Sissel Tolaas’s RE_________ is artist’s 25 years of practice at ICA, University of Pennsylvania
By Shraddha Nair
Nov 9, 2022
The Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) at University of Pennsylvania recently inaugurated Sissel Tolaas: RE_________, a solo exhibition by Norwegian artist Sissel Tolaas. Tolaas works with an invisible material. An intangible form with infinite memory – smell. Having worked with the olfactory for over 25 years, Tolaas has gained a certain control over the formless quality of smells. The artist creates a dynamic experience of the material by understanding the space she works with, making every exhibition site-specific while also playing with our olfactory senses. The exhibition is organised with Zoë Ryan (ICA’s Daniel W. Dietrich, II Director) in collaboration with Astrup Fearnley Museum in Oslo. It is curated by Solveig Øvstebø who is the Executive Director and Chief Curator of Astrup Fearnley Museum. We caught up with the artist to learn more about the way the artist creates and shares her practice with viewers.
As Tolaas says, “Smell chose me” and so began her tryst with the olfactory. Tolaas perceives smell as full of information, and it is. The olfactory receptors are present in the amygdala and hippocampus, and serves as one of the most primal pathways of information to the brain. The artist’s process of understanding smell as a material has taken her down different avenues of study. She says, “Understanding neuroscience, psychology and anthropology is essential in the process of being able to show pure smell and decontextualise from the reality where I found it.”
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