Vast floating ‘aquarium of machines’ unveiled at Tate Modern

The latest Hyundai Commission has been unveiled at the Tate Modern, with its creator describing the work as an “aquarium of machines”.

In Love With The World was created by New York City-based conceptual artist Anicka Yi and sees the vast Turbine Hall populated by floating mechanical “aerobes” featuring bulbous bodies and tentacles.

Referencing the hall’s original purpose of housing Bankside Power Station’s turbines, Yi’s project explores what a “natural history of machines” could look and feel like.

(Will Burrard Lucas/PA)
(Will Burrard Lucas/PA)

Two species of “aerobes” – both inspired by ocean lifeforms and mushrooms – inhabit the Turbine Hall, exhibiting individual and group behaviours in response to different elements of their environment.

Xenojellies have semi-transparent bodies with each featuring a different coloured top and patterned tentacles, while Planulae are bulbous and covered by short yellow hair.

Both species are filled with helium, propelled by rotors and powered by a small battery pack.

The space also features “scentscapes” that change from week to week, evoking different periods in the history of Bankside, from spices thought to counteract the Black Death in the 14th century to coal conjuring up the 20th century.

Yi told the PA news agency: “I really wanted to create an aquarium of machines.”

She added: “Moving through this space, you could even make the case that the human body is an aquarium.

(Will Burrard Lucas/PA)
(Will Burrard Lucas/PA)

“It is filled mostly with liquid and filtration systems and these multi-species that are swimming inside our bodies.

“It felt like a very fitting metaphor and starting point to enter into this space.”

She suggested the pandemic had prompted the viewing public to think more about the concepts behind her work.

She said: “This was something I was thinking about prior to the pandemic and this has just been a runway from my practice and then the pandemic came and we were able to merge a lot of our ideas with what was being manifested around the globe.

“I think the pandemic helped us a lot to reach a bigger audience in terms of the ideas and language we have been developing for a number of years now.”

Her biggest installation to date, Yi said she had thought hard about how to negotiate the Turbine Hall.

(Will Burrard Lucas/PA)
(Will Burrard Lucas/PA)

She said: “For every artist, how to negotiate and enter a space, there is a multitude of ways and I think that, for me, I tried not to compete with the space but rather merge with it.

“And also try to go off the axis of up or down and side to side – and just kind of go all around.”

Yi, who was was born in Seoul in 1971, lives and works in New York City and solo exhibitions of her work have taken place at the Solomon R Guggenheim Museum in New York, Kunsthalle Basel in Switzerland, and the Fridericianum in Kassel, Germany.

The commission runs from October 12 2021 to January 16 2022.