The Institute for Art and Olfaction partnered with Smell it! The Fragrance of Art for an Olfactory Art Symposium showcasing the practices and pieces of a selection of artists exhibiting at Smell it! in Bremen, Germany. In this video, artist Brian Goeltzenleuchter is interviewed by Irena Kukrić, researcher and coordinator of the Dynamic Archive at the University of Arts, Bremen.


Join the conversation: In conjunction with his exhibition Scents of Exile, currently on view at Olfactory Art Keller, artist Brian Goeltzenleuchter will discuss the project with the Institute for Art and Olfaction’s Saskia Wilson Brown on June 3, at 3PM PST. Register here:

The interview is part of the IAO’s Meet a Nose series. Each edition of Meet a Nose takes the form of a one-hour moderated discussion, where extraordinary thinkers, singular artists, and distinctive perfumers from around the world share their unique perspectives on what it means to be a sensorial human in the world.





Brian Goeltzenleuchter: Scents of Exile, June 3 to June 26, 2021 at Olfactory Art Keller, 25 Henry Street, New York

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, 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 dispenser filled with scented hand 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 at events. The goal is to raise awareness of the diversity of immigrant experiences and facilitate a dialogue. 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.

At Olfactory Art Keller, eight Scents of Exile stations will be on display, including one that dispenses hand sanitizer scented to evoke the smell of sweat, smoke, and tear gas reminiscent of protests in Egypt during the Arab Spring (Keyro, 22, 2019), and one that dispenses hand sanitizer scented to evoke the smell of boiled milk (Azira, 52, 2019). In parallel to the exhibition, several Scents of Exile stations are being used in museums in Bremen, Germany as part of Smell it! Smell in Art, the multi-museum survey of olfactory art. The artist will be present for an informal opening reception on Thursday, June 3rd from 4 to 6 pm. At 6 pm on June 3rd, he will discuss his work, including Scents of Exile, with Saskia Wilson-Brown of the Institute of Art and Olfaction.

Hot off the presses and into a shipping container! The German edition of Scents of Exile just shipped to Städtische Galerie Bremen, where it will meet up with newly designed hand sanitizing dispensers. More info as it materializes!

Brian Goeltzenleuchter conceived of Scents of Exile in 2014 as a project proposal to an art exhibition of the same title, curated by Ashraf Osman. Unfortunately, the exhibition never materialized, and Scents of Exile was shelved for nearly five years.

In 2018, Brian received an invitation to be artist-in-residence at Sculpture Space during the fall of the following year. His intention was to study the sculptural dimension of olfactory space. While in residence, Brian was introduced to the administrators of the Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees located in Utica, New York. It was a very bleak time for refugee organizations nationwide as governmental cuts slashed budgets, impacting resources and programs. Working with Sculpture Space and the MVRC, Brian developed the first two Scents of Exile profiles (Keyro, 22, 2019 and Azira, 52, 2019). The project was beta tested at Utica Station in late 2019.

Less than three months later, the country—and the world— would come to a standstill as SARS-CoV-2 spread internationally. While sheltering in place in San Diego, Brian continued to develop Scents of Exile. A simple social media post yielded dozens of willing participants who responded to the aims of the project and wished to share their stories. Brian conducted Zoom interviews for a period of three months.

The next step was designing fragrances that evoked the scent memories told to him by his interview subjects. The scent making process uses perfume-grade materials that are heavily diluted in order to only remain on the user’s hands for a few minutes. The scent compositions are blended into a conventional hand sanitizing solution that exceeds the requirements set by the World Health Organization.

After developing the fragrances, Brian standardized the visual aspects of the project through a series of monochrome relief-printed posters summarizing the interview subject’s biography and scent memories. The poster colors were chosen as a visual interface that connects the written and olfactory narratives. Cultural institutions wishing to feature Scents of Exile in their spaces will receive 1 liter of scented hand sanitizer, a corresponding poster, a freestanding dispenser with poster frame, and a certificate of authenticity signed by the artist.

The first exhibition featuring Scents of Exile is scheduled to open in May 2021 at the Städtische Galerie Bremen and other partner museums in Germany. In June 2021, the project will be exhibited at Olfactory Art Keller Gallery in New York City.