Performance artist, filmmaker, and poet, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha was born in Pusan, Korea, on March 4, 1951. Her parents and their five children (Cha was the third child) immigrated to Hawaii in 1962 and then to San Francisco in 1968, where she attended high school at the Convent of the Sacred Heart. After a year at the University of San Francisco, Cha transferred to the University of California at Berkeley from which she received a B.A. in comparative literature in 1973, a B.A. in art in 1975, an M.A. in art in 1977, and an M.F.A. in 1978. During this time, she created a number of performance pieces drawing on Korean dance and themes of language, silence, and memory with such titles as “Barren Cave Mute” (1974), “A Ble Wall” (1975), “Aveugle Voix” (1975), “Vampyr” (1976), “Reveille Dans la Brûme” (1977), “Other Things Seen, Other Things Heard” (1978), and “Recalling Telling Re Calling” (1978); she also published a mail art piece, “Audience Distant Relatives” (1978). In 1976, Cha studied in France at the Centre d’Études Américaine du Cinéma à Paris. Her first video, Passages Paysages, was shown at the University Art Museum in Berkeley in 1976. From this point, Cha began to concentrate on making videos and films and on writing.
Cha was naturalized as a United States citizen in 1977 and moved to New York in August of 1980. She edited an anthology of structuralist film theory, Apparatus/Cinematographic Apparatus: Selected Writings, that was published by Tanam Press in 1980. Two texts, “Exilées” and “Temps Morts,” were also published in that year in an anthology, Hotel. Cha’s films, whose themes of loss and displacement are apparent in their titles (Re Dis Appearing, 1980; Exilée, 1980; Permutations, 1982) were shown at museums in San Francisco, New York, and Europe. In 1981 Cha went to Korea (she had previously traveled there and also to Japan in 1978) to begin work on a film project, White Dust from Mongolia; this project was later abandoned. In May 1982, she married the photographer Richard Barnes. Cha’s book Dictee—the work through