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Artwork: 2666 by Anicka Yi, 2015. Photo: Philipp Hänger. Courtesy of the Guggenheim Museum.
Artwork: 2666 by Anicka Yi, 2015. Photo: Philipp Hänger. Courtesy of the Guggenheim Museum.

Meet the Artist Who Makes Smelly Art from Sweat and Bacteria

Artwork: 2666 by Anicka Yi, 2015. Photo: Philipp Hänger. Courtesy of the Guggenheim Museum.
Artwork: 2666 by Anicka Yi, 2015. Photo: Philipp Hänger. Courtesy of the Guggenheim Museum.

Anicka Yi creates art that’s meant to be seen and smelled. WIRED recently profiled the New York-based conceptual artist, whose installations have featured odiferous materials like olive oil, moss, black tea, dried shrimp, and even bacteria samples taken from her circle of friends and acquaintances. Yi uses these scents to elicit memories or emotions. And the artist’s first major U.S. museum show, which opens April 21 at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City, may be her smelliest yet.

Yi was recently awarded the 2016 Hugo Boss Prize, a prestigious biennial award for contemporary art granted by the Guggenheim, which includes a solo show at the museum. Yi’s upcoming exhibition, called “Anicka Yi, Life Is Cheap,” features pieces inspired by sweaty armpits, among other works. She teamed up with scientists to make scents based on the chemical compounds of human sweat; they waft alongside sculptures made from live bacteria.

Yi collects the sweat and bacteria samples herself. Biologists cultivate the bacteria by feeding it nutrients, and maintaining optimal growth temperatures. Once her “living sculptures” are grown, Yi displays them in petri dish-inspired cases made from plexiglass and resin. As for the artist’s "Eau de Armpit," a forensic scientist uses chromatography to break each sweat sample down into chemical compounds. Then, Yi collaborates with a Paris-based perfumer to turn the compounds into scents.

In addition to artworks that conjure up images of sweaty human bodies, Yi’s upcoming Guggenheim exhibition will also feature pieces made from tempura-fried flowers and a 3D video called The Flavor Genome, which touches on motifs in Yi’s work, including “scent, both natural and artificial, the bacterial, perishability, hybridization, mutation, and genetic modification, as well as the bureaucratization of the body,” as writer Chris Sharpe explains for Cura magazine [PDF].

And keeping with the theme, most of these works can be experienced with the eyes and the nose. "The primacy of sight and vision over all of the other senses doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me," Yi explains in a video produced by the Guggenheim Museum. "I was not only trying to critique it but also trying to offer different alternatives, and I think we could learn a lot more from tapping into our other senses and cultivating our other senses."

You can view some of Yi's works below, but if you want to smell them, you'll have to swing by the Guggenheim before her exhibition ends on July 5, 2017.

Anicka Yi
2666, 2015
Bacteria, nutrient agar, Plexiglas, 24 x 20 x 4 inches
Courtesy of 47 Canal, New York and Kunsthalle Basel
Photo: Philipp Hänger

Anicka Yi
Sister, 2011
Tempura fried flowers, cotton turtleneck, approximately 41 x 19 x 7 in
Courtesy of 47 Canal, New York
Photo: Joerg Lohse

Anicka Yi
Installation view: 7,070,430K of Digital Spit, Kunsthalle Basel, Basel, 2015
Courtesy 47 Canal, New York, and Kunsthalle Basel, Basel
Photo: Philipp Hänger

Anicka Yi
The Possibility of an Island III, 2012
Custom glass perfume bottle, saline water, colored contact lenses, vinyl tubing, air pump, 132.08 x 35.56 x 35.56 cm
Courtesy of 47 Canal, New York.
Photo: Joerg Lohse

Anicka Yi
Installation view: Jungle Stripe, Fridericianum, Kasse, 2016
Image courtesy of the artist, 47 Canal, New York, and Fridericianum, Kassel.
Photo: Fabian Frinzel
Anicka Yi
Installation view: Jungle Stripe, Fridericianum, Kasse, 2016
Image courtesy of the artist, 47 Canal, New York, and Fridericianum, Kassel.
Photo: Fabian Frinzel
Anicka Yi
Installation view: Jungle Stripe, Fridericianum, Kasse, 2016
Image courtesy of the artist, 47 Canal, New York, and Fridericianum, Kassel.
Photo: Fabian Frinzel
Anicka Yi
Search Image, 2016
Taxidermy animal, silicone, hardware, 89.99 x 59.99 x 89.99 cm
Image courtesy of the artist, 47 Canal, New York, and Fridericianum, Kassel.
Photo: Fabian Frinzel

Anicka Yi
The Flavor Genome, 2016
Single-channel 3D video
Image courtesy of the artist and 47 Canal, New York

Anicka Yi
The Flavor Genome, 2016
Single-channel 3D video
Image courtesy of the artist and 47 Canal, New York

[h/t WIRED]

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iStock
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The Simple Optical Illusion That Makes an Image Look Like It's Drawing Itself
iStock
iStock

Artist James Nolan Gandy invents robot arms that sketch intricate mathematical shapes with pen and paper. When viewed in real time, the effect is impressive. But it becomes even more so when the videos are sped up in a timelapse. If you look closely in the video below, the illustration appears to materialize faster than the robot can put the design to paper. Gizmodo recently explained how the illusion works to make it look like parts of the sketch are forming before the machine has time to draw them.

The optical illusion isn’t an example of tricky image editing: It’s the result of something called the wagon wheel effect. You can observe this in a car wheel accelerating down the highway or in propeller blades lifting up a helicopter. If an object makes enough rotations per second, it can appear to slow down, move backwards, or even stand still.

This is especially apparent on film. Every “moving image” we see on a screen is an illusion caused by the brain filling in the gaps between a sequence of still images. In the case of the timelapse video below, the camera captured the right amount of images, in the right order, to depict the pen as moving more slowly than it did in real life. But unlike the pen, the drawing formed throughout the video isn't subject to the wagon-wheel effect, so it still appears to move at full speed. This difference makes it look like the sketch is drawing itself, no pen required.

Gandy frequently shares behind-the-scenes videos of his mechanical art on his Instagram page. You can check out some of his non-timelapse clips like the one below to better understand how his machines work, then visit his website to browse and purchase the art made by his 'bots.

And if you think his stuff is impressive, make sure to explore some of the incredible art robots have made in the past.

[h/t Gizmodo]

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Tessa Angus
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Surprising Sculptures Made From Fallen Feathers
Kate MccGwire, Orchis, 2012
Kate MccGwire, Orchis, 2012
Tessa Angus

Kate MccGwire is a British sculptor with an unusual medium: feathers. Her surreal, undulating works often take the form of installations—the feathers spilling out of a drain, a stove, a crypt wall—or stand-alone sculptures in which antique bell jars, cabinets, or trunks contain otherworldly shapes.

MccGwire developed her obsession with feathers after moving to a studio barge on the Thames in 2006, as she explains in a video from Crane.tv recently spotlighted by Boing Boing. The barge was near a large shed full of feral pigeons, whose feathers she would spot on her way to work. "I started picking them up and laying them out, collecting them," she remembers. "And after about two weeks I had like 300 feathers." At the time, concerns about bird flu were rife, which made the feathers seem "dangerous as well as beautiful."

When not supplied by her own next-door menagerie, the feathers for her artwork come from a network of racing pigeon societies all over the UK, who send her envelopes full every time the birds molt. Farmers and gamekeepers also send her fallen feathers from birds such as magpies, pheasants, and roosters.

The cultural associations around birds are a big part of what inspires MccGwire. “The dove is the symbol of peace, purity, and fertility," she told ArtNews in 2013, "but it’s exactly the same species as a pigeon—which everyone regards as being dirty, foul, a pest.”

The same duality is present in her own work, which she frequently shares on her Instagram account. “I want to seduce by what I do—but revolt in equal measure. It’s really important to me that you’ve got that rejection of things you think you know for sure.”

You can see some pictures of MccGwire's work, and watch the video from Crane.tv, below.

Kate MccGwire's installation "Evacuate"
Evacuate, 2010
J Wilde

Kate MccGwire's sculpture "Convolous"
Convolous, 2015
JP Bland

Kate MccGwire's installation "Gyre"
Gyre, 2012
Tessa Angus

Kate MccGwire's sculpture "Gag"
Gag, 2009
JP Bland

Kate MccGwire's sculpture "Writhe"
Writhe, 2010
Tessa Angus

Kate MccGwire's sculpture "Quell"
Quell, 2011
Tessa Angus

Kate MccGwire's sculpture "Taunt"
Taunt, 2012
Tessa Angus

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