On until Nov 20, Anna Leonowens Gallery, 1891 Granville Street
There’s a section in writer Ruby Tandoh’s anti-diet manifesto Eat Up! that delves into the science of “you are what you eat”: Yes, Tandoh explains, when you eat a watermelon, you become a bit more melon-y yourself: Its nutrients are processed and topped up in your reserves. Isn’t food, then, the author argues, a symbiotic state between us and the world we move through? A conduit of understanding as much as a form of nourishment?
I’m thinking about this while looking at the two figurative sculpture installations that comprise Max TS Yang’s current gallery show D[a]UNTING, on view at NSCAD’s Anna Leonowens Gallery until Nov 20. A physical manifestation of the artist’s processing of the pandemic—the feast borne of all the food-for-thought from COVID-19—the show is full of telltale, purposeful human imperfection that bely a funk art influence.
(I can’t help but think English ceramicist Grayson Perry would be so over the artist’s apparent need to show human hands made this work. Considering how fused we became with our tech while sheltering-in-place, I can’t decide if these details are an intentional pushback or if the delivery app icons hand-painted on one piece’s pedestal should’ve been just printed out from Google Images instead.)
To my right, two busts with supersized mouths hold delivery boxes aloft expectantly. Yang’s statement discusses how delivery apps devoured his feed during COVID—and their ravenous popularity in recent years.
Where does binge content and binge consumerism and binge food intersect? That’s my question why eyeing rough-edged sculptures of takeaway containers piled high on the aforementioned pedestal that’s covered with DoorDash and Uber Eats logos. It feels like a classic pop art move of transforming disposable consumerism into a fixed centerpiece.
To my left, Yang has sculpted a row of chess pawns with human heads, mouths and eyes wide. Titled “Pinned”, it’s the strongest work in a solid, striking showcase—and proves the talent that net Yang the Nova Scotia win in the prestigious 1st Art! Awards earlier this year and a spot in the Centre for Craft Nova Scotia’s prestigious summer residency (and accompanying show). The long necks on each pawn mimic chess pieces—but also the long pain of an intubation tube. Each is wrapped with headlines about vaccines: A choking anxiety. The chessboard in front is loose pieces, an Alice in Wonderland feeling combined with the reality of not being able to think more than one step ahead during lockdown.
I thought I was tired of COVID art. Yang’s show proved our appetite for work that processes experiences is always bigger than expected.