Project Description


from 24th February 2022 to 24th July 2022 – Space: SHED

“Metaspore” is Anicka Yi’s first solo show in an Italian institution and the most comprehensive of her career to date. With more than twenty works created since 2010, the exhibition explores the artist’s sculptural language, which often activates chemical and biological processes to generate complex ecosystems.

Location: Pirelli HangarBicocca, Milano
Artist: Anicka Yi
Exhibition: “Metaspore”
Allestiment: curated by Fiammetta Griccioli and Vicente Todolí
Engineering: MOSAE srl
Photo: Agostino Osio
Courtesy: Pirelli HangarBicocca, Milano
Pictures in slideshow: from the exhibition

Skype Sweater, 2010/2017

Skype Sweater is among Anicka Yi’s seminal works, one of the first to evoke basic life processes in the body, such as respiration and digestion. The installation consists of a military parachute laid out on the ground, with electric fans that move and lift the fabric to create a billowing, undulating form. Its space is delimited by three pedestals which bear sculptures with a translucent, viscid quality. They include a seethrough Longchamp bag filled with cow entrails and hair gel; a transparent Plexiglas display case containing a folded Mylar envelope fried in tempura batter; a rectangular block of glycerin in which rubber tubes and razor blades are embedded. The use of elements like plinths and vitrines mimics museums’ exhibition displays while the inclusion of unusual components and culinary techniques calls to mind other contemporary artists, such as Dieter Roth (1930–1998) and Rirkrit Tiravanija, who have worked with food, both as an ephemeral substance and as a social and cultural element.

Le Pain Symbiotique, 2014

Originally conceived for the 2014 Taipei Biennial, this installation consists of a transparent PVC dome that houses an unusual ecosystem of organic and industrial elements with a sci-fi aesthetic. Inside this large inflatable membrane, the floor is covered in bread dough and ochre pigment. Placed on five pedestals, are glycerin and resin sculptures of abstract forms. Microscope images of microorganisms in constant motion are projected onto them and seem to merge with the transparent, rubbery surfaces of the sculptures themselves. These become screens for the projection of swarming images and patterns.

Immigrant Caucus, 2017

The work is both a physical threshold—a metal mesh gate through which visitors must pass—and an intangible one: an aroma diffused through the space by three industrial steel tanks. This fragrance, created in collaboration with perfumer Barnabé Fillion, was obtained by mingling the chemical compounds in sweat samples collected from Manhattan’s Chinatown and Koreatown, with the emissions of carpenter ants, a species that nests in tunnels dug in tree trunks. The blend of the two olfactory components creates a political commentary on Asian-American identity and the exploitation of labor that often affects these minorities, highlighting how the sensation of unease linked to odor is intrinsically connected to the fear of difference. Through its direct sensory impact on visitors, Immigrant Caucus conveys a sense of otherness that modifies the perception of the environment.

Releasing The Human From The Human, 2020

Six glowing spheres hanging from the ceiling illuminate the exhibition space like Japanese lanterns. This series, made from a kelp-based substance, highlights the artist’s interest in the ecological qualities and potential of algae to produce energy. The sculptures give off a greenish-gold light that brings out the scratches and marks on the surface of each piece: «The organic forms of these sculptures are a mutating play off of the iconic Akari lamp by Isamu Noguchi, while the scratches resemble the work of abstract expressionist artists such as Cy Twombly,» says the artist.

Shameplex, 2015

Shameplex is made up of seven aquarium-like tanks, each containing a layer of ultrasound gel. Characterized by a phosphorescent green color, the work has an antiseptic aura, as if it were a generator of alien worlds. Inside each vessel, a white LED light illuminates a large number of pins stuck into the gelatinous surface at the bottom. Over time the metal elements undergo corrosion and oxidation, producing a reddish pattern that gradually seeps into the gummy substance.

Biologizing the Machine (spillover zoonotica), 2022

The installation is a new expanded version of Biologizing the Machine (terra incognita), first presented at the 58th Venice Biennale in 2019, and consists of seven rectangular structures made of glass and metal suspended from the ceiling at different heights. Their abstract patterns reference both traditional landscape painting and abstract expressionist art. Each vessel contains a Winogradsky culture, a highly diverse micro-ecosystem of soil bacteria and algae. Prior to installation, soil samples are locally sourced, then grown on-site for several weeks, resulting in a site-specific work. The installation functions as a portrait of the region and represents the minute complexities of the local environment, its genetic, bacterial, and geological profile. Once sealed, the culture continues to evolve on its own over time, changing in color, texture, and pattern in reaction to the ambient environment such as oxygen levels, light, and temperature.

Production “Biologizing the Machine”: Animal’s House

12 Synesthetic Crayons, 2015

This series highlights a central theme in Yi’s practice: contemporary fears surrounding hygiene and contamination. The idea grew out of the Ebola epidemic in 2015 in West Africa, and the form of each installation alludes to quarantine tents: each is a transparent rectangular enclosure made of PVC, with brightly colored abstract shapes reproduced on the outer surfaces, reminiscent of biological hazard symbols. They are seemingly impermeable structures containing objects and elements that can only be seen from the outside.

When Species Meet Part 2 (Vegetable Psychology), 2016

This work features a 2-meter wide cube-shaped cage open at the top, its bars covered in fake fur. Inside is a sculptural element resembling the bamboo mushroom, a tropical fungus widely employed in Chinese cuisine and traditional medicine that is characterized by a net-like veil stretching down from the top of the stalk. The same kind of structure is also used in technology, for example in the circuitry within hardware.

New York’s A Bitch, But God Forbid The Bitch Divorce You, 2014

Two dryer doors, the kind one might encounter in a laundromat, punctuate the wall at the end of the exhibition space. By opening the door, visitors will perceive a dark space that diffuses separately two fragrances— Traennen and Bullfrog—created with the aid of the French “nose” Christophe Laudamiel. With this work characterized by a cold, minimalist aesthetic, the artist minimizes the presence of visual stimuli in order to explore feelings that belong to the intimate and personal dimension, such as desire and the sense of loss.