Scents of Exile is an ongoing art project started in 2019 that bears witness to the immigrant experience, one person at a time. For Scents of Exile, artist Brian Goeltzenleuchter interviews refugees and other immigrants about their scent memories of home. Odors, which are ephemeral and fleeting, have a strong connection to place and often elicit vivid and emotional memories—a phenomenon known as the “Proust effect.” Goeltzenleuchter uses the interviews as inspiration to create fragrances using cosmetic-grade materials. These fragrances are then embedded in hand sanitizer. Each Scents of Exile station consists of a freestanding hand sanitizer dispenser filled with scented sanitizer and a printed display summarizing the interviewee’s story and scent memories.

Goeltzenleuchter intends for the Scent of Exile stations to be installed at cultural institutions for use by the public on a day-to-day basis. As such, the artworks function as dispersed counter-monuments that expand our individual and collective self-understanding by raising awareness of the diversity of immigrant experiences. When a visitor sanitizes their hands, the fragrance is transferred to the visitor who will carry it with them after leaving the institution, thereby taking the scent memory with them and becoming part of the artwork in a performative act.

For more information on the origins of Scents of Exile, click here.