In Praise of the Virus: Anicka Yi’s You Can Call Me F at the Kitchen

by Corinna Kirsch on March 24, 2015 Briefly Noted + Reviews

Installation view of Anicka Yi's You Can Call Me F. Photo courtesy of Jason Mandella

Installation view of Anicka Yi’s You Can Call Me F. Photo courtesy of Jason Mandella.

Anicka Yi: You Can Call Me F
The Kitchen
512 West 19th Street
New York, NY 10011
Runs through April 11, 2015

Women don’t smell great. Take a look at the range of feminine hygiene products on the shelf at any local Rite Aid, and you’ll think every women wants a vagina that’s been douched to smell like summer rain, or legs that have been kissed with the scent of a razzberry bouquet. Anything to smell inhuman.

With that in mind, artist Anicka Yi’s You Can Call Me F takes our obsession with feminine cleanliness to a science-fiction extreme: Women have been reimagined as a “virus,” as a deadly problem. But it’s really hard to know that, if you don’t take a look at the press release first.

Here’s the PR info: with the assistance of a synthetic biologist, Yi created a “collective bacteria” from women in her professional network, ranging from curators like Lauren Cornell and Bridget Finn, to dealers Rachel Uffner and Stefania Bortolami.

The result is a heavy, rotten sweetness that fills the Kitchen’s front gallery. Instead of a clean female scent—the type peddled by Rite Aid and the like—we have the odor of disease. Brought to you by Yi’s virus, and her (viral) network.

Overall, the exhibition has a cinematic feel to it, having the look—and smell—of sci-fi. The lights are out, the gallery undergoing a near black out. Several “contagion” tents covered in AbEx designs have been set up in the gallery, laid out along what appears to be an invisible grid. Given the contemporary-art treatment, though, this spectacle feels familiar, and much less terrifying than sci-fi can be.

Still, despite its flaw of contemporary-art familiarity, I’m fine with any alternative to the clinical and antiseptic gallery space. Hasn’t anyone noticed that the white cube actually resembles a doctor’s office? There’s no room for dirt, stink, or anything other than a professional opinion. Praise be to the virus, then—at the very least, it’s another option.

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