The aesthetic and political potential of body scents

This work sets out to investigate the social stigmatization of body scents and its relation to [Othering], while aiming to foster awareness about the feelings and potential judgments made towards others’ body scents.

The social perception of women’s body scent in India (working title, in development)

I smell a rat (2019, StudioXX, Montreal, CA & Goethe Institute Max Mueller Bhavan, Bangalore, IN)

Smell Feel Match (2019, Kunsthalle Rostock, DE)

Eat Me (2018,Creative Innovation: Art meets Science, Wageningen University, NL)

Love Sweat Love (2016, Mediamatic, NL)


[Aesthetic] Aesthetic judgments refer to the philosophical discourse about sense experience. Mannigel draws upon Baumgarten’s definition of aesthetics as a “science of perception” (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy 2014), as well as Fisher’s definition of aesthetics as “[…] a complex ‘product’ of discourse, [which] constitutes an experiential ‘process’ entailing apprehension” (Fisher 1995, p. 27).

[Body scents] I employ the term “body scents” to refer to how a person smells. In my view, it is a value-neutral term that fosters curiosity instead of judgment, as what is often the case with the use of the term body odor. I currently understand body scents to be shaped by the interplay of diverse aspects relating to biology, meteorology and cultural practices. The biological refers to genes, the microbiome, as well as our health conditions. By meteorological, I mean the weather. Regarding cultural practices, I refer to the social interactions of humans and nonhumans, which includes the leisure and work activities we engage in, the food we eat, the fragrant products we apply or come in contact with through our social contacts, as well as the built environment and landscape that we inhabit or trespass

[Othering] The process of othering is a form of social exclusion based on the premise that a person or group is perceived as “different”. Therefore, individuals who have been othered are not considered as a part of one’s own social group.

[Political] Our perceptions about others are political and can influence our understanding and value judgments about our experiences of the world. As a result, these judgments have the political power to shape social structures and create cultural codes of behavior. In this regard, working with body scents and, more so, our perception of them is to treat them as a political tool.