"Knowing the truth and acting on it brings a peace which surpasses understanding." -Vinay Gupta
Syncretism cleverly integrates seemingly contrary and unexpected materials, successfully combining an industrially manufactured laboratory aesthetic with the natural memento mori of flower buds resulting in a highly tactile fusion of the scientific and artistic processes. In conversation during a 2018 residency at the Headlands Center for the Arts, Yi noted, “So many things are now under the rubric of culture, like synthetic biology.” Synthetic biology, an interdisciplinary branch of biology, is part of her larger narrative.
Raised wells dot a burnished surface, appearing as marks made by craters or burrowing insects. Each well contains what appears to be a liquid, and some contain an object that resembles floating marbles. These spherical forms encapsulate Craspedia buds, a bright yellow and unusually round flower native to Australia and New Zealand. The preservation process captured the bud just before it bursts into flower, thus ensuring immortality. The seemingly random placement of the biomorphic shaped-wells and the inclusion of flower buds contrast with the metallic surface and synthetic materials, providing a unique combination of orderly technology with the chaos of nature. Yi commonly fuses the natural and artificial in her work, employing the scientific process to discover combinations that engage each of the senses in unexpected ways. She often uses unconventional materials including tempura-fried flowers, vacuum-sealed peanuts, Girl Scout cookies, recalled powdered milk, and bacteria samples taken from both places and people. Yi was a 2014-2015 visiting artist at the MIT Center for Art, Science & Technology and MIT List Visual Arts Center, where she worked on The Flavor Genome to determine how “flavors” can excite the senses and ignite memories, determining how people from different backgrounds react positively or negatively to different stimuli. She is the winner of the Hugo Boss Prize, which was followed by a solo exhibition at the Solomon R. Guggenheim museum in 2017.