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Saturday, November 16, 2019
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Suggestions for your senses,
every Saturday at 9 a.m.
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SPONSORED BY
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Good morning!

This week, we stop by designer Mathieu Lehanneur’s “Soldier’s Retreat” at New York’s Salon Art + Design fair; meditate on highly tactile tools for living; sip the newly released Air Co. vodka; zone out with sound engineer Pat McCusker’s “active listening” playlist; and catch a few whiffs of artist Anicka Yi’s new fragrance project.

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1dc3695d-61f2-431d-964a-fef21b62c7bd.jpgOn Ep. 26 of our Time Sensitive podcast, Andrew talks with face reader Eric Standop, author of the new book Read the Face: Face Reading for Success in Your Career, Relationships, and Health.
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See
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Natural Order
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The Inverted Gravity sideboard. (Courtesy Mathieu Lehanneur. Photo: Felipe Ribon)

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The French designer Mathieu Lehanneur is known for creating both artful furniture and lighting as well as electronics, with a rare technical craftsmanship that combines art and design with science and technology. For his latest presentation, at New York’s Salon Art + Design fair, on view through Nov. 18 at the Park Avenue Armory, Lehanneur responded to the history of the building itself—a late 19th-century brick Gothic Revival structure, formerly the headquarters for the 7th regiment of the New York Militia—with “Soldier’s Retreat,” a collection of objects that embody the natural elements, seemingly frozen in time. 

Among the works on view are Lehanneur’s weighty, hunky Ocean Memories marble tables, which mimic the fluid, rippling surface of an ocean with unreal detail—created by translating ocean currents into digital forms using 3-D software—and the luscious Inverted Gravity cabinets, made from solid marble and perched atop a cluster of blown-glass baubles, toeing the line between solidity and lightness. “I wanted to create a space absolutely isolated from the turmoil of the world,” he says. “A place where time is suspended, an Eden’s Garden. Like a peace found after the battlefields.” 

Here, three other things to keep an eye out for at the fair this weekend:

  1. Apparatus Studio’s Interlude collection of intricate, handcrafted lighting and furniture takes a page from the world of couture, featuring delicate embroidered patterns that are inspired by a musical score and the perceptual phenomenon of synesthesia. In the Library.
  2. Milan’s Nilufar Gallery shares a mix of contemporary and historic works, from the likes of Martino Gamper to Gio Ponti, alongside a smattering of collages by Louise Nevelson. Booth A20.
  3. Spot Conglo terrazzo coffee tables and other midcentury works by Norwegian architect and designer Erling Viksjø, who’s best known for his brutalist architecture and furniture that incorporates concrete and stone, from vintage maven Patrick Parrish. Booth B2.
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Touch
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Tool Time
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Scissors, property of Abigail Booth, an artist and the co-founder, with her partner Max Bainbridge, of the designer-maker team Forest + Found. (Photo: Lol Keegan)
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For as long as humans have walked the earth, we’ve devised ways of making life easier for ourselves. Some tools remain unchanged throughout the ages—“no need to reinvent the wheel,” after all—while others are impossibly novel, becoming obsolete before they’re adopted into mass existence. The use of tools is “arguably the very thing that makes us human. Our ability to fashion the objects around us—be they bone, stone, wood, or flint—into the implements that first aided us in our attempts to hunt, eat, cook, make, and build, mark[s] a pivotal point in our evolution,” writes Hole & Corner editor Mark Hopper, in his new book, The Story of Tools (Rizzoli). “Once prehistoric man learnt to shape the world around him to his own needs, it marked our difference from all other animals.” 

Dedicated to the craftsmanship of tools, the book features makers specialized in creating objects ranging from the singular spoon knife (used to carve wooden spoons, naturally) to the common silver hammer. It also profiles Pink Floyd composer and tool collector Ron Geesin, who owns more than 4,000 adjustable spanners, and literally wrote the book on it.
 
The Story of Tools is the latest must-have for the world of tool-heads, and a welcome continuation of Andrea Branzi and Kenya Hara’s Neo-Prehistory, which traces human history through a collection of 100 verbs and objects. It also recalls the exhibition on tools at the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum from a few years back, which considered the humble significance of a 1.5 million-year-old axe alongside today’s pocket-size supercomputer—otherwise known as a smartphone—which has only very recently become everyday, even if it seems inconceivable to now go more than a couple of days without one. Considering the source and ingenuity of mankind’s tools lends the kind of long-long-term meta perspective that’s useful—and frankly, a breath of fresh air—in an attention economy spent spliced across many screens.

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SPONSORED BY
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Taste
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Out of Thin Air
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The Air Co. vodka bottle. (Courtesy Air Co.)
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Joe Doucet, designer and partner of the new startup Air Co., tells us about the groundbreaking process of transforming carbon dioxide into ultra-refined products—beginning with the world’s first carbon-negative vodka.

“The two founders of Air Co., Stafford Sheehan and Greg Constantine, met several years ago while on the way to a conference. Stafford is a chemist with a Ph.D., and developed a new patented technology that essentially sequesters excess CO2 from the air, and rearranges molecules together in a way that can form different carbon chains. One of the byproducts of that is an ultra-pure ethanol, an alcohol that’s simply an arrangement of carbon atoms. This process creates alcohol at about twenty percent less of the cost of traditional methods. Cultivating fields, processing grain or potatoes—which are usually used to make vodka, for example—then fermenting and distilling all requires a great deal of land and, more importantly, a great deal of energy and water. This process, by contrast, is actually carbon-negative. In other words, you buy a bottle, and you’re taking about a pound of CO2 out of the atmosphere.
 
I’m not really a big fan of vodka—I find it, you know, a spirit that’s defined by what’s not there—but this is the best-tasting vodka that I’ve ever had. That’s not an exaggeration, and it’s not marketing. It’s what convinced me, apart from the ethos of the company, to join the project: It doesn’t matter how much good you’re trying to do in the world if you have a product people won’t like. And I can say, it’s an extraordinary vodka with a particular mouthfeel.
 
The packaging itself, too, is designed to see a second life. Working with [the New York City printer] Earth Enterprise, we developed a special type of adhesive for the label that will stay put if submerged in water, or, say, placed in a freezer—which tends to be the case with bottles of vodka—but can be easily peeled off once it’s finished so the bottle can be kept for a bedside table, or used as a water carafe in restaurants. The vodka is our first product, and we’ll be entering into all different kinds of fields where alcohol is a key ingredient. The idea of Air Co. is that we’ll minimize our impact in every way: Our first factory is in Bushwick [in Brooklyn], and it’s only about 1,000 square feet. As we enter different markets, we’ll be able to build additional factories with a minimal footprint, allowing for local shipping and distribution. It’s not just low-impact; it’s good for the planet to make things this way.”
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Hear
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Sound On
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Pat McCusker, a guitarist (in David Duchovny’s band), producer, and audio engineer (the sharp ear behind our Time Sensitive and The Workspace of Tomorrow podcasts) deeply believes in the act of “active listening.”

“It’s a very simple idea that my friends and I started a few years ago,” McCusker says. “It’s something that’s so rarely practiced in our busy lives these days. ‘Active listening’ means you just sit and listen to music—and that’s it. Do nothing else. So often, we listen to music while doing something, whether it’s cooking, running, driving, or if we’re at a restaurant or a party—it’s always second to whatever we’re doing. But to actually actively tune your ears to the music you’re listening to is important and essential. My friends and I wanted to make it a primary thing. There’s something really magical in that act of just sitting, closing your eyes, and listening.” 

Here, McCusker shares an eclectic 10-song playlist that’s intended for engaging your ears:

  1. “Bet She Looks Like You,”  Nick Hakim
  2. “Niandou,” Ballaké Sissoko & Vincent Segal
  3. “Canyon in the Rain,” Jonathan Wilson
  4. “Mythological Beauty,” Big Thief
  5. “My Friend the Forest,” Nils Frahm
  6. “Self Control,”  Frank Ocean
  7. “Sweet Relief,” Kimbra
  8. “Feel Like Makin’ Love,” D’Angelo
  9. “You Are My Sunshine,” Bill Frisell
  10. “Cranes in the Sky,” Solange

Give it a go. Or, as the countercultural psychologist and writer Timothy Leary advised, “Tune in, turn on, drop out.”

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Smell
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Scent of Women
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From left to right: Radical Hopelessness, based on Hatshepsut, the female pharaoh of Egypt; Shigenobu Twilight, based on Fusako Shigenobu; Beyond Skin, the A.I.-based fragrance. (Courtesy the artist)
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Olfactory landscapes, living matter, and time are just a few of the elements known to factor into the highly experiential works of the conceptual artist Anicka Yi, whose philosophical turn of mind looks to biology, technology, and beyond. Here, she shares her thoughts on the power of smell, ahead of her first foray into commercial scent, Biography, a trio of perfumes launching next week at Dover Street Market

Scent is central to many of your works. What intrigues you most about the power of scent, whether on its own or in combination with the other senses?
 
Think about how much we don’t know—how difficult it is to understand smell. There are physiological and scientific hurdles and challenges that make it difficult to study. For instance, we really don’t know that much about how scent receptors work, mostly because we don’t know how to replicate them in order to study them adequately. There’s been a lot of studies around insects that have a tremendous level of olfactive capability, and I know that we’re trying to borrow from what we understand about their olfactive systems to try to improve on technologies. There are also social and societal biases comingling with that—we place much more emphasis and primacy and priority on ocularity, which is why we know so much more about vision technology than we do about olfaction. 

Would you say scent is more intuitive?

I’ve been on record saying, “I don’t like looking at stuff.” Especially in the age of social media, I just feel so oversaturated. Personally, even from a very young age—this was certainly pre-internet, and pre–social media—I had kind of a disposition for a discomfort and anxiety around looking, and constantly having to look and see, and almost objectify other people through the gaze. Maybe it comes from being female—being seen as female, and trying to thwart the male gaze. Then you add the other layers: of being Asian American, coming from an immigrant family, and being looked at in a pernicious, very unwelcome way. For me, vision has always come with a lot of baggage and some deal of hostility.

Female identity is at the heart of Biography. The first scent references Fusako Shigenobu, a leader of the Japanese Red Army; the second, Hatshepsut, a female pharaoh of Ancient Egypt; and the third is an artificially intelligent entity meant to reference “every woman,” past, present, and future. How did you land upon each?
 
For Biography, I’m challenging the idea of portraiture, but also challenging the stale conventional tropes of commercial fragrance, and the narrative that you should aspire to, or be inspired by, visuals of an actor, or a race car driver, or a pop star. I don’t know about you, but I don’t identify with any of that. The marketing industry just doesn’t get it. There’s so much space and room to build an alternative, infinite amount of rich narratives around this space, because very little has been done.
 
I think about how these conditions are for females, historically. That was a springboard for thinking about these very characters, because they didn’t perform the mold of what a conventional or traditional female would be in their time. My hope is that, with the fragrance, people can think about these stories if they are interested in them, and they’d be expanding, adding and contributing to it with their own experience of wearing the fragrance. 
 
Did working on a commercial scent change your creative process at all?
 
This is an extension of my practice. It has all the hallmarks of my practice: the sculptural vocabulary, the olfaction, the philosophical backbone and ideas. What makes this different from the other sorts of projects that [my studio] has executed or produced is thinking about a different kind of outreach in how people experience the work. Historically, we’ve presented the work in primarily contemporary art institutions and galleries. I don’t want the work with Biography to be predicated on my art practice, per se—I want this to be almost like a blind challenge: People can go and smell the fragrance, and they don’t need to know any context about who the artist is, or what the project is about. Ultimately, I want the fragrance to rest on its own merits. 

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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Until next week...

Today’s email was written by Aileen Kwun. Spencer contributed this week’s “Hear.”

Editor: Spencer Bailey
Creative Director: Andrew Zuckerman
Producer: Emily Queen

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