Radical Hopelessness

Piquant top notes of pink pepper, juniper, and cardamom, as well as heart notes of iris and Angelica root are smoothed by a lush sandalwood and patchouli base.

Based on Hatshepsut, female pharaoh of Ancient Egypt, Radical Hopelessness evokes the ruler’s sharp intellect and radiant desert kingdom. To keep her throne, Hatshepsut strategically mixed aspects of masculine, feminine, animal, and divine power. The lingering sillage of Radical Hopelessness mimics Hatshepsut’s lasting legacy—records of her brilliance survived despite a posthumous erasure campaign meant to discourage future female kings.

Sold in a limited edition Anicka Yi sculptural bottle (1/333)

10ml Eau de parfum

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But what is truly special about these fragrances are the scents themselves, and the very artistic ambition they share: to use an invisible medium, scent, to reanimate women that were made invisible by history.

In her biggest exhibition to date at the Guggenheim in 2017, the museum’s gallery was filled with a perfume called Immigrant Caucus, made up of the smell of the pheromones of carpenter ants and the sweat of Asian-American women—synthesized with the help of perfumers.

Anicka Yi thinks of making perfumes as something of a philosophical exercise. Questions of analogy, narrative, composition, and chords went into the creation of Biography, her new collection of perfumes that aim to challenge historical understandings of femininity, as well as those of commercial fragrances.

Yi’s Biography comprises three fragrance “volumes,” imagined scent-worlds for different personae, each of which comes suspended in clear acrylic bottles with interior garnishes, like futuristic fossils, of ladybugs, ants, or flies, depending on the scent.

A set of odorous contemplations of the past and future of our species as personified by pharaoh Hatshepsut, Japanese communist Fusako Shigenobu, and a fictional AI entity comprised of every female experience ever. Available at Dover Street Market New York and Los Angeles

Yi thinks about perfume as similarly symbiotic and participatory. With the help of master perfumer Barnabé Fillion, she produced three scents intended to evoke three strong female characters.

The ingredients she has used in her concoctions have already included the bacteria of 100 female artists, powdered milk, and the tissue of carpenter ants, all artfully employed to explore notions of consciousness and the potential of life forms.

Biography presumes to be many things, but mostly it is a collection of three new unisex fragrances, which will be available this month in a limited run alongside colognes by Comme des Garçons at Dover Street Market in New York and Los Angeles, in an installation that incorporates “the microbial, the insect, the industrial, and then the humans all around.