Workshop I smell a rat by bangaloREsident Lauryn Mannigel

I smell a rat © Sabrina Meissner

Thu, 12.12.2019

17:00 - 20:00

Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan Bangalore

While all body scents* remain stigmatised in Western culture, female body scents* have a history of particularly negative associations. In this workshop, participants will critically engage with gender-related perceptions on body scents* in Bangalore, through a presentation, discussions, and hands-on experiments. With special attention to social and cultural norms in relation to body scents perceived as female, they will explore the following questions: How do we react towards women‘s body scents*? Can we overcome potential prejudice or even disgust, by cultivating curiosity?

Workshop plan:
1. Introduction to the workshop theme and each other
2. Introduction to the science of smell
3. Collection of our body scents* and discussion
4. Presentation and discussion: Historical and contemporary examples of taboos surrounding female body scents in Western culture
5. Smell exercise with chemical and organic products

*The term ‘body scent’ refers to the entire spectrum of human body odors, both natural and modified through addition of products such as shower gel, aftershave, essential oils or the like. Overall, all activities (such as reading, exercising, working, etc.), as well as food choices and health situation have an effect on our body scents.

Advice on olfactory matters by perfumer Marc vom Ende.


The scents of our bodies waft around us and are encoded in a deeply social and cultural set of behavioural practices. In her upcoming workshops at Studio XX, artist and researcher Lauryn Mannigel asks us to explore the olfactory experiences of ourselves and others.

In Mannigel’s “I smell a rat”, participants will engage in a dialogue about body scents and gender, with a specific focus on the stigmatisation of feminine odours. Through personal investigation and group scent exploration, participants will be led through two exercises to develop critical thinking about how individuals can identify and change their entrenched judgements on the way we smell.

Mannigel’s artistic practice works to overcome histories of “othering” consciously and unconsciously embedded in social interactions. Her works “Love Sweat Love” (2016), “Eat Me” (2018), and “Smell Feel Match” (2019) have artistically investigated how people perceive the body scents of others, and in 2017 her research findings were presented at the interdisciplinary Human Olfaction Conference.

Mannigel’s interest in the process of “othering” stems from the analysis of Constance Classen. Classen discusses olfactory classification as a boundary drawing process between different groups. She explains that in male-dominated societies the odour of the feminine tends to be treated as a “feared other”(1). In line with notable feminist theorist Rosi Braidotti, Mannigel’s work asks us to reflect on the relationship between our biology and our culture. As Braidotti notes, a narrative of embodied difference has been especially embedded in discourses on gender. This notion of embodied difference has long dictated our perceptions and assumptions about the bodies of others (2). The question of how smell factors into our long-held societal assumptions becomes increasingly important when thinking about the role that smell plays in social interaction.

Lauryn Mannigel is an artist-researcher and curator based in Berlin. Mannigel currently investigates the politics of body scent by unveiling judgements that people have pertaining to their experiences of others.

Lyndsey Walsh is an American biological artist, designer, writer, and visiting scholar at Humboldt-Universtat zu Berlin Department of Experimental Biophysics.

(1) Classen, C., 1993. Worlds of Sense: Ch.6 Worlds of sense, in: Worlds of Sense: Exploring the Senses in History and across Cultures. Routledge, London, pp. 121–138, 156–158.
(2) Price, J., Shildrick, M., Braidotti, R., 2019. Signs of Wonder and Traces of Doubt: On Teratology and Embodied Differences, in: Feminist Theory and the Body. Routledge, pp. 290–301. doi:10.4324/9781315094106-34