Movies and music are filled with sight and sound, but when will humanity master the expressive and exploratory power of the other senses? The Believer on an ill-fated pre-Surrealist attempt to transport a theater full of people to Japan via a series of perfumes projected by fan:
In the fall of 1902, when he was around thirty-five years old, the papers announced that Mr. Sadakichi Hartmann, the eccentric art critic, would present a short performance entitled “A Trip to Japan in Sixteen Minutes.” The piece was described as a “melody in odors.”
The turn of the twentieth century saw a flurry of sense experimentation. The color organ was patented in 1895, an instrument with colored panels that lit up and changed in time to music. A few years later, one of the first electric organs, the Telharmonium, would have its debut in a specially built concert hall in New York.
The perfume concert was the featured event on a bill of a casual Sunday pop, held at the enormous entertainment complex known as the New York Theatre. “The first odor is that of roses given us as the steamer leaves the wharf.” Sadakichi motioned toward the geishas, who slid the linen in front of the fan as if it were a magic-lantern show. A soft horn tooted from the orchestra to clarify the steamer’s presence.
The performance should have lasted sixteen minutes, but Sadakichi was cut off at four. “The audience stamped, cheered derisively and began to pour out of the theater,” one reporter wrote.