South Korean born artist Anicka Yi is winner of a Hugo Boss Prize for contemporary art. Her work appears in New York’s Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum from April 21 to July 5, 2017. As explained in a feature about the prize, in her exhibit, a
diorama houses a colony of ants—insects that interest Yi because of their intricate division of labor and matriarchal social structure, as well as the sophisticated olfactory system that guides their behavior. The ants navigate a network of pathways that are reflected infinitely across mirrored surfaces, evoking a massive data-processing unit in which their industrious movement embodies the flow of information.
Other parts of the living exhibit have patterns and colors produced by microorganisms cultured from samples taken from Manhattan’s Chinatown and Koreatown. Visitors are also treated to odors derived from carpenter ants.
Ants and microbes inhabit a micro-scale world that is alien to the scale that much larger humans experience. Organisms in that world such as ants and microbes can reproduce at a rapid rate. The rapid reproduction is balanced by a short lifespan and higher mortality rate (compared to humans). Thus the title “Life Is Cheap”.