Kenneth Tam works in video, sculpture, installation and photography, using the male body as a starting point for discussions about performance, physical intimacy, vulnerability, and private ritual. Tam received his BFA from the Cooper Union and his MFA from University of Southern California. He is currently a Lecturer at Princeton University, faculty at Bard MFA, and will be guest faculty at Harvard University in the fall.
His solo exhibitions include “Silent Spikes” at Queens Museum, New York (2021); “The Crossing” at The Kitchen, Queenslab, New York (2020); “Tamborine” at Commonwealth and Council, Los Angeles, USA (2020); “Cold Open” at Minneapolis Institute of Art, Minnesota, USA (2018); “Kenneth Tam” at List Projects, MIT List Visual Arts Center, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA (2018) amongst others. Tam has participated in group exhibitions including “InPractice: Other Objects” at the SculptureCenter, New York (2019); “Demolition Womanhood” at Skibum MacArthur, Los Angeles, USA (2018); “Acts of Translation” at MMAG Foundation, Amman, Jordan (2018); “When my eyes saw and when my ears heard” at Hollybush Gardens, London, UK (2017); “Core Exhibition” at Lawndale Art Center, Houston, Texas, USA (2017); “Made in LA: a, the, though, only” at The Hammer Biennial, Los Angeles, USA (2016).
Tam lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.
Breakfast in Bed / 2016
In Breakfast in Bed, Kenneth Tam worked with a cohort of predominantly white men to carry out various group activities. Non-actors responded to the artist’s call on regional Craigslist and Reddit posts for participants who were open to this social experiment. Over the course of multiple sessions, the participants got to know each other, and became comfortable enough to strip shirtless, dance around, and share feelings and compliments to each other. Tam is interested in how men perform themselves within groups, and more generally how individuals negotiate intimacy across class and racial differences. Investigating the scripting that people are socialized into, the artist presents a rare and hopeful situation where men can be together in a way that is earnest, amicable and non-toxic.
sump / 2015
In contrast to the cinéma verité–style documentary of the largely unscripted Breakfast in Bed, sump is an engineered encounter between Tam’s father and himself. The artist asked his father to join him in doing different activities together in the basement of their home in Queens, New York, where the artist grew up. In silence, the shirtless pair blow balloons, shower under a plastic bag, draw on each other’s bellies with black ink, and stick cereal loops on the other. Activities that would be cute were the artist still a child become humorous and at times uncomfortable, oddly tender and loving. For Tam, the project is a personally motivated one, driven by a desire to be more physically intimate with someone who the artist feels he is both close with and a stranger to.