April 14, 2017 - MIT List Visual Arts Center - List Projects: Kenneth Tam
April 14, 2017

MIT List Visual Arts Center

Kenneth Tam, Breakfast in Bed (still), 2016. Single-channel HD video projection, sound; 32 minutes. Courtesy the artist.

List Projects: Kenneth Tam
April 18–May 21, 2017

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In his work in video, sculpture, and photography, Kenneth Tam (b. 1982, New York) takes interpersonal power dynamics and physical intimacy, particularly between men, as a point of departure for investigating broader themes around private and social boundaries. Whether enlisting his own father or recruiting participants online, the artist instigates situations that function simultaneously as social experiment, performance art, and absurdist theater.

For his first institutional solo exhibition, Tam presents Breakfast in Bed (2016). The 32-minute video features seven men of varying ages who comprise what Tam advertised on Reddit as a “men’s group.” The men met weekly over the course of a few months to engage in team-building activities centered around role-playing and touch. Set inside a domestic-looking set, the exercises range from playing tag with paint, glueing Cheerios onto one another’s torsos, and games of silent Marco Polo.

As the group develops its particular dynamic, Tam poignantly reveals and pushes the boundaries of heteronormative male ritual and bonding. His probing into the structures of male intimacy gathers particular urgency against the backdrop of the recent election fueled, in part, by mobilizing a pervasive anxiety of white, male privilege perceived to be in decline. Conducted in the interior space of Tam’s studio, the men’s theatrical interactions are simultaneously hilarious and heartfelt, awkward and sincere.

Kenneth Tam (b. 1982, New York), lives and works in New York and Houston.

List Projects: Kenneth Tam is curated by Henriette Huldisch, Curator, MIT List Visual Arts Center.

Exhibitions at the List Center are made possible with the support of Jane & Neil Pappalardo, Cynthia & John Reed, and Terry & Rick Stone. 

General operating support is provided by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Council for the Arts at MIT, the Office of the Associate Provost at MIT, the MIT School of Architecture + Planning, the Massachusetts Cultural Council, and many generous individual donors. The Advisory Committee Members of the List Visual Arts Center are gratefully acknowledged.

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