Exploring Solidarity, and Living It: Kenneth Tam and Michelle Woo on Art and Activism
During this time, when Asian Americans are experiencing heightened racist discrimination, artists and arts presenters have undertaken exhibitions and projects that are foregrounding Asian American and Pacific Islander artists, highlighting the crucial part that they play in our culture, and standing up against prejudice.
Among these efforts is a multi-city public art project by nearly 40 artists, on billboards throughout the country and a solidarity campaign, both organized by the artist-led organization For Freedoms and timed to AAPI Heritage Month. At the same time, there is a Times Square “Midnight Moment” spotlighting artist Kenneth Tam, presented by Times Square Arts, The Queens Museum, and Absolut Art.
Tam’s work is currently visible all over New York City. In addition to his Midnight Moment, his exhibition “Silent Spikes” is at New York’s Queens Museum through June 23. His work will also be on view as part of the Open Call series at The Shed in New York (June 4 – August 1).
The For Freedoms project includes billboards and other contributions by artists including Christine Sun Kim and Mel Chin as well as organizations like Stop DiscriminAsian and the Sikh Coalition, in cities from Atlanta to Boston and Los Angeles, as well as various digital assets and a video series.
Absolut Art spoke with Tam and with For Freedoms co-founder and director Michelle Woo about what they’re both doing in their respective fields to combat racism toward Asian Americans, and the importance of bringing this message to the fore right now.
Kenneth, why don’t you tell us a bit about the work that will be seen on the many screens in Times Square?
Kenneth Tam: What will be projected is a very short segment from Silent Spikes, a piece that was commissioned by the Queens Museum and organized by Sophia Marisa Lucas. You’ll see a series of shots where Asian American men are dressed in cowboy garb against a hazy, dreamy, pink and blue background. They’re doing movements that approximate those performed by a bull rider, but slowed down to roughly half the original speed. I was interested in taking these movements from a hypermasculine space and making them more sensuous, more choreographed, so it represents something resembling a dance.