Copy
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
This newsletter may be cut short by your email program. View it in full
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
Saturday, January 30, 2021
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
Suggestions for your senses,
every Saturday at 9 a.m.
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif

Good morning.

This week, we admire mobile greenery from Japan’s Kei Truck Garden Contest, preview textiles from Maison du Danemark’s “In a Slow Manner” exhibition, make plant-based drinks with a Modern Milk milk press, turn up the volume on Teenage Engineering’s OB-4 rewindable radio, and talk with artist and scent maker Catherine Haley Epstein about finding the right words for smells.

249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
1dc3695d-61f2-431d-964a-fef21b62c7bd.jpg

On Ep. 42 of our Time Sensitive podcast, Andrew speaks with New York–based philosopher Simon Critchley about how disappointment can serve as a source of creativity, why humor is an act of philosophical reflection, and how he sees writing as a form of improvisation.

249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
c0a5b558-f175-41b1-8fdd-8742f22f9a80.jpg
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
See
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
Car Parks
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
Courtesy Japan Federation of Contract Landscapers
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif

As the world adapts to pandemic life, we’ve seen creativity heroically emerge, in nearly every sector, amid limitations. One big idea to sprout from restrictions, started in 2016, that’s perfectly suited for this moment: Japan’s annual Kei Truck Garden Contest in Osaka, which brings nature closer to city-dwellers in the form of compact, foliage-filled creations. (The date for this year’s event has yet to be announced.)

This competition challenges members in various branches of the Japan Federation of Landscape Contractors to build a green space on the back of a “kei,” or kei-tora, a small flat-bed truck that’s often used to ferry lawn and garden gear to local work sites. To create a sense of drama, participants construct their patches of plants at a designated site mere hours before a jury arrives to assess each environment’s planning, design, and execution. Over the years, gardeners have managed to squeeze an increasingly sophisticated array of features into their tiny plots, including bamboo pergolas, shoji screens, mossy rock formations, and cascading streams. The final works, lined up along streets for public viewing, are a poetic demonstration of how to flourish in the face of constraint.

249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
02817334-c281-4083-8c48-cc1cd3aab3d1.jpg
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
Touch
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
Warp and Wit
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
“Oeuvre: Ikat III” (2011) by Astrid Krogh. (Photo: © Torben Eskerod. Courtesy Galerie Maria Wettergren)
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif

Textile designer Anni Albers, who was born in Berlin at the turn of the 20th century, brought a modernist touch and experimental spirit to the ancient art of weaving. She wrote extensively about the craft; a line from one essay, written in 1941, informed the title of the upcoming exhibition “In a Slow Manner,” the first presentation at Paris’s Maison du Danemark since it completed an extensive renovation. Opening Feb. 3, the show (which will debut online, due to a recent uptick in Covid-19 cases, and be followed by a physical iteration at a to-be-announced date) brings together the work of 10 emerging and established artists who reimagine the future of fabric by giving it the sort of focused, open-minded attention that Albers championed. 

Each individual takes fiber to provocative ends: Danish designer Astrid Krogh’s vibrant installation combines countless strands of paper yarn with illuminated optic fiber threads, while a thick mass of bright-pink material, placed inside a Plexiglas box by fabric artist Anne Fabricius Møller, celebrates the nuances of folding and form. Copenhagen-based designer Ditte Hammerstroem covered the top of an ash chaise lounge with dozens of tiny mohair-wrapped foam spheres, and pulled the excess material through holes on the seat’s surface—juxtaposing the fabric, which hangs down from the chair’s underside, in loose and upholstered variations. Together, the works attest to the capacity of textiles, when given careful consideration, to shape-shift and comment on time, structure, and space.

249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
ac88f66b-0c77-4443-b441-7965dbd27806.jpg
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
Taste
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
Milking It
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
Courtesy Modern Milk
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif

From nuts to oats to rice to hemp seeds to soy, you can find all sorts of alternatives to traditional dairy these days. A standby for those with lactose intolerance or dietary restrictions, plant-based milks are also far less harmful to the environment (though all ingredients fall along the sustainability scale, and almond milk, for example, requires incredible amounts of water consumption to produce). Ditch the supermarket variety of alt-milks, which are often packed with stabilizers and emulsifiers, and make a fresh batch at home. The general basics are simple enough: soak your ingredients to soften, then blend with water, filter, season to taste, and drink. 

While the filtering step can get a little messy, it’s made a whole lot tidier with Modern Milk’s handily designed milk press. Developed in collaboration with Hario, the Japanese glassware company revered by coffee enthusiasts, the simple contraption includes a heat-resistant bottle with silicone grips, a stainless-steel mesh filter, and a “milkstick” to press your blended mixture through the sieve. No fussy cheesecloth or extra equipment needed here; once you’re finished milking it, put the bottle straight into the fridge, and enjoy.

249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
d29f0557-b414-4fea-82c5-a15d9da127ac.jpg
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
Hear
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
Wowed Speaker
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
Courtesy Teenage Engineering
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif

When Teenage Engineering released its OP-1 portable synthesizer, in 2011, the device received glowing reviews from an array of audio authorities, including Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor and French composer Jean-Michel Jarre. A decade on, the Stockholm-based electronics maker aims for another hit with the new OB-4, a Bluetooth speaker system that it’s billing as a “magic radio.” The term isn’t too far off: The mobile, four-speaker hi-fi memorizes everything it plays, allowing users to rewind, stretch, or loop any track that was pumped through it in the previous two hours—regardless of whether the tunes came from live radio, a streaming service, or a plugged-in instrument. Its handle houses a spiral antenna and turns into a stand, which positions the gadget’s top at an angle to provide easy access to its dials and buttons. There’s also a feature called “disk mode,” in which three recordings—“ambient” (a low-pitched drone), “metronome” (monotonous ticks) and “karma” (chanting)—can be used to facilitate focus or relaxation. With a lithium polymer battery that lasts for eight hours when played at its loudest (or for 40 hours at average volume), the souped-up speaker ensures that there’s plenty of time to take in its sounds.

249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
baead8ed-590e-4c70-8193-fb78540a1493.jpg
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
Smell
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
Words to Smell By
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
Courtesy Catherine Haley Epstein
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif

Catherine Haley Epstein, author of Nose Dive: A Book For The Curious Seeking Potential Through Their Noses, is an artist and curator who specializes in scent and the ways our brains register it. Last year, with olfactory historian Caro Verbeek, she founded Odorbet, an ever-growing online database of terms they collect from various sources to describe smells. It also includes invented expressions submitted by Odorbet contributors, such as “doppelspritzer” (a person wearing your perfume) and “silfage” (the act of admiring one’s own scent). Taken together, the project’s vocabulary gives form to fragrance while drawing attention to the lack of words in the English lexicon to detail what our noses detect. We recently spoke with Epstein about the importance of defining scents, and why doing so helps us better understand the world, and ourselves.

Why should we describe smells in nuanced, specific ways?

Scent is incredibly powerful—but we don’t really have words for it. If you picked up a neurology textbook ten years ago, there were zero [sections] on smell. It’s always been this underdog of a sense. Adding words to the process of smelling, and to actual smells, gives more credence to the sense. People start to relate to it. Instead of describing a scent as “smelly” or “stinky,” using more specific words can make that conversation last a little longer, and draw more attention to our sense of smell. 

How does Odorbet go about finding and developing the right terms?

I purposefully tend to not look at the fragrance and flavor wheels [that are commonly used by the industry]. I give myself permission to describe things with words like “musky-humid”—“humid” isn’t on the fragrance wheel, but it’s definitely a sensation.

Odorbet provides a structure in the way that a fragrance wheel does, and offers a new system for its descriptions to live within. Our database includes all of the six-hundred-plus formal descriptors that the industry uses, but I’ve been hesitant to put them on our website because they’re what people are used to seeing. Keeping Odorbet open, playful, and far away from the industry is most important. The more interdisciplinary the project is, the more success it will have. 

What are some of your favorite scent-related words?

There’s the French expression mise-en-senteur, which refers to a “scented composition” and is derived from the [stage design] concept of a mise-en-scène. It was used to describe an immersive theater performance directed by the artist and poet Paul-Napoléon Roinard in 1891 [where he pumped scents into the auditorium and balcony using hand-held vaporizers].

I also like thinking about “odorprints” [the unique fragrance that each of us naturally has] in a forensic way. Just as our fingerprints are unmistakably ours, so is our scent. It’s something we can’t cover up—and is as much of a trail as a perfume might be. Exploring invisible traces of odorprint networks could be fascinating.

Beyond having words to describe certain scents, why is cultivating an awareness of smell important right now?

Humans have evolved in such a way that we used to be all body, doing and making things with our hands. Then we invented machines, which took the weight off of our bodies, and then computers, which give our prefrontal cortexes [the part of the brain that’s responsible for decision-making and rational thought] a vacation. We don’t have to do all the computing we used to do. Our focus has gone to our limbic systems [the part of the brain involved in emotional and behavioral responses]. Today, we’re limbic-system junkies—and the fastest way to tap into it is through smell. So scent is very important for people and their well-being, whether they’re conscious of it or not.

249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
6e1482bb-d358-4d02-bf91-1afb9922204a.gif
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif

Until next week...

Today’s email was written by Ali Morris, who contributed the See column; Tiffany Lambert, who contributed the Touch column; Aileen Kwun, who contributed the Taste column; Tom Morris, who contributed the Hear column; and Evan Nicole Brown, who contributed the Smell column. 

Co-Editors: Spencer Bailey and Tiffany Jow
Creative Director: Andrew Zuckerman
Producer: Mike Lala
Editor-at-Large: Aileen Kwun
Copy Editor: Mimi Hannon

Enjoying The Slowdown? Forward to a friend!
If a friend forwarded it to you, subscribe to receive future newsletters.

Send us sense suggestions, collaboration ideas, or general feedback at newsletter@slowdownmedia.com

Not enjoying it? No worries. Click here to unsubscribe.

Click here to update your profile.

The Slowdown | 508 West 26th Street, 7A | New York, NY 10001 | United States

6e1482bb-d358-4d02-bf91-1afb9922204a.gif
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif