Working with unorthodox materials, Anicka Yi creates multisensory installations that unsettle the boundaries between the organic and the synthetic, and biology and technology. Yi was the recipient of the 2016 Hugo Boss Prize and the 2020 Hyundai Commission.Read More
Born in Seoul, Yi moved to the United States with her family at the age of two. After initially working in the fashion industry, the artist began making art in her mid-30s and started exhibiting in 2008.
Anicka Yi has worked with live insects, bacteria, artificial intelligence, and fragrance to explore the political and gendered history of odours and, more recently, the relationship between organic life forms and machinery.
Smell has been a consistent feature in Yi's work, which she approaches as a gendered sense that has historically been associated with women. The artist has discussed the relation between power and odour, in which institutional establishments such as museums and galleries are conventionally odourless spaces, with the presence of smells evoking fears of contamination.
Reflecting on this association, Yi has directly incorporated unpleasant or ambiguous odours into her work. You Can Call Me F, her solo presentation at New York's The Kitchen in 2015, saw the artist release a scent into the gallery made from samples swabbed from 100 women she knew.
Yi has become increasingly interested in the cross section between organic forms, machinery, and artificial intelligence. For the 58th Venice Biennale in 2019, she presented two new installation works, including Biologizing the Machine (tentacular trouble), which comprised suspended kelp sculptures in cocoon-like shapes. Inside each sculpture were animatronic insects that fluttered about. Also on view was Biologizing the Machine (terra incognita), a series of flat acrylic vitrines housing Venetian soil and bacteria. The ecosystem in the soil was managed by an AI system, which simultaneously learned from the bacteria's behaviour to alter the temperature and light inside the vitrines.
Yi reimagines machines as living organisms in In Love with the World, the 2020 Hyundai Commission presented at Tate's Turbine Hall in 2021. The monumental installation consisted of 'aerobes', inflatable machines evoking jellyfish or mushrooms, that were engineered to float in the air. Developed by the artist in collaboration with specialists, the aerobes employ Unscrewed Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) that allow them to move according to a unique software.
Like many of Yi's other works, In Love with the World also saw the artist introduce an element of smell to the space, referencing different time periods in Bankside, where the Turbine Hall is located, including the Precambrian period and the age of Industrialisation.
Anicka Yi has shown her works in solo and group exhibitions at major international institutions and galleries.
Select solo exhibitions include Anicka Yi: In Love with the World, Hyundai Commission, Tate Modern, London (2021); We Have Never Been Individual, Gladstone Gallery, Brussels (2019); The Hugo Boss Prize 2016: Anicka Yi, Life Is Cheap, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (2017); Jungle Stripe, Fridericianum, Kassel (2016); 7,070,430K of Digital Spit, Kunsthalle Basel (2015); Death, Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio (2014).
Select group exhibitions include Catastrophe and Recovery, National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul (2021); The Body Electric, Museum of Art and Design, Miami Dade College, Florida (2020); May You Live in Interesting Times, 58th Venice Biennale (2019); New Order: Art and Technology in the Twenty-first Century, Museum of Modern Art, New York (2019); and Laws of Motion, Gagosian, San Francisco (2019) and Hong Kong (2018).
Anicka Yi's Instagram can be found here.
Sherry Paik | Ocula | 2022