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Database | Narrative | Archive

Seven interactive essays on digital nonlinear storytelling
edited by Matt Soar & Monika Gagnon

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Betwixt (Intermedia)

Much of the existing scholarship and critical engagement with the small but rich body of Cha’s literary, artistic and media-based work has tended toward a separation and categorization of her oeuvre according to the disciplinary boundaries of literature, conceptual art and film/video. This has obscured the fundamental intermediality and overlaps between languages, visuality and temporality at the heart of her practice and that also constitutes a conceptual foundation for her works. While I was familiar with Cha’s book, Dictée, what led me to the Berkeley Art Museum in 2008 were the archives and document traces of Cha’s unfinished 16mm film, White Dust from Mongolia. Cha’s archives dramatically reveal the multidisciplinary, intermedial dimensions of her work, as well as her highlighting of the materiality of  various media she chose to craft with. Whether she was working with text and language (many of her works are trilingual and play with the signs and phonetics of English, French and Korean), as well as sound and voice, and film or video themselves as languages, at the core of her undertaking was the communicative dimension of poetics and of artistic practice. Joseph Jonghyun Jeon has recently referred to Cha's "mixed media language arts," rather than her poetry, in order to read across the rich media forms Cha worked with. Filmmaker and cultural theorist, Trinh T. Minh-ha refers to Cha’s 'page-screen' to effectively evoke the remarkable integration of language and visuality that proliferate and cohabitate in Cha’s videos and film installations. Yu describes Dictée as a “cinematic novel,” in the way that its writing evokes cinematic scenes. If these languages have become transparent and normalized, Cha foregrounds their materiality and how they naturalize social constructions, relations and subjectivities.

Artist Dick Higgins coined the term “intermedia” in 1965 and characterized it as interested in the spaces between different media, describing poetically,

what that I know does this new work lie between?

The “Art & Architecture Thesaurus” on the Online Archive of California (OAC) Cha Collection website describes “intermedia” in this way:
Use for the concept that certain 20th-century works merge already known art forms to inaugurate a new type. If the resulting art form gains currency and acquires a name, it becomes a new medium and is no longer intermedia. For works that employ several distinct art forms, such as sculpture and music, use “multimedia works.” To indicate that works are composed of a variety of materials, use 'mixed media.'
Why is this intermediality of interest? It highlights the liminal spaces that so interested Cha and gives this in-between-ness a primacy. Exilée uses both a 16mm film projection and video on the same screen-surface, one created by projected light, the other, a radiant screen nestled at its centre. Liminal spaces like the thresholds of posthumous cinema where the living collaborate and communicate with the dead across a cinematic medium.
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