ICA: How did the concept for The Flavor Genome evolve? How does this piece relate to your wider practice?
Anicka Yi: The impetus to make The Flavor Genome was at once an immediate challenge to locate my desires in a specific biological 'place' (that place was the Brazilian Amazon for all its mythical connotations and contradictions) in order to test the limits of the questions posed throughout my practice leading me to the 'ultimate' petri dish, a tropical ecosystem, while also attempting to write the treatise on my practice with this film. In this sense, the film is a form of praxis and theory merged into one project.
What is the relationship between fact and fiction in the film? Does the narrative follow scientific fact?
The film is an example of the bio-fiction that MIT scholar Caroline Jones speaks about my work. For me, it means that which fuses the writing of life with the study of life which also now includes the embrace of nonhuman persons. Non-human persons is a concept used by indigenous people in the Amazon for example. All life is a person - a plant person, an animal person, a human person. Humans are exactly at the top of this hierarchy of life. The narrative mostly adheres to scientific fact, but one aspect of the film is to distinguish the limits of science as well as the fictionality of science.
What are your conceptual intentions of using 3D video in the work?
3D video is closer to smell than 2D video. I needed the fullest dimensionality just short of VR for this project. There's also a complex relationship with an almost obsolete technology such as 3D video that speaks to the dislocation of the narrative in terms of time.
How does the exotic location of The Flavor Genome contribute to ideas of hybridity you explore in the work?
I wanted to explore biological adaptation, extinction. The Brazilian Amazon jungle is an extremely competitive ecosystem for survival. In order to survive there, one must be able to adapt due to the extreme conditions there - the heat, the acidic soil. This explains the many many species and varieties of flora and fauna. However, the extinction rate is also fairly rapid for there are many species that are not able to adapt so adroitly. This film is a way to reflect back humanity's own extinction vulnerability. Hybrids are a 'natural' and 'unnatural' mitigation to the extinction/survival problem.
Anicka Yi, The Flavor Genome, 2016, single-channel 3D video, colour, sound, 22 mins