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Let us take the air


Hopkinson Mossman, Auckland, New Zealand

Concentrated Form of Loss: Alpha-Ionone/Beta-Ionone, 2015

400mm x 3600mm (ladder); 160mm x 20mm (paper)

molecules, paper, ladder


Vaporous Materialism: Remedies for Remembering (Aluminium) and Forgetting (Sodium Chloride), 2015

572mm x 572mm x 851mm (drums, 300 x 300 x 300mm (each humidifier)

ultrasonic humidifier, steel drums, tinctured essence, water pumps, fittings


Alpha-Ionone, 2015

1000mm x 2000mm x 19mm



Remembering and Forgetting, 2015

550mm dia x 19mm



Violet Vapour (Alpha-Ionone & Beta-Ionone) 1-5, 2015

457mm x 355mm x 34mm

Acid-free blotting paper, molecules, violet dye, artist frame


Violet Vapour (Alpha-Ionone & Beta-Ionone), 2015

807mm x 1207mm

Acid-free blotting paper, molecules, violet dye, artist frame



“… everything can be transformed into something else, and knowledge of the world means dissolving the solidity of the world.”

Let us take the air continues Mitchell's longstanding fascination with scent, focused here on substances associated with the processes of remembering and forgetting, awareness and disengagement. The primary materials of the exhibition are scent and vapour; conceived as molecular sculptures, with weight, mass, and dimensionality, albeit near-invisible.

Mitchell’s molecules are readymade in the sense that they already exist in the world, constantly moving, colliding, disassembling and reassembling. In the exhibition context, the visitor becomes conscious of the fragrance molecules only when they hit a receptor. Consequently, in Mitchell’s exhibition, it is in the body of the visitor that the artwork manifests. Mitchell’s scents are often imperceptible soon after they are detected, as molecules loosen themselves from their complex structure to dissipate, cling, reform, swarm and spread themselves thin. In Let us take the air, the artwork is imagined not as constant or static, but a form in dynamic flux, experienced subjectively, detected differently by each visitor.

A new perfume work, titled Concentrated Form of Loss: Alpha-Ionone/Beta-Ionone, is located in a liminal space of the large gallery. The scent contains molecules inherent in the smell of the violet flower, which is believed to cause anosmia (the temporary inability to perceive smell). Known for their elusive, fleeting scent, the presence of ionones in a violet’s chemical makeup temporarily desensitises the receptors of the nose, preventing any further scent being detected until the nerves recover. This recovery is momentary, receptors switch on and off, and, because the brain hasn't registered the violet scent in the preceding few moments, it registers as a new stimulus each time. Knowable as memory, forgotten instantaneously, the experience of the smell (and in this case, of the artwork) is one that is constantly recurring and slipping away.

In the small gallery, Mitchell presents Vaporous Materialism: Remedies for Remembering (Aluminium) and Forgetting (Sodium Chloride), in which two substances commonly prescribed by homeopaths to help remember and forget (often to overcome trauma) are vaporised side-by-side, their molecules intermingling in the air. In the practice of homeopathy not only is it believed that ‘like cures like’, but that water has the capacity to ‘remember' substances mixed with it, yet untraceable in it. After processes of succussion and dilution, water is said to become potentised, and therefore able to transmit the effects when consumed. Following this logic, Mitchell’s two potentised solutions themselves ‘remember’, and act upon the receiver’s memory to contrary ends, effectively cancelling each other out.

Let us take the air discloses the gaps between matter and phenomenon, building an almost-absurd metaphor, on a minute scale, for processes already at play in the perception of an artwork. In asking us to consider an almost-imperceptible art object, Mitchell directs our attention to the circumstances in which the art encounter occurs (the variables and functions of space, body, light, air), and how objecthood might be established.


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