"beyond SE(A)nse", 2018, Riga-Biennial: Smells recorded in the Baltic Sea, Latvia, chemistry lab inventory, lab-glass
Photo: RIBOCA/Ivan Erofeev
April 11 – June 24, 2019
Wednesday, 10. April 2019, 6–9 p.m.
Thursday through Monday, 1–7 p.m.
The Berlin-based Norwegian smell researcher and artist Sissel Tolaas maps and collects in an archive smells from all over the world. To date, she has developed 52 smell profiles (“smellscapes”) of major international cities and studied the smell landscapes of shores and oceans. For the exhibition “22 – Molecular Communication,” Tolaas investigates the smell of Müllerstrasse in the Wedding neighborhood of Berlin. This place is of particular importance for the history of the Schering Stiftung: In the late 1860s, the trained pharmacist Ernst Schering had moved the entire chemical production from the original headquarters, the Grüne Apotheke (Green Pharmacy) in Chausseestrasse, to a larger production site in Müllerstrasse, thus laying the foundations for a flourishing pharmaceutical business that left its mark on the industrial location of Berlin for more than a century.
The first part of the two-part exhibition, which the Schering Stiftung organizes in cooperation with Galerie Wedding, is subtitled “Molecular Communication.” The exhibition room resembles a historical chemistry lab complete with original lab equipment owned by Schering AG, where the smell compo-nents of the Müllerstrasse can be sniffed out individually or in the form of molecular compounds. This way, the exhibition not only analytically breaks down the smell into its individual components, but also provides an insight into the research activity of the artist and trained chemist Sissel Tolaas.
Curated by Solvej Helweg Ovesen, the second part of the exhibition “22” will open on April 18 at Galerie Wedding. Here, Sissel Tolaas makes the smells of selected places on Müllerstraße perceptible for the exhibition visitors. Via sensors and ventilators, local smells enter the exhibition room, depending on the weather and the wind. This part of the exhibition takes as its central themes not chemistry and molecules but the gallery’s surrounding area – particularly its smells and, entangled with it, the history of the neighborhood.
Sissel Tolaas studied chemistry, art, linguistics, and mathematics in Oslo, Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Oxford. Since the 1990s, she has developed various smell archives and for seven years underwent an intensive smell training. One of her first urban olfactory research projects was presented at the 3rd Berlin Biennale in 2004. For that, Tolaas systematically researched and recreated the smells of the Mitte, Kreuzberg, Neukölln, Reinickendorf, and Charlottenburg neighborhoods of Berlin.
Shortly afterwards, she founded the Smell Re_search Lab, which is still located in Berlin-Wilmersdorf and is supported by the international company IFF (International Flavors and Fragrances).
Tolaas calls herself a “professional in-betweener” and is at home both in science and in art. She took part in the Art & Science project “Synthetic Aesthetics,” worked with scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics to develop a vocabulary to give precise verbal expression to smells, and has shown her work worldwide, including most recently at the Riga Biennale (2018), the Museum of Modern Art (2016/2010), the Hamburger Bahnhof (2017/2004), the Museum Tinguely (2015) and the Stiftung Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary in Vienna (2017–19).
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