Thanatos is a collaboration between artist Eric Fong, perfumer Euan McCall and forensic anthropologist Dr Anna Williams, whose research on the 400+ volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emitted during human decomposition underpins the project.
Inspired by the observation that some of the decomposition VOCs are identical to some of the natural ingredients used in commercial perfumes, Thanatos is a blend of selected VOCs plus floral and wood scents. It takes the audience on an olfactory journey from the scentscape of an open meadow to the middle of a secluded forest where a decomposing body is discovered.
The exhibition centres on the presentation of the perfume Thanatos displayed as both the physical product and as the scent. The aroma of Thanatos can be discovered through interaction with a sculpture modelled on an autopsy table. It is also accompanied by a short film evoking the intensity of searching for a cadaver in a forest, and eerie photographs of staged crime scenes taken at the Crime Scene House at the Forensic Anthropology Department at Teesside University.
Thanatos considers the bodily processes that occur after death and the advances in forensic science that help us to better understand them.
Eric Fong, Artist (www.ericfong.com)
Eric Fong is a multimedia artist based in London. His practice explores issues relating to the body and identity in the context of biomedicine and forensic anthropology, often informed by his past experience as a medical doctor. His work has been exhibited internationally, including the Ludwig Museum of Contemporary Art, Budapest; Pratt Manhattan Gallery, New York; Chinese Centre for Contemporary Art, Manchester; and Gallery 44 Centre for Contemporary Photography, Toronto. Public collection of his work includes Arts Council England Collection, The Lightbox Gallery, UK, and York University, Canada. He is also a recipient of grants from Arts Council England, British Council and Leverhulme Trust.
Dr Anna Williams, Forensic Science Consultant (www.forensicanna.com)
Dr Williams is Principal Enterprise Fellow in Forensic Anthropology, University of Huddersfield. This project builds on five years of forensic PhD research supervised by Anna, into the gaseous products of decomposition, and four years of successful public engagement activity surrounding ‘The Scent of Death’, in which guests can sniff some of the VOCs, exhibited at venues including the Royal Institution, Royal Society Summer Exhibition, Science Museum, St Barts Pathology Museum, Edinburgh Science Festival and the British Science Festival.
Euan McCall, Perfumer (www.jorumlaboratories.co.uk)
Euan McCall is a self-represented perfumer. His Jorum Laboratories is currently Scotland’s only fine fragrance formulation house, servicing domestic and international clients. He has substantial experience of collaborating with contemporary artists to create unique concept-driven perfumes, including Neandertal (Kentaro Yamada) and Apocalypse (Thomson & Craighead).