Joy Is Time’s Material: A Mix by Sunik Kim

About the commission

Wendy’s Subway is pleased to present Joy Is Time’s Material, an artist commission by writer and musician Sunik Kim for The Quick and the Dead, which has focused on the life and work of Korean American artist Theresa Hak Kyung Cha (1951–1982).

Part-eulogy, part-celebration of Theresa Hak Kyung Cha and her legacy, Kim fuses together audio samples from artists such as Kim Jung Mi, Sun Ra, DJ Screw, and João Gilberto. The sound mix accompanies a written text, with language sourced from Karl Marx, W.E.B. Du Bois, Michael Snow, Jean-Louis Baudry, Ulrike Meinhof, Peter Weiss, Clarice Lispector and Cha herself to create a landscape of historical revolutions, unfinished pasts, grief and ecstasy in a formation that loops continuously, not quite linear or circular in movement. The text is composed of various publications as an intervention and contextualization for Kim’s mix. Citations may be accessed by hovering over the text. The piece is approximately one and a half hours long. Kim suggests one listens to the mix “as loudly as possible, while reading the text.”

Joy Is Time’s Material

This Photo-Essay is a documentation, a recording of events that have occurred in the past.

The pieces photographed are actually existing places of these events, except for the friend’s souvenir, which exists in an imaginary space that I have tried to locate physically, to identify and name in the represented image.

I am excited by working with this concept, (to grossly simplify) of having the presence of the actual events and the actual places in the image, with the exception of the subject.Cha, Theresa Hak Kyung. Outline and statement of proposal for Untitled, an artist book. Date unknown. Cha Collection. 1992.4.321. Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive/UC Berkeley.

For more context: I started to consider how a landscape film could be made that would be truly “film” but would equal the effects of the great landscape paintings. I gradually envisaged a film of an exterior “scene” that would be represented by spherical or arc panoramas at various speeds. The curved camera motion relates to the motion of the earth, the moon and the planets. Snow, Michael.Excerpt from a proposal by Michael Snow to the Canadian Film Development Corporation in March 1969. In: Michael Snow, The Michael Snow Project. The Collected Writings of Michael Snow (Waterloo, Ontario: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1994), 53.

To seize movement is to become movement, to follow a trajectory is to become trajectory, to choose a direction is to have the possibility of choosing one, to determine a meaning is to give oneself a meaning. In this way the eye-subject becomes absorbed in a vaster function, proportional to the movement which it can perform. And if the eye which moves is no longer fettered by a body, by the laws of matter and time, if there are no more assignable limits to its displacement—conditions fulfilled by the possibilities of shooting and of film—the world will not only be constituted by this eye but for it.Baudry, Jean-Louis. “Effets idéologiques de l’appareil cinématographique de base.” Cinéthique, no. 7-8 (1970), 1-8.

Since having been forced to learn foreign languages more “consciously” at a later age, there has existed a different perception and orientation towards language. Certain areas that continue to hold interest for me are: grammatical structures of a language, syntax. How words and meaning are constructed in the language system itself, by function or usage, and how transformation is brought about through manipulation, processes such as changing the syntax, isolation, removing from context, repetition, and reduction to minimal units.Cha, Theresa Hak Kyung. Artist’s Statement / Summary of Work. Date unknown. Cha Collection. 1992.4.261. Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive/UC Berkeley.

For instance:

CALLOUS WEST BITTER HEARTS
LAUGH
CELEBRATE PAIN
SUN CONTEMPTUOUS

SOMEWHERE NAMELESS
IN THICK WALLS
CHANTING AROUND AND AROUND
STRANGE FOREIGN TONGUE

RETREATED,
ROWING DIGGING
RESISTING SPACE NEVER FULL OR LOST
STARING ONE ASKS,
WAS IT A NICE DREAM?

CHANGING FACE
MIRRORS YELLOWCha, Theresa Hak Kyung. Earth. 1976. Cha Collection. 1992.4.12/138. Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive/UC Berkeley.

Or: 

Feeling your head explode (feeling your brain-box on the point of bursting to bits).

Feeling your spinal cord ride up to your brain through force of being compressed.

Feeling your brain a dried fruit.

Feeling oneself endlessly unconsciously and as electrically controlled.

Feeling them steal your idea-associations.

Feeling your soul piss from your body, as if no longer able to hold water.

You wake up, open your eyes. In the afternoon, when there is sun, it stops suddenly. But it still moves, you can't extricate yourself from that sensation.

Impossible to know if you're trembling from cold or fever.

Impossible to explain to yourself why you're trembling, why you're freezing. To speak audibly, you must make an effort, must almost howl, as if speaking very loudly.

Feeling yourself becoming numb.

Impossible to recall the meaning of words, except very vaguely.

The whistlings -s, ss, tz, sch-, intolerable tortures.

Sick in the head.

Flashes.

No longer mastering the construction of sentences, grammar, syntax.

If you write—at the end of two lines, impossible to recall the start of the first.

Feeling you are consumed within.

Feeling that, if you were freed, to tell what it’s about would be exactly like throwing boiling water in the mouth of others, scalding them, disfiguring them for life. A mad aggressivity without outlet. 

That's the worst.

Being persuaded that you don't have the least chance of dragging yourself out of it: impossible to make that understood.

The feeling that time and space are encapsulated within each other.

The feeling of being in a room of distorting mirrors. 

Staggering.

Afterwards, terrifying euphoria that you’re hearing something—besides the acoustic difference between day and night.

The feeling that time is flowing away, your brain is expanding again, your spinal column slipping back. 

The feeling you’ve been flayed.Meinhof, Ulrike. Letter from a Prisoner in the Corridor of Death. Translated by Paul Buck, from a French version which is itself a translation from the German, from Bal:le:d Curtains, 1978.

And so on. 

Put another way: I’m trying to seize the fourth dimension of this instant-now so fleeting that it’s already gone because it’s already become a new instant-now that’s also already gone. Every thing has an instant which it is. I want to grab hold of the is of the thing. These instants passing through the air I breathe: in fireworks they explode silently in space. I want to possess the atoms of time. And to capture the present, forbidden by its very nature: the present slips away and the instant too, I am this very second forever in the now. Only the act of love—the limpid star-like abstraction of feeling—captures the unknown moment, the instant hard as crystal and vibrating in the air and life is this untellable instant, larger than the event itself: during love the impersonal jewel of the moment shines in the air, the strange glory of the body, matter made feeling in the trembling of the instants—and the feeling is both immaterial and so objective that it seems to happen outside your body, sparkling on high, joy, joy is time’s material and the essence of the instant. And in the instant is the is of the instant. I want to seize my is. And like a bird I sing hallelujah into the air. And my song belongs to no one. No passion suffered in pain and love is not followed by a hallelujah.Lispector, Clarice. Água Viva. Translated by Stefan Tobler, New Directions, 2012. 16-17, 104.

We enter a covenant with these elements, with the intention not of imposition upon these materials, not so much to transform and shape them according to our will, but during the unfolding of this past, these elements will be the ones to transform our soul. We will work on them, with them, without any distinction. From lead into gold, from one state to another, energy source transferred to another, undergoing a continuous process, constant change, Re volution…Cha, Theresa Hak Kyung. Paths, MFA Thesis. 1978. Cha Collection. 1992.4.165. Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive/UC Berkeley.

It will then become plain that the world has long since dreamed of something of which it needs only to become conscious for it to possess it in reality. It will then become plain that our task is not to draw a sharp mental line between past and future, but to complete the thought of the past. What is needed above all is a confession, and nothing more than that. To obtain forgiveness for its sins, mankind needs only to declare them for what they are. Marx, Karl. Letter from Marx to Arnold Ruge, 1844.

But I’m not going to die, you hear, God? I don’t have the courage, you hear? Don’t kill me, you hear? Because it’s a disgrace to be born in order to die without knowing when or where. I’m going to stay very happy, you hear? As a reply, as an insult. I guarantee one thing: we are not guilty. And I have to understand while I’m alive, you hear? Because afterwards it will be too late. Ah this flash of instants never ends. My chant of the it never ends? I’ll finish it deliberately by a voluntary act. But it will keep going in constant improvisation, always and always creating the present that is future.Lispector, Clarice. Água Viva. Translated by Stefan Tobler, New Directions, 2012. 16-17, 104.

And why should we be afraid of our perishing, since we are not stunned by our nonbeing prior to being born?Weiss, Peter. The Aesthetics of Resistance, Volume I. Translated by Joachim Neugroschel, Duke University Press, 2005.I have loved my work; I have loved people and my play, but always I have been uplifted by the thought that what I have done well will live long and justify my life; that what I have done ill or never finished can now be handed on to others for endless days to be finished while I rest; and that Peace will be my applause.Du Bois, W.E.B. The Last Message To The World, 1957.

To continue. I have been working as a Visual Artist and Writer since 1972. My career has developed simultaneously with the education I have received, first in Korea, and the United States, and later in Paris, France.  

I completed my degrees with honors at the University of California Berkeley, in Comparative Literature and Art during which I spent one year studying Film Semiology and History at the Centre d'Etudes Americaine du Cinema.  

My art work and writing, including poetry have been exhibited continuously from 1974. The prizes I have been awarded are: the Eisner Prize for Film and Video, Stuart McKenna Memorial Award for the Photographic Medium, Film/Video Competition at the University of Nevada. 

In 1979, I received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts ($3,000) and the Chancellor's Post Doctoral Fellowship ($15,000) from the University of California, Berkeley, to write and direct a film on Korea. I was awarded in 1981 in conjunction with Tanam Press, N.Y., to publish Dictee, by the National Endowment for the Arts, and a grant from the Beard's Fund in 1982, N.Y. 

I have edited an anthology of writings by Film Theoreticians and Filmmakers called Apparatus which is being used as text books at University of California, Berkeley, Brown University, Harvard, Yale, and other campuses. My work was also published in Hotel, a collection of writings by Visual Artists. Dictee is my latest published work, and the publisher is Tanam Press, New York. 

I am presently teaching Video Art at the Elizabeth Seton College in New York. I am also a guest lecturer at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design.Cha, Theresa Hak Kyung. Narrative Account of Career - II. Date unknown. Cha Collection. 1992.4.407. Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive/UC Berkeley.

Neither you nor I are visible to each other. I can only assume that you can hear me; I can only hope that you hear me. Cha, Theresa Hak Kyung. Audience Distant Relative. 1977. Cha Collection. 1992.4.36/63/64/65/551/552/558/559. Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive/UC Berkeley.

About the artist

Sunik Kim is a musician, writer and filmmaker currently based in Los Angeles. Their last album, Zero Chime, was released in 2019 on First Terrace Records and featured Kim playing alto sax alongside a multitude of traditional Korean instruments; their first film, The bent bow must wait to be released, was hosted by Cafe OTO in 2021. They are also a regular contributor to experimental music publication Tone Glow, and have had writing featured in Pitchfork, Bandcamp Daily, Soap Ear, Bellona Magazine and elsewhere. Their next album, Raid on the White Tiger Regiment, will be released via Notice Recordings in fall 2022.
 

Tracklist

A.R. Kane “Hello”
Damon & Naomi “E.T.A.”
Kang Tae Hwan “Kang Solo I”
Kim Jung Mi “추억”
Ryu Hankil “⑥_catalysis_4”
The Roches “Quitting Time”
Judee Sill “The Donor”
Miles Davis “Peace”
João Gilberto “É Preciso Perdoar”
Henry Cow “Would You Prefer Us To Lie?”
Butch Morris “Othello A”
Anthony Davis “Section 2 (Sustained Tones)”
Cecil Taylor/Tony Oxley “Second Movement”
Kim Min Gi “바람과 나”
John Coltrane “A Love Supreme, Pt. 4 - Psalm (Live in Seattle)”
Cosmos “untitled”
News From Babel “Dark Matter”
Les Rallizes Dénudés “Strung Out Deeper Than The Night”
Henning Christiansen “​​Peter der Große · 1. Umwälzung”
Tracy Chapman “Baby Can I Hold You Tonight”
M3g “Evocation III”
Cosmic Rays “Bye Bye”
KaS Product “Loony-Bin”
Olli Arni “Mato syö lehteä”
Galaxie 500 “Listen, The Snow Is Falling (Live in Copenhagen)”
Sun Ra “Nuclear War”
Albert Ayler “Ghosts”
Sun Ra “Springtime Again”
DJ Screw/UGK “One Day You’re Here”
The Velvet Underground “I’m Set Free (Legendaly Guitar Amp Tapes)”
Manipulated excerpt from Theresa Hak Kyung Cha’s Dictee: A Marathon Reading, presented by USC Visions and Voices: The Arts and Humanities Initiative and organized by GYOPO, Annette M. Kim (Public Policy), Holly Willis (Cinematic Arts), and Yong Soon Min (Professor Emeritus, UC Irvine)
DJ Screw/2Pac “It Ain’t Easy”
Todd Edwards “Historic 1st UK Show, Romford 2003”
Funky Technicians “Airtight”
Future Bound “Sorrow”
Source Direct “Snake Style 2”
[Ahmed] “Nights on Saturn (Communication)”
Jana Rush “Suicidal Ideation (Aural Hallucinations Mix)”
Ultracynic “Nothing Is Forever (Original Mix)”
Kim Doo Soo “Romantic Horizon"

Listen and download the mix here.

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