This is a montage of people reacting to the smell of the bagful of fresh basil I carried around all day yesterday.

Over the weekend, I was in Maine for S and O’s wedding reception. On Sunday, we went to S’s parent’s house, which has a large garden. Perhaps because I have a prominent tattoo of a basil leaf, or perhaps because I ate all of her pesto, S’s mother sent me home with a quantity of basil that easily exceeded the rest of my luggage. Being fresh-picked and uncovered, it had a powerful odor, particularly when jostled in the bag. Because airports usually smell like carpet and noxious cinnamon buns, the herb scent was not only strong but also out-of-place. Airports regulate sights, smells, and sounds very carefully for reasons of efficiency and security, so it’s unusual to experience anything aesthetically surprising while in them. Consequently, almost everyone nearby noticed the basil, from the security line to the gate to the plane to the taxi, in many cases enough to start up a conversation with an unshaven and hungover stranger.

This piece, although I didn’t deliberately set it up, is the most sculptural of the sonic artworks so far presented because it was such a specific provocation. It was also a productive exercise to excite one sense-mode as a means of eliciting recordable action in another.

An upcoming post will deal with food, a subject central to the politics of sensuality in the contemporary moment. This piece will hopefully make a useful lead-in.

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