[The Neighborhood Artists] Bokdukbang (Real Estate Agency) In the Green Village

Suwon_MyWay Studio (Bukang Lee, Taehwa Song, Soochul Kim, Jihyun Park, Jeongeun Lim)

Several families Under one roof, Their wintering

<Three Families under One Roof>, which was the very popular TV drama from mid-80’s to mid-90’s, deals with stories about different three families living together in a house. All the family members have different characteristics and jobs and ways of living, and the difference sometimes caused a conflict. But what connects them is the mind of ‘We are family under one roof’. They share both good time and bad time just like a family, but they have something thicker than blood.

Now it has been 20 years since the drama was over, and it becomes unusual that let alone several families under one roof, even a family lives together under one roof. A single-person household living alone is increasing for many reasons, and even people living together in the same space do not easily think of themselves as a ‘family’. It became more difficult to get along with somebody who is different from myself, and understand and respect a way of life of others than ever. In the circumstance where even keeping ‘my’ ground is too much, remembering ‘others’ does not seem to be easy.

But look back for once. Has humankind existed completely alone? Except for the indispensible situation, could a man have lived like a human being alone? Even though we do not learn ‘Humans are social animals’ from a textbook, we were born to face various kinds of society. And the society is no more than others, and we live a life having a relationship with the society, that is others. To the contrary, it can be said that forming a relationship with others creates (social) self. If we do not see others to keep ourselves, we can end up not seeing ourselves.

In Seodun-dong Gwonseon-gu Suwon-si where the previous site of the Agricultural College of Seoul National University is left behind, there is the artists’ studio ‘MyWay’ which is shared with non-artists under one roof. When we glimpse the name of the studio, it seems that they would do all the things ‘as they want’ and ‘as the way they want’, but after we look all around the studio, we can realize that they have ‘a will’ to consider not only ‘me’ but also ‘you’ who makes ‘me’ ‘myself’. In ‘MyWay Studio’, artists including Bukang Lee, Taehwa Song, Soochul Kim, Jihyun Park and Jeongeun Lim work in different ways with different materials, but they seem to work in harmony. In addition to the studio, many industrial laboratories are sharing the space of the building that used to be a wig factory, and they also live with artists of ‘MyWay Studio’ as family members.

When Bukang Lee and Taehwa found this place for the first time, they did not think that they could build the studio there due to abandoned goods and the water leak. But the artists who thought the structure and environment of the building are not bad to work started to clean up the ruined place. In a broad space, assumed it was a work place of the wig factory, they built fake walls to secure working spaces of each artist, and the desolation gradually died away. Another artists who dropped by the studio expressed their intention to join, and finally the ‘MyWay Studio’ is as it is now, where several artists work together.

“When I visited this place, I actually felt scared. It was pretty creepy…But now I am satisfied more than ever. I think the quiet atmosphere to focus on working is not common.”

Artist Jihyun Park to join in ‘MyWay Studio’ upon the invitation of other artists said that she was not satisfied from the beginning. However, this is not the space where she works alone, and now it has a special meaning for her, giving a comfort only with the fact that she can see other artists by a single step.

“I like the crack of dawn best. I feel happy if I work at the time when darkness and light coexist in silence.”

Artist Bukang Lee who likes to greet the dawn in the studio best talked about various attractiveness of the ‘MyWay Studio’ as an original member who recognized the value of the ruined wig factory. And he was carrying out how to coexist carefully listening to needs of other artists and neighbors (industrial laboratories).

Everybody says ‘MyWay Studio’ is ideal in terms of being able to talk about working or artworks of each other. Candid comments sometimes hurt the artists, but they do not ignore them because the commenters know and watch the working process better than anyone. I was sure that this family under one roof would overcome even the freezing cold from their saying that they are happy just because they know ‘somebody is working with me’ most of the time and they just are there.

On Octer 24th opened the door of ‘MyWay Studio’ where several families under one roof got through winter several times. Remembering there was ‘the Green Zone (Hochun Seo)’ which was famous for farming of strawberries and grape around the studio and hoping ‘MyWay Studio’ will act as a base for autochthonic arts in Suwon area like the Green Zone, they named their open studio ‘Real Estate Agency in the Green Zone’ as a subtitle. Nice invitation cards are prepared thanks to special typography created by artist Bukang Lee and well-matched with ‘Real Estate Agency in the Green Zone’, the open studio was crowded with much larger number of visitors than the number of invitation cards.

The open studio started from 2 o’clock and the first program was the slide show on images of ‘MyWay Studio’ from the early years to the present. On a large wall of the unused space in the building are projected historical images on former wig factory, the process of the studio’s settling down and how artists normally work. A kind explanation of Bukang Lee who had found this place for the first time helped visitors understand the history of ‘MyWay Studio’.

Following the slide show, visitors looked around workrooms of five artists in ‘MyWay Studio’. Starting from Jungeun Lim’s room and stopping by rooms of Jihyun Park, Taehwa Song, Soochul Kim and Bukang Lee one by one, there were conversations between artists and visitors. It is a rare opportunity for visitors of all ages and jobs from students to company workers to drop by the studios of artists who they hardly encountered at ordinary times. Looking around the studio, visitors gave their impression of their having a different perspective on artists’ work which they find in the limited space such as a gallery or an art museum.

After the studio tour, ‘Artists’ Talk’ between five artists and visitors continued in the courtyard of ‘MyWay Studio’. Questions were asked such as the identity as an artist, how to be inspired, habits or jinx. There were some moments when artists were embarrassed at the unexpected questions, but the artists’ sharp-witted answers seemed to close the distance between visitors and them.  

At the end of the open studio, visitors had an experience to plant various winter plants to build a garden on the rooftop. It was an ‘all hands on deck’ hoping that ‘MyWay Studio’, which pursues self-perpetuating artists , takes some comfort from plants which have a tenacious hold on life. I wish touches of visitors could remain at the garden and the warmth be passed down to five artists. And I sincerely hope the touches give the artist’s power of going through another winter.

Written by Bora Kang (Independent Planner/Media Culture Researcher)