Julietta Cheung is a Chicago-based artist, writer, and educator. Her practice is informed by her background in graphic design and her experience as a second language user. Through a text-based and language-inspired approach, Cheung’s body of work examines collective attitudes and common assumptions. While mass culture and everyday life are some of design’s central disciplinary concerns, she takes a different position to engage these cultural and sociological issues. Instead of seeking to design new norms or to frame public perception, Cheung’s body of work unmakes and remakes familiar forms and narratives to question their collective fabulations.

Using writing appropriated from the news media and popular online social platforms, Cheung creates typographic works in both print and spatial configurations. These material experiments with the visual forms of words also mirror her approach to working with the language-like characteristics of things. For example, engaging with the typologies of common utilitarian objects, such as hardware components, object prototypes, and furniture, Cheung frames their functional attributes through the lens of language: in the way that words can be chained together to say or do something (if you know the rules), her sculptural work reconfigures the familiar language of things to iterate and generate unexpected possibilities.

If, according to Robert Smithson, language is “matter” and can be seen as “heap(s)”, then language as Cheung sees it becomes ideas through their material accumulation and dissemination. As she examines the use and production of her sources within the public sphere, Cheung’s work proposes that the viewer/reader has an active role in constructing and remaking meaning. Her works are reading scenarios that prompt the viewer to shift their focal points, move their bodies, and activate their short-term memory. Through these embodied acts of reading, the viewer reassembles the source material in her work. All the while, they toggle back and forth between meaning and abstraction—word and object—in their individual reading experience. Cheung’s work invites the audience to question how ideas and attitudes become naturalized, and how the public reads and writes its own self-constitution.