I want to start first with light. It’s through the flickering Zoom screen I first met a group of queer feminist Asian American writers creating space together. It is March 2021. An interface cannot hold back presence.
I want to remember light. We would read Audre Lorde. We would read Theresa Hak Kyung Cha. We would read Adrienne Rich. We would read Gloria Anzaldúa. We would discuss, write, share, create, smiles that permeate through the screen, worldbuilding.
Gloria once wrote, “The world knows us by our faces, the most naked, the most vulnerable, exposed, and significant topography of the body.”
Some artists cannot afford to believe that aesthetics are not inextricably tied to politics. In my final post of the series, I continue summarizing the significance of artists who, in giving expression to their visions of truth and meaning, ultimately resist normative discourses by refracting status quo representations of the world.
II. Refraction as Resistance: A Poetics of Non-linear
Deviating, shifting, indirect, crooked paths, “constant state of motion, dispersion, and permeability.”
I began with an accumulation, a sense of something, and this question: What is the significance of ‘refractive poetics’ for artists who identify with the margins or address alternative modes of seeing?
This week, I consider the video art projects of Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, who is well-known in the literary community for her hybrid book Dictee but less famous for her other body of work. Born in Korea in 1952, Cha emigrated to the U.S. when she was nine years old, so it is not surprising that much of her art centers on issues of language, voice, identity, and the unsettling or loss of these. She spent her adult life invoking, like prayer, physical representations of silence and disruption; the breadth of her art—spanning written texts, film, slide projections, and performance art—is filled with empty spaces, broken language, and images and terms of silence.
I am going to discuss three examples of Conceptual writing. My purpose in doing so is merely to define one of a larger set of questions. Defining questions is going to be more productive than pretending to have answers. I don’t want to even seem to be making an argument about these examples; that would truly be shortchanging the artists’ efforts. The brevity of this essay requires that I forego the summation and close reading, the kind of exposition we use to support a fully fledged thesis.