Dive Deeper into Christine Sun Kim: Off the Charts
Shit Hearing People Say To Me, 2019
Inspired by the striking modernist infographics illustrating twentieth-century sociologist W.E.B. Du Bois’s study, Data Portraits: Visualizing Black America, Christine’s series of pie chart drawings break down the factors involved in a number of the personal decisions she makes as a Deaf person (like Why I Do Not Read Lips, and When I Pretend to Be Hearing) by relative importance. Shit Hearing People Say to Me stands apart from the eight other drawings in the series presented at the List Center. Rather than illustrating her choices, with unequal weights given to each factor in her decision, in this drawing the chart’s slices are divvied up evenly, each section representing a biased or inappropriate comment the artist has received from hearing people.
From signing the national anthem at the 2020 super bowl (later writing a scorching Op-Ed about the experience in the New York Times) to her series of “Deaf Rage” drawings (presented in the 2019 Whitney Biennial) that pointed out ableism in the art world, and recently leveraging her Instagram to urge followers to #stayinside and stop the spread of COVID-19, Christine’s activism on behalf of the Deaf community, and beyond, is a source of inspiration and strength in these challenging times.
The Sound of Obsessing, 2020
Located adjacent to the List Center in the atrium of the Media Lab, Christine’s large-scale mural The Sound of Obsessing, is an enlargement of her drawing of the same name. Part of a series that employs musical dynamic notations, this work conveys Christine’s diagrammatic interpretation of affective states or emotions in sound, proposing, as the title suggests, how the sensation of obsession might be translated into musical notation. In sheet music, the symbols P and F indicate the relational musical dynamics of piano, or soft playing and forte, or loud playing. Here, her spatial treatment of the narrowing distance between each “P,” indicates a quickening of pace, a thought that starts off slowly, and then increases in frequency until, nearly stacked on top of one another, the quiet idea consumes the page, and, by association, the thinker.
Christine, who was also a recent director’s fellow at MIT’s Media Lab, found the concept of obsessing a fitting subject for members of the MIT community, many of whom can relate to the feeling of total immersion in their research and ideas. In the strangeness of the present moment, obsessing about the uncertainty of what lies ahead can be all too easy. Instead, I’m trying to focus my energies on creative projects, and using solitude as an occasion to deepen my research.