What You Missed with Christine Sun Kim

Last week RMCAD kicked off its decennial anniversary of the VASD World Building Program with global sound artist Christine Sun Kim. Kim explores ways of transmuting sound and silence. In her artist talk, Title Zero (a Deaf English loanword for “no title”), artist Christine Sun Kim shared multiple projects that visualized and contextualized how sound operates in her life and in the lives of her both Deaf and hearing collaborators.

She detailed challenges that the Deaf community faces, even now in 2020, and how her world and mindset as an artist changed as the Internet began to emerge. As an American artist living in Germany, her experience was that there is less protection for those with disabilities. This has caused Deaf experiences all around the world to be extremely varied, as the U.S. leads the pack when it comes to ADA regulations and laws. 

With the emergence of these regulations came accommodations for those who were Deaf, such as closed captioning in the ’90s for movies and commercials. Then came the Internet and along with it, more iconic ideas and opportunities. Kim dove into closed captioning, its imperfections, the relationship between the captionist, and the captions themselves. She pointed out that for the captionist, (the person writing the caption) we were subject to their version of how they wanted to convey sound with written text. 

Her work is about her relationship with sound, sound as language, and sound as the norm. Kim uses symbols in her work, much like written music. She uses “F” for forte, meaning louder, and fortissimo, playing even louder. P’s are for piano, meaning the “note” should be quieter and softer. These works explored a bounty of questions. “Does sound itself have to be a sound?” “Could it be a feeling, emotion, or an object?” “Could time become sound?”

Kim has a voice, her interpreter interprets the notes based on them, she produces her notes, her interpreter plays the notes based on how they feel would be best for portraying the message. Kim continued to display pieces titled “The Sound of Temperature Rising,” and “Future Series,” all of which use notes to denote time, space, and sound. 

Christine opened up with us about the many challenges she faced, including raising her daughter as a Deaf mother, establishing a strong personal identity, identifying as a Disabled person of color, and how her concept of a sound diet has aided with all of these struggles and resulted in some incredibly well thought out artwork. The sound diet helped find a balance between sign language, and other adaptive auditory aids. She posed the question, “Why not give your child the most that you can and let them have all the tools they need that helps them choose the path that best suits them.” Her work does the same and creates space for what she hopes to be, “all of the Deaf community, including Disabled Black lives,” (Kim.) We are especially grateful to have hosted her to kick off the 10 year anniversary of the Visiting Artist, Scholar, and Designer program at RMCAD.

To learn more about Christine Sun Kim, her VASD talk at RMCAD, and to follow her social channels, visit these links:
https://www.rmcad.edu/vasd-lecture/christine-sun-kim/
https://www.rmcad.edu/meet-christine-sun-kim/
Website – http://christinesunkim.com/
Instagram – @chrisunkim
Twitter – @chrisunkim