The Queens Museum, housed inside the only surviving building from the 1939 World’s Fair, is an institution that both pays homage to New York CIty’s past and nurtures the present-day culture today. In addition to being the home of the Panorama of the City of New York, the Queens Museum hosts a variety of contemporary art exhibitions throughout the year. This Spring, the museum debuted three brand new exhibits: Silent Spikes by Kenneth Tam, RAF: Prosthetic Location by Asif Mian, and Strange But True by Sydney Shen. In an upcoming virtual visit to the Queens Museum, you can get an insider perspective on two of these exhibits as we take a closer look with the museum’s curators!
Silent Spikes and RAF: Prosthetic Location both address complex social issues facing our society today. In Silent Spikes, Queens-born artist Kenneth Tam “explores archetypical expectations of masculinity in relation to intersections of gender, economics and race.” Through the mediums of video and sculpture, Tam uses the trope of a Western cowboy to explore how Asian men have been marginalized against that idea, “despite the fundamental contributions of Chinese laborers to the building of the American West.”
Virtual Visit to the Queens Museum
The name of the exhibition is a nod to the more than 20,000 d exploited Chinese immigrants who worked on the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad, referencing the large nails, or spikes, used to secure tracks in place. These largely under-recognized laborers were responsible for completing the most treacherous sections of the transcontinental route. Through interpretative reenactments and location footage, Tam references the labor strike organized by Chinese Transcontinental Railroad workers in 1867–one of the earliest instances of racialized protest, in his two-channel video.
The video also features local Asian-American male participants performing choreographed and free movements which serve as “reflections that promote intimacy and connection to the self.” The sculptural elements of the exhibit incorporate elements of the costumes worn in the video and leather English saddles that were used as props. Silent Spikes will be on view through June 23, 2021.
In RAF: Prosthetic Location, artist Asif Mian “explores the processing and perception of violence to reclaim the possibility of healing.” This solo exhibit at the Queens Museum is part of Mian’s ongoing multi-chapter project, RAF, which was inspired by his own personal trauma. “When I was 20, my estranged father was killed in Terrell, Texas,” Mian relates in a press release from the Queens Museum, “RAF is a living ghost of my creation, one that
exists in the gaps of the eyewitness’ loose descriptions of the assailant. Digging out from this personal trauma involves immersing myself not only in the facts of the event, but the intimacies of history, violence, and toxic behavior.”
Through the immersion in the trauma, Mian is ultimately able to emerge empowered. The items that make up the sculptural works within the exhibit are seemingly mundane and familiar but have an uncanny quality in the way they are presented. Items featured include Xerox eyewitness reports rendered on silk material, Pakistani heritage rugs combined with American carpeting to recall folklore, plaid shirts, car parts, and exercise equipment.
Displayed in modified states, these everyday objects take on a new meaning, and “demonstrate varied stages of transformation.” Mian’s work blurrs the lines between the objective and subjective, real and surreal, creating a web of fragmented facts and fictions. RAF: Prosthetic Location will be on view through July 25, 2021.
Join Untapped New York and Queens Museum Assistant Curators Lindsey Berfond and Sophia Marisa Lucas for an in-depth look at these two exhibits in a virtual visit to the Queens Museum! Tickets to this talk are just $10. You can gain access to unlimited free virtual events per month and unlock a video archive of 100+ past events as an Untapped New York Insider starting at $10/month. Already an Insider? Register here! Can’t make it live? Register for this virtual talk and we’ll email you a recording of it after it ends.
Virtual Visit to the Queens Museum