Thanatos is a collaboration between artist Eric Fong, perfumer Euan McCall and forensic anthropologist Dr Anna Williams, whose research on the 400+ volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emitted during human decomposition underpins the project.
Inspired by the observation that some of the decomposition VOCs are identical to some of the natural ingredients used in commercial perfumes, Thanatos is a blend of selected VOCs plus floral and wood scents. It takes the audience on an olfactory journey from the scentscape of an open meadow to the middle of a secluded forest where a decomposing body is discovered.
The exhibition centres on the presentation of the perfume Thanatos displayed as both the physical product and as the scent. The aroma of Thanatos can be discovered through interaction with a sculpture modelled on an autopsy table. It is also accompanied by a short film evoking the intensity of searching for a cadaver in a forest, and eerie photographs of staged crime scenes taken at the Crime Scene House at the Forensic Anthropology Department at Teesside University.
Thanatos considers the bodily processes that occur after death and the advances in forensic science that help us to better understand them.