She has made art out of smells, ants, bacteria and spit. So what is the US artist about to unveil for her Turbine Hall commission? Yi, who was once a vagabond in London, takes us on an olfactory odyssey

Anicka Yi offers me some beetroot crisps. These, along with carrot crisps, are her breakfast, both free of oil and salt. “I can’t eat greens, dairy, sugar, legumes, beans, nuts, seeds, nightshades, spice, alcohol – nothing,” the Korean American conceptual artist explains. “I can only eat grass-fed meat, wild fish, unseasoned all of it, vegetables and a little fruit.”

Why? “I have some auto-immune issues and my doctor put me on a protocol to find out if something in my diet is inflaming them.” Poor you, I say, thinking I should wave away any approaching cheese trolley, as we sit chatting in Tate Modern’s members’ room. The diet has made Yi’s three-week trip from New York to London, to install her latest work in Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall, logistically tricky.

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