Above image: Anicka Yi, We Have Never Been Individual, Gladstone Gallery, 2018
Few public art venues offer the scale and impact of Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall, a cavernous industrial space that greets millions of visitors each year with an annual commission showcasing the pinnacle of international contemporary art. Following Kara Walker’s post-colonial fountain, South Korean artist Anicka Yi has been unveiled as the next artist to make this vast tabula rasa her own, with a new site-specific work that will open to the public on October 6.
For those familiar with the New York-based artist’s work, especially those who witnessed her installation in Venice last year, the potential offered by the scale of Tate’s Turbine Hall is incredibly exciting. Yi explores boundaries between art and science, organic materials and inanimate sculptures. Her works are often sensory and experiential, transporting viewers to otherworldly scenes that are pure science fiction.
Her AI-driven Venice installation for example, Biologizing the Machine (tentacular trouble), saw incandescent light sculptures (reminiscent of egg sacs and threatening to burst), made of stretched kelp suspended from the ceiling, similar to those shown at Art Brussels in 2019. Inside, animatronic insects fluttered around, and swamp-like pools of black liquid beneath each sculpture suggested a source of life, completing a microcosmic display of life, growth and decay.
Shown alongside was Biologizing the Machine (terra incognita), made up of acrylic panels filled with Venetian soil and a bacteria that brought a certain olfactory oomph. With AI controlled conditions making incremental alterations to temperature, light and water level, the swirling organic mass changed colour (and smell) over the course of the Biennale, embodying processes of stasis, decay and growth for a powerful statement on the natural systems at the centre of life on this planet.
Hyundai Commission 2020 will be open to the public from 6 October 2020 to 10 January 2021. It will be curated by Mark Godfrey, senior curator, Petra Schmidt, production manager, and Carly Whitefield, assistant curator.