Obscenity by Bruce LaBruce
Ancient and biblical essential oils combined with drops of the healing water from Lourdes create this obscene moment of in fragrance delicto.
Bruce LaBruce Artwork
Obscenity Commercial Directed by Bruce LaBruce
Bruce LaBruce Über Obscenity
What is obscenity? For me, the word may have a different connotation than the one affixed to it by genteel society. Over the years, when my films and photographs have been returned to me after exhibitions in international festivals or galleries, Canadian customs officials have frequently seized the works at the border and sent me a notification in their stead with the word OBSCENITY writ large, an X luridly slashed in a box beside it. To me, it has become a badge of honour. For one man's obscenity is another man's art. Or romance. Or sensibility. Or scent.
Staring at OBSCENITY, eventually I came to realize that the the word SCENT is contained within it, and thus came the first inspiration to develop a fragrance of the same name. A fragrance in flagrant disregard of the pejorative insinuation of the word. In flagrante delicto: caught in the very act of committing a misdeed or offence. In fragrance delicto!
Exhibiting a collection of my photographs in Madrid several years ago at La Fresh Gallery - photographs that examined the delicate intersection between religious and sexual ecstasy - I first recuperated the word Obscenity as something sensual, erotic, and beyond the judgment of society or religion. Against storms of protest, the word for me transgressed its etymological origin as something offensive or filthy. It became instead something mysterious, martyred, and carnal. Carnal knowledge is power.
What does obscenity smell like? To explore this question, I had to consult a professional. Enter Kim Weisswange, perfumer extraordinaire. Meeting the formidable woman in the flesh in Hamburg, I explained to her my history with obscenity, and the feelings the word invokes in me. The synthesis of the religious or the spiritual and the sexual is a potent one, and requires a potent fragrance. I left this alchemical olfaction to the expert.
What does obscenity look like? For the bottle cap and design, I collaborated with my favourite jewellery designer, Jonathan Johnson, who had already made an Obscenity ring for me in conjunction with my photo exhibition. Mr. Johnson has an uncanny way of interpreting sexual and religious imagery to make them seem interchangeable, one and the same. Far from blasphemy, the "nunspolitation" cap, mapped from a 3-D scan of his fiance and muse Katja-Inga Baldowski, perched on the hostia, the holy wafer placed lovingly on a tongue, is intended as a sensual tribute to the sexual throes of ecstasy that cause you to throw your head back and fix your gaze toward heaven, a gesture generally reserved for fervid prayer or orgasm.
To the rest of the crew who helped realize the Obscenity fragrance and its auxiliary products, I can only offer my heartfelt appreciation and thanks.
Jonathan Johnson Über Obscenity
Jonathan Johnson grew up in southern Germany, not far from the French border. His Italian great uncle studied painting under Paul Klee at the Bauhaus until the Nazis banned him from painting.
Amidst centuries old cloisters, churches and pilgrimage sites, as a protestant teenager he attended a Catholic boarding school run by sisters and priests. At the same time his father studied Zen Buddhism and his mother taught him to cook. As a late arrival to a small village in the Black Forest, he always had the feeling of being in the thick of things yet being on the margins.
Swept away by the baroque splendor of the treasures of the church, by the boundless scale of buildings as a pure expression of religious fanaticism and the sheer unending ornamentation of the same, he developed an early interest in art and began to create his own jewelry. Due to his soldier father’s friendships with American GIs, he was exposed from an early age to Johnny Cash, Miles Davis and Gil Scott-Heron. From his point of view as a sculptor nothing is taboo - everything belongs together.
He is fascinated by the total liberality of Edo period carving in Japan, at a time when Christianity was forbidden due to its constant attempts at proselytizing. Equally, the sculptors of the 16th century Viennese Court were obliged to make veiled reference to any sexual content, and despite this it is omnipresent in Christian art. Johnson creates his masterful carvings within the framework of a centuries old craft tradition, sited within the contemporary through content. With this in mind he could take the view that 3-D print is an obscenity, yet he’s far more interested in what can be done with this new technology, because otherwise we’d still be living in caves.
Deeply impressed by the radicality and uncompromising nature of Bruce LaBruce’s work, Johnson sees the sculptor of our times as the filmmaker. LaBruce deploys the most unconventional stylistic means conceivable to convey his message of acceptance, love and respect in the face of societal taboos and in the search for truth.
Johnson, together with fashiondesigner Katja Inga Baldowski and the graphicdesigner Eddy Salzmann, applied himself to the task of distilling LaBruce’s visual vocabulary and the sensory realm of the fragrance by Kim Weisswange into the design of the flask. The packaging, advertising, and the fragrance itself are all compressed into one object of desire. A flask, sacred statue of lust, eagerly waits for the moment of ecstasy. The letting go, the opening up to the universe, energy, the body and blood of Christ, sin - as pure as humanity itself - Amen!
Kim Weisswange Über Obscenity
Star perfumer Kim Weisswange doesn't only rely on her nose for sensual fragrances. She finds inspiration through many avenues, and cinema is one of her favourites.
When Kim was approached to work on the signature fragrance for Bruce LaBruce, all engines fired on full power. To create a perfume that would relate to Bruce's unique style she would have to dig deep for the extraordinary.
The word obscenity evokes a whole myriad of thought, and what instantly comes to mind is indecency and filth. But the underlying emotion that gets us to that place is love. To be so confident with the obscene we must be comfortable with truth. We long for a pure self expression that can only come from understanding our own yearnings and needs. To push ourselves to such an intimate place means we are strong in the knowledge of our inner self. And Kim felt this.
Yearnings of self exploration often lead to feeling the need to repent. To cleanse. It's an uncomfortable satisfaction, a dark secret that breathes, a half smile on a 180 degree turn. Like a craving for the confessional, and the ceremonial hostia, the resurrection of the soul. The holy water.
With a concept of fougère in mind, she set to work with ancient and biblical essential oils such as frankincense, cedar and sandalwood, amongst many others. Even drops of the healing water imported directly from Lourdes are in the mix. Kim came to create an extraordinary scent that is truly exceptional in character. A sensual awakening that would truly reflect the work of her muse.
Kim has great respect for Bruce LaBruce. In her own words she describes what his work means to her: "His fearless quest to break boundaries is electric, and his bravery in his storytelling is dynamic and inspirational. We live in a time where billions of dollars are pumped into a beige world of blockbuster filmmaking. Without artists like Bruce La Bruce there would be no colour."
Experience the fine line between the dark and the light.