1963-asimov: “The Sword of Achilles”, Isaac Asimov (2011-08-31):
1983-wolfe-thecitadeloftheautarch-thejustman: “Loyal to the Group of Seventeen’s Story—The Just Man”, Gene Wolfe (2018-01-20):
After the quantitative diagrams of the first chapter, and the spatial ones of the second, evolutionary trees constitute morphological diagrams, where history is systematically correlated with form. And indeed, in contrast to literary studies—where theories of form are usually blind to history, and historical work blind to form—for evolutionary thought morphology and history are truly the two dimensions of the same tree: where the vertical axis charts, from the bottom up, the regular passage of time (every interval, writes Darwin, ‘one thousand generations’), while the horizontal one follows the formal diversification (‘the little fans of diverging dotted lines’) that will eventually lead to ‘well-marked varieties’, or to entirely new species.
The horizontal axis follows formal diversification . . . But Darwin’s words are stronger: he speaks of ‘this rather perplexing subject’—elsewhere, ‘perplexing & unintelligible’ 4—whereby forms don’t just ‘change’, but change by always diverging from each other (remember, we are in the section on ‘Divergence of Character’).5 Whether as a result of historical accidents, then, or under the action of a specific ‘principle’, 6 the reality of divergence pervades the history of life, defining its morphospace—its space-of-forms: an important concept, in the pages that follow—as an intrinsically expanding one.
From a single common origin, to an immense variety of solutions: it is this incessant growing-apart of life forms that the branches of a morphological tree capture with such intuitive force. ‘A tree can be viewed as a simplified description of a matrix of distances’, write Cavalli-Sforza, Menozzi and Piazza in the methodological prelude to their History and Geography of Human Genes; and figure 29, with its mirror-like alignment of genetic groups and linguistic families drifting away from each other (in a ‘correspondence [that] is remarkably high but not perfect’, as they note with aristocratic aplomb), 7 makes clear what they mean: a tree is a way of sketching how far a certain language has moved from another one, or from their common point of origin.
And if language evolves by diverging, why not literature too?
2007-shiner.pdf: “The Aesthetics of Smelly Art”, Larry Shiner, Yulia Kriskovets (2007-08-06):
The remarkable increase in the number of artworks that foreground scents and odors during recent years suggests the need for an assessment of the aesthetic and artistic possibilities of smell. Because there has been so little olfactory art in the past, it is hardly surprising that this area has been largely neglected by philosophical aesthetics.
This essay is intended as a survey of theoretical issues raised by olfactory art and as a defense of its practice against traditional skepticism about the aesthetic and artistic relevance of scents. Although the complexity of some of the individual issues would be worthy of an entire article, we have chosen to offer an overview in the hope of attracting other philosophers, as well as critics and curators, to consider this fascinating new area for reflection. As interesting as it would be to explore the aesthetic aspects of the everyday experience of smells or the use of odors in cultural ceremonies such as Japanese Kodo or even the use of odors to accompany plays and films, we focus on contemporary olfactory art meant to be presented in galleries, museums, or as public installations/
Because much of this art may be unfamiliar, we begin with several examples of artworks based on odors. Then we examine some traditional objections to smell as a legitimate object of aesthetic attention, and finally, we discuss the art status of olfactory artworks, closing with the complex issue of whether or in what sense perfume is art.
…An artist who has made impressive use of natural scents to create olfactory environments intended to transport the audience into a different world is the Brazilian fabric sculptor, Ernesto Neto, who once packed long, diagonal legs of women’s sheer nylon stockings with the scents of spices such as cloves, cumin, and turmeric as part of the exhibition Wonderland at the St. Louis Art Museum in 2000. Some of the stockings stretched from floor to ceiling, others simply lay on the floor like sacks of colored powders. These nettings spread their scents throughout the museum space, creating a dreamy atmosphere that varied for each visitor depending on his or her associations with the odors.
…Other artists use scents in a more confrontational way, often to illustrate political or social ideas. In the project Actual Odor, the artist Angela Ellsworth wore a jersey cocktail dress soaked in her own urine for the duration of the opening reception for the Token City installation (a subway simulation) by artist Muriel Magenta at the Arizona State University Art Museum (1997). Ellsworth wanted to demonstrate how smell destroys any social boundaries existent in a subway, as it permeates the space and transcends visual barriers or experiences. While wearing the smelly dress, the artist was fanning herself and spreading the odor with a hand fan, one side of which was lettered with the word ‘actual’ and the other side with the word ‘odor.’ Ellsworth mingled with other museum visitors and for continuous periods of time sat in the projection space of Token City. Most of the visitors could smell the unpleasant odor, yet did not associate the nicely dressed woman with the smell, nor could they find the source of the scent. Ellsworth’s work can be grouped with a number of artists who have created site-specific installations involving smells or have taken their performance into the streets.
…One of the most prolific olfactory artists today is the Belgian, Peter de Cupere, whose scent sculptures, scent installations, perfumes, and olfactory performances seek to engage audiences through all the senses, but primarily through scent. Among his scent sculptures is Earthcar (2002), a small car covered with earth and fake green plants, emitting the smells of thyme, anise, pine, olive, and grape. Installations have included Blue Skies (1999) consisting of a blue-painted room with a thousand yards of fishnet and dried fish along with synthetic fish and coconut smells. A work even more focused on odors was his Black Beauty Smell Happening (1999), which teased gallery visitors with a perfume he called “Black Beauty.” During the exhibition, attractive male and female models dressed in black cat suits with cutout patches mingled with the audiences. De Cupere sprayed his perfume, that itself left black traces, on the bare skin showing through the cutouts. For spectators to smell the perfume, they needed to draw their noses close to the “smell zones.”
…Our last example is a work by Helgard Haug, a young performance artist who won a prize in support of a public art piece at the subway station Berlin Alexanderplatz, once the social center of East Berlin. Haug commissioned a distillation of the scents of Berlin Alexanderplatz and put it into little souvenir glass vials that were dispensed in the station during the year 2000. The artist collaborated with Karl-Heinz Burk, a professional from the industrial aroma-producing factory H and R in Braunschweig, to produce her U-deur. The perfumer designed the scent based on his own perception of the station without chemical analysis. U-deur included the smell of bread as one of the primary odors (because there was once a bakery stand in the subway) along with the smells of cleaning agents, oil, and electricity. The public response to the project was extraordinary. People wrote that the little sniff-bottle brought to mind memories and associations with the smells of a divided Berlin, for instance, the “dead” stations that West Berlin subway trains went through after passing the Wall, as well as thoughts about the Stasi archive with its items saturated with the body odor of East German criminals and dissidents.8 Other olfactory artists have done installations evoking the smell of places, such as Sissel Tolaas’s simulation of the odors of Paris, including among other things, the scents of dog droppings, ashtrays, and a slaughterhouse.9Our last example is a work by Helgard Haug, a young performance artist who won a prize in support of a public art piece at the subway station Berlin Alexanderplatz, once the social center of East Berlin. Haug commissioned a distillation of the scents of Berlin Alexanderplatz and put it into little souvenir glass vials that were dispensed in the station during the year 2000. The artist collaborated with Karl-Heinz Burk, a professional from the industrial aroma-producing factory H and R in Braunschweig, to produce her U-deur. The perfumer designed the scent based on his own perception of the station without chemical analysis. U-deur included the smell of bread as one of the primary odors (because there was once a bakery stand in the subway) along with the smells of cleaning agents, oil, and electricity. The public response to the project was extraordinary. People wrote that the little sniff-bottle brought to mind memories and associations with the smells of a divided Berlin, for instance, the “dead” stations that West Berlin subway trains went through after passing the Wall, as well as thoughts about the Stasi archive with its items saturated with the body odor of East German criminals and dissidents.8
Other olfactory artists have done installations evoking the smell of places, such as Sissel Tolaas’s simulation of the odors of Paris, including among other things, the scents of dog droppings, ashtrays, and a slaughterhouse.9
…Although most olfactory artists work with natural odors, the invention of the gas chromatograph and mass spectrometer (GC/
MS), which together can chart the hundreds of chemical components of any odor, has meant that artists can either use the GC/ MS themselves or hire a perfumer or chemist to analyze and reproduce or reshape an existing smell in concentrate. One artist who has taken the latter route is Clara Ursitti, whose electronically dispensed Eau Claire was based on her own body odor and was released when gallery visitors closed the door of a special booth containing it.42 In another work, Bill, the reconstituted scent was dispensed from a small burner in the center of an empty room. The lack of ancillary media make these two works more or less “pure” olfactory art, but like most installations and performances, or even painting and sculpture these days, Ursitti’s works were accompanied by an “artist’s statement” that explained her interest in exploring people’s reactions to scents, and noting, in the case of Eau Claire, that the scent was vaginal, and in the case of Bill, that it was sperm (one should add that Bill was first presented during the Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky affair). Thus, both these works required the artist’s statement in order to be understood and interpreted. Without the artist’s statement, many gallery visitors may not have been able to identify even the type of smells offered and mistaken it for a weird perfume.43
2007-wolfe: “Nor the Summers as Golden: Writing Multivolume Works”, Gene Wolfe (2012-03-02):
2008-johnson.pdf: “Hierarchy in the library: Egalitarian dynamics in Victorian novels”, John A. Johnson, Joseph Carroll, Jonathan Gottschall, Daniel Kruger (2008-10-01):
The current research investigated the psychological differences between protagonists and antagonists in literature and the impact of these differences on readers. It was hypothesized that protagonists would embody cooperative motives and behaviors that are valued by egalitarian hunter-gatherers groups, whereas antagonists would demonstrate status-seeking and dominance behaviors that are stigmatized in such groups. This hypothesis was tested with an online questionnaire listing characters from 201 canonical British novels of the longer nineteenth century. 519 respondents generated 1470 protocols on 435 characters. Respondents identified the characters as protagonists, antagonists, or minor characters, judged the characters’ motives according to human life history theory, rated the characters’ traits according to the five-factor model of personality, and specified their own emotional responses to the characters on categories adapted from Ekman’s seven basic emotions. As expected, antagonists are motivated almost exclusively by the desire for social dominance, their personality traits correspond to this motive, and they elicit strongly negative emotional responses from readers. Protagonists are oriented to cooperative and affiliative behavior and elicit positive emotional responses from readers. Novels therefore apparently enable readers to participate vicariously in an egalitarian social dynamic like that found in hunter-gatherer societies. We infer that agonistic structure in novels simulates social behaviors that fulfill an adaptive social function and perhaps stimulates impulses toward these behaviors in real life. [Keywords: egalitarian groups, literature, social dominance, stigmatization]
2010-dobelli.pdf: “Avoid News: Towards a Healthy News Diet”, Rolf Dobelli (2010):
This article is the antidote to news. It is long, and you probably won’t be able to skim it. Thanks to heavy news consumption, many people have lost the reading habit and struggle to absorb more than four pages straight. This article will show you how to get out of this trap—if you are not already too deeply in it.
2010-han.pdf: “Signaling Status with Luxury Goods: The Role of Brand Prominence”, Young Jee Han, Joseph C. Nunes, Xavier Drèze (2010-07-01):
This research introduces “brand prominence,” a construct reflecting the conspicuousness of a brand’s mark or logo on a product.
The authors propose a taxonomy that assigns consumers to one of four groups according to their wealth and need for status, and they demonstrate how each group’s preference for conspicuously or inconspicuously branded luxury goods corresponds predictably with their desire to associate or dissociate with members of their own and other groups. Wealthy consumers low in need for status want to associate with their own kind and pay a premium for quiet goods only they can recognize. Wealthy consumers high in need for status use loud luxury goods to signal to the less affluent that they are not one of them. Those who are high in need for status but cannot afford true luxury use loud counterfeits to emulate those they recognize to be wealthy.
Field experiments along with analysis of market data (including counterfeits) support the proposed model of status signaling using brand prominence. [Keywords: luxury, status, conspicuous consumption, brand prominence, branding, reference groups, associative/
dissociative motives, counterfeit goods]
2019-candia.pdf: “The universal decay of collective memory and attention”, Cristian Candia, C. Jara-Figueroa, Carlos Rodriguez-Sickert, Albert-László Barabási, César A. Hidalgo (2019-12-10):
Collective memory and attention are sustained by two channels: oral communication (communicative memory) and the physical recording of information (cultural memory). Here, we use data on the citation of academic articles and patents, and on the online attention received by songs, movies and biographies, to describe the temporal decay of the attention received by cultural products. We show that, once we isolate the temporal dimension of the decay, the attention received by cultural products decays following a universal biexponential function. We explain this universality by proposing a mathematical model based on communicative and cultural memory, which fits the data better than previously proposed log-normal and exponential models. Our results reveal that biographies remain in our communicative memory the longest (20–30 years) and music the shortest (about 5.6 years). These findings show that the average attention received by cultural products decays following a universal biexponential function.
2019-kraft.pdf: “The Odor Value Concept in the Formal Analysis of Olfactory Art”, Philip Kraft (2018-11-12):
In the past 15 years, there has been a tremendous increase in the emergence of olfactory artworks despite the traditional skepticism with respect to scents as subjects of art. This essay submits that this skepticism lacks aesthetic justification; art is what is accepted as such, and olfactory art is in fact already well accepted as an art form by the general public. However, there exists no methodological tool for the formal analysis of olfactory artworks. The essay suggests such a method, based on odor values; this is elaborated using the fragrance ‘Dune’ (Dior, 1991), and is compared with a purely visual approach to the same subject. This new concept allows for the derivation of simple compositional sketches and is then exemplified by the formal analysis of three more recent olfactory artworks: Elodie Pong/
Roman Kaiser, ‘White’ (2016), Martynka Wawrzyniak/ Yann Vasnier, ‘Tears (T6)’ (2012), and Christophe Laudamiel, ‘heat’ (2003).
…When the fragrance materials mentioned above are combined to give a rough preliminary sketch of ‘Dune’ (Dior, 1991), that is, a basic outline of the fragrance, analogous to the initial sketch of an artist outlining the basic idea for a painting, drawing or sculpture, it becomes apparent that the somewhat green-leafy seaweed contrast of the original is missing, which would seem to require the further addition of an ingredient providing a natural green-leafy note such as Stemone (d2) in the compositional sketch. Of course, the genuine perfume ‘Dune’ (Dior, 1991) consists of many more materials, likely around 40 ingredients; yet, with these 12 compositional cornerstones one can already well sketch out, study and contemplate about the fragrance.
This provides the basis of a method for assessment of fragrances as objets d’art. After having identified the key elements of a scent, the individual odorants are arranged according to their evaporation profile (vapor pressures) from volatile to substantive. We can then outline each one as a block, the width of which corresponds to the perceived intensity of the ingredient, while the height indicates the duration of its perception moving along the evaporation curve of the scent from top to middle to base note. The y-axis will thus be a measure of the percentage amount of a given material in the formula, while the x-axis will correspond to the common logarithm of the odor value (OV) as a measure of intensity…To account for the fact that the sensory perception of potency is not linear but exponential, the common logarithm is used to correlate our perception with the mathematical data, and both correlate astonishingly well. Thus, after adjusting and equilibrating the individual odor blocks in different trials for ‘Dune’ (Dior, 1991), the schematic representation delineated in Figure 2 was obtained in the fourth trial.
…‘Tears (T6)’ is the most interesting work of the ‘Smell Me’ series as it is the lightest, brightest, most uplifting and cheerful scent, although or quite possibly because the underlying tears weren’t anything but tears of joy (Figure 6). Wawrzyniak collected her tears in crying sessions by listening to songs from her childhood, including for instance those from the Polish movie ‘Akademia Pana Kleska’ (1983), and a tape recording with her parents when she was four years of age (Figure 7). Interestingly, she observed in her crying sessions that the smell of her tears changed according to the trigger of her sadness.
What would it be like to revisit a museum, restaurant, or city you just visited? To rewatch a movie you just watched? To replay a game you just played? People often have opportunities to repeat hedonic activities. Seven studies (total N = 3,356) suggest that such opportunities may be undervalued: Many repeat experiences are not as dull as they appear. Studies 1–3 documented the basic effect. All participants first completed a real-world activity once in full (Study 1, museum exhibit; Study 2, movie; Study 3, video game). Then, some predicted their reactions to repeating it whereas others actually repeated it. Predictors underestimated Experiencers’ enjoyment, even when experienced enjoyment indeed declined. Studies 4 and 5 compared mechanisms: neglecting the pleasurable byproduct of continued exposure to the same content (e.g., fluency) versus neglecting the new content that manifests by virtue of continued exposure (e.g., discovery), both of which might dilute uniform dullness. We found stronger support for the latter: The misprediction was moderated by stimulus complexity (Studies 4 and 5) and mediated by the amount of novelty discovered within the stimulus (Study 5), holding exposure constant. Doing something once may engender an inflated sense that one has now seen “it,” leaving people naïve to the missed nuances remaining to enjoy. Studies 6 and 7 highlighted consequences: Participants incurred costs to avoid repeats so to maximize enjoyment, in specific contexts for which repetition would have been as enjoyable (Study 6) or more enjoyable (Study 7) as the provided novel alternative. These findings warrant a new look at traditional assumptions about hedonic adaptation and novelty preferences. Repetition too could add an unforeseen spice to life.
2019-whiten.pdf: “Cultural Evolution in Animals”, Andrew Whiten (2019):
In recent decades, a burgeoning literature has documented the cultural transmission of behavior through social learning in numerous vertebrate and invertebrate species. One meaning of “cultural evolution in animals” refers to these discoveries, and I present an overview of key findings. I then address the other meaning of the term focused on cultural changes within a lineage. Such changes in humans, described as “cumulative cultural evolution,” have been spectacular, but relatively little attention has yet been paid to the topic in nonhuman animals, other than asserting that the process is unique to humans. A variety of evidence including both controlled experiments and field observations has begun to challenge this view, and in some behavioral domains, notably birdsong, cultural evolution has been studied for many years. In this review, I dissect concepts of cultural evolution and cumulative culture and appraise the accumulating evidence bearing on their nature and significance for evolutionary biology at large.
2020-etro.pdf: “Liberalizing art. Evidence on the Impressionists at the end of the Paris Salon”, Federico Etro, Silvia Marchesi, Elena Stepanova (2020-03-01):
- The end of the government-controlled Salon started the appreciation of impressionism.
- Evidence that the liberalization of art exhibitions started the appreciation of art innovations.
- A study of the impact of 1880 liberalization of art exhibitions in Paris.
- Difference-in difference estimation on art policy.
We analyze the art market in Paris between the government-controlled Salon and the post-1880 system, when the Republican government liberalized art exhibitions. The jury of the old Salon decided on submissions with a bias in favor of conservative art of the academic insiders, erecting entry barriers against outsiders as the Impressionists. With a difference-in difference estimation, we provide evidence that the end of the government-controlled Salon contributed to start the price increase of the Impressionists relative to the insiders.
[Keywords: Art market, Liberalization, Market structure, Insider-outsider, Hedonic regressions, Impressionism]