Julia Barbee

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My Pheromones, 2011

Silk, Plastic, Thread, Borax, Polyphemus moths, Sweat, Dimensions Variable, Duration Variable


In this series of works I have examined the contrast between the visible, the ephemeral, the auditory—and the temporal marks of identity. Motivated by the duality of attraction/repulsion I used scent as the platform for my investigations. In response to being catcalled by random predatory men, I devised a method for the construction of identity by discerning how I would allow myself to be named, and exploring new means of self-portraiture. During each performance I wore a different perfume, stopped wearing deodorant so as not to prohibit my pheromonal activity, restricted my diet, exercised, and collected catcalls. I took the syntax of each axiom, and created appropriated text poems derived through my research into the history of perfumery, and their relationship to the body. Situated underneath the visually sterile text document is a crystallized scented sculpture, a form of non-representational self-portraiture. A series of tools manifested from the exercise as olfactory adaptations for survival. And as a natural illustration of the phenomenological aspect of the experiment, a sculptural installation reflecting the form of the smaller sculptures, has been created to house the cocoons of polyphemus silk moths. This particular breed of moth lacks a digestive system in its adult form, its sole purpose is to propagate the species, and then die. Pheromones emitted by the moths are so powerful they can attract mates up to five miles away. During the exhibition these pheromones will be captured in a layer of fat using a perfumery process called enfleurage; the fat will later be distilled into an essential oil for use in my perfumery.

Artworks by Julia Barbee

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