The Natural History of Machines: Anicka Yi at the Tate Modern Turbine Hall


Author: Mandee McFerren


Snimok ekrana 2021-11-16 v 14-23-13 Image: CC BY-SA 4.0 Source:


The Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall is hosting the multi-sensory work of Korean-American Artist Anicka Yi in the exhibition Anika Yi: In love with the world, using her art to question how machines may one day inhabit the world in one of her largest exhibitions to date.


Yi’s oeuvre is expansive, containing sculptures, paintings, and installations that combine biology, anthropology, and philosophy to discuss topics varying from sexism, to the environment, to the future of artificial intelligence. Often using fragrance as a core element in her work, Yi produces “scentscapes” to assign more meaning and context to her installations.. Her studio acts as a hub for the collaboration of science and art, with Yi’s practice exploring the merging of technology and biology and breaking down distinctions between living things and machines, pushing viewers to understand their place within their own ecosystem.


Yi’s works, often recognised for their unconventional materials such as soap, potato chips, expired powdered milk, snail slime, and tempura-fried flowers, combine fragrance and physical feeling. Merging science with art, Yi collaborates with biologists and chemists to create pieces that push the envelope and address what she calls the “biopolitics of the senses,” as well as other experts such as philosophers, fabricators, engineers, anthropologists, conservators and perfumers.


Yi has exhibited at Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim Museum, the Fondation Louis Vuitton, Kunsthalle Basel, and the Cleveland Museum of Art, and participated in the Venice Biennale, the Whitney Biennial, the Lyon Biennale, and the Gwangju Biennale. In 2016 Yi won the Hugo Boss Prize in which she was awarded the Tate Turbine Hall Hyundai Commission in 2020, occurring now in 2021 due to COVID 19. 


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Image: Photo taken in the Guggenheim Museum at Anicka Yi's Hugo Boss exhibit CC BY-SA 4.0


For Anika Yi: In love with the world, Yi fills the industrial space of the Turbine Hall – a former part of Bankside Power Station – with oceanic and fungi-inspired machinery, posing the question of how machines may one day inhabit the world. Floating through the air are Yi’s aerobes – machines inspired by natural mushrooms and ocean life, alongside an invisible “scentscape,” changing weekly to allude to specific histories of the location, ranging from times before humans inhabited earth, the industrial revolution, the Black Death, and more. The scents in the exhibition show that air is not empty, touching upon Yi’s interest in the politics of ari and how our interactions with air change over time depending on attitudes, inequalities and ecological awareness.


Inspired by thinking of machines as evolving to become living creatures, Yi questions what a “natural history” of machinery would look like in the future. The aerobes come in different varieties, showing a combination of terrestrial and aquatic elements and alluding to the possibilities of hybrid machine species.


Using artificial intelligence, the aerobes are able to develop their own behaviors as well as behaviors as a group over time with the ability to communicate with one another using their senses. Much like animals, the communication between aerobes cannot be understood by humans, showcasing them as an independent life force.


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Installation view of Hyundai Commission: Anicka Yi at Tate Modern, October 2021.

Photo by Will Burrard Lucas. Source: Tate Modern


Anika Yi: In love with the world is a multisensory experience showcasing the possibilities that lie at the crossings of technology, science, and art. Running from 12 October 2021 – 16 January 2022 tickets will be reserved by time slot to ensure social distancing. The exhibition is free with a Tate Modern museum ticket, but time slots must be reserved, including for members.


Turbine Hall at Tate Modern, Bankside Bankside

London SE1 9TG


Monday to Sunday 10.00–18.00


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