In a world obsessed with the consumption of provocative pictures of desire, where almost everyone must be a salesman, Ho Tam’s Confessions Of A Salesman weaves between salesman, artist, and consumer. While re-mixing images of Asian businessmen in glasses, school boys in Catholic school uniforms, and young basketball players who could be movie stars, Tam humorously asks: When, where, and how will we see the next ‘Jacky Chen’, ‘Bruce Li’ or ‘Yao Meng’?
The fictionalized autobiography reveals Tam’s complex sentiments about both the creation and experience of the Asian male identity. Comprised of some of his best works from 1994 to 2008, this series of rich montages re-contextualizes (perhaps even re-appropriates) his experimental body of work in a larger global context.
As Tam does with Matinee Idol (starring Cho-Fan Ng, ‘The Movie King of South China’ from the 1930s to 1960s, and immigrant to Canada), Confessions Of A Salesman portrays the ‘everyday’ Asian man who argues, weeps, and romances. My Memories Of Me is a charming selection of images from Tam’s boyhood contrasted by an intense cinematic soundtrack. Yellow Pages takes found footage to explore the history of immigration in North America and re-mixes film reels from the Chinese railroad labourers, the Japanese in WW II, the U.S. involvement in the Korean War, the arrival of the boat people, and the 1997 Hong Kong money crisis. Men With Digital Cameras is a lovely medley of erotic, or maybe exotic, self-portraits of Asian men found online.
With a refined sense of satire, Tam’s signature style juxtaposes sweetness with bitterness and beauty with discomfort while continuing to negotiate contradictions found in pop-culture and iconography. Armed with a video camera and an abundance of found ‘Oriental’ images, Tam playfully tackles issues of race and queer identity in consumer society. Confessions Of A Salesman not only looks at how images in the media create discrimination against or desire for Asian-ness, but also how our personal perceptions have the power to reaffirm or dismantle these typecasts.
Ho Tam was born in Hong Kong and educated in Toronto and worked in advertising firms and community psychiatric facilities before turning to art. He works within a variety of artistic disciplines including painting, video, photography, print, and public art and has exhibited in various cities across North America. He currently teaches at the University of Victoria. In 2006, Tam was Reel Asian’s Canadian Spotlight artist.