We went to a snake shop in Yokohama earlier this evening, as the D is doing a snake-based dance piece at a tiny theatre in Tokyo tomorrow night and we wondered if there might be some last minute props.
The ‘hebiya‘, or place that sells all things dead snakeish, has been there forever it would seem; unchanging in the nineteen years that I have been in this country (though I have never been inside, or if I have it was only once, and long ago) : dried, and dessicated, whitening snake bodies in the window panes, a man at the end of the shop beyond wooden Chinese screens who, when he looks at you from afar, makes you feel you shouldn’t enter.
We did anyway today but god the stench: I was so disoriented by it I couldn’t even bring myself to take photos (these here are stock ones taken from the internet). Cobras gasping half out of jars; vipers; anacondas; all manner of decaying and formaldeyding serpents in varying states of undress and decomposition as well as turtles wrapped in plastic bags just out there drying on the counter and god knows what else stacked up in chairs and drawers and in glass cabinets. It smelled unearthly; of rotting reptile and amphibian flesh, slimy; yellowing, repugnant: one of the most memorably foul and gut-churning odour experiences I have had in a very long time; we were out of there in a flash as I Iet out a breath and gasped in air deeply on the shopping street pavement.
If the man in the shop does, as I suspect, have some other businesses going on out in the back (because, how much business can a ‘hebiya’ make? ” Hang on just a sec, I’m just popping out to the snake shop….”) this scent is canny on his part: no one is ever going to be able to stand being in that place for more than a couple of seconds, not even the police. The smell of dead snakes, here, is assaulting; vituperous, sickening, the kind of thing that kids would do for a dare. Go on I dare you. Try and stay in that snake shop in Yokohama for a full five minutes…..
On the subject of snakes, though, and dance: perfume in performance art is a very underrated layer of meaning and effectiveness that can work quite brilliantly in adding psychological and sensorial depths to a piece by closing off your more rational receptors and allowing you to be more convincingly seduced on a three dimensional level by what you are experiencing (see also my piece earlier this year on The SmelI Of Kabuki). I have been intending to write about this for a while, but I remember a couple of years ago how a young butoh dancer, at Duncan’s studio, the beautiful Moe, after coming to my house and discovering By Kilian Love, then used that perfume in a mesmerizingly dream-like dance piece at the Kazuo Ono studio, emerging out of the dark as slowly as a Rothko stain as the edges of her sweet and lovely perfume rose out hypnotically into the audience. Another friend, and full time performance artist, Dominique BB, was also amazed when I presented to her the harsh and exacting Black March by I Hate Perfume (as she was doing a project with that exact name); its uncompromising and fierce smell of damp earth, death and cruel bulbs an intriguing fit for similar themes that she was exploring.
But to Snake/ Succubus, tomorrow’s thing, still being gestated as we speak, I was wondering if you have any suggestions for vivid, and serpentine perfumes? Duncan wants something a bit shocking, a smell that will hypnotize the audience into the mood of the performance when he comes out, snake-hipped, on to the stage. I am thinking L’Artisan Parfumeur’s Humeur Jalouse, if I have any left in my cabinets upstairs because there is nothing more stinging nettlish, poisonous and green, but perhaps there is something else you know that would work. Jacomo Silences? Something earthier, more biting: spicy?
What perfume would be perfect for a snake?