Anyone keen to sniff out a memorable modern art experience should follow their nose to New York’s Guggenheim.
The 2016 Hugo Boss Prize winner, Anicka Yi, has added an olefactory dimension to her latest exhibition ‘Life is Cheap’. And, it’s not necessarily for the faint-hearted.
Art installation, “Immigrant Caucus”, is brought to scent-sational life with a generous spritz of body odour. According to Chemical and Engineering News, the unique armpit aroma of Asian American women was recreated with the help of forensic chemist, Kenneth Furton, and a Parisien perfumer. Then, it was given an added piquancy thanks to the chemicals released by carpenter ants.
If body odour isn’t your thing, then perhaps you might prefer a self-contained biosphere of bacteria. For this installation, the room has been tiled in jelly-like agar, which has been infected with microorganisms apparently sampled from Manhattan’s Chinatown and Koreatown neighbourhoods.
The second diorama, Lifestyle Wars, showcases a colony of ants which apparently appeal to Yi because of their intricate social structure, and the fact that they use smell as a guide to guide their behaviour.
The exhibition intends to examine what Yi calls ‘a biopolitics of the senses’ – that is, ‘how assumptions and anxieties related to gender, race, and class shape physical perception’.
Whether it succeeds in communicating those ideas will be down to the individual visitor. It will certainly provoke a reaction. And that, in itself, is not to be sneezed at.
Image courtesy Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum