The many fields of practice that converged at the Biography launch—in a fashion space, no less—echo the variable nature of Yi’s practice, which engages with how the senses are, as she notes, always “politically oriented and conditioned. ” An extension of her studio practice of the past 10 years, Yi developed Biography with Barnabé Fillion, a perfumer of international caché, who recently moved his principal laboratory from Paris to Mexico, where the varied material palette offers more opportunities for experimentation.
Yi’s Biography comprises three fragrance “volumes,” imagined scent-worlds for different personae, each of which comes suspended in clear acrylic bottles with interior garnishes, like futuristic fossils, of ladybugs, ants, or flies, depending on the scent. “I want to impart an atmosphere of coexistence,” Yi told me, for she thinks of the natural world as “a dizzying template for radical behavior.
A more potent foil for Yi’s Biography project, however, might be London-based Japanese artist Kentaro Yamada’s Neanderthal scent, a commercially available “conceptual perfume” contained in a giant hand ax–shaped bottle, sculpted by the contemporary caveman Will Lord (a self-titled “prehistoric survival expert”).
Yamada, who developed two Neanderthal scents with perfumer Euan McCall, calls perfume “a strange cultural production that doesn’t have a shape, only an olfactory profile,” one that “takes on its own life” in the moment when scent meets air and skin.
During the Balenciaga Ready-to-Wear Spring/Summer 2020 fashion show, the artist Sissel Tolaas scented the runway with notes of “antiseptic, blood, money, and petrol. " Photo courtesy of Getty Images.
More recently, the artist Sissel Tolaas scented Balenciaga’s spiral runway for Demna Gvasalia’s Spring/Summer 2020 collection, diffusing notes of “antiseptic, blood, money, and petrol” throughout the show.
Anicka Yi's new perfume joins a lineage of fragrance as art. https://t.co/cHRJlo1mIe— W Magazine (@wmag) November 25, 2019