The artist desires to move folks along with his scents, not hold 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 trade 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 based mostly 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 presents 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 method to the heteronormative subject of scent, an trade 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eschew the fragrance binary, however they’re significantly progressive as a result of they don’t simply toss away the outdated binary labels for scents, but additionally the gendered associations with explicit components.
The choice to go all-gender was knowledgeable by Bernstein’s days promoting fragrance at a division retailer to help 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 prospects’ deeply held beliefs about scent and gender. “It’s wonderful, “ he says, “whenever you’ve labored so long as I’ve in fragrance, folks’s gender dangle 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 identical 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 shortly grew to become considered one 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 components, exploring how completely different components combined collectively to create an emotional state fairly than the age-old fragrance ideology of how they’d assist the wearer appeal to suitors of the other 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 way of thinking. The method 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 combination evoking bushes and fruit that might be subtle throughout that second within the play, type of like a creative tackle smell-o-vision. The identical methodology is sometimes 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 Pride Month reflecting on who area is held for within the LGBTQ+ neighborhood — significantly these whose identities are afforded much less privilege than his personal as a homosexual white man. This 12 months Delight Month additionally intersected with some deeply troubling occasions which were on Bernstein’s thoughts, together with the revelation of a whole lot of unmarked graves on the websites of residential schools throughout the nation. Past the human degree, 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 authentic 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 whole lot 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 presently 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 aid 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 specific self-discipline means, partly, attempting 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.”