12 of My Memories as Scents
The process of scent to sense is quite remarkable. I want you take a moment, find a worn shirt, lift it up to your nose, inhale deeply and slowly, and observe this process.
Ask yourself, “what or who does this remind me of?” and “how does this make me feel?”.
When a smell travels through the nose, it binds itself to receptors in the nasal cavity, in a process known as olfaction. Electrical signals from these receptors are transmitted to a neural structure located in the lower region of the brain, called the olfactory bulb.
This process of olfaction generates the sense of scent itself. The information is then further processed in separate areas of the brain, that are linked to emotion and memory, the amygdala and the hippocampus – both of which do not process the sense of sight, sound and touch. The hippocampus is responsible for associative learning. When a memory is triggered by a scent, it is a conditioned response, wherein our brain has created a link between specific smells and our own experiences.
I have always been drawn to scent and memory recollection. The subtext of almost all my work, draws from the notion of nostalgia, the fixed nature of time, and the grandeur of the natural world.
Andy Warhol, collected perfumes throughout his life, never wearing each one for longer than three months, documenting them as time capsules in what he referred to as his “permanent smell collection”.
In his book “The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B and Back Again)”, he writes,
“Another way to take up more space is with perfume. […] I switch perfumes all the time. If I’ve been wearing one perfume for three months, I force myself to give it up, even if I still feel like wearing it, so whenever I smell it again it will always remind me of those three months. I never go back to wearing it again; it becomes part of my permanent smell collection.”
Over the course of my life, I’ve adopted his philosophy and have built my own “permanent smell collection”, documenting my own life through perfume.
I would like to share with you the different fragrances I’ve worn over the years and my memories linked to these scents.
Giorgio Armani Acqua Di Gio
My first perfume. I think I was 13. Childhood and my home in Perth.
Yves Saint Laurent La Nuit De L’Homme
Adolescence. Notes of cardamom and vetiver. I wore this throughout all of high school, amongst a sea of Lynx, aged 15-18.
Dior Homme Eau de Cologne
My first crush. I think of fresh white t-shirts. Notes of bergamot and grapefruit blossom. 19.
Comme des Garçons Amazingreen
Moving to Sydney. Optimism. New friends. I was 21. Notes of gunpowder and palm tree leaves. It smells like what you’d imagine the colour green to smell like. This is one of my favourites.
A lot of partying. Notes of sandalwood and cardamom. A scent for night. My memory with this one is a bit of a blur. 21.
My first Paris Fashion Week. I experienced a world I’d only ever accessed through the lens of other people. Fig, green notes, and coconut. 21.
Byredo Sunday Cologne
Copenhagen, Winter 2016. My friend Khoa and I on our first night exploring the city at 1am, listening to Solange’s, “A Seat at the Table”. It snowed. Another favourite. 22.
Le Labo Thé Noir 29
New York City. Buzzcut. 22.
My first solo photographic exhibition, “Son of a Baker”. 22.
Histoires de Parfums This Is Not A Blue Bottle
This fragrance opens with aldehydes and orange zest, followed by honey and metallic notes. Two weeks in Italy, a brief summer romance, and my friend, Sarah and I sitting by swimming pools. July 2017. 23.
Le Labo Santal 33
A road trip around Tasmania, with my friend Annie. Working on my second exhibition, “20/20”. All of 2018. Notes of wood, papyrus, and leather.
Le Labo Another 13
Duc Thinh Dong is a Vietnamese-Australian artist, currently residing in Sydney.