Anicka Yi – Biologizing the Machine

The Bagri Foundation has supported a new commission by the Korean-American artist Anicka Yi at the 58th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia. She was selected to be a part of the Director Ralph Rugoff’s exhibition May You Live in Interesting Times, its title drawn from an alleged Chinese curse used in the 1930s which indicated a time of political and economical unrest and heightened world crises. Although this curse never actually existed, its use by Western politicians has given it a rhetorical historical importance, at a time when fake news and ‘alternative facts’ are corroding public trust – it forms an apt starting point for the exhibition this year. Although Rugoff says art ‘does not exercise its forces in the domain of politics’ and that the exhibition will take ‘seriously art’s potential as a method for looking into things that we do not already know – things that may be off-limits, under-the-radar, or otherwise inaccessible for various reasons. It will highlight artworks that explore the interconnectedness of diverse phenomena…’

It is within this context that Anicka Yi’s new works, titled Biologizing the Machine (terra incognita) and Biologizing the Machine (tentacular trouble) are shown across both exhibition sites – the Arsenale and the Giardini – and contemplate how new channels of communication can be established between artificial intelligence (AI) entities and organic life forms.

In Biologizing the Machine (tentacular trouble), the artist uses a stretched leather-like kelp to create hanging incandescent sculptures that conjure up images of organisms such as human organs and insect eggs through chrysalis-like pods within which animatronic insects flutter about. The use of this material calls attention to the ecological history and exciting potential uses of algae, a powerful and shapeshifting entity comprising the largest biomass on the planet. The ground beneath evokes a swamp (not too dissimilar from the watery underbelly of Venice) from which these organisms and other primordial beings may have come.

In Biologizing the Machine (terra incognita), Yi uses soil from Venice combined with a bacteria that emits a specific smell. The hanging acrylic panels will change colours over time depending on the AI controlled temperature, light and water level. The AI entity learns to understand the smell of the bacteria in all its forms: stasis, decay and growth, amending the environment in response. The implications of this type of learning could be far-reaching, but whilst the colourful display sits  within an ‘agitated symbiosis’ the mutual benefit could easily lead to unpredictable results.

The work was additionally supported by the Gaia Art Foundation who will be organising a talk by Anicka Yi and Ralph Rugoff with special guests this September. Please check back soon for a date.

See the full Press Release here.
See Ralph’s full statement here.

Find out more about La Biennale di Venezia here:


May 11 2019 - Nov 24 2019

More Info

Read More


La Biennale di Venezia
Calle Paludo, 849, 30122 Venezia VE, Italy

Next Event