Christine Sun Kim defies expectations as a deaf, Korean-American sound artist. Her work seeks to spotlight the overlooked issues of the deaf/hard-of-hearing community. Only 5% of the world’s population is deaf, and it becomes easy for the general population to ignore the struggles of those who are deaf. Through her experimentation with sound, Kim redefines what it means to be deaf in a world made for the hearing. Through her work, Kim calls attention to the struggles that many deaf and hard of hearing people experience throughout their lifetime. Kim’s work not only captures the challenges that the deaf community faces but the emotions many feel in an ableist-based world. Regardless of efforts such as the Americans with Disabilities Act, most people remain uneducated about the struggles that those with a disability encounter every day.
Christine Sun Kim has been deaf since birth (Carroll Fletcher: Christine Sun Kim). Born in Orange County, California, her artistic journey has led her to Berlin in search of inspiration for her work. Kim’s artwork centers around capturing her frustrations as a deaf, Korean-American woman. Her intersectional identity is a major influence in her work, as someone who faces oppression for her gender, disability and being a minority. One of Kim’s most famous exhibitions, “The World is Sound,” was featured at the Rubin Museum back in 2017. In this exhibition, Kim expressed the experience of sound as a deaf person, translating sound into both sight and touch. Her exhibition attempted to explain the universality of sound and emotion.
One underrated piece featured in her “The World is Sound” exhibition captures the ignorance that many hearing people have about the deaf community. Titled “Listen,” this piece reveals the shortcomings of hearing people in making an effort to understand those who are deaf/hard of hearing. People are so eager to speak that they become not entirely present in listening to the person they are speaking with. This habit creates a major difficulty for deaf listeners and often contributes to frustration around communications. To simulate this struggle, the piece challenges the viewer, by moving around the words “sound,” “space,” and “map.” Kim forces her audience to engage and pay sincere attention to read the words on the screen.
Kim’s journey has also enabled her to raise awareness by using American Sign Language to sign the national anthem at the Super Bowl LIV on February 2nd, 2020. Kim was chosen by the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) and the National Football League (NFL) to sign the national anthem alongside pop star Demi Lovato. Through her advocacy efforts, Kim is a leader in representing the deaf community.
However, being deaf is not Kim’s entire identity, her work breathes life into her advocacy. Kim is a mother, a wife, and an artist, and imbues her work with every aspect of her experiences, and exemplifies the importance of representation within communities. In creating art, Christine Sun Kim creates a platform to educate people about the deaf/hard of hearing community.