Berlin, City Smell Research, 2004
Glass and smell simulation
“Smell immediately locates you in a space,” says artist, designer, chemist, and odor theorist Sissel Tolaas. “It gives you new tools to perceive your surroundings.” Throughout her career Tolaas has worked provocatively with smell, applying headspace technology—used in the perfume industry to capture and synthesize natural scents—to render essences ranging from the objectionable (sweat, rotten fish, dog feces) to the everyday (fresh laundry, kebabs, shoe shop) and put them into an archive of more than seven thousand scents. From this archive she has created fragrances that do not adhere to the usual definitions of what smells good or desirable; instead, her aim is to stimulate emotional responses, evoke memories, and recreate places in all their chaos and specificity. While conducting her City Smell Research, which was presented at the Berlin Biennale in 2004, Tolaasworked in various Berlin districts to distill an essential scent for each one, creating an olfactory map of the city. The scents are contained in bottles that physically recall the city map and compass points. This work is not simply the charting of a landscape of smell; it also explores the potential of smell as information that enhances and subverts the physical and symbolic boundaries of the urban ecosystem.
Currently at the MoMA Talk to Me: Design and the Communication between People and Objects going on until November 7, 2011.