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Fontenay aux roses - Synesthesia Mood Bag


Designed for Jenny Tillotson by  Ben Hughes: MA Course Director Industrial Designer, Central Saint Martins


The project touches on synesthesia: the mixing of the senses. It is a wearable scent-delivery shoulder bag with an electronic control system that is housed in the main body of the bag. A ‘pulse’ is then delivered at user-defined intervals to one of three small pumps, which dispense the scent into the air through the strap of the bag. The name of the project also plays on the idea of ‘fountain of roses,’ which conjures a similarly decadent image of sensory indulgence.


This piece of artwork is inspired by Fontenay aux Roses, a town in Northern France. It features in the book A Rebours by french writer Joris-Karl Huysmans as the country retreat for the main character Duc Jean Floressas des Esseintes. Here he indulges his aesthetic fantasy of creating an immersive virtual reality through the meticulous choice and deployment of sensory and intellectual delicacies. In this pursuit of the ultimate decadent fantasy, des Essientes makes use of many of his own inventions to stimulate the various senses: visual, touch, sound and olfactory. Where scent is involved, he becomes self-trained in the art of perfumery before succumbing to an obsession with the apparent artificiality of, and the ability for, various hothouse flowers to mimic other materials.


It is this synaesthetic region between the real and the virtual that his ultimately crippling quest lay. This device is not a commercial object. It is designed with des Essientes in mind (the book was written in 1884), and is built in sympathy with descriptions of other mechanisms which he devised, such as the ‘mouth organ,’ from which the user could mix dispense an entire spectrum of taste sensations.

bag 2
a rebours
bag 8
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