Yi’s work hovers between art and biology experiment. The Seoul-born, New York-based artist—though she shirks the “artist” label—arrived at her practice with no art school training and an interest in the most primal of the five senses. Using smell itself as a medium, she creates pungent olfactory experiences from microbial cultures, antidepressants, and live snails. While she does not have a formal science background, she self-studies voraciously, held residency at MIT’s Center for Art, Science & Technology from 2014–15, and works closely with biologists, chemists, and perfumists to create her unusually evocative scents (which often take sculptural form), as well as installations that function as bacterial petri dishes. Inspired by the disorientation involved in molecular gastronomy dining experiences and science fiction films like 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Yi aims to challenge the cultural hierarchies of smells, and envisions empathy-rich backstories for her works.
Photographed the world’s sea algae