A little soirée in a tiny art studio on Saturday December 1 2007

Winters Love by Animal Collective

From an aerial viewpoint, the area northwest of the Han River is covered with a collection of luminous lights snaking in erratic directions. These lights are born every evening from neon exclamations – No re bang! No re bang! – to flashing Hof signs, occupied motel rooms, twirling barbershop poles and high-rise residential buildings. A particularly prismatic glow was bared from a small corner room on the fourth floor of a catholic and modest building in Hongdae. Fueled by creative charismatics, it refused to diminish until shortly after two thirty a.m. And by that time, grown men below were learning to walk as they stumbled (and mumbled) over themselves with sympathetic friends holding them steady, and women in high heeled boots or androgynous jeans grabbed sticks of odeng in orange vendor tents.

Regardless of what ensued outside, peering into the the fourth floor art studio assuaged a motley collective relieving themselves on the heated floor with potluck dishes, including hot Korean-style shabu-shabu and half empty bottles of wine and beer bottles. Watching them from above were paintings and writings hung or written on the ceiling by the party’s hosts. Finished and recessed canvases leaned against the walls, and music occupied quiet moments in conversations. Sitting next to you can be a writer, photographer, student, graffiti artist, while everywhere else around breathed harmonious respit that simultaneously indulged in the demiurgic; the ring of the bells that hung from the ceiling called attention to acts of various artistic mediums created by the evening’s guests. We arranged ourselves, chopsticks, bowls, and alcoholic beverages to accommodate a brief screening, a video recording of the studio’s occupants doing a light-hearted, on-call performance to a song, a guitar act, and at two am, shadow theater.

Hongdae in September

Moments where language barrier prevented me from conversing with those sitting around me (and I dared not call attention as the sole foreigner in the room by using the second language) allowed a quiet appreciation of how three of my friends who were with me that evening, comfortably settled into the crowd. The genuine respect and appreciation by everyone for each other and for the acts were unbelievable.

By two am, the crowd had become smaller, more beer and soju have been brought in, shabu-shabu was still being cooked, and a white sheet of paper unraveled itself from the ceiling for shadow puppetry. Even after the performance, guests were still living through the evening, relieving each other’s cups with soju, beer or whatever wine that is left over, which left one friend quite inebriated. It was then that the four of us have decided to continue what has now become morning by sticking with each other and staying in my place. After I had countlessly thanked the hosts for the wonderful event, the four of us reintegrated ourselves into the early-morning streets scrabbled by clubbers, party-hoppers and stumblers to find a taxi to my neighborhood.

When accompanying a social evening with alcohol, particularly soju and wine, one will immediately fall victim to slumber and to the creative devices of his or her friends. After finally landing in Factory Land via lost taxi, one of us fell unconscious after drinking his last bottle of soju purchased at FamilyMart downstairs. The two of us held a ritual for the unconscious victim, and wished his inebriated spirit wealth and happiness, while I recorded the event:

Shortly thereafter, the rest of us fell asleep and slowly peeled back up at two pm that day. Three of us occupied the time with ramen, coffee, music and 1.5 movies, while the unconscious fell in and out of sleep in three various places of the room until seven pm. There was no need to step outside into Factory Land’s chaos, since we were able to get our fill by watching out from within: screaming teenage girls chasing after a van, loudspeakers blaring music and political or religious messages from traffic below, the occassional movement of a chair next door.

I am feeling better with my fever from a weekend accompanied by good people, and I could not have asked for better comfort on the first weekend of December in Seoul.


2 thoughts on “A little soirée in a tiny art studio on Saturday December 1 2007

  1. did you know any korean when you came here? because I have yet to be able to converse effectively in any way shape or form…and i thought i was doing pretty well with my learning

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