Silent Spikes (2021) reimagines Asian American identity through performance and movement. Set against a saturated and dream-like backdrop, Silent Spikes features Asian American men of various ages and backgrounds dressed in iconic American cowboy garb, mimicking the movements of a bull rider in slow-motion.
The figure of the cowboy looms large within the American popular consciousness and continues to function as shorthand for a kind of idealized white Western masculinity. “By having Asian men step into this role, I pose the question of who has access to embody these characters and the larger ideas they represent,” says Tam. Using the power of cinema and the iconography of the Western film genre, Silent Spikes inserts Asian American men into a space from which they’ve traditionally been excluded, and asks viewers to question how mythologized conceptions of America’s past continue to shape ideas about the performance of race and gender today.