LEAKY BODIES: SMELL AND HORROR
How do bodily anxieties and the leaking body haunt us outside of the visual lens? How are qualities such as embodied difference, horror, and disease perceived in the sensorial context of smell? What boundaries do we place on ourselves and on others to keep the oozing and wafting aromas of the horrors that lay within at bay and why? How and why do some smells haunt us?
Societal fears surrounding disease and body horror are highly pervasive in aesthetic discourses in both the audio and visual lenses. However, bodies inflicted by the violence of biological failures and ruptures in mortal flesh are also accompanied by smells that can go easily overlooked in critical discourse. The leaking body is one that reeks. It distinctly captures the attention and forever haunts the memories of those confronted by fissures made in ascribed “normal” bodily functions and forms. The perception of others’ smells and the smells of diseases relates to both what has been characterized as a “primal” relationship with our own sense of smell, as well as a direction for emerging and new biotechnological possibilities for early disease detection.
By looking at smell compositions associated with diseases and speculating on the potential vessel in which they can be experienced by human and nonhuman audiences, “When Leaky Bodies Reek” aims to critically analyze how leaking bodily materials intersect with cultural and societal fears. This research also aims to place the aesthetic dimensions of smell within the context of horror by identifying and exploring how cultural and social responses to smell are articulated. The combination of object-making, performative workshops, and speculation aims to examine why bodily leakiness may unsettle, disturb, and haunt us.
This project is part of the University of the Underground’s Horror Program led by Agi Haines. Outside scientific consultation and interviewing has been conducted with Dr. Andreas Mershin, a research scientist at the Center for Bits and Atoms at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and leader of the Label Free Research Group.
The workshop component of this project has been performed in collaboration with the Bioart Society for their m/other becomings workshop program hosted by Marta de Menezes.
The Leaky Body workshop has also been performed in collaboration with Berlin research group UniSysCat Cluster of Excellence at Mall Anders.
The Leaky Body is also featured and is a part of the University of the Underground’s Horror Podcast and publication. Both podcast and publication are made in collaboration with the Horror Program’s research fellows.