Transformations of the Human (ToftH) Artist Fellow Anicka Yi Awarded the 2020 Hyundai Commission at Tate Turbine Hall

Mashinka Firunts Hakopian

The Hyundai Motor Company and Tate Modern have announced Transformations of the Human artist fellow Anicka Yi as the 2020 recipient of the exclusive Hyundai Commission. Thanks to this partnership, Yi will produce her “largest and most ambitious project to date,” to be displayed in the vast ground floor space of the Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall in London, UK. The Hyundai Commission is awarded annually as part of an 11-year partnership between Hyundai Motor and Tate Modern. Previous recipients include Kara Walker, Tania Bruguera, SUPERFLEX, Philippe Parreno, and Abraham Cruzvillegas. Hyundai Commission: Anicka Yi will be on view from October 2020 to January 2021.

We are thrilled to announce that Yi’s project will partly emerge from her involvement with ToftH –– and that ToftH director Tobias Rees and ToftH research fellow Elvia Wilk will contribute major essays for the catalogue.

Anicka Yi is an American conceptual artist who lives and works in New York. A symbiotic organism in its own right, Anicka Yi’s work fuses multi-sensory experience with synthetic and evolutionary biology to form lush bio-fictional landscapes. Utilizing a “biopolitics of the senses,” Yi challenges traditional approaches to the human sensorium, emphasizing olfaction as well as microbial and embodied intelligence. Through her research and “techno-sensual” artistic exploration, Yi is opening new discourse in the realms of cognition, artificial intelligence and machine learning, introducing concepts of the sensory ecology of intelligence, the machine microbiome, machine ecosystems, and “biologized” machines. Maintaining a practice focused on co-subjectivity, Yi’s projects include collaborations with engineers, robots, synthetic and microbiologists, computer scientists, perfumers, ant and bacterial colonies, algae, tempura-fried flowers, and snails.

As ToftH fellow, Yi is exploring the possibility of producing objects that defy the distinction between the living and the non-living, the animate and inanimate, the natural and the artificial: Can one build robots that are endowed with a microbiome, release plant-based molecules, and are capable of navigating the world in terms of olfaction and chemotaxis or sound?

To read a related article on Artlyst please click here.

composed by Arswain
machine learning consultation by Anna Tskhovrebov
commissioned by the Berggruen Institute
premiered at the Bradbury Building
downtown Los Angeles
april 22, 2022

Human perception of what sounds “beautiful” is necessarily biased and exclusive. If we are to truly expand our hearing apparatus, and thus our notion of beauty, we must not only shed preconceived sonic associations but also invite creative participation from beings non-human and non-living. We must also begin to cede creative control away from ourselves and toward such beings by encouraging them to exercise their own standards of beauty and collaborate with each other.

Movement I: Alarm Call
‘Alarm Call’ is a long-form composition and sound collage that juxtaposes, combines, and manipulates alarm calls from various human, non-human, and non-living beings. Evolutionary biologists understand the alarm call to be an altruistic behavior between species, who, by warning others of danger, place themselves by instinct in a broader system of belonging. The piece poses the question: how might we hear better to broaden and enhance our sense of belonging in the universe? Might we behave more altruistically if we better heed the calls of – and call out to – non-human beings?

Using granular synthesis, biofeedback, and algorithmic modulation, I fold the human alarm call – the siren – into non-human alarm calls, generating novel “inter-being” sonic collaborations with increasing sophistication and complexity. 

Movement II: A.I.-Truism
A synthesizer piece co-written with an AI in the style of Vangelis’s Blade Runner score, to pay homage to the space of the Bradbury Building.

Movement III: Alarmism
A machine learning model “learns” A.I.Truism and recreates Alarm Call, generating an original fusion of the two.

Movement IV: A.I. Call
A machine learning model “learns” Alarm Call and recreates A.I.Truism, generating an original fusion of the two.