Consumption and Destruction: This Toy Tank Isn’t All Fun

Consumption and Destruction: This Toy Tank Isn’t All Fun

Dominating the large gallery space, blocks of carefully sculpted soft wood are glued and rivetted together. Up-close they’re rather beautiful; step back, though, and the structure reveals itself as a model of a life-size tank. Towering above visitors, its gun points ominously at the artworks exhibited on the far wall. A faint noise emanates from it, the gentle tinkling of a child’s musical box.

By mixing nursery with military, Amy Cheung Wan Man‘s Toy Tank triggers an uncomfortable dissonance between nurturing and destruction, prompting new thoughts about our disconnection with the consequences of war.

Crawl inside and three video screens show you the gallery space, devoid of visitors, through which you can navigate using the tank’s levers. Choose an artwork, hit the big red button at your feet, and your chosen piece is destroyed.

“Sometimes it is not so innocent when you consume.”

Cheung came up with the idea during a visit to Vietnam, where she found street vendors, often missing limbs, selling toy wooden tanks as souvenirs to visiting American tourists, who would haggle over the price. “This image of consumption made me sick,” she explains.

This thread of interrogating consumerism is interwoven with ideas of childhood, too: in fact, the tank was made by a childrens’ bed manufacturer in China.

It is our strange interaction with consumerism and destruction that Cheung is guiding us to ponder in this work. By providing her audience with a giant childrens’ toy and allowing make-believe ruination of the surrounding exhibition – full of valuable and meaningful artworks – she passes a lens not only over war, but the insidious destruction of our societies and environment by wanton consumerism. As Cheung puts it: “Sometimes it is not so innocent when you consume.”