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Natalia Lyapunova’s Diary

Natalia Lyapunova
Graduated in Sociocultural Project Design from the Faculty for Humanities of Ivanovo State University of Chemistry and Technology and works at Sinergiya University, Moscow.


I initially became a mediator by accident when I asked a friend “What do you see here?” as we were wandering across an exhibit of Russian avant-garde.

As you know, humans have five senses of perception, including the sense of smell which is the most intimate of human feelings and the most memorable. Did you know that a person is able to distinguish between more tones of smell than sounds? Smells play a huge role in our life. It is the sense of smell that invokes intense, emotion-filled memories. And at the scents on site were, let’s say, not the most pleasant ones.

MeMoMe by Sissel Tolaas is an example of an artwork focusing on memory. Random, abstract scents were supposed to resurrect recollections of our experiment. But what kind of smells were actually present in it? For me, purely unpleasant: wet earth, dry earth, rotten earth, etc. But just imagine my surprise when a guest wished to soak up her scarf with the smell of one of the flasks, which was the most pleasant scent she ever experienced in her life. Unbelievable, isn’t it?

And what about the candle? It generally had an equally unpleasant smell at all stages, so much that my stomach twisted. Meanwhile, our guests enjoyed those smells, not everyone of course, but many liked them. So, what I realized was that there is no absolute truth, each of us has their own one.

There is no need to label things and believe that your personal opinion is the only right one.

Some interesting points

I am well into mediation at this stage.

– Do you think we can get to know what outer space smells like? (I expected a logical answer, which is no).

– Yes, pretty much we can.

I was confused.

– Yes, you are right though. The artist actively collaborates with astronauts who share their space discoveries with her. Katie Paterson collects smells from them to attach a scent to this work.

– But no! Using advanced technology, we can calculate the molecular structure of any space element and then, taking these data as a starting point, compose a precise description of both its taste and smell.

Yet another incident near the candle.

A guest.

– An interesting thing, you know, is that your artist suggests that outer space smells like raspberries and rum. But I watched a film, don’t remember its title, where the female protagonist is a scientist, and she reports at a conference that the earth’s core smells like rum and raspberries. two artistic approaches, seemingly the same, but at the same time different. Which is the right one, I wonder?

A guest.

– Well, I don’t know, but obviously not your girl from the movie. Because the Earth’s core cannot smell like rum and raspberries. It can only smell like something burned or like hot iron. Can you imagine what temperatures there are! How raspberries can be there! If only some burned ones.

The multiplicity of meaning behind the word “air” (“ether”).

According to the curator’s words, the title implies two readings: that of being on air on radio or TV—and that of air as a substance which surrounds us, in other words, smell.

A female historian also clarified that the top of Mount Olympus where gods lived was called Ether. While a doctor said that his colleagues call sleeping and anesthetic pills “ether”. These medicines are not employed any more today, of course, but dentists used them widely previously.

A few words about the “warm” episodes.

My parents decided to launch a good tradition—to visit Art Experiment at Garage annually during the New Year holidays. And no matter that they have attended just one Art Experiment so far—once you make a decision, you have to fulfil it.

I listen to the perfumes created by parents after the mediation and realize that my mom came up with a very strong scent. I ask her: “Mom, isn’t it too harsh, what did you add in it?” “Of course it is harsh! I mixed fire water with chili pepper!” she says.

We sat in the kitchen discussing Art Experiment for hours that night, it was real mediation.

I had already finished my shift when I noticed two guys wandering in the space, not knowing what else to do, as they had done everything by the time, and their mothers were still busy. I looked at one of them and realized that his face seemed very familiar to me. And he thought the same, I guess.

– Did you visit the camera obscura last year?

– Yes, I did.

– I recognized you at once, so nice to see familiar faces. But tell me what, how does it work? (he points at Where Dogs Run).

So, we began talking with those guys about what they did themselves on the project, what it all means, why the flasks smell so disgustingly, and whether I would be working here next year.

He attended almost all Art Experiments (except the very first), and I was doing mediation for his group a year ago.

Do you think we are going to meet again next year?

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