Sissel Tolaas - OUTSIDEIN

Norwegian artist Sissel Tolaas has focused on the issue of smell, language and communication since 1990. Specifically interested in the impact of smell upon our perception and communication, Sissel set up a laboratory in Berlin in 2004, working with specialists and using her own knowledge of chemical science, mathematics, languages and visual art to develop new and innovative approaches to the topic of smell in our society.

For her project OUTSIDEIN at FACT, Tolaas walked with Liverpudlians Jayne Stacey and Philip Cashen in Vauxhall, Jane Ardrey in Kensington, Ken Johnson in Cressington and Roz Playfer in Heswall. During these four walks, she asked the participants to focus on their smell sensations, perceptions and feelings in relation to the environment, and recorded their comments. At the same time, Tolaas collected samples of smells from the walks. Four respective smells, one from each walk, were then recreated with a professional laboratory (IFF Inc., New York) and reproduced in the form of concentrated essences, using micro-encapsulation and smell diffusion technology.

These four smell-essences of Liverpool are installed in the main entrance and exit of FACT and painted onto the banisters of the main staircase, releasing the unique smells of the city as visitors navigate their way through the building.


Tolaas also worked with local linguist Andrew Hamer to develop new words to describe the smells of the city, inspired by the participants' recorded sensations. These can be found in the audio tracks in the Media Lounge and as texts appearing on the walls and floors throughout the public spaces of FACT.

Tolaas's process invites us to focus more closely on our sensory experiences of the world around us, and to use our senses to explore our inner worlds and the place in which we live.