Silent Spikes

Kenneth Tam

Queens Museum, Absolut Art

Artist Kenneth Tam’s Midnight Moment 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.
Silent Spikes
is presented in partnership with The Queens Museum, where Tam’s solo exhibition of the same title is on view through June 23, 2021. Organized by Queens Museum Assistant Curator Sophia Marisa Lucas, Kenneth Tam: Silent Spikes features new video and sculpture work that reflects upon the entangled histories of Westward expansion and immigration in the U.S. by working collaboratively with contemporary subjects of the Asian Diaspora. This work was made possible by the Queens Museum with support from the Asian Art Circle at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York.

Kenneth’s Midnight Moment is also presented in partnership with limited edition print platform Absolut Art. As part of the presentation, Absolut Art will offer two signed, limited edition prints by Kenneth Tam and donate $2,500 to Heart of Dinner, a nonprofit collective selected by Tam, which works to fight food insecurity and isolation experienced by Asian American seniors throughout New York City.

The prints are now available for purchase on

Qi (Tyler) York Chen
Theodore Lee
Virgo Raaz
Alfred Tom
Director of Photography:
Christian Carroll
Alyssa Forte
Daisy DeJesus

Kenneth Tam (b.1982) 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 the University of Southern California. He has had solo exhibitions at the Minneapolis Institute of Art; MIT List Center for Visual Arts; the Visual Arts Center at UT Austin, Commonwealth and Council, LA; Night Gallery, LA; and will be presenting Silent Spikes at the  ICA LA this summer. Tam has participated in group shows at 47 Canal, NY; Hollybush Gardens, London; the Hammer Museum, LA; InPractice at SculptureCenter, Queens and will be  part of The Shed’s Open Call this summer. He has participated in residencies including Artist Lab at 18th Street Arts Center; LMCC Workspace; The Core Residency Program at The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Pioneer Works; and at The Kitchen. Tam is currently a Lecturer at Princeton University and faculty at Bard MFA. He was born in Queens, and lives and works in Brooklyn.

The Queens Museum in Flushing Meadows Corona Park features contemporary art, events of hyperlocal and international impact, and educational programs reflecting the diversity of Queens and New York City. Changing exhibitions present the work of emerging and established artists, both local and global, that often explore contemporary social issues, as well as the rich history of its site. The Museum works outside its walls through engagement initiatives ranging from multilingual outreach and educational opportunities for adult immigrants, to a plethora of community led art and activism projects. The Queens Museum is located on property owned in full by the City of New York, and its operation is made possible in part by public funds provided through the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs. Major funding for the Queens Museum is generously provided by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, the Lambent Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and Bank of America.

Absolut Art works with emerging and established artists around the world to develop curated, signed limited edition prints. Building on Absolut’s thirty-year involvement with contemporary art (from Warhol to Damien Hirst, Keith Haring and Louise Bourgeois), the goal of their global platform is to expand access to contemporary art, support local artist communities, and democratize the art buying process. Recently Absolut Art has collaborated with Kehinde Wiley, Shantell Martin, Miranda July, Lawrence Weiner, Hank Willis Thomas, Mona Chalabi, Brigitte Lacombe, Joy Yamusangie, Yashua Klos, The Wu-Tang Clan, NADA, UTA Artist Space, Metrograph Cinema, and more. Visit for more information.


Images: Kenneth Tam. Silent Spikes video stills. Courtesy of the artist.