Intangible Touching. Not trend just truth

During Esxence, I went in search.
To begin with, I went in search using nothing but my nose, trying to capture new inspirations. I sought the most representative olfactory notes, progressing through citrusy compositions, soft woods, profound incenses and revolutionary violets…”What insolent strength have follower“(1)…
I smelt tenderness: round notes, as fragile and yet invincible as motherhood, that spoke to me of care and comfort. I smelt the whiff of liberty, of breaking through the bounds of fashions and rules to follow our own inspiration. I rediscovered the past, sniffing at masterpieces that bring memories of other worlds to mind. And I certainly also smelt the future.
Then I went in search with my eyes: I looked at the colours, the lights and the carefully-chosen details, but above all I looked at people. I saw the artistic gestures in their presentations and the sparkling looks that accompanied their words. I stayed almost until closing time and saw many faces that were tired, but happy. Work should always be something that makes us happy. I saw the whole world and sensed the energy that is unleashed when people from geographically and culturally different origins discover a sense of proximity when they pool their aims and their passions, creating a shared sense of belonging.
I went in search with my ears. I listened to stories of families who have had perfume in their souls and in their veins for generations. I listened to stories of courage, because it takes courage, now more than ever, to breathe life into a new project. I listened to words of love, because in the end, who can exist without love?
I listened to music: not just with my ears, but with my heart, opened up by composers of musical and olfactory vision, tireless searchers after beauty.
I went in search with my mouth and with my taste. Luckily for us, some artists enjoy playing with synaesthesia and stimulating the appetite of all our senses.
I savoured culinary notes that took me back to my childhood. I tried blends of flavour and smell for myself and understood why these tempting notes are so successful: they combine playfulness with our desire to stay light, but also with our need to be pampered. In a word: childhood.
Cocooning and Hygge are more atmospheres than fragrances, giving off the flavour of family, of protection and of comfort. The sense of well-being that relates so easily to the pleasures of the palate.


Maybe it’s that sense of well-being that provided me with my starting point for rewinding the yarn of my search. I found it in another verb: touching.


The vocabulary of touching is very extensive: somehow expressing interaction in every declension. David Le Breton lists many of these expressions in his book La Saveur du monde. Une anthropologie des sens, such as the Italian verb Comprendere (to understand), whose etymology derives from prendere insieme (taking together), so encompasses embracing with the mind. To be tactful derives from tact, in turn an evolution on the original sense of touch (in Italian tatto), now conveying a sense of discretion and delicacy in interpersonal relations. Meanwhile, to put yourself in somebody else’s hands means to entrust yourself to another person.


For Freud, touching is the verb of love: “the Eros wants contact and tends towards a union. Towards the abolition of the spatial barriers between the ego and the object of its desire”. It isthe sense of reciprocity and of meeting. 

To touch a person’s heart or soul means to stimulate emotions in that person. In his essay Saper Toccare, Marc Augé discusses how literature, music and painting manage to touch the people they target. And what about artistic perfumery? As an art form how does it manage to enter the fray?


In this day and age, we are more easily touched by distant images, by narratives of something different from ourselves, rather than by our everyday relations with the others around us. Our fear and our individualism arm us with indifference as our best mode of defence. It seems to be easier to achieve the approval of others via virtual connections than to engage in achieving it in the real world. But maybe that’s no longer enough.


Touching’ is the word that best encapsulates these days for me: not just an olfactory tendency, but a social need. The need to relate to others. The need of intimacy. I sensed the creative energy of people who want to do something, not just to tell their own stories, but to share meanings with others. A woman told me the story of how her perfume came about: smelling the fragrance and hearing her words, I received such a strong message that we embraced as we said goodbye. Empathy is the trend that marks this edition, but it not just a tendency: it is the splendour of reality. Touching and letting ourselves be touched, because without others we are nothing.


Tell me, in a world without pity
do you think what I’m askin’s too much
I just want something to hold on to
and a little of that human touch

(Bruce Springsteen, Human Touch)


– Gualtieri M., BESTIA DI GIOIA, Torino 2010 (1)
– Le Breton D., La Saveur du Monde, Paris 2006
– Augé M., Savoir toucher, 2017
– Freud S., Opere. Vol. 10: Inibizione, sintomo e angoscia (1924-1929), Boringhieri 1970


By Beatrice Balzarotti holds a Master’s degree in Anthropology & Ethnology. She studies the forms of communication in their cultural framework, with a sensory and emotional perspective.