The artist desires to move individuals together with his scents, not maintain them caught in a binary mind-set about gender and fragrance.
When the world floor to a halt within the spring of 2020, author, director and dramaturg David Bernstein was confronted with a stark new actuality: he was a theatre-maker in a world with none theatres.
As others within the theatre business have been considering digital performances and digital media, Bernstein started to discover one other of his longtime fascinations — scent. The ensuing firm, Jovian, is a scent artwork studio primarily based in Toronto that produces what Bernstein describes as “psychoactive fragrance for pores and skin and area.” The small batch, hand-crafted scents are a mixture of aromatherapy, conventional perfuming, and playful nods to new age philosophies and drug tradition — Jovian provides scents in “uppers” and “downers” and employs an in-house astrologer, Jaime Wright, who helps dictate the formulation.
As a homosexual man, Bernstein has taken a queer strategy to the heteronormative subject of scent, an business so gendered that it splits its providing in two straight throughout the gender binary; colognes for males, perfumes for girls. Jovian’s all-gender scents are actually not the primary choices to eschew the fragrance binary, however they’re notably revolutionary as a result of they don’t simply toss away the previous binary labels for scents, but in addition the gendered associations with specific substances.
The choice to go all-gender was knowledgeable by Bernstein’s days promoting fragrance at a division retailer to assist himself whereas he was a scholar at New York College’s TISCH Faculty of the Arts. In that place, Bernstein says he was continually met with clients’ deeply held beliefs about scent and gender. “It’s wonderful, “ he says, “once you’ve labored so long as I’ve in fragrance, individuals’s gender grasp ups come proper to the forefront.”
Clients, Bernstein says, could be intrigued by scents he’d introduce them to, however shoot them down due to their gender. “They’d say, ‘Oh, I like it, however is it too female?’ or ‘Is it too masculine?’”
“It doesn’t have genitals and it doesn’t have a socially outlined gender efficiency,” he says in response to that line of pondering. “No, it’s not too female. It’s liquid.”
Across the similar time, Bernstein found CB I Hate Fragrance, a model that takes inspiration for its scents from uncommon sources that span from snow to mud to sushi. The boutique rapidly grew to become one in every of his favorite locations in New York Metropolis and the model’s philosophy finally helped inform Bernstein’s personal tackle scent. When he began Jovian, Bernstein embraced a queer fluidity as he sourced substances, exploring how completely different substances blended collectively to create an emotional state slightly than the age-old fragrance ideology of how they’d assist the wearer entice suitors of the alternative gender. He additionally embraced his personal mixture of unusual supplies like contemporary hops, porcini, ginger lily, and occasional.
The thought behind every Jovian scent is to move the one that smells it, in the end permitting it to alter their mind-set. The strategy is knowledgeable by Bernstein’s work in theatre as a “scent designer” — an artist who creates scents to be launched right into a theatre area in hopes of transporting the viewers. If, for instance, a scene is ready in an orchard, a scent designer may create a mix evoking bushes and fruit that might be subtle throughout that second within the play, form of like an inventive tackle smell-o-vision. The identical methodology is often taken with trend, like when Alexander McQueen tapped Bernstein to create three customized scent results for a dance-based presentation of its McQ wares on the New Museum.
As a queer artistic and enterprise particular person, Bernstein says he’s spent this Pleasure Month reflecting on who area is held for within the LGBTQ+ neighborhood — notably these whose identities are afforded much less privilege than his personal as a homosexual white man. This 12 months Pleasure Month additionally intersected with some deeply troubling occasions which were on Bernstein’s thoughts, together with the revelation of lots of of unmarked graves on the websites of residential faculties throughout the nation. Past the human stage, Bernstein says he’s been reflecting on being in a enterprise that extracts pure supplies from the land given Canada’s fraught relationship with land and its unique caretakers.
“The oils have been sublimated from agricultural product to liquid extraction, the bottles have been made in a manufacturing unit, and all have been shipped throughout borders and socioeconomic contexts,” Bernstein explains. “So, a variety of conceptually and ethically profound issues have occurred earlier than I even mix the primary drop of scent.”
About half of the important oils he makes use of are sourced from India, which is at the moment coping with a devastating surge of COVID-19. “My queer utopia of scent capabilities on labour from elsewhere — that’s one thing I’m staying aware of,” he says, explaining he’s shared fundraising efforts from reduction organizations in India on the Jovian Instagram and made donations on behalf of the corporate, however he’s trying to transcend short-term, reactive responses. “To me, queering a selected self-discipline means, partly, making an attempt to work from the collisions and tensions contained inside it,” says Bernstein.
“I need to discover methods of shifting past my very own visions, impulses and contexts as a ‘queer artist,’ and apply the identical irreverent, subversive lens to queering the ethics of manufacturing.”