Please join us for Scent City: Urban Olfactory Activism by Jim Drobnick (OCAD)

Date: Thursday February 27, 2020
Time: 4:00-5:30PM
Location: Room 330, Anthropology Bldg, 19 Russell Street, Toronto

Abstract: The city constitutes a prime battleground for olfactory politics. The large population, the competing interests, the variety of stakeholders, and the dynamic pace of redevelopment all contribute to contestations about the best use of the public commons that is the atmosphere. Whose welfare is to be accommodated when pollution envelops homes, circulates in the water and saturates the ground – the industries providing jobs, or the people suffering health issues? Because of questions like this, artists engaging with olfactory activism tend to base their practice in major cities where dangers pose risks to a great number of people. This talk focuses on artists’ projects that respond to harmful situations in which negative smells portend environmental problems. Through performances, community and relational works, landscape interventions, distillations, and technological innovations, artists have adopted several means to address the negative smells antagonistic to well-being. By linking odors to broader issues of power, ethics and economics, these artists use the strategies of abjection, remediation and empowerment to focus attention and compel action. In a reciprocal approach, olfaction signals both the problem to be addressed and the medium to offer solutions.

Speaker Bio: Jim Drobnick is a critic, curator and Associate Professor of Contemporary Art and Theory at OCAD University. He has published on the visual arts, performance, the senses and post-media practices in recent anthologies such as Designing with Smell (2017), Food and Museums (2017), L’Art Olfactif Contemporain (2015), The Multisensory Museum (2014), Senses and the City (2011), and Art, History and the Senses (2010). He has guest edited special thematic issues of Performance Research (Under the Influence, 2017), PUBLIC (Civic Spectacle, 2012) and The Senses & Society (Sensory Aesthetics, 2012). His books include the anthologies Aural Cultures (2004) and The Smell Culture Reader (2006). He co-founded the Journal of Curatorial Studies, an international, peer-reviewed journal that explores the increasing relevance of curating and exhibitions and their impact on institutions, audiences, aesthetics and display culture. His curatorial collaborative, DisplayCult, organizes art exhibitions that foreground performative and multisensory projects (www.displaycult.com).

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