The Wattis Institute, San Francisco

Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts / 360 Kansas Street
CA 94103-5130 San Francisco

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press release

September 25, 2023 – July 31, 2024

Anicka Yi is on our mind.

This year-long research season uses the work of the artist Anicka Yi as a lens to think about our contemporary moment. A series of open questions map out a broad thematic territory for a year-long schedule of public programs: reading groups, lectures, performances, screenings, and other events explore artists and ideas that emerge as related or as relevant in productive ways. We end the season with an issue of our annual reader.

Please join the collective conversation as it evolves over the course of the year: sign up for a reading group, attend an event, consult some of the online resources, and visit the Wattis bar for additional materials. Please sign up to our newsletter to receive notifications and updates.

The CCA faculty group who collaborated on this research includes Nilgun Bayraktar, Dave Elvfing, Susie Fu, Taro Hattori, Jackie Im, Brian Karl, Aspen Mays, and Kyungwon Song. With special thanks to Anicka Yi and Remina Greenfield.

Season 9: Anicka Yi is on our mind is curated by Jeanne Gerrity and Diego Villalobos, with assistance from Paulina Félix Cunillé.


by Jeanne Gerrity

In a 2021 interview with Gary Zhexi Zhang in Art Review, Anicka Yi said “I think that humans are extremely vulnerable on the planet – it’s almost like we’re not really supposed to be here.” Yi had just opened In Love with the World, her ambitious installation of “aerobes,” floating machines powered by artificial intelligence, in the Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall. The world was still grappling with the ramifications of a global pandemic and a pending climate emergency, and Yi’s unconventional installation seemed to offer a sanguine antidote to the doom-and-gloom cycle of the news, as well as asking us to look beyond the present at living forms that have thrived for eons.

Inspired by jellyfish and mushrooms, her AI creatures bobbed gently through the museum, attracted to the body heat of visitors, while scentscapes diffused into the air evoked the history of the site. The installation asks how machines and humans can coexist in a more compassionate way, and relinquishes the dominance of sight as integral to visual art. Yi’s work here, and elsewhere, grapples with the role of the artist in today’s society, which somehow seems so different than a mere decade earlier. Yi radically rethinks this universal question, approaching it with a refreshing and singular optimism.