Biologizing the Machine


Kelp, emulsified fuel, glycerin, crepeline, acrylic, LED, animatronic insects

Dimensions vary

Anicka Yi, an American artist of South Korean origin, has developed a biology-inspired artistic practice that explores the porosity between the living and the artificial. Yi’s kelp pod sculptures comprise a set of luminescent cocoons with varyingshapes that float above the gallery space. At first glance, it is hard to understand whether these are paper lanterns—as one sees across much of Asia—or giant pods gestating a being within them. Upon closer inspection, the sound we hear and the movement we see tell us that an insect is flying around inside them. Might the kelp of these cocoons be hatching animatronic hymenopterans? Yi’s kelp pod sculptures generate interpretive uncertainty between bios and techne. They suggest a desire to render categories porous that were once imagined as hermetically sealed, in this case, plant life and the mechanical, as well as the organic and the artificial. The work crystallises an idea of hybridisation, a breeding between species that we could term post-biological. Her works ask us to step out of our anthropocentrism; if plants can produce electronic beings, do we still matter very much?

The set is composed of the works Vibrio Fischeri, Solar Loci, Bubble Coronation, Ocean-Light-Clearing, Water Belly, and Sea Salt High-Rise