Critics’ Picks

Anicka Yi, Auras, Orgasms, and Nervous Peaches, 2011, wood, tile, olive oil, 96 x 20 x 80”.

Anicka Yi, Auras, Orgasms, and Nervous Peaches, 2011, wood, tile, olive oil, 96 x 20 x 80”.

New York

Anicka Yi

47 Canal | Grand Street
291 Grand Street 2nd Floor
September 21–October 23, 2011

One might say that Anicka Yi’s solo debut in New York, “Sous-Vide,”—the title a French process of cooking food sealed in plastic—hinges on the story of Bradley Manning, the US soldier who released classified information to WikiLeaks. In the six works shown here, transparency and leakage are used as formal elements, arousing the American experience of war over the past decade: A tiled ceilingless room the size of a jail cell leaks yellow oil from the exterior of one of its stark white walls; a bouquet of tempura flowers has been jammed down the neck of a red sweater, as more oil seeps down the woolly fabric and puddles over the gallery floor; a pint-size projector sits in a transparent gusseted bag—the sort used to transport gallons of oil on drum liners—and plays footage of crosshairs, the same crosshairs that flickered over the screen of the US Apache helicopter that shot and killed two Reuters journalists and several Iraqi citizens in 2007. The projection is the size of a small greeting card—at a cursory glance, one might not even notice it was there.

The same could be said of all of “Sous-Vide.” Yi’s works are slight, understated, and emphatically reserved. She draws from banal objects fraught with political implications and punctures them, creating light but persistent leaks while painstakingly sealing other objects in thick plastic. In I’m Every Woman I Ever Met, 2011, peanuts and pearls, ultimate symbols of Western imperialism and opulence, are vacuum-sealed in plastic. Yi has made no punctures here. After all, Westerners, and, more specifically, Americans, have mostly viewed this war through screens—computer, television, smartphone—and lack a sensory awareness of war. We are quite literally “sous-vide.” And so, as Yi’s exhibition references war, there is nothing bloody or bellicose about it, because it is fundamentally about Americans in America, a land sealed off from the physical, visceral reality of war. Her leaks thus call on the senses—the smell of oil, the feel of the cold tiles—urging us to claim our bearings as not just conscious but as feeling citizens in this world.