Thanatos is a multisensory installation centring on an eponymous original perfume that evokes the scent of a decomposing body discovered in a woodland.
The perfume is the result of a collaboration between the artist, 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 installation comprises four distinct but interrelated elements: the perfume Thanatos displayed as a physical product; the scent of Thanatos, experienced through interaction with a sculpture modelled on an autopsy table; The Search, a suspenseful short film of a search for a cadaver in a forest; and photographs of staged crime scenes taken at the Crime Scene House at the Forensic Anthropology Department at Teesside University.
Thanatos was exhibited at Cube Gallery, Phoenix, Leicester and Constantine Gallery, Teesside University, Middlesbrough in 2020. Supported by National Lottery through Arts Council England.