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The two-channel video Silent Spikes uses movement, theatrical staging and historical narrative to question existing ideas about the performance of masculinity, and the way those normative performances become mythologized in figures like the cowboy.  If the cowboy can be understood as shorthand for a set of ideas that says as much about the violent foundations of maleness in the American imagination as it does about how we celebrate the values exemplified by this figure, then where do men of Asian descent find themselves within this representational landscape? And how can sensuousness complicate these performances, and allow for an erotics of both resistance and care?  

The video  incorporates references to a strike that was organized by thousands of these Chinese laborers working in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in 1867. Interpretative narration of their act of defiance is interwoven with dramatic location imagery and documentation of Tam’s work with five untrained performers. In loosely scored individual and group activities, these participants generate new, unconfined expressions of male selfhood and intimacy.   Through their unscripted collaboration, the artist and his participants honor inherited struggles while centering vulnerability and connection as reparative forms of male embodiment.

Curated by Sophia Marisa Lucas

Commissioned by the Queens Museum with support from the Asian Art Circle of the Guggenheim Museum

Participants: Tyler Chen, Theodore Lee, Virgo Raaz, Alfred Tom, Ahnaf Zitou
Dancer: Andrew Chung
Director of Photography: Christian Carroll
Additional Photography: Camen Hodges
Choreography: Alyssa Forte
Cantonese voiceover and translation: Christopher Sin
Sound Technician: Jeffrey Rowell
Wardrobe Stylist: Daisy De Jesus
Costume Designer: Curie Choi
Fabricator: Francis Louvis

Photographs by Jason Mandella