City Lights in conjunction with Asian American Writers’ Workshop and University of California Press present
Dreaming of Theresa Hak Kyung Cha: An Appreciation
Moderated by Linda Norton with appearances by Brandon Shimoda, Min Sun Jeon, and Christina Yang
celebrating the publication of two new books from University of California Press
Exilee and Temps Morts:Selected Works
Restoring Theresa Hak Kyung Cha’s original vision and intentions for Dictee, a foundational text of modern Asian American literature.
Dictee is the best-known work of the multidisciplinary Korean American artist Theresa Hak Kyung Cha.
This restored edition, produced in partnership with the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA), reflects Cha’s original vision for the book as an art object in its authentic form, featuring: The original cover and high-quality reproductions of the interior layout
Dictee tells the story of several women: the Korean revolutionary Yu Guan Soon, Joan of Arc, Demeter and Persephone, Cha’s mother Hyung Soon Huo (a Korean born in Manchuria to first-generation Korean exiles), and Cha herself.
This dynamic autobiography: Structures the story in nine parts around the Greek Muses. Deploys a variety of texts, documents, images, and forms of address and inquiry. Links the women’s stories to explore the trauma of dislocation and the fragmentation of memory it causes.
About Exilee and Temps Morts: Selected Works:
In her radical exploration of cultural and personal identity, the writer and artist Theresa Hak Kyung Cha sought “the roots of language before it is born on the tip of the tongue.” Her first book, the highly original postmodern text Dictee, is now an internationally studied work of autobiography. This volume, spanning the period between 1976 and 1982, brings together Cha’s previously uncollected writings and text-based pieces with images. Exilee and Temps Morts are two related poem sequences that explore themes of language, memory, displacement, and alienation—issues that continue to resonate with artists today. Back in print with a new cover, this stunning selection of Cha’s works gives readers a fuller view of a major figure in late twentieth-century art.
Co-published by Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive
Theresa Hak Kyung Cha (1951–1982) was a poet, filmmaker, and artist who earned her BA and MA in comparative literature and her BA and MFA in art from the University of California, Berkeley. During her brief yet brilliant career, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha explored a variety of media, including handmade books, video, film, sculpture, performance, and sound. Her work is distinctive for its somber, unforgettable beauty, its innovative treatment of texts and images, and its ongoing, rigorous exploration of the phenomena of physical, cultural, and linguistic displacement. One element linking much of her work is an abiding concern with film and film theory. Cha’s aesthetic influences are to be found much less among contemporary artists than among the works of filmmakers such as Chris Marker, Yasujiro Ozu, Jean-Luc Goddard, Marguerite Duras, Michael Snow, and above all, Carl Th. Dreyer. She was especially influenced by their innovative treatments of narrative and their concern for problems of memory, communication, and consciousness. Cha was also influenced by her studies of French film theory, particularly the scholarship of Christian Metz, Jean-Louis Baudry, Thierry Kuntzel, and Bertrand Augst. From these theorists, Cha developed an awareness of the artwork as an extended “apparatus,” the meaning of which was inscribed between its psychological origin in the artist, its material and temporal existence, and its destination in the viewer’s consciousness. While Cha developed her response to these ideas particularly in her live performances, they can be seen to have considerably influenced her work in other media as well. Cha, who died tragically in New York City in 1982, received her MFA from the University of California at Berkeley in 1978, and was an employee of the University Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive. (Special thanks to BAMPFA for the use of this biography)
Linda Norton is a visual artist and writer. Her book The Public Gardens: Poems and History (Pressed Wafer, 2011) was a finalist for a Los Angeles Times Book Prize. A sequel, Wite Out: Love and Work (A Memoir with Poems), was published by Hanging Loose Press in spring 2020. Norton has had a long career in book publishing, archives, libraries, and oral history. At the University of California Press, in the New York office, she was publicist for books by Oliver Sacks, William Finnegan, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Robert Creeley, and many other authors. In Berkeley as an acquisitions editor, she founded the New California Poetry series with Calvin Bedient, Robert Hass, and Brenda Hillman, and published books by Rebecca Solnit, Lyn Hejinian, Alan Lomax and Jelly Roll Morton, Wallace Stevens, Lorine Niedecker, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Ruth Wilson Gilmore, Janet McDonald, Carlo Rotella, Fanny Howe, Yunte Huang, Harryette Mullen, Donald Allen, and many other authors in a variety of fields. She is a writing consultant with the LEAD Project and the labor union Unite Here, and an instructor at SFSU. She lives in Oakland.
Brandon Shimoda is the author of six books of poetry, most recently The Desert (Song Cave, 2018) and Evening Oracle (Letter Machine Editions, 2016), which received the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America. His memoir and book of mourning, The Grave on the Wall (City Lights, 2019) received the 2020 PEN Open Book Award. His writings on Japanese-American incarceration have appeared in/on The Asian American Literary Review, Densho, Hyperallergic, The Margins, and The New Inquiry, and he has given talks on the subject at the University of Arizona, Columbia University, Fairhaven College, and the International Center of Photography. He is also the co-editor, with Thom Donovan, of To look at the sea is to become what one is: An Etel Adnan Reader (Nightboat Books, 2014). Born in the San Fernando Valley, California, he lives, for now, in Tucson, AZ
Min Sun Jeon is a curator currently based in New York. She curated the exhibition “Theresa Hak Kyung Cha: audience distant relative” at the CCS Bard’s Hessel Museum. She is serving as a curatorial assistant at the Whitney Museum of American Art.
Christina Yang is a curator, scholar, administrator, and educator. She she served as Deputy Director of Engagement and Curator of Educationat the Williams College Museum of Art (WCMA), following a fourteen-year tenure at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City. She has previously held positions at The Kitchen and the Queens Museum. She is currently leads the art curatorial department at lead the art curatorial department at BAMPFA.
The Asian American Writers’ Workshop (AAWW) is a national literary nonprofit dedicated to publishing and incubating work by Asian and Asian diasporic writers, poets, and artists. Since their founding in 1991, they have provided a countercultural literary arts space at the intersection of migration, race, and social justice. Find out more at aaww.org.
This event is made possible by support from the City Lights Foundation. Visit this link to learn more: https://citylights.com/foundation/