Kenneth Tam, The Crossing, December 5, 2020. Performance view, The Kitchen. Photo ©2022 Paula Court.

Kenneth Tam

The Crossing

On View: December 5-December 7, 2020

The Kitchen at Queenslab (1611 Cody Avenue)


7 pm

Known for his video works that examine performative masculinity, artist Kenneth Tam will be in residence through The Kitchen at Queenslab from October 30 through December 6. During this period, Tam will develop and present his first live performance.

Over the course of the residency’s first few weeks, the artist will share materials related to his research and artistic process online; and, in the final week, the project will culminate with two livestreams of Tam’s performance on December 5 and 6 at 7 pm EST. The performance on December 6 will be followed by a conversation between Tam and curator Lumi Tan.

In this new performance, The Crossing, the artist trains his lens onto the rituals of Asian American fraternities, inquiring into the ways they create belonging and identity while also adopting practices that undermine these very bonds. For Tam, these organizations offer a way for young men to negotiate the pressures of assimilation while constructing normative identities based on race and gender. These forces find symbolic urgency in the elaborate ceremonies staged by these young men, and such rites of initiation suggest the power performance has in maintaining dominant social structures and hierarchies.

Asian American fraternities were founded in part to educate their members about historic Asian oppression by offering consciousness raising around contemporary anti-Asian racism. They provide a close-knit community that uplifts young men as they navigate life away from their families and acclimate to college environments that are often defined by white ideals of success. But these communities can also expose pledges to violence and trauma through their initiation rites—an aspect brought to light in the tragic case of Michael Deng, a freshman at Baruch College who in 2013 died while being hazed. Tam’s performance probes how multicultural fraternities represent the search for male intimacy, the way masculinity is used to negotiate cultural identity, and the ritualization of violence within all-male spaces.

For The Crossing, Tam will work with a group of performers to create a piece that pulls from the structure and choreography of highly stylized probates—the public unveiling of new fraternity pledges. Recognizing the symbolism of these ceremonies as a type of rebirth—the erasure of one identity and the emergence of a new one within the context of the fraternity—Tam will also look to Taoist funeral rites, ceremonies that shift the focus away from death and onto the value of life and caretaking by spirits.

Curated by Lumi Tan.


Performers and Production Team

Performers: Martin Richard Borromeo, James Lim, Paulina Meneses, Resa Mishina

Lighting Designer: Jeanette Oi-Suk Yew

Contributing Choreographer: Alyssa Forte

Sound Supervisor: Ian Douglas-Moore

Video Supervisor: Ross Karre

Camera operators: Adele Fournet, Merve Kayan, Felipe Wurst

COVID-19 Supervisor and Stage Manager: Randi Rivera

Lighting and Production Assistance: Mike Faba

Costume Design: Curie Choi


Kenneth Tam: The Crossing is made possible with support from Lambent Foundation Fund of Tides Foundation, and in part by public funds from New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council and New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

Image: Courtesy of Kenneth Tam.