At the Armory Show booth of Galerie Alberta Pane, a naked woman sits inside a wire box upon a bed of flowers. For one day only, performance artist Romina de Novellis will remain inside this enclosure, occasionally affixing a couple of the flowers to the sides of the cage. When I arrived, only a fourth of the wall was obstructed by her floral arrangement; de Novellis will only leave the box after the entire structure is covered in flowers—or after eight hours, whichever comes first.
The performance, which is titled La Gabbia, “is a performance about the universal suffering of the body,” according to a press release. “The woman inside the cage chooses to escape through asphyxiation, erasing her own body and spirit through a tragic yet poetic gesture.” Morbid! A gallery representative, who alternatively described the performance as “romantic, but at the same time about feelings that get trapped,” informed me that today marked the performance’s U.S. premiere. Its world premiere occurred in 2012, at Palais de Tokyo in Paris. He showed me a selection of Polaroids of the performance, each of which were selling for $1,000 (frame included). A few had already sold today.
But there’s more! I learned that, in a slightly grotesque turn of events, upon emerging from her flower coop de Novellis will be “giving birth to an edible rose made of sugar,” according to the same representative. Thanks to luxury perfume brand Arquiste, the rose’s essence will be distilled and added to a perfume called Ella, which will be sold in stores beginning this September. Perfumer Carlos Huber was on the scene to tell me more.
“It really made sense to join forces,” he said. “This performance is about a woman’s body being conquered by the flowers, which is really interesting because I’m working on a scent based on a woman’s body.”
Ella will consist of mostly animalic scents, with a few floral notes at the top. “It will very much be an olfactory representation of this performance,” Huber said, listing off flavors such as jasmine, cigarette smoke, carrot, and patchouli. He sprayed a sample on my wrist. The scent was surprisingly pleasant, if not slightly reminiscent of Old Spice. Huber concluded his explanation by saying, “[de Novellis] is surrounded by flowers that are broken, in the same sort of way that they are bruised when they are used in perfume. The body of a woman will be behind this scent, which will really add presence to the whole thing.”