arp forum

artist project for Art Forum
February 2020
Seven 42x42cm drawings, charcoal on paper
Introduction by Malik Gaines

CHRISTINE SUN KIM’S DRAWINGS act out a form of sociology, dressing up the artist’s point of view as a data set. Departing from the seriousness with which Pierre Bourdieu charted the “field of cultural production,” and from the art-world statistical analyses of Hans Haacke representing cultural dynamics as rational forms, Kim’s illustrations and diagrams play on Conceptualism and institutional critique, but replace presumed factuality with justified sarcasm. Resisting the signs of a scientific mode, Kim’s hand is always present, in loose marks of charcoal and oil pastel, casual script, and evident self-corrections. The hand is also present, obviously, in Kim’s depictions of American Sign Language. In a few of her ASL works—charmingly reminiscent of some of Martin Wong’s paintings—Kim emphasizes the idea of “interpretation” that art proposes. Other charts, such as the pair that make reference to Jean Arp’s sculpture Three Disagreeable Objects on a Face, 1930, offer more surreal translations into visual form of the affect of a deaf artist who engages regularly with hearing people. A list featuring “neutral” things that depend on sound, such as earplugs, GarageBand, and headphone jacks, appears as a series of awkward blemishes.

Kim also works in performance, sound, and installation, and these unpretentious drawings crystallize her attitude toward the institutions she must negotiate to support her art. The images which reflect her training in experimental sound can resemble musical scores, though in these works, similar to those that appeared in the 2019 Whitney Biennial, what she ends up composing is a suite of feelings, ranging from disappointment (VERY EYE ROLL) to outright anger. In so much of our shared space, including environments in the cultural sphere, hearing is taken for granted. Kim’s images point out the obviousness of what is very often overlooked by hearing people. But some efforts by institutions to broaden access across the audial spectrum can resemble corporate human-resources exercises, much like the racial-diversity initiatives that might attempt to smooth out barriers to entry but all too often reinforce them. Kim’s arrangements reveal the injustices, but also a lot of the ridiculousness, that enable, well, ableism. In these informative charts, Kim affirms that feelings are facts.  —Malik Gaines


Photos by Stefan Korte