Monsters frighten us for the way they tell us about ourselves. Don’t doubt it, Onda is a monster. Vero Kern plucks specific and unexpected descriptors from each of her component pieces. Vetiver (salt lick), passionfruit (floral rot), ginger (sand-paper), honey (musky sharpness), woods (dust). Using these disparate pieces Kern composes a perfectly poised perfume that I could never have dreamed of. It’s not simply coherent, implying that the the odd bits have been smoothed over. It’s right, as if it reveals something important that I hadn’t considered. It should look like Frankenstein’s monster; torso from one body, head from another, limbs from a few others. We should notice the ill-fit and coarse seems. It should be awkward if not uncomfortable but it is in fact perfect.
So, with my biases hanging out and my eyes a little glazed, Onda.
I turn to the artist not to reassure me of what I already know or believe, but for the unexpected. Wearing Onda gives me a detachment from normalcy that I could just kiss. It’s hallucinatory. It’s the scent of an angel, who, on getting up after a hard fall, adjusts his powdered wig and his jockstrap with delicately gloved hands before digging through the soil to harvest pickled citrus fruit. Fantasy and synesthesia in a bottle.
Abstraction is a tool for reducing components to the properties that the artist find most important. Kern recognizes properties that another artist might not. For all the outrageousness of this composition, it feels comfortable, like the way that a vivid dream can have a bizarre narrative while feeling perfectly normal. While Onda brings to mind a trippy angel it also also simply smells like skin and motion. There’s an expression that pops into my head unsummoned when I wear Onda. “The sins of the flesh.” This expression, like Kern’s perfume, ties together desire, fear, exposure and release into one experience. To pay Kern a high complement, her perfume is gorgeously queer.
Kern shows the difference between prettiness and beauty and prettiness starts to seem beside the point.
(image, Yinka Shonibare, The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters)