Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Why Luca Turin Matters

Because perfume is art, though people will tell you otherwise. These are the people who once said--perhaps still say--that photography isn’t art, either. Perfume is sculpture; composition on an often imaginary canvas. It depicts and portrays, interprets, can be figurative, representational, abstract, surreal. Perfume paints a picture which is seen differently according to who's looking and where it’s put on display.

Because perfume is science, and memory, emotional and inarticulate, and someone who can speak eloquently, with intelligence, technical precision, and imagination about it is practically a godsend in a world which can barely remember what it was doing thirty years ago, let alone yesterday. Someone who does remember, and can elucidate how perfume and memory interplay, applying science without killing the delicate sense of mystery intrinsic to this exchange, is more than a Godsend. In a world without God, he's an expression of faith.

Because he treats perfume as if it is worthy of excitement, and passion, and the money we spend on it, and the fantasies we build around it. Because he doesn’t regard time or money spent on perfume to be time or money wasted. He treats the great perfumes as if they were wonders of creation, which they are, and describes them in ways which value and encourage our engagement with them. Because he treats our disappointment in those which pander to our dollar at the cost of our intellect with respect and empathy, recognizing that art is serious and trust sacred.

Because he has a sense of humor—about himself, about obsession, about ego, failures and successes, the absurd and the sublime. Question: How many people at Caron does it take to fuck up the classics? Answer: the more the messier. Because he has a bullshit detector. He works at his writing. It's informative and entertaining. Angry and blissed out, with exquisite cadences and finely-measured, poetic description. Because he isn't afraid to hold an opinion, or get it off his hands by putting it out in the open. Because many people are afraid of having an opinion at this point and literally have nothing to say which hasn't been fed to them, subliminally or otherwise. Because he's an incredible stylist with a sharp pen, and his talent qualifies him as the Dorothy Parker of perfume criticism.

Because he wouldn’t wince at this comparison. Because his bullshit detector specializes in the realm of gender codes and prehistoric sex role stereotypes. Why shouldn’t a man wear Magie Noire? Shouldn’t he, simply because you say he shouldn’t? Because by expressing unqualified enthusiasm for feminines and masculines alike he collapses those categories as we understand them, and liberates the mind to think about art freely, without the imposed restrictions of shame and conditioned perception.

Because he takes manufacturers to task for butchering perfume “formulas”, recognizing that the word formula belies a weird alchemical ecosystem where, with one change, an entire world of associations changes, perhaps forever, destroying memories, robbing people of their pasts, defacing art and devaluing history. Because he knows that continuing to treat perfume as photography rather than art allows such criminal behavior to pass off as business, when really it isn’t even good business, as anyone desperate to throw down cash for the real Emeraude would attest.

Because for people who care about perfume Luca Turin is a dream come true.


Rocketqueen said...

Ah, what a great post! I have to say that I haven't read anything of The Famous One, but I sure will - some day! Right now I just feel like opening this treasure chest you've got going here and reading each and every article twice or so!

brian said...

Thanks! I'm happy you enjoyed it. What about Jean Rhys? Have you ever read her? Judging by your favorite books list I bet you would love her. She's life-changing. Wide Sargasso Sea is the one everyone's heard of. The greats are less well-known: Good Morning, Midnight; After Leaving Mister Mackenzie; and especially Voyage in the Dark. She's criminally neglected. You must read her if you haven't--and tell me what you think.

Rocketqueen said...

I have heard of her; yes - but never read anything! Thanks for the tip, I'll check those books out and get back to you with my opinion! What else do you love to read?