Sissel Tolaas: RE________ – Announcements

In a single day, each of us inhales and exhales approximately 24,000 times. With each breath, irresistible signals are sent directly to the brain: smells that, in nanoseconds, trigger emotions and memories, in turn awakening the subconscious. Smell is a vital but often overlooked communication tool for Sissel Tolaas. For nearly three decades, she has devoted her research-based artistic practice to the olfactory, rather than visual or auditory, thus appealing to a different type of sensory experience in her audience.

The exhibition D________ illustrates the breadth of Tolaas’ complex yet very direct and intuitive artistic practice. All the works presented are in situ, developed or reworked especially for this exhibition. The museum’s architecture, its physical setting, and its geographic context are all scrutinized, raising questions large and small in the process: What is change? What is hidden under the surface of the museum? How do scared people feel? How to capture a single breath? What smells characterize a nation?

When entering the exhibition, one encounters various “situations”, or rooms. At first it seems simple enough, but it’s what lies underneath that really moves the mind. The work addresses topical issues, climate change, the food industry and diversity. Tolaas rethinks, reconstructs, revisits, repeats, redraws and reacts. Between rooms or individual installations, the public can experience new impressions or revisit old ones; visitors are invited to reflect, always present in the moment. In the end, smell is the most effective memory tool, and the experience of the unknown or even the pleasantly familiar (dis) can provoke strong reactions. D________ encapsulates it all.

For Tolaas, it is essential that the public approach the exhibition intuitively, with them alone as a guide. In D________, codes accompany each of the works in place of textual descriptions. The choice of how to experience the exhibition is entirely up to the visitor, who can either accept the artist’s invitation to walk around freely, or opt for a more in-depth exploration in the last room of the presentation, where a set of sheets of paper provides a meticulously coded narrative that provides more information and the keys to the work.

The exhibition at the Astrup Fearnley Museet is curated by Solveig Øvstebø and is the largest presentation of Tolaas’ work to date. D________ will run until December 30, 2021, after which it will travel to ICA Philadelphia, where it will be presented from March 12 to July 10, 2022.

About the artist
Sissel Tolaas operates from his research laboratory and studio in Berlin. Since the late 1980s and early 1990s, she has been deeply interested in chemical processes and the phenomenon of change. Early in his career these mainly manifested in the form of formal experiments and mathematical calculations that explored how different chemicals and substances, organic and inorganic, affect each other and are interdependent. In the years that followed, Tolaas built up an archive of “scent recordings”, made up of around ten thousand scent molecules. She has also established a unique olfactory lexicon, aptly named Nasalo, which contains 4,200 paralinguistic sounds and is constantly evolving. In 2004, she created her Smell Re_SearchLab in Berlin with the support of IFF Inc. The works of Tolaas have been presented, among others, at the Venice Biennale, at the Gwangju Biennale, at MoMA New York, at the National Gallery of Victoria in Australia, at the Dia Art Foundation New York and the Tate Modern in London.


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