The Blind Leading the Blind (2015) is based on one of a pair of large-scale models of mountain scenes with figures and buildings, made in Guangzhou around 1790 as a gift for Josephine, Napoleon’s wife, from Emperor Chia-Ch’ing, and now held at the V&A Museum of Childhood. Models such as these show imaginary building structures and were often produced for Chinese export to the West. In my version of Bruegel the Elder’s 1568 painting of a procession of blind men, the figures are faceless geungsi or zombies.
Karen Tam’s research focuses on various forms of constructions and imaginations through installations in which she re-creates the spaces of Chinese restaurants, karaoke lounges, opium dens, curio shops, and other sites of cultural encounter. Exhibitions include The Drawing Center (New York), the Victoria & Albert Museum (London), Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, University of Toronto, and the Irish Museum of Modern Art. Residencies include the Frankfurter Kunstverein Deutsche Börse Residency (Germany), RONDO Studios (Austria), Djerassi Resident Artist Program (USA), Chinese Arts Centre (UK), Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, and 501 Artspace (China). She has received grants and fellowships from the Canada Council for the Arts, Conseil des arts du Québec, Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council of Canada, and Fonds pour la formation de chercheurs et l’aide à la recherche.
Tam holds an MFA in sculpture from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and a PhD in Cultural Studies from Goldsmiths (University of London). Her work is in the collections of the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Caisse de dépôt et placement Québec, Hydro-Québec, Canada Council for the Arts Art Bank, Alarm Press, and in private collections in Canada, the US, and the UK.