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Metabolic aesthetics: on the feminist scentscapes of Anicka Yi

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Abstract

Artist Anicka Yi has gained notoriety as a smell portraitist due to her collaborations with perfumers and her use of bacteria sourced from women’s mouths and vaginas. This essay explores Yi’s fabricating techniques, her thematic riffs on consumption, and her recycling ethos, to draw out the artist’s concern with three scales of metabolic interaction: the microbial, the interpersonal, and the ecological (re food systems). In outlining how Yi’s art attends not only to care work and cooking but also to metabolic support labor, this essay queers the parameters of reproductive labor to include as well the work of recycling the waste of one body or species into the fertility of another.

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... Our final essay, Rachel Lee's homage to the subversive art of Anicka Yi offers the reclaimed scent molecules of women's bodies as catharsis for racism, sexism, and sensory alienation (Lee 2019). Mirroring the technocratic capture of vaginal volatiles discussed by Spackman, Lee shows us how Yi invites visitors to her multisensory installations to imbibe funk and musk. ...
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