing the scents of their life, at first they freeze up, but they are training. I really don’t particularly smell more than anyone else. On the contrary, sometimes I think that when the smells are very strong, my nostrils immediately collapse, my biological system collapses and I don’t... ORIOL PASCUAL You can’t continue. MERITXELL VIRGILI No, I mean, I smell a lot, just like everyone else, like everyone or maybe less, I don’t know. I’ve never looked into it either. I mean, I don’t smell more than anyone else, but it is an interest that you put in this sense, in this phenomenon to understand the world differently, meaning you connect with the world differently. ORIOL PASCUAL This is precisely the philosophy of this exhibition “The Faces of Barcelona”, which is a changing exhibition, as I said before, because all the material that is exhibited changes as it receives new input that involves new interpretations. Without going beyond what would be a particular line of argument, we do provide nuance to what we explain. I think this is the essence of anthropological research, because what anthropologists do is work mainly with living matter; they work with people and these people obviously change. They change the way they see, interpret or understand what [inaudible] [00:36:25]. MERITXELL VIRGILI Yes, yes, exactly, but it’s training. ORIOL PASCUAL Exactly, it’s training. We have especially focused on the subject of scents, but if you come to “The Faces of Barcelona”, you’ll find other experiences with a very similar structure. We talk about sounds, we talk about industrial vestiges and our thoughts on ruins, we talk about what the starting valuations are—now I will explain the experience a bit—but what would be the valuation from our symbolic perspective of the city. Here, I am speaking about research that was done with photographers from different communities to tell us the place that the bride and groom chose when they got married to make their souvenir photo books and it turns out that the different communities that now live in Barcelona choose spaces different from those that we, the natives, the lifelong inhabitants would choose, for the simple reason that they value other things, other places. Well, all this, as I said before, is research that we are doing, that we are leading at the Museu Etnològic i de Cultures del Món. We reveal this research based on a sensory experience, as we have seen here, an immersive experience. We try to create this space for reflection, where we will collectively build knowledge. Now, in line with what I told you about the immersive experience, I think you were now going to propose that we go outside. MERITXELL VIRGILI Yes. I wanted to smell a little bit more here. I’m smelling this part because I’m short, so I can’t reach up here [laughs]. ORIOL PASCUAL I, on the other hand, tend to rise up. MERITXELL VIRGILI
Ha! Yeah, right? But the scent that comes to me here… It’s very interesting too, this display case, this device, because the smell could really come out and permeate everything, and yet it stays inside here and doesn’t permeate everything.
ORIOL PASCUAL That’s because it’s dense. It’s dense. MERITXELL VIRGILI Yes, yes, we had to give that some good thought too. And in fact, this experience is different. It is more powerful than the experience with the mouillettes. It’s different. ORIOL PASCUAL But it’s the same scent, right? MERITXELL VIRGILI Yes, I’ll grab two and take them home, all right? I’ll do it in this way. Therefore, when I get home, since it’s different, then… ORIOL PASCUAL There you’ll think about it. MERITXELL VIRGILI I’ll think about it, I’ll think a bit there. I’ll think a bit there about what I’ve done here, what I came to do here. ORIOL PASCUAL Listen, if you want to leave a comment, enter our website and leave us a comment. MERITXELL VIRGILI Yes, yes, that is what we want. ORIOL PASCUAL That is what we’d like to have from now on. MERITXELL VIRGILI Great. So if it’s all right with you, in five minutes we’ll meet somewhere else, here at the Laribal Gardens. What I’ll do is an artistic action, a stroll, but it has another aspect that I will also explain to you now. ORIOL PASCUAL So, don’t leave. In five minutes, we’ll be back. We’ll be back with another experience, which I hope will help a little bit to explain or illuminate what we want to convey. [In the street] So, we’ve taken the opportunity to move to the entrance of the Laribal Gardens. MERITXELL VIRGILI Then, let’s go there. ORIOL PASCUAL And this is where I think Meritxell has reserved an experience for us that she will explain to us. [00:40:04] MERITXELL VIRGILI
Yes, now I will explain it to you a little better, but first we will go inside, in an immersive way, inside the Laribal Gardens. Laribal was a Catalan industrialist in the late 19th century and this land belonged to him. It was one
of the first public gardens in Barcelona and in principle what was done was a whole system of terraces so that people could come and take a stroll. ORIOL PASCUAL I want to tell you that the person who designed all this is Rubió i Tudurí, who closely followed Forestier’s French garden models. In fact, he was an admirer of Forestier and knew him when he was still alive. And these gardens, as you say, are Mediterranean gardens, made in terraces, a bit emulating what terrace work is. Do you know how people work on plots of agricultural systems? What they do is flatten land on mountain slopes. So here it’s something similar, with a system of terraces that you can connect to each other with what is basically all this Mediterranean vegetation. MERITXELL VIRGILI Yes, yes. Well this is the Mediterranean terrace system. What we will do, I’ll tell you because in the end we changed the route a bit. ORIOL PASCUAL I think we should go over there, because we’ve passed it. MERITXELL VIRGILI It doesn’t matter. Look, we can go down the stairs here. ORIOL PASCUAL And we’ll go to the Font del Gat? MERITXELL VIRGILI Yes, so we’ll go to the Font del Gat first and then we will go more to a garden area of the Laribal Gardens. We’re going to do it a little backwards because otherwise the viewers will get bored [laughs]. Look, we’ll set up here. First, I want to position myself. Keep smelling, don’t think, let yourself feel this sunshine a bit that we have today, this Mediterranean light, these clouds that are not... This is not Europe, we are not in Europe. It is a Mediterranean light. ORIOL PASCUAL Atlantic Europe. MERITXELL VIRGILI Exactly. We’re in Europe, Atlantic Europe I mean. It’s that I feel very Mediterranean. ORIOL PASCUAL Yes, but the Mediterranean is also Europe. MERITXELL VIRGILI
Then I say Mediterranean, we are in the Mediterranean. It is very important that we think like this. So what I’m going to do now is an artistic activity. I’m talking about osmologies, a system of osmologies. It is a stroll and a strategic approach to ethno-olfactory innovation. And for what reason? Because they are forms of improvisation, they are tests, they are exercises, they are ethno-effective eco-poetics. Above all, they are also narratives, eco-poetic narratives that open semantic fields to me as a strategy and method of openness and are therefore a system of action. And with this system of action, I also draw inspiration from Alfred Gell’s very important posthumous work Art and Agency, a very important book by this anthropologist. We open our minds, we open our senses, we notice the coldness of the day a little, I smell, I smell. It is a circulation, a journey. I work in the interstices, in the cracks, in the word, in the olfactory apparatus, in the mind, what is social and the environment. And why? To embellish a narrative. They are chains of intent, eco-poetic exercises that constitute an index. What I do is strain these ethno-olfactory narratives, the character of an object as a subject. I expand the idea of an object as a living entity. These are the limits of the object in
matter and the particularity of what is immaterial. Do we rethink what is immaterial with objects? What do we provide to the objects? I’m also talking about MANA, the object, and in my case it’s these pendants. These pendants that, thanks to this liquid—do you see this liquid? It is a liquid that allows me to synthesise this narrative and capture this ethno-olfactory moment when I will be here. I strain the object. I smell, I smell, I smell. Moisture, moisture, nose, green, stone. Stone, nose, moisture, sun, sun. This is the atmosphere of my childhood. I’m from Gràcia and at home we always went for a walk in Park Güell. We will now go down these stairs. And these stairs, this system of terraces, these green areas—I smell, I smell, I smell—it is my childhood, my childhood in a park, which is Park Güell. For Park Güell is this park too, the function is the same. They are hills of Barcelona, in a dense city but in need of public hills. That’s why Barcelona City Council thinks: these hills must be public, because people have to go to the hills, they have to commune with nature. I smell. I smell the wet stone. Water, water, blue, blue, cloud. Shh! Can you hear the bird? Do you hear the footsteps? Footsteps, do you hear those footsteps or dogs, always those dogs in the background? These footsteps are the footsteps of a wet land that only exists in these parks in Barcelona. Later we will hear these footsteps better. Do you hear it? It is wet stone and sand, this wet sand from Barcelona. Do we smell it? In my collective and individual memory. Moisture, moisture, nose, nose, brain, ecomind. [00:49:47] Well, we’ve made it to the Font del Gat, which means Cat Fountain. Why does it have this name? Because legend has it that it was found by a cat. And it’s that fountain. Look there, in the back, where you see that semi-circular arch. That’s the Font del Gat. We can’t go in there today, because of COVID, the COVID restrictions, so we can’t go in. And inside here is a restaurant now. But this restaurant was designed by Puig i Cadafalch at the same time as all the pavilions on Avinguda Maria Cristina for the Universal Exposition in the early 20th century. Look, look back there and now you should imagine boys and girls. It was a public leisure area. Boys and girls came here on Sundays with a hand piano, meaning a person over there with a crank, and here they had dances. The boys and girls met and got to know each other. Public gardens where people met were very important. Fountain, water, satiety, food, calmness. Let’s smell? It’s an autumn day, right? People, groups of people, who come together. Let’s smell. Oh! It smells like saltpetre. The stony smell of saltpetre. Amazing. Listen, listen to these footsteps. Wet earth, these brown leaves, green leaves, the stone, the saltpetre, the water, the sound of falling water, the birds, the kind of bird. This is topoolografia and for me it is topo-olophilia, because it reminds me of a good time in my life. And here are all these historical and current scents that I project into the future. And I am capturing all that in this jar. Well, for me this smell also has to do with politics. Why? For me the fountains are politics, because it’s the place where people gather to talk. That’s why there are so many fountains in Barcelona. They were the places where people gathered to talk. This dampness, for me, the dampness and these greens, this water, these browns, these damp smells of Barcelona, which are not rotten, but are cleaned, circulated, this is topoolografia. The topoolografia of the Font del Gat. Nose, nose. Saltpetre. Water drops. Synaesthesia. OLFACTORY SURVIVAL IN BARCELONA is part of the exhibition “The Faces of Barcelona”, hosted by the Museu Etnològic i de Cultures del Món in the venue on Montjuïc MATRIX CULTURA | 2050 is a project promoted by LIVEMEDIA The 5th edition of Anthropology Week in November 2020 was organised by the Catalan Institute of Anthropology Production: LIVEMEDIA as part of MATRIX CULTURA | 2050 and 5th edition of Anthropology Week With the support of:
Generalitat de Catalunya, Catalan Ministry of Culture
Barcelona City Council. Fabra i Coats. Fàbrica de creació centre d’art contemporani With the cooperation of: Museu Etnològic i de Cultures del Món Catalan Institute of Anthropology Olot Cultura. Olot City Council. Institut de Cultura de la Ciutat d’Olot Museu Vida Rural. L’Espluga de Francolí. Fundació Carulla LIVEMEDIA. http://www.lab-livemedia.net. 2020
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