Catherine Bodmer


Excerpts from text published in the anthology Art, History and the Senses, by Patrizia di Bello and Gabriel Koureas, Ashgate Press, London, UK, 2010

(…) Catherine Bodmer’s installation, Bounce (2002-04), confronts visitors with the scent of the commercial fabric freshener vaporized through gallery vents. The smell of a person’s clothing is a primary contributor to a room’s microclimate, and the diffusing of Bounce’s dryer fragrance into the air rather than just onto one’s garments extends to the entire gallery the simulated freshness of the laundromat.

(…) At first, the addition of Bounce seems to be a fitting match to the white cube – the space looks clean, so why shouldn’t it smell clean as well? And since Bounce is the paradigm of freshness, the invigorating scent would complement the exhibition of new, cutting-edge, freshly-installed art. (…) For the artist, who originally hails from Switzerland, the scent of Bounce is noticeably North American. It is a cultural artifact, as much as any other manufactured product, but one that has enabled a corporate training of the senses and fostered of a cult of consumers addicted to the scent (that is, if the testimonies posted on the Procter & Gamble website are to be believed). The hint of ozone – the chemical responsible for smelling “fresh” – that is detectable in Bounce alludes to a contradiction within the quest for freshness. There is the reference to the industrial use of ozone as a disinfectant and deodorizer. At high concentrations, though, its toxicity is notorious, and can cause respiratory problems and death. While the scent of Bounce is generally regarded as harmless, its position as the epitome of freshness harbors a dark secret about the ideology of purity. Conditions of purity – whether regarding laundry, gallery space, or a building’s air conditioning apparatus – rely upon acts of exclusion, acts that easily drift towards intolerance if not also extermination, when physical or medical ideas of purification become the model for cleansing operations on moral or ethnic levels.