Cha’s delicate, complexly structured and minimalist performances have been little studied in comparison to her other work. Even the brand new Exilee/Temps Morts, a “Selected Works,” edited and introduced by the curator Constance M. Lewallen, which is packed with unpublished work new to general audiences, manages to sidestep these texts. Lewallen explains that, “[i]n general I have not included texts from performances,” nor texts from installations “in which they were not the primary element,” apparently because such texts are incomplete, or at any rate lack context without the visual and/or performative elements they were written to accompany. Isn’t that funny, that is exactly why the two pieces here seemed so perfect to us for the present volume, since looked at in the context of a poet-run theater, the very contingency and provisionality—the incompleteness, if you will—of these texts called out and spoke the words, “poets theater,” in a stage whisper.
Cha’s writing is predicated on opposites so tightly yoked that to disturb them just a little provokes an enormous mental fracas, and it is a device she especially liked to use in her performance work. Light and dark. Open and shut. Through this forest of dichotomies wander a lonely band of the in between—the vampire, caught between life and death; the mist, halfway between air and rain. Like the “white sheet” of Joe Brainard’s stage dream, Cha has a complicated relationship with what she calls the “screenspilledwhite.” Like every other displaced person, she “moves in and out of the image screen,” finally to stand still, as though motion were itself a trap to avoid. In one piece she carries a lit candle, in the other a lit match circles her body, her hand craning like a windmill. These plays are like self-guiding systems calibrated to pin down one’s location as closely as possible.
[Kevin Killian & David Brazil, culled from The Kenning Anthology of Poets Theater: 1945-1985, forthcoming, late January 2010. (c) Kevin Killian, David Brazil and Patrick Durgin for Kenning Editions. Pre-orders by subscription only: using a credit card, or via direct mailorder. See also OAC’s online archive of From Vampyr and Reveille dans la brume, as well as the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive’s current exhibition of Cha’s Earth.]