2006 Sissel Tolaas

The Smell of FEAR


Always wanted to know what agony smells like? And how to recognize a flurry of panic? Professional provocateur Sissel Tolaas bottled fear. Scratch 'n sniff!


'smell of fear' by sissel tolaas at 'pièce de resistance' - Mar-Ina Uhrig

Twenty men from twenty different parts of the world, with completely different backgrounds, have one thing in common: they suffer from severe phobia.

Tolaas' research project started in 2005 when these twenty men were given a small, custom made device to carry around with them at all times. When a man would feel a fear attack coming on, he would place the device under his armpit and the equipment would suck in the sweat and register its molecules. This information would be sent to Tolaas, who then simulated the sweat in her Re_searchLab in Berlin. The sweat molecules were reproduced and micro-encapsulated using nanotechnology. This meant that the molecules were safely enclosed in micro-units, which can only be activated by touch. These micro-units were then integrated into a transparent, neutral smelling binder, and applied to a wall without any clear borders except for a little markation in the left corner of each area. This resembles the randomness of bodies moving next to each other. By touching the wall, the smells are released.