Ficcanaso in città (Nosy Parker hits the town)! An exhibition to sniff, in Lugano


Institutional Communication Service

5 April 2016


The exhibition will be open from April 6 to September 4, 2016 at Villa Saroli in Lugano. Ficcanaso is an olfactory journey through 100 different scents at the discovery of one of the lesser known, yet most fascinating of our senses: the sense of smell. From the physiology of our olfactory system, to the scent of plants and animals, the visitors’ nose is put to the test by delighting or sometimes awful fragrances. Games and trivia will lead visitors to the discovery of the world and our brain

The interactive itinerary proposed by USI’s Ideatorio will explore our sense of smell while stimulating our nose with several odour molecules. The exhibition is organised in cooperation with the School District of the City of Lugano and the Swiss company Givaudan, one the world’s top producers of essences and aromas.

The way to our nose is through the physiology of the sense of smell, to chemical odours, to the smell of plants and animals, to perfumes. Visitors can sniff and play with the most disgusting smells and maybe appreciate their purpose. They are also able to see and experience how to recreate the scents that have made the history of perfumery, play with body odours, and follow the scent trail of animals and plants from around the world.

Four creations by Swiss perfumer Andy Tauer invite the visitor to imagine an olfactory landscape, while solving games and riddles with the nose to unfold long lost memories.

The sacred, memories and seduction

Among the 100 odours, visitors are able to smell human pheromones and check with their noses if they are really attracted to these specific chemicals. People are able to actually find out if the “new car smell” that dealers supposedly spray in used cars really exists, or discover the “scent of saints” introduced in the exhibit with the aim of recreating Padre Pio or St. Theresa of Avila’s scent as described by the faithful. 

The curators propose a blast from the past, with the smell of ancient churches: a mixture of sacred aroma, cadaverous stench, earth, sky, horror and ecstasy. Visitors can also discover some more peculiar odours such as “the scent of woman” popular among poets and artists. Nowadays society is considered as a post-smells society where odours are dissolved in an olfactory silence of a deodorised environment.  People disdain the smell of sweat or stable and surround themselves with the smell of nothing, yet perfumers use secretions from mammal’s anal glands or excrements to make their scents appealing.

Our nose’s physicality never ceases to embarrass and intrigue us. The sense of smell is considered very ambiguous because strictly linked to the sacred, past memories, imagination but is also connected to the art of seduction. Without the multiple receptors of our moist nasal cavities, we could not appreciate the food or the smell of our lovers and we would have a less active imagination. Unfortunately, neither the environment nor the culture has taught us how to take care of the variety of scents.

The exhibition was already held in Bellinzona, Ascona and Monza and will land in Lugano with new scents. From September 2016 Ficcanaso will also open in Zurich.