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 Theresa Hak Kyung Cha  (1951 - 1982)

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Lived/Active: California      Known for: mixed media-conceptual, performance

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Theresa Hak Kyung Cha
An example of work by Theresa Hak Kyung Cha
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
Biography from University of California Berkeley Art Museum:
Theresa Hak Kyung Cha (1951 - 1982), a UC Berkeley alumna, was an influential yet under-represented Korean American artist who worked in media ranging from performance, film and video, to mail art and artist books. Cha's work is an ongoing exploration of themes drawn from her personal experiences as a geographic exile, and of cultural and linguistic displacement. Her work is complex, incorporating diverse cultural references in several languages including Korean, French, and English.A native of Korea, Cha moved with her family to San Francisco in 1963 and received four degrees from UC Berkeley: BA (1973) in comparative literature; BA (1975), MA (1977), and MFA (1978) in Art Practice. During the last two years of her short life, she lived in New York where she created her final work, the now widely acclaimed book Dictée. A thoroughly original conception that represents a remarkable accomplishment for a young artist, Dictée combines family history, autobiography, stories of female martyrdom, poetry, and images. It touches on each of the major themes that occur in Cha's work: language, memory, displacement, and alienation. Originally published by Tanam Press and translated into Korean and Japanese, it has been newly reissued by University of California Press. Now over twenty years old, Dictée is still studied in university courses including Comparative Literature, Women's Studies, and Ethnic Studies. Fascinated by classic cinema (much of which she saw at the Pacific Film Archive where she worked as a student usher), Cha made several films of her own. Film also influenced her other works, as in the flicker of the mirrored candle reflections in A Ble Wail. Filmic sequencing is also suggested in the patterns of images, words, and blank pages in her books, almost all of which are in black and white. At the end of her life Cha was also working on an piece for a show at Artist's Space in New York that involved hands portrayed in paintings throughout art history, and also planning to turn White Dust From Mongolia, originally conceived as a film, into a book. On November 5, 1982, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha was murdered by a security guard in the Puck Building on Lafayette Street in lower Manhattan. She had gone there to meet her husband, the photographer Richard Barnes, who was documenting the renovation of the building.Cha's work has been featured in two previous solo-exhibitions: in 1990 as part of the UC Berkeley Art Museum Pacific Film Archive's MATRIX Program for Contemporary Art, and in 1993 in the Film and Video Department of the Whitney Museum of American Art. Following its debut in Berkeley, the exhibition The Dream of the Audience will travel to the University Art Gallery and Beall Center for Art and Technology at the University of California, Irvine (January 15 - March 3, 2002); Bronx Museum of the Arts, New York (April 4 ˆ June 16, 2002); Krannert Art Museum and Kinkead Pavilion, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (August 30 ˆ November 3, 2002); the Henry Art Gallery at the University of Washington, Seattle (December 6, 2002 ˆ March 2, 2003); and SSamzie Space in Seoul, Korea (May 6 ˆ June 29, 2003).The Theresa Hak Kyung Cha Collection Guide can be viewed on the BAM/PFA website at

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