Past Exhibition

Tongue of Rain

April 4 – May 5, 2024

Art Hall (B1)

Tongue of Rain

Tongue of Rain is a gray zone exhibition that explores the power of poetic utterances, drawing inspiration from three feminist poets Cecilia Vicuña, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, and Kim Eon Hee. It employs the symbol of rain and tongue to illuminate the profound impact of poetic language, which pierces through the corridors of memory across generations. 

Upon entering the theater, Vicuña’s heartfelt elegy to Cha, Rain Dreamed by Sound: Homage to Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, echoes for about 20 minutes. The Korean-American writer and artist Cha was raped and murdered in New York shortly after publishing her novel DICTEE in 1982. Vicuña felt an unstoppable connection to Cha, akin to the relentless force of rain. In Vicuña’s elegy, rain symbolizes the force that reverberates the enduring nightmares of gender violence and revitalizes the souls of the afflicted. Both Vicuña and Cha, immigrants from Chile and Korea to New York, embrace poetry and performance, forging connections with feminism, shamanism, and maternal traditions. The dialogue between Vicuña and Cha extends across generations, linking Na Mira, Jesse Chun, and Cha Yeonså, delving into the themes of mourning, the enduring spirit of poetry, and the transformative potential of language. 

After Vicuña’s sound piece concludes, Mira’s video installation, TETRAPHOBIA, unfolds on the backstage of the theater space. Inspired by Cha’s unfinished film, White Dust from Mongolia, Mira’s work selectively incorporates elements envisioned by Cha for the film. The goal, however, is not to complete Cha’s unfinished work but to honor the potentiality of what was left unfulfilled. Cha’s incomplete work serves as a conduit for intergenerational communication.

Introduced in Korea for the first time through collaboration with Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, White Dust from Mongolia invites our imaginative contributions, as this film was never completed due to Cha’s sudden death. What we see are fragments of images that Cha captured in Korea in 1980. The intended story revolves around a woman who loses her memory and ability to speak, reflecting the experiences of Cha’s own grandmother and mother who escaped Japanese colonial rule to live in Manchuria. 

Between Vicuña’s sound piece and Mira’s video work lies Chun’s installation Score for Unlanguaging (천지문 and cosmos; no.042723). This drawing installation fragments and abstracts the semantic system of the world’s most dominant language, English, transforming the Roman alphabets into Chun’s own abstraction. In the process of “unlanguaging”, Chun maps other cosmologies of language. The abstract scores will be activated through a collaborative performance that reinterprets Korean folk dance and sound.

Encountering the limitations of language leads to a new perception of the body. The poetic expression of “혀 달린 (literally translated as tongue-tied)”, borrowed from Kim Eon Hee , operates as a trigger to articulate the body/senses embedded in poetic language. The existential doubleness of tongue as a physical organ as well as the portal of language, challenges dichotomous perceptions of the body and language. 

Cha Yeonså’s Festival restores dead bodies without known connections from forensic records. Presented as a collage with bark paper, the artist transcribes the dead bodies using the techniques of paper cuttings. Utilizing bark paper from her deceased father’s mementos, the artist felt like engaging in a form of offering, akin to a memorial ritual. This ritualistic space permeates the exhibition, exploring the potential of art to play a healing role in the face of death and loss.

Tongue of Rain proposes itself as a ritual space for restoring memory, through which the healing power of poetic utterances and the resistance of the tongue comes together. In this space for memory, the bodies/senses of marginalized voices are revitalized much like the unstoppable force of rain. The power of memory manifests vividly through the dialogues woven by Cecilia Vicuña, Cha Hakyung, Na Mira, Jesse Chun, and Cha Yeonså.

Cecilia Vicuña(b. 1948)
Cecilia Vicuña is a Chilean poet and artist based in New York and Santiago. After studying in the UK, she was unable to return to her homeland due to a military coup in Chile. This unexpected incident influenced her emotional response to impermanence, paying respect to the history and culture of Chilean indigenous people, as well as her desire to preserve them through her work. She reflects on major contemporary issues such as ecological destruction, cultural homogenization, and economic disparity, linked to ecofeminism, particularly focusing on the way in which such phenomena disenfranchise the already powerless. She was a recipient of the Golden Lions for Lifetime Achievement of the 59th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia (2022), Premio Velázquez de Artes Plásticas (2019), Spain’s most prominent art award and given out by the Spanish Ministry of Culture to an artist based in the country or from the Ibero-American Community of Nations. Her solo exhibitions were organized by major institutions including Tate Modern, London (2022); Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (2022); Centro de Arte Dos de Mayo, Madrid (2021); CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Art, San Francisco (2020); Kunstinstituut Melly Rotterdam, the Netherlands (2019).

Cha Yeonså(b. 1997) 
Through the recent drawing series Festival, Cha Yeonså cuts and draws unclaimed bodies, bugs, and poetic words, and prepares the places for them to hang. The process of gazing at the ends that never end and the broken periods within them takes care of the body(s) that is numb, nightmare-seized, and open. So far, planning, producing, and developing different works that involve bodies and computers, Cha has presented the online solo exhibition This Unbelievable Sleep, Energywhoisshe Games (2023); the collaborative solo exhibition Every mosquito feels the same, TINC (2022); the live performance Mosquitolarvajuice, Les601 Seonyu (2022) and the game  3 Households, Steam (2022).

Jesse Chun(b. 1984)
Jesse Chun is an artist living and working between New York and Seoul. Chun’s immersive poetics in moving image, drawing, sculpture, and installation address language – evoking alternate semiotics and cosmologies of meaning, time, and the untranslatable. Chun’s forthcoming and recent solo exhibitions include Commonwealth and Council, Los Angeles (2024) and the 12th Seoul Mediacity Biennale (2023). Chun’s work has been presented at Sculpture Center, New York (2022); The Drawing Center, New York (2020); Museum of Contemporary Art Toronto (2021,2020); the Nam June Paik Art Center, Yongin (2020); Whitechapel Gallery, London (2023), among others.

Na Mira(b. 1982)
Na Mira works at the edges of perception. Her video, film, and sculpture allow animism to denaturalize the historically produced apparatus of image making. Drawing on architecture and phenomenology, Mira’s site responsive installations open a dimension beyond representation. Her recent solo exhibitions include Museum of Contemporary Art, Tucson (2023); Paul Soto, Los Angeles (2023); Croy Nielsen, Vienna (2023); Company Gallery, New York (2022); Midway Contemporary Art, Minneapolis (2022). Her work has been featured in group exhibitions including Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2024); Kunsthalle Zurich (2024); the 60th Venice Biennial, Venice (2024); Real DMZ Project, Paju (2023); and Whitney Biennial, New York (2022).

Theresa Hak Kyung Cha(1951-1982)
Theresa Hak Kyung Cha was an American novelist, producer, director and artist of South Korean origin. She created a rich body of conceptual art that explored displacement and loss. Her works included poetry, performance, film, and installation. Her art was informed by far-ranging cultural and symbolic references from various religious perspectives, which was grounded in French psychoanalytic film theory. As an Asian immigrant, her identity deeply permeates her works. Cha’s practice experiments with language through repetition, manipulation, reduction, and isolation, exploring the ways in which language marks one’s identity, in unstable and multiple expressions. Cha’s body of works has profoundly influenced subsequent Asian-American writers, artists and researchers. Her tragic death was belatedly acknowledged in a New York Times obituary, 40 years after, underlining her lasting impact. Her work has been shown at Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2022); the Artists Space, New York (2020); and the Bronx Museum of Art, New York (2003) among other venues. A major retrospective exhibition of her work was organized by University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive in 2001, and traveled to five cities.

April 4 – May 5, 2024
Art Hall (B1)
Cecilia Vicuña, Cha Yeonså, Jesse Chun, Na Mira, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha
Curated by
Je Yun Moon
Assisted by
Seowon Nam
Hosted by
Art Sonje Center
In collaboration with
Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive