HISTORY IN/AGAINST THE FRAGMENT
Ralph Ellison Invisible Man leaves us in shattered history.How does one go on to record fragmented history? To take up this question I turn to a récit written by the avant-garde artist Theresa Hak Kyung Cha; her autobiography's antidocumentary desires make it one of the most peculiar and powerful meditations on the questions of recording history, trauma, and the politics of memory.
I will begin with some brief biographical information because readers may not be familiar with Cha or her work and because biography presents a vexing issue not only for the critical reception of her work, but also for Cha as an artist.Artist, writer, and filmmaker, Cha crossed as many geographic borders as generic ones.Born in 1951 in Pusan at the tip of South Korea, where her family was on the run from Seoul, seeking refugee from the advancing armies of North Korea and China in the tumultuous years of the Korean War (1950-1953), Cha's early years consisted of a series of flights and dislocations. 1 Cha and her family finally immigrated to the United States in 1961, where Cha went on to study film at the University of California at Berkeley and then at the Centre d'Etudes Americaine du Cinema in Paris with Christian Metz, Theirry Kuntzel, and Jean-Louis Baudry. Cha worked in New York City in the late seventies and early eighties.She produced videos, films, performance pieces, works on paper, poetry, prose, and art objects such as handmade "books" whose haunting repetition of words literally bruised their pages. 2 In 1982 Tanam Press published Cha only full-length prose text, Dictée, and shortly after that, Cha died at the age of thirty-one.Known mostly in its avant-garde film and theater forms, her art