The Tate Modern has unveiled its latest installation in the Turbine Hall – a delicate ecosystem of scents and machines by experimental artist Anicka Yi.
Referencing the hall’s original purpose of housing Bankside Power Station’s turbines, Ms Yi’s commission populates the space with machines once again.
Moving through the air, her floating machines – called aerobes – prompt viewers to think about new ways that machines might inhabit the world.
Ms Yi has become known for her experimental work which explores the merging of technology and biology,
It often focuses on breaking down distinctions we hold between plants, animals, micro-organisms and technology.
For her new commission at Tate Modern, Ms Yi began with the question of what a “natural history of machines” could look and feel like.
Her project builds on previous work exploring possibilities of machines evolving into independent forms of life.
Two “species” of aerobes explore the Turbine Hall, which have individual and group behaviours in response to different elements of their environment.
The so-called Xenojellies have semi transparent bodies with a coloured top and patterned tentacles, while planulae are bulbous and covered by short yellow hair.
Both species are filled with helium, propelled by rotors and powered by a small battery pack.
These aerobes allow Ms Yi to imagine new possibilities for artificial intelligence, inspired by the diverse ways that organisms learn through their bodies and senses.
Integral to Ms Yi’s commission as well as her wider practice are scent and air.
She is interested in the politics of air and how this is affected by changing attitudes, inequalities, and ecological awareness.
She approaches scent as a medium for subtly shifting perceptions and giving presence to the air that we all share, and on which we depend.
For Tate Modern, the artist has created unique scentscapes that transition from one week to the next, evoking odours linked to a specific time in the history of Bankside.
Visitors may smell spices thought to counteract the Black Death in the 14th century, marine scents related to the Precambrian period long before humans inhabited earth, coal and ozone conjuring up the machine age of the 20th century, or vegetation from the Cretaceous period.
These scentscapes create an environment that connects the aerobes with the history of the site and all other organisms that share their habitat.
As the odours change between each unique scentscape, the aerobes’ behaviour and interactions will develop in response.
Main Picture: Hyundai Commission: Anicka Yi: In Love With The World is in the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern until January 16, 2022.
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