Islands / I Lands
—Cinemas in Exile
  • The Sorceress of Dirah
  • Meta Ekologi
  • Foreign Sky
  • each film . . . an island?
  • Accentuation
  • The Place Where I Live—and touch me
  • Reflection
  • Amami Film: In Memory of Miho-san
  • dolce . . .
  • Puppet Shaman Star
  • Promised Paradise
  • Order
  • Life on Distant Islands
  • The Struggle Against Endemic Diseases
  • At the End of the Arc: Yaeyama Islands

  • Theresa Hak Kyung Cha
  • Maria Rosalie Zerrudo
  • Theresa Hak Kyung Cha

    Born in 1951 in Pusan, Korea. Uprooted during the Korean War, her family immigrated to Hawaii in 1963 and moved to San Francisco in 1964. She studied French literature and philosophy, comparative literature, and film theory at the University of California–Berkeley. In 1974, she started to produce performance art, installations, films, and videos. She studied in France in 1976, and obtained US citizenship in 1977. Cha made trips back to Korea in 1979 and 1980, and started to shoot the film White Dust from Mongolia. She moved to New York in 1980, where she edited and published the film theory book Apparatus—Cinematographic Apparatus: Selected Writings. Her book Dictée was published posthumously, after she was murdered in New York in 1982.

    Secret Spill

    USA / 1974 / English / B&W / Video / 30 min
    Source: Electronic Arts Intermix

    If a secret is, by definition, what spills despite its holder’s wish to conceal it, how does it instantiate its own spillage? The work posits an installation as a site of secrets, from which something spills as vision, sound, and touch. It is a transitional work that marks Cha’s gradual shift from performance art to cinematic expression.

    Mouth to Mouth

    USA / 1975 / no dialogue / B&W / Video / 8 min
    Source: Electronic Arts Intermix

    A constitutive nexus of presence and disappearance. While a mouth enunciates the eight Korean vowels, we paradoxically hear these vowels in their silences, see them in their farewells to the phenomenal world. Cinema, for Cha, might have been a physical plane where encounter intersects departure and seeing crosses with the memory of sight.


    USA / 1976 / no dialogue / B&W / Video / 10 min
    Source: Electronic Arts Intermix

    Variations of six shots that frame the face of Cha’s younger sister, Bernadette. The film instantiates time not through chronological development but in cuts between singular yet reproduced images. The sudden insertion of Cha’s own face may connote the intersection between the autobiographical artist and the act of lovingly filming one’s sister, who remains fundamentally an other.


    USA / 1976 / no dialogue / B&W / Video / 3 min
    Source: Electronic Arts Intermix

    If the term video derives from the Latin etymon meaning “I see,” Vidéoème occurs at the intersection of video and poetry (poème), vision and language. This video-poem contains no visual images at all and, hence, is emptied out (vidé) from within. Poème comes into view as an inheritor of this blindness. In it, one sense is prosthesis for another, and the viewer draws a tenuous link between the senses, art, and the body.

    Re Dis Appearing

    USA / 1977 / English, French / B&W / Video / 3 min
    Source: Electronic Arts Intermix

    An image of a bowl of tea that induces sleep in those who drink it and, by extension, view this work. A viewer gains momentary access to the unconscious, where fragments of memory appear, just as images of solitary ships on the ocean appear and “re-disappear.”

    Passages Paysages

    USA / 1978 / English, Korean, French / B&W / Three-channel video installation / 10 min
    Source: University of California-Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive

    Like windows framing landscapes and mouths spilling language, the three frames that comprise this work make connections among themselves and with the audience. The phrase, “Do not turn on the light, not yet” that is uttered in multiple languages expresses a stance of waiting for the arrival of new images and photographs, and the work itself waits in anticipation, stringing together the whereabouts of hope.


    USA / 1980 / English / B&W / 16mm, Video / 50 min
    Source: University of California-Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive

    At a point midway between the Korean Peninsula and the US, the artist collects forms of light and shadow, and images that closely resemble a film screen. If “some place” corresponds to “someplace,” an image, by nature, is an abandoned letter, a bird that travels to future audiences, a hyphen that connects one place to another. The film is a gift of images and words that live on in exile. Screening on a custom-made screen.