In the Ecdysiast, the artist employs the apparatus of a security checkpoint as inspiration to create an absurd and satirical setting within the gallery. The installation is partitioned into three areas across the exhibition building: custom-made stanchions delineate a path from the entryway into the exhibition; an ‘x-ray machine’ awaits viewers to pass into; and a triptych of moving-image projections coerces audience members into a final theatrical space that combines burlesque performance, choral music and modern dance. Mimicking the protocols of a checkpoint, the artist highlights the linguistic and physical experiences of control as they become exerted onto the public - parodying its conventions as well as the choreographed assembly line-like procedures.
The Ecdysiast takes its title from a term originally coined by H.L. Mencken, meaning to ‘molt’, a word envisaged as a replacement for the word ‘stripper’. Here, the description can also be considered within the context of our contemporary condition and today’s state of affairs: the increasing scrutiny on our individuality as it becomes exposed to tighter systems of collective control. Seemingly benign in appearance, these systems operate in spaces of ambiguity where a suspension of law occurs. Behind the gentle gestures belies a logic of forced compliance, something so routine to our daily lives that its violence eventually has become imperceptible to us. Theatrical and burlesque, Yao brings to our attention the absurdity, but also the ambivalence of our tacit assent to the situation - subverting this logic by imagining a new form of play through her satirical imitations.