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Theresa Hak Kyung Cha (1951-82): a portrait in fragments

I really struggled with Theresa Hak Kyung Cha’s book Dictée when I read it a few years ago. But I’m not one to give up easily, and I’m hoping that this upcoming exhibition will provide another way in to this multi-faceted artist.

Theresa Hak Kyung Cha (1951-82): a portrait in fragments

24 Sep – 26 Oct 2013 @KCCUK
PV: 24 Sept 2013 18:00-20:30 (performance of participating artists will be included.)

Theresa Hak Kyung Cha poster

Works and Notes by Theresa Hak Kyung Cha
Contributory commissions by: Ruth Barker, Sujin Lee, Jefford Horrigan and Bada Song

‘A Portrait in Fragments’ is an open-ended study of works by one of the most significant Korean multimedia artists, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha. During the 70s Cha studied in California, but in 1982 Cha’s life was cruelly cut short, when she was brutally murdered in New York, aged just 31, leaving much of her work and thesis unfinished, except for highly respected novel ‘Dictee’, first published by Tanam Press, New York, 1982.

In co-operation with the BAM / Pacific Film archive at Berkeley University a number of her film pieces, film scripts and synopses as well as thoughts from her notebooks, journals and photographic contact sheets will serve to present a fragmented image of a complex identity which informed Theresa Cha’s work.

Cha’s work solicits questions around performance and film, but also charts a rich autobiographical heritage of being both Korean and Westernized. In keeping with the often ephemeral nature of her work contemporary artists Ruth Barker, Sujin Lee, Jefford Horrigan and Bada Song have been asked to contribute ‘work-stations’ in response to the material of Theresa Cha, piecing together the fascinating and fragmentary archive the artist left behind.

The corollary is that many questions and thoughts have remained unfinished and open to interpretation with regards to Cha’s works in the critical sphere. Whilst some posthumous exhibitions have attempted to allocate Cha a place within the feminist (‘Difference’ New Museum, New York, 1985, ‘Fais un effort pour te souvenir. Ou, a defaut, invente, Betonsalon, Paris 2013) as well as the post- structural film discourse (Thomas Crow, Barbara Gladstone Gallery 2012), this exhibition ‘ A Portrait in Fragments’ will do neither – it will simply posit new thoughts through other work, to understand the work of an artist whose practice continues to feel relevant both to international art as well as to the understanding of a (Korean) conceptual language.

Theresa Cha’s work throughout charts the pain of unresolved injustice experienced by her mother who was displaced to Manchuria China, the fight against the Japanese grip on Korea and her own detachment from being a US citizen. Her work alludes to exile and the displacement of her parents. There is too a pervading sense in her work that Korea itself becomes an allegory of the violated and beatified woman.

‘A Portrait in Fragments’ provides a rare chance to approach the work of a crucial artist in contemporary art history, and will enrapture anyone with interests in contemporary art history, Korean culture, the dialectic between East and West, and Feminism.

The exhibition is realised in co-operation with the Berkeley Art Museum, Pacific Film Archive (BAM/PFA), the KCC London and the ICA London.

The exhibition is curated by Bea de Sousa (The Agency Gallery) as part of the KCCUK ‘Curatorial Open Call 2013’.

This exhibition is curated by Bea du Souza, as one of the two exhibitions selected as part of the KCCUK’s inaugural 2013 Open Call for Curatorial Proposals.

Theresa Cha, born 1951 in Busan, Korea went into exile to the US with her parents aged 12 and went on to study Fine Art at Berkeley University with an intermittent study trip to France for eight months. She was highly influenced by French Film theory but also formatively experienced the student movements against the Vietnam War first hand in the West Coast intellectual scene. These influences are apparent in her multi-disciplinary work. The second prevalent aspect in her practice is the Korean collective trauma of invasions by China and Japan, which resulted in the exodus of many Koreans particularly to the US.

Ruth Barker is a performance artist who works with literary text and incantation as well as designed costumes. She recently performed at the Camden Arts Centre.

Sujin Lee was born in Korea and lives and works in New York. Her performance and video practice is directly concerned with the research in to the Theresa Cha archive.

Jefford Horrigan is a performance artist. He has performed a./o at Tate Live, SLG and international venues.

Bada Song was born in Seoul Korea before coming to the UK 10 years ago. Her work departs from performance and is multidisciplinary. She was the 2nd prizewinner of the Jerwood Drawing Prize 2012.

Thanks to: Stephanie Cannizzo, Berkeley Art Museum BAM/PFA, the KCC UK and Sacha Priewe, The Korea Foundation Gallery, British Museum for the support of Bada Song’s work and Juliette Desgorgues, ICA London.

Image: ‘Aveugle Voix’, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, 1975
Silver gelatin print, 6.75 x 9.5 inches. Courtesy Theresa Cha foundation, Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive.

(automatically generated) Read LKL’s review of this event here.

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