Graduation Year

2021

Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Department

American Studies

Reader 1

Warren Liu

Reader 2

Wendy Cheng

Reader 3

Todd Honma

Abstract

Critics of Theresa Hak Kyung Cha (1951-1982) have widely hailed her poetry book DICTEE for its idiosyncratic exploration of form, arguing how its narrative disruptions constitute an interrogation of dominant modes of knowledge production which are inherently steeped in oppressive ideologies. However, Asian American Studies has largely ignored how her visual and intermedia pieces execute a similar interrogation in perhaps even more radical ways. This thesis intervenes in Cha scholarship by centering her visual art which has been historically ignored. Cha’s visual art is extremely abstract and difficult; this thesis will demonstrate how its seeming illegibility constitutes a decolonizing aesthetic in its centering of the audience, rejection of linear temporality and narrative, and resistance to mastery. This thesis ultimately takes up the question of what constitutes “political” artistic engagement and demonstrates how Cha’s work encourages an alternative mode of engagement that is distinctly political- characterized by slowness, individuality, and circularity.

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