Mitchell F. Chan invites you to Add Inches To Your Wang!!!, his latest solo exhibition at Angell Gallery. Continuing his examination of the mental and physical pressures exerted on the human body by technology, the exhibition runs from December 8 to January 5, 2018, with the public opening on Saturday, Dec. 8 from 2:00 – 4:00 p.m.
In his previous exhibition Art + Inactivism, Mitchell F. Chan addressed the current political environment, in which everyone is talking, but no one is listening. His latest exhibition focuses on how the Internet mediates the relationship we have with our own, and others’, bodies. “In the early days, we could shed our skins and enter into ‘second lives’ online, but that didn’t last long,” Chan explains. “Now, we live with the baggage of our physical form online. How we’re using the Internet reinforces existing interactions, mediates power relations, and makes new demands on bodies.”
Some developments (like the #MeToo movement) are positive, but some contribute to toxic dynamics. Chan mentions a recent survey of 1,000 adolescents between 14 and 19 about social media. Eighty-one percent of girls said they or someone they knew had been asked by a boy to send him a sexy picture. “I’ve never been a woman online, of course,” he says. “But, I understand it can be as awful as being one in real life.
Before such technologically mediated interactions became common, the Internet inspired ideas about literal extensions of the body, often manifested through fashion. Chan’s piece White Iverson explores how the Internet complicates the presentation of identity through the body. Growing up in Pembroke, Ontario in the 1990s, Chan was part of the first generation of rural youths who engaged with urban culture through the Internet. These kids, looking for new styles to wear and ways of expressing themselves, found one in the aspirational form of basketball player Allen Iverson, an NBA league MVP. Although Iverson’s clothes, tattoos and cornrows were considered problematic and denounced as “thuggish” by NBA officials his style was imitated by youth of all backgrounds. “The Internet shattered many cultural boundaries before we really had a chance to consider what it all meant,” says Chan.
Like many of us, Chan also feels bombarded by spam exhorting him to improve his body, an example of which prompted the exhibition’s provocative title. “The Internet constantly tells me that I need shredded abs and an enhanced penis,” he says. “And, as I was working on the show, another government figure, Tony Clement, was caught sending a dick pic to a woman. Such actions remind me of Marshall McLuhan's declaration that all new media are ‘the extension of Man’ – no pun intended.”