Tumbling Ecologies

Anicka Yi (born in Seoul, 1971) is a Korean American conceptual artist known for her focus on olfaction and her use of unorthodox, living, and perishable materials.

Artist Bio

Initiated by conceptual artist Anicka Yi, Tumbling Ecologies is a trilogy of books that discloses new ways of living and being through three kinds of life: algae, bacteria, and fungi. Balancing diverse materials from the visual arts with anthropology, poetry, the natural sciences, and more, this collection urges us to reconsider our ecosystems and ourselves, by thinking with and through these creatures: oceanic algae provide the vast majority of the Earth’s oxygen while also causing toxic blooms; bacteria proliferate in and are critical to the health of our gut microbiomes; underground fungal networks connect and allow vast tracts of forest to thrive. The trilogy includes contributions from diverse bodies and voices, with a life-and-matter-forward focus over those led by a theoretical premise. Of vital concern to the project is how our struggle against climate emergency could in part be diverted and reordered by inquiry into ways of thinking through consortia of lives beyond Kingdom Animalia. Symbiosis (“with-living”), endosymbiosis (“within-living”), holobiont (“whole-life”) are characteristic of our motivation in how micro- and macro- non-human lives may be instructive for, in turn, thinking on a human scale. This reorients the crisis away from, around, or through the most obvious climate foci or emotional responses, toward generativity and affective potential outside human agency. A second thread of the trilogy renders both big science and the visual arts a little fixed and undone. This shines through the project’s inquiry into modes of collaboration: in big science, researchers work together so that method and goal operate to establish the facticity of the object under research. In Tumbling Ecologies, breaches of these means and goals disrupt algae, bacteria, and fungi as scientific objects and artworks to become intensified and awakened materials, models, and metaphors.

Award Year

In Progress


Anicka Yi

Brooklyn, NY

Anicka Yi (born in Seoul, 1971) is a Korean American conceptual artist known for her focus on olfaction and her use of unorthodox, living, and perishable materials. Informed by scientific research, biology, and perfumers, Yi has produced a unique body of work over the past decade at the intersection of politics and macrobiotics. Her practice questions the increasingly hazy taxonomic distinctions between what is human, animal, plant, and machine, and is the result of an alchemical process of experimentation that explores often incompatible materials. She collaborates with researchers to create media that are often inherently political, and delves into the cultural conditioning of sense and perception in a way she describes as a “biopolitics of the senses.” Her diverse installations, which draw on scientific concepts and techniques to activate vivid fictional scenarios, ask incisive questions about human psychology and the workings of society.  Yi’s work has been the subject of numerous solo exhibitions at institutions around the world, including Pirelli HangarBicocca, Milan; Tate Modern, London; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Fridericianum, Kassel, Germany; Kunsthalle Basel, Switzerland; List Visual Arts Center, MIT, Cambridge, MA; the Kitchen, New York; and the Cleveland Museum of Art. In 2016, Yi was awarded the Hugo Boss Prize, and in 2019 her work was featured in the 58th International Venice Biennale, titled May You Live in Interesting Times. Yi was awarded the 2020 Tate Modern Turbine Hall Hyundai Commission.