Kenneth Tam
's Basement
Travis Diehl
The Female
Cool School
Catherine Wagley
The Rise
of the L.A.
Art Witch
Amanda Yates Garcia
Interview with
Mernet Larsen
Julie Weitz
Agnes Martin
at LACMA
Jessica Simmons
Launch Party Carla Issue 6
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring:
Analia Saban
Ry Rocklen
Sarah Cain
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Reviews:
Made in L.A. 2016
Doug Aitken Electric Earth
Mertzbau

Jean-Pascal Flavian and Mika Tajima
Mark A. Rodruigez
The Weeping Line
Molly Larkey, Aaron Horst,
Keith J. Varadi, Katie Bode,
Stuart Krimko, Matt Stromberg
Non-Fiction
at The Underground Museum
Catherine Wagley
The Art of Birth Carmen Winant
Escape from Bunker Hill
John Knight
at REDCAT
Travis Diehl
Ed Boreal Speaks Benjamin Lord
Art Advice (from Men) Sarah Weber
Routine Pleasures
at the MAK Center
Jonathan Griffin
Launch Party Carla Issue 5
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring:
Fay Ray
John Baldessari
Claire Kennedy
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Reviews Hana Cohn, Eli Diner,
Claire De Dobay Rifelj,
Katie Bode, Molly Larkey,
Keith J. Varadi
Moon, laub, and Love Catherine Wagley
Walk Artisanal Jonathan Griffin
Reconsidering
Marva Marrow's
Inside the L.A. Artist
Anthony Pearson
Mystery Science Thater
Diana Thater
at LACMA
Aaron Horst
Informal Feminisms Federica Bueti and Jan Verwoert
Marva Marrow Photographs
Lita Albuquerque
Launch Party Carla Issue 4
Interiors and Interiority:
Njideka Akunyili Crosby
Char Jansen
Reviews Claire de Dobay Rifelj,
Matt Stromberg, Hana Cohn,
Lindsay Preston Zappas,
Simone Krug, Keith Vaughn,
Ikechukwu Casmir Onyewuenyi
Le Louvre, Las Vegas Evan Moffitt
iPhones, Flesh,
and the Word
F.B.I.
at Arturo Bandini
Lindsay Preston Zappas
Women Talking About Barney Catherine Wagley
Lingua Ignota
Faith Wilding
at The Armory Center
for the Arts
and LOUDHAILER
Benjamin Lord
A Conversation
with Amalia Ulman
Char Jansen
How We Practice Carmen Winant
Launch Party Carla Issue 3
Share Your Piece of the Puzzle Federica Bueti
Amanda Ross-Ho Photographs
Erik Frydenborg
Reviews Eli Diner, Jonathan Griffin,
Don Edler, Aaron Horst
Hot Tears Carmen Winant
Slow View:
Molly Larkey
Anna Breininger and Kate Whitlock
Americanicity's Paintings
Orion Martin
at Favorite Goods
Tracy Jeanne Rosenthal
Layers of Leimert Park Catherine Wagley
Junkspace Junk Food
Parker Ito
at Kaldi, Smart Objects,
White Cube, and
Château Shatto
Evan Moffitt
Melrose Hustle Keith Vaughn
Reviews Benjamin Lord, Aaron Horst, Stephen Kent
Top-Down Bottom-Up Jenny Gagalka
Snap Reviews Aaron Horst, Char Jansen, Randy Rice, Lindsay Preston Zappas
Max Maslansky Photographs
Monica Majoli
at the Tom of Finland Foundation
White Lee, Black Lee
William Pope.L’s Reenactor
Travis Diehl
Dora Budor Interview Char Jensen
MEAT PHYSICS/
Metaphysical L.A.
Travis Diehl
Art for Art’s Sake:
L.A. in the 1990s
Anthony Pearson
A Dialogue in Two
Synchronous Atmospheres
Erik Morse
with Alexandra Grant
SOGTFO
at François Ghebaly
Jonathan Griffin
#studio #visit
with #devin #kenny
@barnettcohen
Mateo Tannatt
Photographs
Jibade-Khalil Huffman
VESSEL // CINS and
VESSEL // PERF
Ben Medansky
I've been a lot of places,
seen so many faces
Nora Slade
Launch Party Carla Issue 1
Slow View:
Discussion on One Work
Anna Breininger
with Julian Rogers
Reviews Tracy Jeanne Rosenthal, Catherine Wagley, Keith Vaughn, Aaron Horst, Kate Wolf, Mateo Tannatt, Evan Moffitt, Cal Siegel
We’re in This Together Lauren Cherry & Max Springer
Distribution
Downtown
ARTBOOK @ Hauser Wirth
    & Schimmel
917 E. 3rd St.
Los Angeles, CA 90013

Central Park
412 W. 6th St. #615
Los Angeles, CA 90014

CES Gallery
711 Mateo St.
Los Angeles, CA 90021

Cirrus Gallery
2011 S. Santa Fe Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90021

Château Shatto
406 W. Pico Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90015

Club Pro
1525 S. Main St.
Los Angeles, CA 90015

Fahrenheit
2245 E. Washington Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90021

Ghebaly Gallery
2245 E. Washington Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90021

The Geffen Contemporary
    & at MOCA
152 N. Central Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90012

Harmony Murphy
358 E. 2nd St.
Los Angeles, CA 90012

LACA
2245 E. Washington Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90021

MAMA
1242 Palmetto St.
Los Angeles, CA 90013

Mistake Room
1811 E. 20th St.
Los Angeles, CA 90058

MOCA Grand Avenue
250 S. Grand Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90012

Night Gallery
2276 E. 16th St.
Los Angeles, CA 90021

The Box
805 Traction Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90013

Wilding Cran Gallery
939 S. Santa Fe Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90021
Chinatown
A.G. Geiger
502 Chung King Ct.
Los Angeles, CA 90012

EMBASSY
422 Ord St., Suite G
Los Angeles, CA 90012

Human Resources
410 Cottage Home St.
Los Angeles CA, 90012

Ooga Booga
943 N. Broadway
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Mid-City
1301PE
6150 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90048

Chainlink Gallery
1051 S. Fairfax Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90019

Commonwealth and Council
3006 W. 7th St. #220
Los Angeles CA 90005

David Kordansky Gallery
5130 W. Edgewood Pl.
Los Angeles, CA 90019

HILDE
4727 W. Washington
Los Angeles, CA 90016

JOAN
4300 W. Jefferson Blvd. #1
Los Angeles, CA 90016

Kayne Griffin Corcoran
1201 S. La Brea Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90019

ltd Los Angeles
1119 S. La Brea Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90019

Marc Foxx
6150 Wilshire Blvd. #5
Los Angeles, CA 90048

Martos Gallery
3315 W. Washington Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90018

Ochi Projects
3301 W. Washington Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90018

The Landing
5118 W. Jefferson Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90016

Park View
836 S. Park View St. Unit 8
Los Angeles, CA 90057

Skibum MacArthur
712 S. Grand View St., #204
Los Angeles, CA 90057

SPRÜTH MAGERS
5900 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90036

The Underground Museum
3508 W. Washington Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90018

VACANCY
2524 1/2 James M. Wood Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90006

Visitor Welcome Center
3006 W. 7th St., Suite #200A
Los Angeles, CA 90005
Culver City
Arcana Books
8675 W. Washington Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90232

Blum and Poe
2727 S. La Cienega
Los Angeles, CA 90034

Cherry and Martin
2712 S. La Cienega Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90034

Honor Fraser
2622 S. La Cienega Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90034

Klowden Mann
6023 Washington Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90232

Luis De Jesus
2685 S. La Cienega Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90034

MiM Gallery
2636 La Cienega Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90034

Roberts and Tilton
5801 Washington Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90232

Samuel Freeman
2639 S. La Cienega Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90034

Susanne Vielmetter
6006 Washington Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90232
Silverlake/ Echo Park
Smart Objects
1828 W. Sunset Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90026

Otherwild
1768 N. Vermont Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90021
Hollywood
Diane Rosenstein
831 Highland Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90038

Family Books
436 N. Fairfax Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90036

GAVLAK
1034 N. Highland Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90038

Hannah Hoffman
1010 Highland Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90038

LAXART
7000 Santa Monica Blvd.
West Hollywood, CA 90038

M+B
612 N. Almont Dr.
Los Angeles, CA 90069

Mier
1107 Greenacre Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90046

Moskowitz Bayse
743 N. La Brea Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90038

Regen Projects
6750 Santa Monica Blvd.
LLos Angeles, CA 90038

Shulamit Nazarian
616 N. La Brea
Los Angeles, CA 90036

Various Small Fires
812 Highland Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90038
Westside
18th Street Arts
1639 18th St.
Santa Monica, CA 90404

Ben Maltz Gallery at Otis
    &College of Art and Design
9045 Lincoln Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90045

Christopher Grimes Gallery
916 Colorado Ave.
Santa Monica, CA 90401

DXIX Projects
519 Santa Clara Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90291

Five Car Garage
(Emma Gray HQ)

Team (Bungalow)
306 Windward Ave.
Venice, CA 90291
Eastside
ACME
2939 Denby Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90039

ESXLA
602 Moulton Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90031

SADE
204 S. Avenue 19
Los Angeles, CA 90031
Boyle Heights
BBQLA
2315 Jesse St.
Los Angeles, CA 90023

Chimento Contemporary
622 S. Anderson St., #105
Los Angeles, CA 90023

Ibid.
670 S. Anderson St.
Los Angeles, CA 90023

Ooga Twooga
356 Mission Rd.
Los Angeles, CA 90033

Parrasch Heijnen Gallery
1326 S. Boyle Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90023

Museum as Retail Space (MaRS)
649 S. Anderson St.
Los Angeles, CA 90023

Nicodim Gallery
571 S. Anderson St.
Los Angeles, CA 90033

Venus Over Los Angeles
601 S. Anderson St.
Los Angeles, CA 90023
Pasadena/ Glendale/ Valley
The Armory Center for the Arts
145 N. Raymond Ave.
Pasadena, CA 91103

Los Angeles Valley College
5800 Fulton Ave.
Valley Glen, CA 91401

Natural
15168 Raymer St.
Van Nuys, CA 91405

The Pit
918 Ruberta Ave.
Glendale, CA 91201

Kenneth Tam
‘s Basement

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Kenneth Tam, Video still from Sump (2015). HD video, 7:40 minutes. Image courtesy of the artist.

BOB: We’re still men.

NARRATOR: Yes, we’re men. Men is what we are.

Fight Club, dir. David Fincher

It’s the video’s most tender, too-elegant inversion: artist Kenneth Tam’s aging father rides his son like a horse. Both are shirtless. The potbellied and hunched Tam Senior rocks somberly, his hands on Junior’s toned shoulders, his bare feet hopping along the tile. The artist’s arms ripple as he arcs across the corner of a basement, from a fluorescent glow near a radiator into the shadow by a washer and dryer. The eight-minute video is called sump (2015), after a pit or depression where runoff collects, as in a basement. In the corners of this basement of his father’s house, the pair engage in silly intimacy—Tam rubs shoe polish on his father’s torso, while dad stares down the camera; they sit facing in a bathtub, blowing up balloons; they stand together under a plastic sheet with the shower head on, avoiding each other’s gaze. The lighting throughout is cool and uneven, damp-looking; the settings are cluttered hallways and racks of linens or toilet paper, disorderly storage, unsightly. Unlike, one imagines, the rooms above, the basement is raw, primordial, even animal— sub-aesthetic, and subconscious. Here in this allegorical architecture, here in the psychic puddle, Tam  upends and submits to the childhood game—patriarch as horsey, weak riding the strong—and in doing so faces that most foundational of male relations: the psychoanalytic runoff of the father.

sump is a pivot. In earlier pieces the artist inserted himself into awkward and intimate situations with a variety of individuals. The pieces that follow sump feature groups of men. In the dank silence of sump germinated the “plots” of two subsequent videos: Breakfast in Bed (2016) and The Loving Cup (2016). Icebreaker-type games, aesthetic and laughable breaches of personal space seemingly improvised with or for his father, are applied to groups of middle-aged male strangers.

The basement, too, finds a revised expression: For Breakfast in Bed, Tam constructed a simple square room inside his studio, cheaply wood-paneled, beige-carpeted. The room was set, stage, man-cave, and club; the scrutiny of larger society was suspended there—that, perhaps, the participants’ inhibitions might loosen. In BiB a group of seven men (eight, if you include Tam, although he stays behind the camera), of unknown age and background but all roughly aged 29-49 and living in Houston, held regular meetings for a total of nine weeks. Here too the men perform ridiculous, asexual yet intimate actions with or on one another’s bodies. In one scene in sump Tam’s father appears with his face and collar covered in cheerios. In BiB we see how this is done: six of the men glue cereal to the seventh’s naked torso, while talking about their girlfriends and wives, and drinking Miller Lite. The intimation of primeval scarification and ritual is no accident. Other activities include hopping in a circle, wearing bells, in a parody of tribal rite. Another has them wearing panda-colored balaclavas and lolling around like slow animals mocking yoga. In the man cave, bonding takes stereotypical forms of mutual regression.

Where other clubs or hangouts channel a common purpose—a task or interest, not to say enemy—with Breakfast in Bed and The Loving Cup it’s Tam’s art and Tam’s camera that provide this focus. Art is the pretext within which men might, for example, describe each other’s bodies aloud. Tam creates a safe space for the men to express sincere feelings (whether or not they do); the basement of art allows activities more or less abstracted from real life, with no other guiding principle—except that major caveat of their (presumed hetero) (cis-)manhood. They’ve brought all that baggage. Asked to make tinfoil costumes for themselves, one man fashions three phallic protrusions—one for the stomach, one for each shoulder. When another man pretends to jerk the shoulders off, the group chuckles. Here is a petri dish of a volatile masculinist culture. Homoeroticism here is an awkward joke. Meanwhile, Donald Trump’s rallies are described as “safe spaces” for racists.

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Kenneth Tam, Breakfast in Bed (2016) (installation view). Made in L.A. 2016: a, the, though, only, June 12 – August 28, 2016, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles. Photo: Brian Forrest.

This is the dangerous game of Tam’s trio of “masculinist” works. The Loving Cup, a three channel video which premiered at Commonwealth & Council, spatializes a descent into subterranean rec-room psychology. Three flat screens, set on the floor, lead back into the gallery so that the first, the closest, is the most lighthearted: four men, Tam included, tickle each other, slow dance, and blow up balloons in a brightly-lit (living) room. In the middle channel the motions are closer to Judson school movement studies, undertaken with clear performativity in front of a black curtain. The third, furthest back, displays more naked id. The setting is perhaps a darkened and flashlit basement, possibly the enclosure used for Breakfast in Bed, now a bit soiled. Four men, including Tam, execute somersaults on a dirty carpet; take turns wrapping the same gifts, with Frankensteinian results; hold hands in close-ups lit like hard-core porn or snuff films. In this third, deepest level of male encounter is the intimation of violence, if not violation. Their activities resemble the icebreaker-ish tasks of the other videos; yet the tone peels back and suggests that just being there, together, just strange men in a heteronormative culture, is a trust fall.

The tension between the homosocial and the homoerotic provoked in these three works presents in the feedback of the participants. “How much bonding is involved?” asked a man responding to Tam’s job post on Reddit. “No weird stuff right?” asked another. Weird stuff being nudity, or sexual touching. “Everything was cool except for the male to male stuff that we did like dancing,” said one respondent of TLC—never mind that everything they did was male to male. “The absurd was an interesting facet,” says a participant in BiB, explaining why he signed up. “There’s also this pretty hot little chick I’m interested in who’s been urging me to do something creative…” Subsumed here is the nuance between intimacy, sexuality, and sex. When the men in BiB take turns paying one another compliments, they look pained. Compliments become “controlled observations,” in Tam’s off-camera phrase. “You’re pretty hairy, man,” says one. “That’s good, means you’ve got a lotta testosterone.” The men introduce jokes, or deprecate themselves, as if deflecting the vulnerability of a sincere expression—as if vulnerability, as passed down from father to son like hairlines, is a threat to manhood. Watching these men squirm at Tam’s directions can only confirm a pop version of masculinity, wherein the words, “Hey, I love you, man,” are a barely remembered beer commercial.

Tam used the message board Reddit to cast for Breakfast in Bed, which may have skewed for a particular sort of participant: tech-savvy, tipping towards nerdy, perhaps reclusive, and with possible trolls among them. Elsewhere, outside of these art games, a masculinist discourse often defines itself against; women, homosexuals, minorities, foreigners, or simply “the weak.” Masculinism at large can be leaderless and hateful, like Gamergate—or demagoguery, like Trump rallies. No longer are such “views” confined to the “safe spaces” of men’s clubs and man caves.

In the film Fight Club, a gigantically manly survivor of testicular cancer presses the narrator to his sweating, sac-like breasts—a side effect of his treatment. “We’re still men,” he says, weeping. The setting is a sickly green gymnasium. The fights, of course, take place in basements. But if society’s masochistic ills have emerged into daylight, Tam’s program pushes the touchy-feely activities of group therapy underground. Here between a coddling liberalism and a meatheaded fascism is a masculinism not stripped of its social anxieties, yet tempered in its misogyny. These men aren’t hateful, but they’re beyond being carefree. It’s a kind of reverse parenting. In the third channel of Loving Cup, two strange men ride each other like a horse—father and son both. In the first channel, a group of strange men stuff inflated balloons under their shirts like six-packs of estrogen-heavy pecs, and bounce, one into the other. It looks like healing. It looks like fun.

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Kenneth Tam, The Loving Cup (2016) (installation view). 3 Single-channel HD videos, color, sound, 6 minutes; 6 minutes; 5:30 minutes. Image courtesy the artist and Commonwealth and Council. Photo: Ruben Diaz.

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Originally published in Carla Issue 6