The exploration of Odors by Sissel Tolaas, a Norwegian artist based in Berlin and one of the few artists in the world working with the sense of smell.
‘The professional provocateur of smell’, as she explains herself, makes use of technologies, chemistry and art to communicate and bring awareness about the power of the nose.
I had the pleasure of listening to her in a casual lecture a few months ago, in which she pointed out very interesting things about our perception of smelling, such as the fact that we tend to use only 20% of our smell memory, and that we tend to believe that there’s nothing in between extreme perceptions: smells are always either good or bad.
Her laboratory has a huge archive with nearly 7000 real smells. She says that her nose is her eyes and believes that “smell immediately goes to memory’. It’s weird, but true, I frequently find myself remembering my grandma’s house smell or my childhood smell… Another curiosity is that she doesn’t use perfume at all, although she plays with the odors when she wants to provoke some reaction like being perceived as having the same smell as of a guy’s sweat, or as a business women, a sex symbol, or even to keep people away from her. So funny, I would love using these tools.
What an interesting and odd work she has. Check out a glimpse of some of her fabulous projects as a visual artist and chemist:
1. She invited the citizens of Montpellier, France, to lend their coats to be smelled deciphered for ‘headspace analysis’. Each garment was then displayed and labeled with the combination of smells detected. One Prada jacket was marked: 2 percent dog feces, 5 percent soy sauce, 6 percent gasoline, 9 percent Jil Sander aftershave, 10 percent codfish, 12 percent Chanel No. 5, 26 percent tobacco and 30 percent sweat.
2. Tolaas simulated the smell of different cities, Mexico (Project Talking Nose), Liverpool, Paris, Vienna, Kansas City, using structured walks, interviews, and headspace technology. In Berlin (MOMA), she reproduced the smell of the city by dividing and identifying the odors differences among the districts and boroughs.
3. “Fear 9” was an exhibition at Louisiana Museum of Contemporary Art in Denmark. She asked nine highly phobic men to wear a sweat-collecting device under their armpit while exposing themselves to situations they feared the most. They then sent the sweat to Tolaas’ lab, where she chemically analysed and recreated it by using micro-encapsulation technology to turn the Louisiana gallery wall into a giant scratch and sniff embodiment of fear. She also pointed out that we can smell a funky wall but we are not emotionally prepared to smell a funky armpit.
It was hard to find her work on the web. However, these videos below give us a taste, showing her in a lecture and in an interview.
The Little Screens by the American photographer Lee Friedlander
The television screens were housed in motel rooms and other nondescript rooms of anonymous character spread throughout the US during the 1960s. Each screen transmits images of popular culture icons, political figures, or minor celebrities of that time The environments are iconographic ghost-rooms filled with bland furniture-rooms without personality, rooms that could be, and are, anywhere and everywhere.
The book is a bit expensive, but you can buy it here
More pictures here
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Defense Mechanisms for the urban being by the artist Kathy Ludwig
This concept of wearable devices as a private space is absolutely fantastic to cope with anxiety and fear, especially nowadays with our over exposure by the contemporary lifestyle.
Check out her others amazing projects: kathyludwig.com
USB flash drives embedded into walls is the amazing project from a Berlin-based artist Aram Bartholl. Everyone is invited to drop or find files on a dead drop. Plug your laptop to a wall, house or pole to share your favorite files and data. You can find it in many locations check on the website: http://deaddrops.com/.
There is one in London (196 Brick Lane, London, UK).
Giant Origami Paper boat
Some people might ask if this is art. I’m not sure, being honest. Sometimes is hard to separate weird ideas from art or art from weird ideas. However, doesn’t really matter and I quite like the intention of someone putting together a giant paper boat floating on a river in the name of art.
The German artist Frank Bolter was the creator of the paper boat entitled To The World’s End as part of the Drift 10 art exhibition in London. The boat floated successfully down the Thames from Canary Warf towards central London at the beginning of this month.
The Drift10 biennial art exhibition runs until January.