KENNETH TAM | Griffith Park Boys Camp
In the Artist Lab at 18th Street Arts Center, Kenneth Tam continues his ongoing interest in the social dynamics within all-male groups and the norms of masculine identity. Tam will use the American summer camp as both a conceptual frame and an actual site to investigate these interests. A uniquely American invention, the summer camp came out of a need to keep idle boys busy during the summer months, framing time outdoors as essential to properly raise healthy young men. It has evolved from an activity for the privileged into a rite-of-passage for children of all backgrounds, and its ubiquity speaks to how we continue to see play as essential in childhood but superfluous against the responsibilities of adulthood.
The centerpiece of Tam’s residency is a new video work involving participants gathered from online postings. The artist invited a group of adult, working-age men of all backgrounds to participate in a three-day experimental summer camp, filmed in May 2018 at the Griffith Park Boys Camp, an active campground located within the city of Los Angeles. At the camp, they engaged in activities that allowed them to temporarily reimagine their lives in ways not pressured by the strict social demands of waged work, or the shame of unemployment. These activities both approximate and wildly diverge from those found in a typical summer camp.
In late July and August, at the peak of the summer recreation season, Tam will premiere a single-channel version of the film at Virginia Avenue Park in Santa Monica’s Pico Neighborhood in an outdoor screening. Concurrently, from July 16 through September 14, Tam will develop and exhibit an installation in 18SAC’s Main Gallery incorporating a two-channel video that reframes the summer camp as an experimental space outside capitalist objectives and demands. Visitors will be invited to participate in Tam’s experimental camp activities within the gallery, and to reconsider their presumptions about play as positive and regenerative for children, but frivolous and gratuitous for adults.
The exhibition in 18th Street’s Main Gallery runs through September 14, 2018. The outdoor screening at Virginia Avenue Park is scheduled for July 27 at 7:30pm, with a reception at 18th Street on August 18 from 5-8 PM.