Artists and entertainers: Where do they work?

Here’s something a little different. Cine 21 has an eleven-part profile of the workspaces of various entertainers, artists, and creative-arts professionals, which caught my eye because I am obsessed with workspaces.

Well, maybe not obsessed, but very, very, very interested. I constantly fiddle with mine, think of ways to rearrange it, and dream of theoretical future workspaces in theoretical spacious homes with large areas dedicated solely to shelving units and wide tabletops and books and storage solutions. Lots of glorious storage solutions.

Show me someone’s designer wardrobe or tricked-out fancy crib, and I’m like, “Eh.” Show me someone’s well-designed workspace, and I am filled with a combination of admiration and horrible, gripping envy: OMG WANT. (It’s for that reason that I have to restrict my time on Apartment Therapy, for instance.)


Jang Kiha and the Faces – “달이 차오른다, 가자” (The Moon is Waxing, Let’s Go). Folk-indie singer-songwriter Jang Kiha is one of the artists featured below, and this is one of his hits, which he performs with his hilariously oddball backup dancers, the Mimi Sisters. [ Download ]

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Revealing the spaces that revitalize the minds of 11 artists

For Cine 21‘s 14th anniversary, we visited the spaces of 11 artists and creative professionals. We asked them the same question, “Where do you work?” and received unique responses from each person. You can discard the supposition that they are all spaces created primarily for the purpose of working. These artists receive sudden inspirations in unexpected places. Let’s knock on the secret doors of these spaces that spur the minds of these artists as they work.


1. Actress Go Ah-sung’s walk from school

Go Ah-sung is a 16-year-old actress from films Radio Days [라듸오 데이즈], Happy Life [즐거운 인생], and The Host [괴믈], as well as drama series Sad Sonata [슬픈연가].

“See you tomorrow.” Watching her friend retreating, she turns. School lessons are over now. This is her time alone, during which she can cast off the day’s tensions that cling like dust. She heads to a place that sounds with car alarms and train whistles. That place is an overpass by a five-way intersection. There is a bus that goes from the train station to the Yongsan Police Station near her house, but she says, “I like to think as I walk, so I choose not to take the bus transfer.”

Is it because this is the only place that lets her have time alone? She thinks of things ranging from the minor, like how yesterday she laughingly took photos with her friends at school among the cherry blossoms, as well as deciding what role to take next after finishing shoots for Tourist [여행자]. All of Go Ah-sung‘s thoughts come to her here. They mostly go off in tangents, but she says, “If I look down at the train coming from far away, somehow my mind eases and my thoughts come into order.” At those times, she takes out her camera, perhaps because she wants to remember that feeling. She says that she has many photos of such trains posted by her desk. Not long ago, Go Ah-sung watched the Leos Carax film Lovers on the Bridge (Les Amants du Pont-Neuf) in an art cinema, and on her way home, scenes of the film kept coming back to her. “Denis Lavant was so handsome.” These thoughts will provide much help, unintentionally, to her in the future.


2. Film director Im Kwon-taek’s room

Im Kwon-taek is the award-winning director of numerous art-house films including The General’s Son [장군의 아들], Seopyonje [서편제], Festival [축제], ChunHyang [춘향뎐], Beyond the Years [천년학], Mandala [만다라], Chihwaseon [취화선] (best director winner at Cannes).

Film director Im Kwon-taek lives in this room. Books are read and films watched here; he also consults with staff here when working on a film and receives visits every year on the day following New Year’s from younger director colleagues. It was also the place where now-deceased writer Lee Chang-joon, who lived in an apartment nearby, once struggled with a screenplay. “We drank together. I can’t drink like I used to, but Mr. Lee drank often, and passed away sooner. We also took a couple of walks around the neighborhood together.”

Art director Joo Byung-do found a door in Jeju Island and refashioned it into table, thinking it suited Im and his wife Chae Ryung, and also made a chair for them in the antique style. However, when he exits this room, he becomes that woman’s husband, and father to two sons. He steeps tea leaves with his own hands for his family, and sometimes prepares them simple foods, and watches the cooking program that his wife enjoys with her. He is even often rebuked by his wife for smoking. However, it’s when he isn’t working that the director Im Kwon-taek and the husband-father Im Kwon-taek reside together in this house. In the fall when he shoots his 101st film, the director Im Kwon-taek will be the only one traveling throughout the country.


3. Singer Jang Kiha’s music studio

Jang Kiha is a newish, folkish musician who exploded onto the scene late last year; I previously profiled him here.

Jang Kiha‘s music starts and finishes in his room. Of course, he also gets ideas from his everyday life, from conversations at the tables of the next-door café, or music that he hears on the streets. But it’s his room where he takes those fragments of ideas and fashions them into whole songs. “It’s not because the room has any special trait,” he says. “It’s that it’s bothersome to have too many people around.”

His music studio is a room without unnecessary outside stimulation. When writing lyrics or melodies, he sits in front of his computer to record whatever ideas first come to him. His style is to play his guitar or try on various other instruments that might be suitable. There are also times when things don’t figure themselves out. When that happens, “I take a break. If something isn’t happening, it won’t happen by forcing it out. I play on the computer, I watch movies, I just leave it alone.” The songs he wrote first in this manner, “Cheap Coffee” [싸구려 커피] and “Living Without Incident” [별일없이 산다], then are sent to producer Na Jam-soo‘s room, where he practices with the band members. Because it’s one room, it can get noisy. Na Jam-soo says, “We’ve had complaints from neighbors.” Jang Kiha adds from beside him, “That’s why we brought in electric drums. This is how we recorded part of the songs for the first album.” In really is an authentic home craft. “People have the preconception that ‘home recorded’ music is flawed. In reality, there’s not much difference.”


4. Manhwa-ka (comic writer/illustrator) Jung Woo-yeol’s workspace

Jung Woo-yeol is the creator of popular manhwa Old Dog [올드독].

This is the Yongin work studio for the writer of Old Dog, which recalls the garret of Anne of Green Gables. He works and lives in his two-story villa. It’s full of various items here and there, making one unsure where to look first. There are faded monthlies of Renaissance and Daenggi, lots of interesting toys lining the bookshelves, rare props that make one wonder how he got them, and pictures of the fox terriers “Sori” and “Putko,” which were the models for Old Dog (they usually reside here, but this day they’d been briefly sent out). The collection accumulated over time, impossible to acquire overnight. “I’ve lived here for five years already. Many writers have their studios in Hongdae, but I find Hongdae crowded.”

This is on the boundary of Bundang and Yongin. He’s grown attached to this quiet place, which is next to the district culture center and has a swimming pool. He does all his work here, stepping outside only when he needs to. Like Old Dog, he starts with his complaints: “It looks good but… because it’s right under the roof, in the summer it gets really hot and I have to always keep the air conditioning on. And in the fall, the draft comes in pretty strongly.” But for now, he has no plans to leave this place. Not too long ago, his Maltese mix Bom-bi [“spring rain”] passed away after 18 years. It’s like he created the sly Old Dog’s personality from watching as the dog grew older and became more fussy; here in this space, he lives with two dogs who further supplement Old Dog’s personality.


5. Cultural arts critic Jin Joong-kwon’s “PC room”

Jin Joong-kwon doesn’t “pretend to write.” When other people who write for a living put down their notebooks and sip their espresso, as though fascinated with their own appearances, Jin Joong-kwon uses that time to write. He’s intent on it wherever he is, whenever. Even while he’s in transit, if a thought comes to him, he gets out of the car and writes. When he waits for the bus, he writes. Thus the workroom he finds most comfortable are the PC rooms within a 2km radius. Here he writes, reads the news, and prepares lectures. He reads the negative comments that follow his articles. He uses PC rooms because he can smoke, drink coffee, use high-performance computers, and above all, “I can immerse myself because I don’t have to think about other things.” In other words, in the moment that one person might be in the crucial moment about to be shot by his enemy’s gun, or another might be on the verge of wasting away his fortune with a card flip, and still another might begin to type in a hateful comment to his article, Jin Joong-kwon is writing.

I asked him to place his hands on the keyboard and “act like he’s writing.” He logged on to a homepage, and opened the message board. He wrote a title. “Google, Web 2.0, and Lee Myung-bak,” he began to type. “The government’s attempt to form a Google real-name requirement police is a statement of giving up. It’s shameful on an international level.” I was a bit shocked to see him writing for real. Was that something he’d intended to write anyway? “No. You told me to write just a moment ago, didn’t you? [Laughs]” After our brief meeting, as I leave the PC room, Jin Joong-kwon is still writing.


6. Designer Choi Beom-seok’s home

“I don’t even have drinking water here.” This is Choi Beom-seok‘s Hannamdong house, where he just returned after an overseas business trip. His explanation that he never cooks here sums up this place’s function. The living room is spacious, the Han River is visible from the 18th-floor terrace, and the huge kitchen is fully stocked, but rather than the feeling of luxury, one’s eyes are drawn first to the disorderly things scattered about. “I only hang out and sleep here.” It’s been a decade and some years since his designer brand has achieved popularity. It’s “minus space” separate from his countless meetings, 18-hours days of intense work, the headache of shows, and the weekend overseas business trips. This space alone allows for him to have time by himself.

“It was different in the past. When I first started working, my studio was in my home, but then it was difficult to stop working at home.” Quiet Hannamdong was a choice he’d made to allow himself to separate life and work. Compared to the past, where he’d go to parties every night and out on weekends, he’s mostly alone now. “In the past, my motto was to enjoy myself, but now I’ve come to feel the desire for space and time.”

A non-functioning television hangs on the wall, DJ equipment is unused, and a treadmill finds more use as a clothing rack where clothes to be worn tomorrow are hung. As their owner returns home after working, the things in his house are all enjoying a break.

“Is this freedom reflected in my clothing? I’m not sure. I suppose so. I think my work is gradually maturing as well.”


7. Actress Gong Hyo-jin’s grassy lawn

Gong Hyo-jin has starred in numerous films and dramas, including Thank You [고맙습니다], Crush and Blush [미쓰 홍다무], Happiness [행복], and Hello My Teacher [건빵선생과 별사탕].

“I wanted to show you the place where I can be introspective.” It’s a park without walls or ceiling. Gong Hyo-jin‘s choice wasn’t expected from what we know of her thus far. If it was difficult to reveal her home, I’d guessed a nearby Cheongdamdong club or café might have suited her better. “I used to like clothes most in the world, but these days I’ve come to like nature. It’s not something you can buy with money, but something you can see anytime.”

It’s a specific place that gives Gong Hyo-jin a sense of comfort, where flowers and grass grow and the sound of birds is audible. She reads, walks, and jogs through Dosan Park, Hankang Park, and Seoul Forest. “As an actor, it’s not easy to do anything in a public area. I like places like this, but they are things I can’t enjoy in abundance.” When she has some time off from not filming, she seeks out the park, day or night. “It’s not that this place is filled with something, but a place to empty out. I can walk without thinking anything. It’s a place where I can zone out.”

Instead of the refined and strong Gong Hyo-jin we’ve seen till now, she wants to find a new image that shows the change she’s found through this space. “I’d like to reflect this more comfortable, free self, rather than the trendy Gong Hyo-jin, in my future roles. But that definitely doesn’t mean I’m not going to go to clubs anymore. [Laughs].”


8. Director of photography Jung Jung-hoon’s room

DP Jung has worked on films Dasepo Naughty Girls [다세포 소녀] and Thirst [ 박쥐].

Director of photography Jung Jung-hoon‘s room is empty. When he receives screenplays, he starts by lowering the blinds. He says that’s because when it’s bright, it feels crowded and he finds it difficult to focus. He likes it as dark as possible. There’s nothing on top of a long desk aside from a computer. This is so he can think of whatever thought comes to him at the moment, and give shape to the concept by lining up photos he’d taken in the past. That’s why he doesn’t have books or DVDs around.

When he is in his desired surroundings, he can begin expanding on the ideas he first gets from outside. He isn’t the type to watch a lot of movies, so each time, director Park Chan-wook takes out a catalog for him to refer to. Then, he enters his room, watches the film, and makes a rough sketch of the photography. However, this time, it’s a photograph. It’s one by American photographer Alec Soth, which he calls the heart of the photography for Thirst. “The emotional line of the actors is the most important thing. That’s why I choose the method of letting the people move first, then following with the camera.” It’s like Alec Soth’s distinctive way of looking at something from the center. The idea meets with his filming philosophy that a lot of empty space allows for various thoughts to come and go freely.


9. Film director Jang Jin’s office

Jang Jin is a screenwriter and director. Films he has written include Ditto [동감], Welcome to Dongmakgol [웰컴 투 동막골], and Public Enemy Returns [강철중: 공공의 적 1-1]; those he has written and directed include Righteous Ties [거룩한 계보] and My Son [아들].

Director Jang Jin has three offices. The FilmItSuda office in Daehakro, the KnJ Entertainment office in Chungmuro, and the office in Shinsadong. He prepares for theater performances in Daehakro, works on the films he’s directing in Chungmuro, and when he arrives in Shinsadong, he manages his operations. Traveling between Cheongdamdong and Chungmuro from film to theater suits his job description as well.

These days, he goes to work at the Shinsadong office. This is the basecamp for his next project Good Morning, President, where he revises the screenplay and performs administrative duties as the company president. “Usually when I write a script, I also go to a condo in Taebaek. After getting married and having kids, it’s difficult to get out of the house for several days… [Laughs]”

The most eye-catching item is highly treasured by baseball-loving Jang Jin, a bat and glove. One set of equipment was given as a present from baseball player Lee Seung-yub, while Jang bought another set himself. Does he need so much equipment when he’s not even a player by occupation? “This is the same thing as a fishing fanatic being attached to his fishing poles. To be honest, that stuff isn’t all necessary. But when I see something I like, I have to buy it.” Some weekends, this office is where he stops with his carefully polished bat and glove. Perhaps while he cleans his baseball equipment, we can expect a home run to burst from his movie, too.


10. Film music director Jang Young-kyu’s room

Film director Jang Young-kyu’s room is like the parlor of an 18th-century, middle-class Western home. Jang Young-kyu has meetings with film directors here, records with musicians, cooks “the pasta I particularly like,” and sleeps on the floor. Jang Young-kyu the music director and the man mix together in this 15 pyeong space.

Like the piles of things in his room, his music features clashes of sounds that don’t necessarily go together. You can see this in the way that Santa Esmerelda’s “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood,” which seems suited for warm indoor settings, shifts into the cool, sprawling OST for The Good, The Bad, The Weird. He’s done all the film music work in the past five years in this room, and this is where he gets his ideas. “I’m inspired by the sounds of everyday life coming from outside, and I apply it to my work.” As he works, he encounters some funny experiences. “I needed the sound of a dog barking, so I went out of my way to get a dog, but it wouldn’t bark. There was a dog from the house in front that would bark loudly, so I brought it to my room, but it wouldn’t bark. I had a good struggle with the dog.” When he can’t figure out an idea, he says, “I just lie down, or sleep. At the crucial moment, it comes.” Maybe Jang Young-kyu’s source of inspiration is his room itself. There are remarkable similarities between the two of them.


11. Manhwa-ka Jung Hoon-yi’s apartment

Jung Hoon-yi (birth name Jung Hoon) is a 37-year-old manhwa artist-writer who started out with the youth manhwa Young Champ in 1995. His currently popular creation is “Nam Ki-nam,” a quiet, ordinary sort of character who observes the world around him (and is featured in Cine 21).

Jung Hoon-yi‘s apartment is in the city of Paju, Kyeonggi Province. When the door open, a message plays humorously, “Welcome to Jung Hoon-yi’s condo.” He says, “Whenever people come over, everyone always scolds me, ‘Why are you so neat?'” To dispel the reporter’s impression of him as Nam Ki-nam, Jung Hoon-yi speaks first. The apartment connected to his workspace is also tidy and clean. To one side is a bookcase, and the rest of the space on the other side is his computer, which he uses to make illustrations. The only thing that requires further explanation is a thick curtain. “When it’s sunny, I can’t get anything done. I even feel pressured when playing around in the daytime.” Being a nocturnal type, his curtain blocks out all sunlight and creates an environment when he can work, day or night.

Of course, doing that doesn’t turn back a late deadline for a draft. “My wife helps out a lot. If I don’t do things properly, she pushes me.” Before marrying, he left the cluttered workspace he’d used with his assistant, and with his wife helping out in various different work tasks, he does everything from home. “Paju is less occupied than Seoul, so I end up staying here. Going on walks…” He cuts off at that moment, at the sound of a noisy bulldozer outside the window. “It was nice at first, but not long after moving in, they started construction for new developments. I wonder if I have to move again…”

It’s been thirteen years since he started drawing the movie-watching Nam Ki-nam. Most people have moved away after coming to Cine 21, but Nam Ki-nam stays behind, just like always.

Via Cine 21

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