Mapping Cities – by nose


Artist Sissel Tolaas is half-Icelandic, half-Norwegian and lives in Berlin. Her artwork explores the sense of smell by examining how people detect and describe odors. She’s particularly interested in how smell impacts the experience of the world around us. Her fascination with the spatial effects of smell led her to scrutinize the olfactory smellscape of diverse cities, from Vienna and Paris to Kansas City.

In her Talking Nose project, Tolaas investigated Mexico City’s infamous smellscape. Starting in 2001, she began to examine Mexico City by visiting 200 different neighborhoods in order to identify the important smells in each. using technology that she developed, Tolaas presented the  odors in a Scratch and Sniff map of Mexico City. She also videotaped 2,100 city residents as they described the city’s smells in extreme close-ups.

Tolaas has also used her technology to create smells for entities as diverse as museums, Ikea, Dresden’s Military History Museum and Adidas.

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