Material Scent: textiles beyond touch

The visual arts continue to be dominated by optical understanding, despite increasing awareness that the optical comprises only part of the sensory input used to understand an artwork or artifact. In artistic practices that focus on materiality, such as textiles, expanded sensory understanding often acknowledges the role of touch. While the importance of kinesic knowledge is increasingly recognized in craft discourse, research tends to dwell on the role of learning to make. In this chapter, I propose the need to further expand our kinesic understanding of both historical and contemporary textiles beyond the optical and tactile to also include the olfactory properties of cloth. The presence of scent in historical examples, such as batik and muslin, as well as the contemporary practices of Ernesto Neto and Doris Salcedo, not only exemplify the underestimated presence of scent, but also confirm the considerable challenges in recording what is arguably the most subjective and ephemeral of the senses.