Michael John Whelan
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Ambre Gris
2016
performance with 2ml Ambergris tincture
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Ambre Gris is performed during the public opening of an exhibition. Engaging with the visitors' olfactory awareness, seven anonymous performers wear tincture made from white ambergris which was sourced ethically from the Bahamas. Grey amber, or ambergris, is prized as a base ingredient in the perfume industry where it functions as a fixative/strengthener for other ingredients. It is a secretion from the intestine of the sperm whale used to safely encapsulate undigestible elements like squid beaks. Once formed it is ejected from the whale where it floats for years in the sea oxidising slowly. It changes from the worthless black to the valuable white. In its pure form, it acts as a accentuator that changes their body chemistry on a molecular level, strengthening the wearers natural aroma and temporarily changing how their bodies are received sensorily by others. Photographs are made before and after application.