Ewa Partum’s performance will take place in the Nowy Theatre foyer an hour before the piece Habitus on September 17 and 18. The audience will get the chance to take the artist’s work home, keep it in a tightly closed container or let it disappear completely.

Free entry

            Ewa Partum’s performance will take place in the Nowy Theatre foyer an hour before the piece Habitus on September 17 and 18. The audience will get the chance to take the artist’s work home, keep it in a tightly closed container or let it disappear completely.

Free entry

Tear gas and pepper spray belong to the same group of riot control agents. This toned-down name is equivalent to the term biological weapon and was used as such for the first time on a mass scale during the First World War. Due to their high efficiency in controlling both individuals and crowds the substances soon became more popular and accessible.


Tear gas and pepper spray have different chemical composition. The former is solely synthetic, while the latter contains also natural ingredients, especially capsaicin, substance which is also present in hot peppers. It is capsaicin that is mainly responsible for paralyzing crowds: burning pain in the eyes, nose, skin, mouth and respiratory tract. The memory of its taste and consequences is particularly vivid to the Womens Strike protesters of 2020.

Ewa Partums Tear-jerker refers to those protests, and especially to police brutality towards the demonstrators. The artist does not reproduce images of violent performance, but transforms it in a subversive way into a different substance. 


Using such ingredients as chilli and ink, the artists creates a scent that is an ironic comment on the figure of the oppressor. Weapon used against women (and not only women) becomes a toy in the artists hands: disarmed, bereft of its function, lasting only for a brief moment. 


Ewa Partum, born in 1945, a visual and performance artist, feminist and conceptual art pioneer, leading representative of the Polish neo-avant-garde. She is the author of multiple actions, films, photographs and visual poetry pieces. Her works were presented internationally in such institutions as the National Museum in Warsaw, Badisher Kunstverein, Kalsruhe, Tate Modern, London (Turbine Hall), Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Akademie der Künste Berlin, and 18th Biennale of Sydney.



Curatorial text: Michał Grzegorzek

It is almost impossible to count all the women and girls suffocated in their sleep by scent of flowers. These would be the victims of sanitation policy that has been shaped over the centuries to clear public spaces from uncomfortable odours and then started to poke its nose into private spaces as well - bedrooms, beds and bodies. Few realize the turbulent history of the sense of smell, to which the COVID-19 pandemic adds another, gruesome chapter. In the framework of the New Europe: Queer Gaze Festival we will ask our audience to activate a different sense than the one commonly associated with visual arts. Four unique scents will be created for us by artists: Ewa Partum, Agnieszka Brzeżańska, Rock AngelZ and Dominika Olszowy.

”The spatiality of bodies shall be defined by their exhalations”, and the obsession of ventilation will also enable a constant presence of gaze, one that will later be aptly described by Foucault as control and surveillance of bodies. Strategies of deodorisation reveal a lot about the approach towards public space, which from the 18th century on has been measured and divided in accordance to smells — through selection, prohibition of mixing between groups and isolation. Fear of foul odour coming from the highest ranks of social pyramid established the social hierarchies permanently. It also introduced the idea of smell (along with all other attributes) as a cultural costume assigned to gender. A woman who smells like a flower has no other scent than the perfume designed for her by a man. This hygienic, synthetic and in fact deeply patriarchal feature of women’s physicality became desirable and natural. Though it can also be seen as a tool of discipline and oppression.

My Scent is a Scent of a Woman is a set of four independent presentations by contemporary female artists. The title refers to Ewa Partum’s artistic actions from the 1970s, one of the first feminist actions in Polish art. My Problem is a Problem of  a Woman and My Touch is a Touch of a Woman, as Partum said (and wrote), revealing her gender and pointing to its literalness and conventionality, as well as the entanglement in social, moral and political structures of patriarchy. The woman in the title of the show is not necessarily consenting to roles, tasks  and gender assigned to her.  The invited artists will work with questions connected to the fight for women’s rights such as: violence and selfdefense, new sisterhood or hydro-feminism, an idea that is being developed in the context of global crises and fluid identities.  

The sense of smell, which allows us to grasp the transience of being, is a highly underestimated channel of cognition. As no other sense, smell has the power to activate affective memory and it is inextricably linked to air access. Is there any other action that we are more equal to than breathing? Scents that find their way to our nostrils and mouths are proofs of presence — of community and closeness. The way we smell and whether we smell each other shows not only that we did not lose our smell, but also, that we are together.

We invite you to smell, and most of all to inhale the works right into your lungs as deeply as you can. Nothing harms perfume more than oxygen.

References: Alain Corbin, We władzy wstrętu. Społeczna historia poznania przez węch. Od odrazy do snu ekologicznego [; “Psychologia węchu i pamięci węchowej” [Psychology of Smell and Olfactory Memory] by Prof. Ewa Czerniawska. 





Performance: Kaja Domińska, Pola Domińska, Donna Smela, Gabi Sułkowska

Special thanks to Berenika Partum, dr Robert Menzel (School of Chemistry, University of Leeds, UK), Kaja Domińska and Przemek Branas.


* ARTUM Foundation Ewa Partum Museum 
* Mo61 / Kaja Domińska - perfume design consultation

See also

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