At what point does noise become sound? And what is the relationship between spoken language and our aural environments? Christine Sun Kim, a Berlin-based artist whose first language is American Sign Language (ASL), has developed a unique visual language, employing drawing, painting, and performance, as well as elements from various information systems, to examine these questions. By combining aspects of graphic and musical notation, body language, and ASL, she uses these systems as a means to expand what each is able to communicate and to invent a new grammar and structure for her compositions.
Kim’s art has been featured in solo shows at White Space Beijing, London’s Carroll/Fletcher gallery, and De Appel, Amsterdam, and in group shows including the Berlin and Shanghai Biennials and Sound Live Tokyo and at SFMOMA, the Rubin Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, MoMA, and MoMA PS1, among others. Her exhibition Finish Forever is on view at LA’s Ghebaly Gallery through January 19, 2019. On May 18, 2019, she’ll perform in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden’s Cowles Pavilion as part of Resonance: A Sound Art Marathon.
LEE BUL’S HEAVEN AND EARTH AT MARTIN-GROPIUS-BAU
The installation is a replica of a public bath filled with black ink—the amount that would cover all the words written and images painted about the mountain by generations of Southern Koreans not being able to visit—and surrounded by white shapes representing Baekdu Mountain. It’s located right on the border between China and North Korea. Since South Koreans cannot access it, the mountain remains a kind of myth inside their heads. My grandparents were North Korean refugees long before the DMZ was implemented and I often wonder about their relationship with the history.
CRUCIFIED TVS–NOT A PRAYER IN HEAVEN BY YOUNG-HAE CHANG HEAVY INDUSTRIES
Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries is a Seoul-based art group consisting of Young-hae Chang and Marc Voge. I did not see this in person but I saw my friend’s instagram story of their Crucified TVs – Not a Prayer in Heaven piece at the 9th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art in Brisbane, and it blew my mind.
W. E. B. DU BOIS’S DATA VISUALIZATIONS
Princeton Architecture Press recently published Data Portraits: Visualizing Black America, a book on W. E. B. Du Bois’s graphics and maps that were shown at the 1900 Paris Exposition. Among the examples are: “Negro Children Enrolled in the Public Schools,” “Value of Land Owned by Georgia Negroes,” “Illiteracy of the American Negroes Compared With That of Other Nations,” and “Negro business men in the United States.” I’m not a huge fan of visualization data, but its aesthetics are on point and its politics are timely.
SMITHSONIAN ASIAN PACIFIC AMERICAN
Smithsonian Asian Pacific American deserves so much recognition, especially its curator Adriel Luis. They’re basically museum-less yet have continuously been organizing and hosting huge projects, essentially providing platforms for Asian American artists all over the country.
FOR FREEDOMS’S 50-STATE INITIATIVE
For Freedoms was founded by artists Hank Willis Thomas and Eric Gottesman. This huge project installed artists’ billboards in every single US state before the midterm elections. I sure hope you voted and don’t forget to vote again in two years.
TIFFANY STAINED-GLASS WINDOWS
I did a residency at Flagler College’s Crisp-Ellert Art Museum and fell in love with the college’s dining hall filled with 79 Tiffany stained-glass windows. It turns out that the college has the largest collection of Louis Comfort Tiffany windows in the world!
GYOPO is a new group of diasporic Korean artists, curators, and writers in Los Angeles. Basically, a bunch of badass people doing their thing. So badass that I’m considering moving there just to be part of it. Put this on your radar, pronto.
CRAZY RICH ASIANS
We’ve come a long, long way. Remember The Joy Luck Club in 1993? All-American Girl with Margaret Cho in 1994? Now we got Kim’s Convenience and Fresh Off the Boat. We have Searching with dreamy John Cho. We got Ugly Delicious by David Chang and our Olympic star Chloe Kim. George Takei, Lucy Liu, Constance Wu, Sandra Oh, Steven Yeun, Lana Condor, Élodie Yung, Ken Jeong, and many more. When I was young, I couldn’t name more than two and now I have a whole list of names. It’s all about representation and we’ve still got more work to do.
Speaking of representation, Iet me also list a bunch of Deaf people in media who make me swoon these days: model/actor Nyle DiMarco, actor Lauren Ridloff, model/artist Chella Man, activist/academic Melissa Malzkuhn, actor Russell Harvard, and actor CJ Jones.
Since I’ve become a mother, I’ve been thinking so much about American Sign Language and its rhymes and rhythms for babies. There is a huge industry of Baby Signs but there is only a handful of Deaf owners. There’s one that I really love and it’s called Hands Land by Leala Holcomb and Jonathan McMillian, both Deaf. You can download the first season on Amazon and watch with your baby.