Artist: Christine Sun Kim
Venue: MIT List Visual Arts Center, Cambridge
Exhibition Title: Christine Sun Kim: Off the Charts
Date: February 7 – July 19, 2020
Organized By: Henriette Huldisch
Full gallery of images, press release and link available after the jump.
Images courtesy of the artist; François Ghebaly, Los Angeles; White Space Beijing, Beijing; MIT List Visual Arts Center, Cambridge. Photos by Peter Harris.
The MIT List Visual Arts Center is pleased to present Christine Sun Kim: Off the Charts, on view from February 7—July 19, 2020. Working in sound, performance, drawing, installation, and video, the California-born, Berlin-based artist considers the sonic as a multi-sensory phenomenon, whose properties are auditory, visual, and spatial, as well as socially determined. Much of her work is invested in uncovering the politics of voice, listening, and language; troubling conceptions of sound as being inextricably tethered to hearing and the implicit authority of spoken over signed language.
Kim conceives of sound as both a series of conceptual relationships and a form of social currency. Drawing has become a key mode through which she parses these dynamics. Economic, deadpan compositions, her drawings are usually executed in black charcoal. They borrow variously from the structure of musical notation, dynamics, and data visualizations, often representing the spatial and formal qualities of American Sign Language (ASL), her first language. Many of Kim’s drawings, including The Sound of Obsessing (2017) reconfigured as a large-scale mural in the adjacent MIT Media Lab atrium, adopt the symbols P and F. In sheet music, these respectively indicate the relational musical dynamics of piano, or soft playing and forte, or loud playing—to convey Kim’s diagrammatic interpretations of affective states and emotions in sound.
A recent group of charcoal drawings transpose scalar representations of volume with graphic representations of the artist’s frustration. Loosely based on sociologist W.E.B. Du Bois’s Data Portraits—a series of infographics made in 1900 with statistical data demonstrating the un-equitable position of African American populations across the US—Kim’s hand-drawn graphs chart degrees of what she calls “Deaf Rage” vis-à-vis scenarios privileging the needs of hearing individuals. At the List Center, the artist presents a group of twelve recent and new drawings, including a related series that breaks down the various factors involved in a number of personal decisions (“Why I Do Not Read Lips,” “Why I Work with Sign Language Interpreters”) by relative importance in pie chart form. Simultaneously funny and profound, the works pivot on the absurdity of capturing complex choices and their cultural, social, and historical underpinnings in diagrammatic shorthand.
The List Center exhibition also includes Kim’s audio installation One Week of Lullabies for Roux (2018). For this seven-channel sound work, the artist commissioned a group of friends to create alternative lullabies for her daughter, Roux. Adhering to a set of governing principles including instructions to focus on low frequencies and omit speech or lyrics, these compositions serve to vary what Kim has termed the “sound diet” for her child, raised trilingually in ASL, German Sign Language (DGS), and German, and to place equal weight on all three in a culture that tends to ascribe lesser relevance to signed communication.
Christine Sun Kim (b. 1980, California; lives and works in Berlin) has exhibited and performed internationally, including at the Whitney Museum, New York (2018); Art Institute of Chicago (2018); San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (2017); De Appel Arts Center, Amsterdam (2017); Rubin Museum of Art, New York (2017); Berlin Biennale (2016); Shanghai Biennale (2016); SoundLive Tokyo (2015, 2013); MoMA PS1, New York (2015) and the Museum of Modern Art, New York (2013), among others. She received her MA Master of Fine Arts in Music/Sound from Bard College and holds degrees from the Rochester Institute of Technology and the School of Visual Arts, New York. Kim is the recipient of a MIT Media Lab Fellowship, a TED Senior Fellowship, and has presented at numerous conferences and symposia.