What a city sounds like if you can’t hear it: Christine Sun Kim’s sonic experiments


Performance artist Christine Sun Kim admits she enjoys the sounds of her own muffled scream, planes taking off, and anything rhythmic at 180 bpm. Deaf from birth, she first turned to sound as a medium during a residency in Berlin in 2008 and since then, has developed a practice of lo-fi experimentation that aims to re-appropriate sound by translating it into movement and vision, according to Nowness

There are social norms surrounding sound and language acquisition--she points out they're so deeply ingrained that, in a sense, our identities cannot be complete without them. Growing up, she considered sound to be the possession of others (not to mention her own parents were learning English and sign language). Through her current work, she is able to reclaim that elusive space.

Collecting and playing with field recordings of her Chinatown neighborhood in New York, she creates “seismic calligraphy” drawings from “ink- and powder-drenched quills, nails, and cogs dancing across paper to vibrations of subwoofers beneath.” Sometimes she adds delay pedals, transducers, performers, and videos to the mix. 

Director Todd Selby captures one of her original performances in the short film, above, and designer Arrow Kleeman composes the ambient score to pair with Kim's feedback, one of her favorite sensations. When asked what sound is to her in a Facebook interview, Kim responds: “Ghost and currency,” and what her art achieves: “My voice.”

  1. Sunny Hill

    I’m inspired to see this performance artist. She’s created a whole new medium.


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