Tate Modern, London
Attracted by human heat, Yi’s flying organisms home in on visitors and release smells – perhaps we should be glad they don’t quite fulfil their promise
If you have an even slightly raised temperature – a mild fever or a reaction to the flu jab – I’d advise against a trip to In Love With the World, Anicka Yi’s Hyundai Commission in Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall. Homing in on human heat, her giant airborne cephalopods, with their long, squidlike arms swimming in the air, will get you. Or, if not them, a second species of bulbous biomorphs, more kids’ party than Hieronymus Bosch or Jules Verne, drifting on the air currents, rising and falling with unknowable purpose, might sidle up and suck you in. The Korean-born artist’s translucent creatures have the ability to home in on the hot and the sweaty, attracted by human warmth. But, like circus animals, they’re trained to keep a certain distance. Every so often, they float off to a docking area at the rear of the Turbine Hall, where their batteries are recharged.
We were promised artificial intelligence, alien life, smellscapes sculpted in the air. And what do we get? Drone-powered, heat-sensitive balloons. Yi’s helium-filled pond life – rather too meagre in number to either truly amaze or to threaten – is all a bit ho-hum, however lifelike their invertebrate articulations. We are also led to expect the aroma of spices (once used, erroneously, to ward off the medieval Black Death), along with Precambrian period marine scents, prehistoric vegetal decay and the stench of the Industrial Age, ozone and coal smoke. I caught a whiff of armpit with a trace of Lynx Africa deodorant, but of Yi’s invisible, olfactory artwork – zilch. Maybe the smell-o-vision needs more time to warm up, or our face masks are buffering the evocative scents. Perhaps we should be grateful. The most memorable artworks using smell I have ever encountered have been California artist Mike Bouchet’s day’s worth of compressed human faeces which once filled a gallery building in Zurich, and Colombian artist Oswaldo Maciá’s fountain, which once filled a street in a Catalan village with the unmistakable tang of semen, sending the local cats into a frenzy.