Le Sillage de la Mémoire (The Trail of Memory) is a polysensory and multidisciplinary installation born from the encounter between the Firmenich perfumer Ane Ayo, the artist and scenographer Guillaume Cousin, the sensory studio Magique, and the Nuits Noires sound studio. In October, during the “Nuit Blanche,” a cultural event in Paris, the Saint Eustache Church hosted a mysterious machine that formed large rings of smoke, creating air ripples that were visible and fragrant as they wafted. Usually escaping our senses, these air sculptures explored the limits of our perceptions and carry within them the evocation of sensory memories. The work then invited visitors to contemplate millions of moving particles and to plunge into a forgotten collective memory.
“To make the invisible visible. To embody the impalpable,” were the words of the artist Guillaume Cousin during his encounter with the perfumer Ane Ayo. Words that resonated with her intimately. Isn’t it the characteristic of perfumes to interfere with our memories, to mark the collective unconscious or to allow us to reconnect with distant reminiscences?
Like Guillaume Cousin, Ane uses air as an invisible vector of olfactory particles in movement. She works with matter, light and texture. A poetic alchemy that comes from the unconscious and the instinctual. Inspired by the work of the artist, Ane listened, observed and imagined. He gave her carte blanche to create a unique perfume. From this artistic resonance was born Voie Lactée, translation Milky Way, a fragrance built around Dreamwood™, a natural captive ingredient with Mysore sandalwood tones. Sustainable, renewable and biodegradable, this innovation resulting from Firmenich’s research in biotechnology leaves a trail of white woods, luminous and unctuous and almost mystical. In movement, round and airy, giving a sensation of airiness, the fragrance has the complexity of a constellation and the fluidity of a milky way.
The Nuits Noires studio created an exclusive sound design to make this experience completely immersive and polysensorial. An invitation to contemplate, to listen and to be intoxicated by this monumental work.
Interview of Ane Ayo, perfumer at Firmenich Paris
In which atmosphere did Guillaume want to bring you?
Guillaume took me to a slow atmosphere, a slowed down space-time, that of meditation, almost of mysticism. But I made sure that I never fell into the olfactory clichés of the mystic. I went towards abstract raw materials, which invite contemplation.
How did this encounter touch and animate you?
I perceived Guillaume’s work as an existential questioning. He spoke to me about his questioning of matter, the notions of full and empty. This exchange immediately fascinated me, it resonated strongly with the world of perfumery.
We agreed on an idea: the olfactive dimension that he wanted to bring to this installation could contribute to make the invisible visible, to incarnate the impalpable. It is the intrinsic purpose of perfume to play with our memories, our emotions, our conscious as well as our unconscious. Perfume is concrete and abstract at the same time. As a perfumer, I try to transcribe my ideas into smells but there is always a part of magic which is exerted, an alchemy which operates in spite of me. I don’t completely master the material, and that’s what’s beautiful too.
How does the perfume echo Guillaume Cousin’s smoke rings?
Guillaume’s smoke rings immediately spoke to me of a cosmic realm and atmosphere. I envisioned my creation this way: a constellation of raw materials creating the white and luminous texture of a milky way. I used Dreamwood™ as a major ingredient, for its sandalwood effects, its smoothness, roundness, linearity and depth, and white musks for their mellow, airy, floating sensation.
And for Guillaume and me, air is our common invisible vector of particles in movement: as with smoke, it is necessary for the volatility of the fragrance.
What are the effects of this artistic collaboration on the public?
The olfactory experience is in synergy with the visuals, these circles of smoke that hover with a gentle movement and provide a feeling of pleasure, of appeasement, close to a state of meditation.
I wanted this fragrance to be comfortable, giving a feeling of pleasure and even a form of addiction to create this suspended moment during the visit.
We are like in another space-time, adopting another perception of the world, questioning reality and established principles…. And all this is done instinctively, unconsciously.
What were your sensations when seeing the fruit of this exchange?
I loved the experience. I never thought I would be able to go so far in the meeting of two universes that are so different but in the end very complementary. Our two creations met perfectly, like a symbiosis.
This reinforced my idea of drawing inspiration from different art forms to create my perfumes. This is what really enriches me on a daily basis, what opens up new horizons for me.