Different Smellscapes : Olfactory Patterns through the Japanese Worldview

Dates :
Samedi 10 mars 2018 - 14:30 - 17:00
Lieu :
Salle 3.03 - Inalco - 65 rue des Grands Moulins 75013 Paris
Conférence du groupe d'étude de Philosophie Japonaise

Lorenzo Marinucci – Università di Roma “Tor Vergata”
 
"Greek-European philosophy has a distinct partiality towards vision, since its beginnings. This “optocentrism” has had a deep influence on its ontology, and even phenomenological attempts (from Husserl to Merleau-Ponty) of an unbiased access to experience do not fully manage to overcome it.

Can “the oral sensorium” (Tellenbach) of taste and smell offer a different access to reality, even far different from common sense? Can a philosophy or phenomenology of smell offer very different insights on space, time, aesthetic consciousness and desire? And does it help to pose these two questions cross-culturally, since European cultural history has never explored smell with much attention?

In this presentation I would like to address this problem by gathering examples of “smellscapes” (as organized, located, conceptual-sensual nexuses) within Japanese culture. The attention for the invisible, formless and impermanent in Japanese thought and aesthetics has given to smell a meaning and a relevance that exceeds greatly what we can see in European culture, up to its late rediscovery in French culture by Bergson and Proust.

I would like to consider three different smellscapes, or sensorial-conceptual engagements with smell.

The first is the practice of kōdō, a formalized incense ceremony that flourished in the Edo period but whose history dates back to the Heian court and to Genji monogatari. Possibly the only smell-based artform and game in the world, the incense ritual is based on the puzzling phenomenology of smell: associated to different people, landscapes and emotion, present and yet distant, with a strange temporal manifestation that makes it unavailable to representational memory, but rather throws the perceiver back in time.

A second sense for “smell” in Japanese culture is the metaphorization that it undergoes in Bashō’s renpai practice, in which the concept of nioi (“smell”) becomes a signifier for the poetic overtones or atmosphere connecting different strophes of a renpai session. Bashō’s own poetry shows how smell is perceived as a form of emotional overtone (yosei), acting in a discontinuous way (spatially and temporally) to connect presence and absence.

The third example is a modern philosophical production, the cross-cultural work of Kuki Shūzō. Kuki, especially through his poetic production and sojourn in Paris, rediscovers Japan through an embodied memory that is deeply connected to the sense of smell. This attention for the qualitative and impermanent quality of smellscapes, giving a distinct, medial character to human space and opening up a vertical or “metaphysical” temporality, is explored in his work on The Expression of the Infinite in Japanese Art and is a distinct element of his Structure of Iki. If we conceive iki as an atmospheric concept (in the strong sense suggested by Schmitz and Böhme), not only we have a chance to better understand the relevance of Kuki’s work, and dispel some common misconceptions about his inquiry into Japanese particularity."
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  • Conférences, tables rondes, ateliers