Cha, Theresa Hak Kyung

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1951-03-04
Death 1982-11-05
Americans

Biographical notes:

Biography

BIOGRAPHY OF THERESA HAK KYUNG CHA (1951 - 1982)

Theresa Hak Kyung Cha was born on March 4, 1951 in Pusan, South Korea. Her family had fled to this southern port city to escape the advancing North Korean and Chinese armies during the height of the Korean War. The Chas remained in Korea until 1962 when they emigrated to America, settling first in Hawaii and then moving to San Francisco in 1964. The Bay Area remained Cha's home for most of her life.

She attended the Convent of the Sacred Heart, a Catholic school, where she began her studies in the French language. After graduating from high school, Cha enrolled briefly at the University of San Francisco and then transfered to the University of California at Berkeley where she continued her studies for ten years, receiving four degrees: B.A Comparative Literature (1973), B.A. Art (1975), M.A. Art (1977), and M.F.A. Art (1978). Of particular importance to her studies were Professor Bertrand Augst of the French and Comparative Literature Departments with whom she investigated film and French film theory and James Melchert, Professor in the Practice of Art Department with whom she studied performance and conceptual art.

From 1974 to 1977 Cha worked as an usher and cashier at the Pacific Film Archive of the University Art Museum in Berkeley. She had the opportunity to view numerous classic and experimental films and to hear lectures by filmmakers such as Jean-Luc Goddard, Chris Marker, etc. In l976 Cha lived in Europe, studying at the Centre d'Etudes Americaine du Cinema in Paris, staying briefly in Amsterdam, and traveling in France, Belgium, Holland, and Germany. During her brief stay in Europe she came into contact with many curators, artists, and writers including: Christian Metz, Raymond Bellour, Thierry Kuntzel, Monique Wittig, Hreinn Frithfinsson, and Ulisses Carrion.

In 1979 Cha made her first return trip to Korea. She returned again in 1981 to begin shooting the unfinished film, White Dust From Mongolia.

In August of 1980 Cha moved to New York City. She worked as an editor and writer for Tanam Press, producing two important works: Dictee, a book-form collage of poetry, found text, and images; and Apparatus, an anthology of writings on the film apparatus. In 1981 she was appointed Instructor in Video Art at Elizabeth Seton College and also worked in the design department of the Metropolitan Museum. In 1982 Cha was awarded an artist's residence at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. She married Richard Barnes, a close friend since 1975, in May 1982.

On November 5, 1982, Cha was murdered in New York City.

Lawrence Rinder Curator for Twentieth Century Art Berkeley Art Museum, University of California

From the guide to the Cha Collection, 1971-1991, (Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive)

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