Anicka Yi leads the Art and Science of Bacteria Workshop at MIT in 2015. Credit: L. Barry Hetherington. Anicka Yi leads the Art and Science of Bacteria Workshop at MIT in 2015. Credit: L. Barry Hetherington. Installation View, Anicka Yi: 6,070,430K of Digital Spit at MIT List Visual Arts Center, Cambridge, MA. Photo: Peter Harris Studio.

“In an age of long-distance digital exchanges, Yi works with scent to sensitize herself to the oldest, most animal forms of communication, and she hopes her art encourages us to do the same.”
—Art in America

"Grabbing at Newer Vegetables," Anicka Yi, The Kitchen, New York, 2015. Photo: Jason Mandella.

Anicka Yi

Investigating the powers of olfactory sensation

At MIT, Artist Anicka Yi explored the Institute’s cutting-edge research in designing materials with unique biological properties. Collaborating with researchers, Yi created new scents based on bacteria and new materials for creating installations. She joined Postdoctoral Fellow Tal Danino to present their collaborative work to engineer a collectively scented bacteria, created from the DNA of 100 women, in an IAP workshop titled “The Art and Science of Bacteria.” Participants in the workshop learned about the art and the science behind the project.

Departing from the ambiguity between the significations of taste as a sense and taste as aesthetic discernment, Anicka Yi’s work for the MIT List Visual Arts Center foregrounds her ongoing project The Flavor Genome. The artist’s sculptural installation examines how “flavors”—visual, olfactory, gustatory, auditory—can form sense memories and spur longing, though their cultural and economic value is subject to global consumerism and a politics of taste. For the exhibition, the artist created a large, illuminated pond containing synthetic and biological matter such as hair gel and the cellulose “leather” that grows from the bacterial cultures in kombucha tea. The gallery is scented with menthol—which for Yi recalls the dish Mint Pond, a plate of molecular gastronomy she once consumed at elBulli, the famous but now defunct restaurant. The installation also features an intermittent soundtrack playing over speakers, as the exhibition plays on ideas of good and bad taste throughout.

Accompanying Yi’s exhibition, the List Center produced the artist’s first catalog, 6,070,430K of Digital Spit. The book contains an essay by Johanna Burton; Keith Haring, Director and Curator of Education and Public Engagement at the New Museum, New York; an interview between Yi and Caroline Jones, Professor of Art History, MIT; and an essay by exhibition curator Alise Upitis. 6,070,430K of Digital Spit is published by Mousse Publications.


Presented by the MIT Center for Art, Science & Technology (CAST) and the MIT List Visual Arts Center.

Artist Anicka Yi’s work involves scent, tactility and perishability as a means to reconfigure the epistemological and sensorial terms of a predominantly visual art world. Yi is not only interested in materials research, but also in what collaboration between individuals and disciplines might mean in relation to friendship. Drawing upon philosophical and critical writings, Yi explores the political and ethical ramifications of these interactions.

Yi lives and works in New York City. Solo exhibitions include: Anicka Yi 7,070,430K of Digital Spit, Kunsthalle Basel, Divorce, 47 Canal, New York; Denial, Lars Friedrich, Berlin; SOUS-VIDE, 47 Canal, New York, and Excuse Me, Your Necklace Is Leaking, Green Gallery, Milwaukee. She has been included in numerous group exhibitions at venues including the 12th Biennale de Lyon; Studiolo, Zurich; MoCA, North Miami; Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Basel; White Flag Projects, Saint Louis; Sculpture Center, New York, and White Columns, New York. She was awarded a Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Award in 2011. Upcoming projects include the Taipei Biennial.

More at the artist’s website: Anicka Yi.

An Evening with Anicka Yi
June 27, 2017 / 6:30pm
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

Anicka Yi joins a panel of interlocutors including MIT Professor Caroline Jones (Art History, History, Theory, Criticism (HTC), Department of Architecture) and esteemed author Jeff VanderMeer. The panelists reflect on topics of shared interest, including “bio-fiction,” technology, and politics, in an interdisciplinary discussion that amplifies Yi’s work on view in the exhibition The Hugo Boss Prize 2016: Anicka Yi, Life Is Cheap. An exhibition viewing follows.



Past Events

Anicka Yi: 6,070,430K of Digital Spit
Exhibition at the MIT List Visual Art Center
May 22, 2015 – July 26, 2015

The Art and Science of Bacteria
IAP Workshop , Co-taught by Anicka Yi and Tal Danino, Research Scientist
Week of January 20, 2015

Residency Schedule

Research visit
Week of October 20, 2014

IAP workshop and research visit
Week of January 20, 2015

Research and project development
Spring 2015

Exhibition at the MIT List Visual Art Center
May-July 2015

Artnet: Artist Anicka Yi Explains Why COVID-19 Is Terrible for Humanity, But Fundamentally ‘Good for the Planet’

W Magazine: Hugo Boss Prize Winner Anicka Yi Is Forcing the Art World to Take Scents Seriously

New York Times: At M.I.T., Science Embraces a New Chaos Theory: Art

Artsy: 2015: The Year In Art

New York Observer: An ‘Olfactory Art Installation’ From an MIT-Trained Artist

Boston Globe: Anicka Yi creates art for all of the senses at MIT List Center

Brooklyn Rail: ANICKA YI: 6,070,430K of Digital Spit

Art News: Unforgettable: Anicka Yi at Kunsthalle Basel

New Yorker: Scent of a Woman

Art in America: What’s that Smell in the Kitchen? Art’s Olfactory Turn

Artspace: Scent of 100 Women: Anicka Yi on Her New Viral Feminism Campaign at The Kitchen 

The Creators Project: The Sights (and Smells) of Anicka Yi’s Bacteria Art Show 

Artforum: Anicka Yi at The Kitchen

The Scientist: Microbial Masterpieces: Artist Anicka Yi explores the beauty of bacteria

Frieze: Narratives of Scent and Material Decay

New York Times: Anicka Yi: ‘Divorce’

Art Observed: New York – Anicka Yi: “Divorce” at 47 Canal Through June 8th

MIT List Visual Arts Center

MIT Museum Studio

Tal Danino

"Grabbing at Newer Vegetables," Anicka Yi, The Kitchen, New York, 2015. Photo: Jason Mandella.