Christine Sun Kim: Off the Charts

7 cushions ranging from reds to blues to purple with 7 headphones sit atop a white bench surrounded by 6 pie-chart drawings.

Installation view, Christine Sun Kim: Off the Charts, MIT List Visual Arts Center, 2020. Photo: Peter Harris Studio.

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Christine Sun Kim
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California-born, Berlin-based artist Christine Sun Kim (b. 1980) works in sound, performance, drawing, installation, and video. She considers the sonic as a multi-sensory phenomenon, one 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 throughout conceptions of sound as being inextricably tethered to hearing and the implicit authority of spoken over signed language.

Economic, deadpan compositions, Kim’s drawings are usually executed in black charcoal. They represent scores that translate linguistic utterances, everyday and musical sounds into lines and notes. In one body of work, she attempts to represent the spatial qualities of American Sign Language (ASL), Kim’s first language, an endeavor that is, like systems of musical notation, inherently limited. In the List Center exhibition, the artist presents a series of new drawings breaking 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 also pivot on the absurdity of capturing complex choices and their cultural, social, and historical underpinnings in diagrammatic shorthand.

For the recent audio installation one week of lullabies for roux (2018), Kim commissioned a group of friends to create alternative lullabies for her daughter, Roux. Adhering to a set of rules including directives to omit lyrics and speech and focus on low frequencies, 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: Off the Charts is organized by Henriette Huldisch, Chief Curator & Director of Curatorial Affairs, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (former Director of Exhibitions & Curator, MIT List Visual Arts Center).


Exhibitions at the List Center are made possible with the support of Fotene & Tom Coté, Audrey & James Foster, Idee German Schoenheimer, Joyce Linde, and Cynthia & John Reed.

General operating support is provided by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; the Council for the Arts at MIT; Philip S. Khoury, Associate Provost at MIT; the MIT School of Architecture + Planning; the Mass Cultural Council; and many generous individual donors. In-kind media sponsorship provided by 90.9 WBUR. The Advisory Committee Members of the List Visual Arts Center are gratefully acknowledged.