Labor, the smell of stress


In the art installation “Labor“, Paul Vanouse makes a system that re-creates the scent of people sweating in stressful conditions. The bacteria involved are placed in three glass bioreactors. These produce the primary scents, which are then merged in a central chamber before impregnating a white t-shirt, a “sweatshop icon”. Smell, an increasingly important medium in our dematerialised relationships, here becomes the most symbolic one. It lets Vanouse play cleverly with how our senses perceive human presence and absence. This contrasting perception is induced by a complex live system, directing nature to express politics. Awarded with the Golden Nica at Prix Ars Electronica 2019, this work is a turning point in critical art and science.


Paul Vanouse – Labor,