X-Initiative II

Anicka Yi and Maggie Peng, "Acceptable Substitute, I Mean One Acceptable Substitute To Me," 2009. Photo: Margaret Lee

Among the unusually sparse number of exhibitions currently up in Chelsea is a small and unassuming show on the roof of the former DIA Center, now home to the X-Initiative. The show, titled “Today and Everyday,” brings together a number of works that seem to share an interest with notions of artificiality.

One of the pieces included was a glass case containing empty perfume bottles alongside a video and sawdust (I later learned the case also contained moths).Titled “Acceptable Substitute, I Mean One Acceptable Substitute To Me,” the piece was the continuation of an earlier project that the New York–based artist Anicka Yi and the architect Maggie Peng had completed the same year. They had developed a conceptual perfume called “Shigenobu Twilight” after Fusako Shigenobu, former leader of the violent dissent group the Japanese Red Army. Shigenobu eventually went into exile in Lebanon. Yi and Ping used the cedar wood, as the dominant notes of the perfume as well as its encasement to represent Shigenobu’s relation with Lebanon.

For the X-initiative project, they commissioned a Chinatown perfume forger to create a replica of their perfume, which they exhibited alongside a video. Both the video and the forged perfume bottles were meant to explore what brought Shigenobu to move to Lebanon and join the Palestinian cause, and thus questions notions of authenticity and nationality.

Anicka Yi and Maggie Peng, Shigenobu Twilight Perfume

Ultimately, however, the original perfume seems to play into the aesthatization of 1970s terrorist groups, perhaps best exemplified in the fascination with RAF member Ulrike Meinhof. This analogy is made particularly relevant by the fact that Shigenobu was an object of fascination due to her gender and looks—something the perfume hints at, but never fully develops. The installation at X-Initiative, instead, creates a more complex dynamic in its exploration of forged and borrowed identities and national struggles.

Francesca Granata

Anicka Yi and Maggie Peng, "Acceptable Substitute, I Mean One Acceptable Substitute To Me," 2009. Photo: Margaret Lee