The Dream of the Audience: Theresa Hak Kyung Cha (1951-1982)
This retrospective exhibition showcased the full range of work by pioneering Korean artist Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, best known for her novel “Dictee”. For the first time ever, Cha’s exquisite artworks, executed in a wide range of media – performance art, works in film and video, ceramics, textiles, works on paper, artist’s books, and stamp and mail art – were exhibited together. Cha’s conceptually rich work explores themes born of personal experience, language, memory, displacement, and alienation. “The main body of my work is with language,” Cha wrote, “before it is born on the tip of the tongue.” Like many of her contemporaries in New York and Europe, Cha based her conceptual artwork on linguistic structure; however, she also drew on personal sources. For many Koreans, the issue of language is an emotional one, since under the long Japanese occupation (1909-1945) they were not permitted to speak their native tongue. Cha literally took apart language in her work, creating new meanings from her deconstructions and inventing new words. The presentation of “The Dream of the Audience” at the Henry Art Gallery was Seattle’s first exposure to this influential yet under-represented artist’s full range of production.