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Theresa Hak Kyung Cha: Earth

Language and Sequence

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Theresa Hak Kyung Cha: Pomegranate Offering, 1975 (cover); stenciled ink and typewritten text on cloth, sewn with thread; 15 x 14 3/4 in.; gift of the Peter Norton Family Foundation.

The structure of language was a central interest in the work of Theresa Hak Kyung Cha. Cha was fascinated by, as she put it, “how words and meaning are constructed in the language system itself, by function or usage, and how transformation is brought about through manipulation, processes such as changing the syntax, isolation, removing from context, repetition, and reduction to minimal units.” These concerns are evident in a number of works in the exhibition, such as Pomegranate Offering (1975), an artist’s book made of canvas with text stenciled in ink, red markings, and text typed directly onto the fabric.

Sequencing, silences, pauses, time, and space are other phenomena with which Cha experimented in various media. In 1974, she conceived of Secret Spill, an outdoor performance/installation, which was documented in a video work for which she received the University’s Eisner Prize for Film and Video in 1975. The black-and-white video begins with the camera slowly panning over the soil, revealing twigs and leaves and a mysterious sculptural object on the ground at the installation site. Cha herself makes an appearance in the video, which culminates with her voice in recitation, “the moon, the moon.”

Stephanie Cannizzo
Curatorial Associate