One of Folie À Plusieurs’s most frequent endeavors is translating scenes from movies into scent—for example, the one-minute scene in The Virgin Suicides in which Peter explores Cecilia’s inordinately feminine room, spritzing her perfume and smelling her make up. Folie À Plusieurs screens these movies in small theaters, and the scents are subtly dispersed at the screening, though only throughout the individual chosen scene.
In addition to attempts at conjuring the smells of outer space (astronauts have reported to Folie À Plusieurs that their experiences of space smell like their space suits, which, in turn, smell like metal and bacon), the company has a program called “Olfactophilia,” in which scents were created around 18 different forms of paraphilia. To construct these fragrances, the team found partakers on fetish websites and asked them to articulate their experiences, then attempted to translate these descriptions into scent. “It’s nice when a scent can make you question your own identity,” Sorhaindo said of “Olfactophilia.”
To construct the New Museum scents, Sorhaindo sent the museum’s 40-year anniversary catalogue to perfumers Mark Buxton and David Chieze in Paris. The pair then compiled lists of potential scent ingredients through studying the book and recounting their memories of the museum; this began a dialogue with Sorhaindo that led to a series of tests in Buxton and Chieze’s Paris lab, eventually culminating in the two scents.
When asked why they chose the New Museum, Sorhaindo spoke of the institution’s lack of a permanent collection. He finds kinship between this transience and the ephemerality of a scent. “There’s a parallel between this and a scent, a thing that moves between people and doesn’t necessarily stick in one place or respond to one person,” he said. Like a shockingly intimate game of telephone, through so many stages of transliteration between senses, Folie À Plusieurs’s finished products find depth in the gap between aspiration and outcome. Their beauty, perhaps, is in the attempt.