Parfums Funèbres

Odorama 38: Olfactory Rituals of Death with Frank Bloem, Susanne Duijvestein, Steffie Baaijens, Caro Verbeek and Josely Carvalho

25 Jun 2020

Death smells, and fragrances have always played an essential role in rituals surrounding the death. 

By means of historical, contemporary, and religious examples, we want to explore the relation between smell and death. In ancient times, people communicated with the dead by means of fragrant oils, and bodies were embalmed with perfumes to preserve them for eternity.  Scents can also be part of modern mourning rituals. How can people keep the scent of a deceased person alive? And which innovative funerary options are available? 

We won’t ignore the elephant in the room. What is the historical relation between smell and pandemics now that corona has shown its ugly face?

You can visit this lecture in real life and let your nose do the work, or follow it via our live stream and receive a scent package at home.

Tickets / Facebook


A Plague Doctor - Photo by Kuma Kum


Plagues and diseases have tortured us since time immemorial. Thanks to our ingenuity, we have protected ourselves behind a wall of vaccinations for several years. This created a false feeling of safeness. Looking back upon the history of pandemics, we can witness an interesting role of scents. For example, plague doctors believing in the miasma-theory thought that putting fragrances in the 'beaks' of their plague masks could protect them. How does the miasma theory fit in with the current pandemic, and what role does scent play in death ceremonies?

Odorama-curator and olfactory artist Frank Bloem will introduce us to the topic. He will interview the first speaker Susanne.

Funeral director Susanne Duijvestein is one of the pioneers exploring new ways of dealing with death. She is an integral part of our 'Still Life' Project and now also hosts special funerals at Mediamatic.

What role does scent play during the grieving-process? How can we recreate the smell of a deceased person? Artist Steffie Baaijens will talk about how she reconstructed the smell of her boyfriend after he died. 

When William of Orange (also called the 'father of the nation') died after a second murder attempt in 1584, his court physician had to rush and make sure he would be embalmed that very same day, so that his corpse 'would be preserved for 8 - 10 years'. This wasn't easy considering the number of exotic materials needed, which - excitingly - were all documented. Caro Verbeek reconstructed what the body and the air surrounding William of Orange during the process must have smelled like.

Josely Carvalho is a Brazilian multimedia artist who keeps a diary of smells. Her most recent project 'Smell of Death' reconstructs the odor of body decomposition through the dramas behind specific cannons.


Odorama 38: Parfums Funèbres
Thursday, 25th of June
Start 20:00h.

Mediamatic Biotoop, Dijksgracht 6, Amsterdam
Or via Zoom with a scent package sent to your home.

Tickets: Full price €12,50 | Student / Artist / Stadspas €8,75* (incl. €1,- administration costs) | Live stream ticket, including a scent package sent to your home €8,75.

*We give a discount to students, artists, and Stadspas holders. If this applies to you, we might ask to see your kvk nr/portfolio or student card upon entry. Please direct questions to

Follow online

With the guidelines of our government in mind, we've decided to lessen the number of people allowed on site. Therefore you can follow this lecture also online via Zoom. The bodily experience that is common to our Odorama lecture will not get lost. We just send the smells to you. If you buy a live stream ticket for this event, you will receive a streaming link in your e-mail box and a scent package at home to enjoy during the lecture.

If you buy your ticket before Tuesday 23th, at 2 pm, you will receive the scent package on time for the live stream. We will record the lecture for you to watch also after the event, so don't worry if you buy your ticket + scent package later.