by Sukanya GargMay 12, 2020
The Tate Modern art gallery in London is nothing short of an institution, a keystone in the architectural marvel that is contemporary art today. Founded in 2000, Tate is one of the most visited art galleries in the world, housing a large collection of modern artand contemporary art from across the globe. The Turbine Hall is a 500-foot-long hall, with a 100-foot-high ceiling. The landmark space has housed many masterpieces including Olafur Eliasson, Louis Bourgeois, Anish Kapoor and Ai Weiwei. This year, Tate hosted Anicka Yi, a Seoul-born artist who currently lives and works in New York City. Her work, which sits at the intersection of art, technology, biology and innovation, has been showcased at Venice Biennale, Gwangju Biennale, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Kunsthalle Basel and other noteworthy venues. In Love with the World is an exhibition featuring Yi’s work, curated by Achim Borchardt-Hume, Mark Godfrey and Carly Whitefield.
Whitefield talks to us at STIR about working with the conceptual artist, Yi, on the large-scale installation art at Turbine Hall. She tells us, “The Hyundai Commission is an annual, site-specific commission in Turbine Hall which has produced some of the world’s most memorable and acclaimed works of contemporary art. The experience of working with an artist as they consider how their practice meets this space in terms of its scale, history and audiences, and how they are thinking about this moment in time is very special and insightful”.
The Hyundai Commission has made its mark in the history of contemporary art, making the immersive experiences in the colossal hall both memorable and magical. Whitefield continues to share her own experience of curating this historical moment. She says, “Anicka Yi’s inquisitiveness, rigour, thoughtfulness and vivid imagination made it a particularly stimulating experience that allowed me to see the world anew, and taught me a lot about working with scent and software-based media. This project also involved a large number of collaborators, all of whom brought unique expertise, ideas and a great deal of passion in helping to shape and realise this highly ambitious commission against the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. This collective intelligence and exchange are really the heart of this project. Sharing this project and the spirit behind it with audiences of all ages has been incredibly rewarding.”
Yi is recognised for creating radical and experimental art, with a penchant for conflating concepts derived from a range of practices and studies. Her work builds a bridge between art and science, offering an imaginative and inquisitive space for viewers to lose themselves within while forgetting boundaries between philosophy and science, present and future, possible and impossible. The art installation for the Hyundai Commission comprises floating ‘aerobes’, which encourage the viewer to speculate upon the possibilities of machines evolving into independent bodies. These aerobes or Xenojellies, as they are referred to, float over the heads of visitors in a completely autonomous manner. Yi is interested in the politics of air, and how it is influenced by evolving attitudes, inequalities and ecological awareness. Yi manipulates the element of scent, as a medium for toying with perceptions and states of being. The Xenojellies are filled with helium and are propelled by rotors which are powered by a small battery pack. The small machines disseminate various aromas, including spices and marine scents related to various points in human history which contribute to sensory experience. The aerobes’ behaviour and interactions develop in response to the evolving aromas. The forms float about, creating an environment similar to a scene straight out of a science fiction novel. Yi’s interest in olfactory and tactile sensations makes her work experiential on a sensory plane, while also engaging the critical brain conceptually. The spotlight on shared airspace comes at a time when doing so publicly has become controversial and something to warn your children about. The immersive installation begs the question “What are the ways in which we want to shape and mould our interactions (with humans and machines) going forward?”
Whitefield shares with us what draws her to Yi’s layered and multi-faceted artistic practice. She says, “In Love with the World responds to a moment in which the development of artificial intelligence intersects the climate emergency. With its captivating vision of new possibilities for machine life, it opens a generative space for connecting questions about the models that shape our concept of intelligence and our relationships to all other living species. Rooted in ideas of kinship and interdependency, the project encourages us to reconsider how we encounter foreign beings, including those that we view as artificial. Drawing attention to the air that fills the space, Yi also urges us to think about what it means to share the air that we breathe. Embedding these questions in the immersive experience of a wholly new ecosystem, the commission emphasises the vital role of art and museums in generating and hosting discussions about our shared futures.”
Hyundai Commission: Anicka Yi: In Love with the World was inaugurated on October 12, 2021, and closed recently on February 6, 2022. Yi’s work will be on view at Metaspore, a solo show with over 20 works by the Korean artist, at Italian art gallery Pirelli HangarBicocca from February 23 onwards. The exhibition is curated by Fiammetta Griccioli and Vicente Todolí. The Milan-based gallery will host Yi until July 24, 2022.