Talk Offers Flavor of Artist’s Olfactory Work

Olfactory artwork
Anicka Yi’s “Force Majeure,” 2017, is made out of Plexiglas, aluminum, agar,
bacteria, refrigeration system, LED lights, glass, epoxy resin, powder-coated
stainless steel, light bulbs, digital clocks, silicone and silk flowers. Yi has created
art containing olfactory effects.

An Asian American conceptual artist whose work includes a mix of fragrance, cuisine and science along with collaborations with biologists and chemists will be the subject of a Kalamazoo College faculty member’s presentation at noon on December 7 at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts.

Visiting Assistant Professor of Art and Art History Eunice Uhm will discuss Anicka Yi, a Korean American artist, who has created memorable works of art that have famously contained olfactory effects. Uhm’s presentation will analyze how Yi’s work transgresses the boundaries that are established and sustained by the conventions of Western aesthetics to investigate the racialized and gendered politics of space. The presentation considers the deodorization of the museum in the context of a larger cultural and political process of deodorization in the U.S. that simultaneously excludes smell from aesthetic judgments and establishes aromatic phenomena to be “non-Western” or primitive. 

Born in 1971 in Seoul, Yi began working as an artist about 15 years ago after a career in fashion. Yi’s work has won her top honors, including the Guggenheim Museum’s $100,000 Hugo Boss Prize in 2016, which included an exhibition there the next year. Yi’s work elicits visceral sensorial responses in the visitor, demonstrating the subversive aesthetic possibilities of smell to underscore and negotiate biopolitics of race and gender. 

Uhm, who serves as a postdoctoral curatorial fellow at K and the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts, specializes in modern and contemporary art, with a transnational focus on the United States and East Asia. Her work examines the conditions of migration and the diasporic aesthetic subjectivities in the works of contemporary Japanese and South Korean art from the 1960s to the present. She has previously taught courses on modern and contemporary art, East Asian art, and Asian American studies at Ohio State University. She has organized panels and presented her work on Asian American art at national conferences.  

In-person and virtual tickets to Uhm’s presentation are available at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts’ website.