[INTERVIEW] Yoo Ah In Vogue Korea December 2016 Part 3: “Studio Concrete Should be Done With Fun”
[This is a special interview with Yoo Ah In and Studio Concrete artist group by Vogue Korea for December 2016 issue. The interview was conducted by Vogue Editor In Chief during the Aerospace episode 1 “Fragile” filming in October, and he wrote it by the end of November 2016. This special feature was also planned in conjunction with Studio Concrete “Ccrt Aerospace: The Other Side” exhibition, scheduled from Dec 3, 2016]
We divide the interview into four parts. Here’s part 3, translated by our dear translators Mochi & Sassy in the Yoo Ah In International Fans Community
(See part 2 here)
Concrete Phenomenon Part 3
‘Studio Concrete’ is a fresh name. It has a ‘concrete and ordinary’ sense, but although the meaning of Concrete is usually ‘concreted layer’, it actually keeps moving. So, Concrete has a ‘Fragile’ sense. There’s also a prejudice toward the Studio, because there’s a big gap between the Studio’s activities and the reality of collaboration with young artists. In addition, this time, you guys have a collaboration with [Maestro/senior artist] Hwang Byung Ki (laugh).
“The prejudice isn’t true [there’s no gap between studio activities and realities]. Taking Teacher Hwang Byung Ki [in the project] this time is very meaningful. A white-haired old man who was born in 1936, whose music went across the years, through ages, and still reflects the [present] time- I think that this is all like a movement. I thought a lot about how to accurately project and express this movement in our works shown in the exhibition.” [Note: Yoo Ah In thinks Hwang Byung Ki’s music piece that he created in 1975 still reflects today’s society. Hwang Byung Ki is the foremost Gayageum and Sanjo player in South Korea. Studio Concrete’s Ccrt Aerospace “Fragile” movie is using his music as the BGM. Read about Yoo Ah In and Hwang’s photoshoot for Vogue here]
It seems that there are many concerns regarding the type and value/worth of the [Studio Concrete] exhibition. We had conversations in the past regarding how to get the neat output. I’ve told you before that it’s unfortunate that [in Studio Concrete] the process is represented by one work that disappears later.
“It [Studio Concrete] is always crowded with youngsters, who were just looking for the latest trends. At this place, when the musical piece ‘Labyrinth’ [“Migung”, composed by Hwang Byung Ki, known for its use in the psychological horror game Whiteday] -the so-called ‘demon-possessed music/the music that you die if you listen to it in its entirety’ like the heroines in ghost stories we used to hear in the school days- gets introduced and people are able to understand Hwang Byung Ki’s performance, it is received with a totally different attitude. I wonder whether Studio Concrete might be the place where you can encounter such moments [like enjoying the musical piece ‘Labyrinth’] with someone. I wonder whether it is an exhibition that seems like fun. An exhibition that people look forward to. However, I merely own the space of Studio Concrete. The fact that we have to willingly focus on the output/results because we are doing a business is a concern of mine. I think that focusing just on the results/output will turn the exhibition into something light/insignificant at any given moment. That will be an unpleasant thing.”
So, in order to bring the new way of process, you did a live broadcast at the end of August [Studio Concrete Psychedelic Infinity Live Talk, watch here]. Regardless of the result, it was something you had to do once. It looks like you’re happy to explore.
“There were 12,000 people watching during live broadcast (laugh). After we finished the broadcast, we discussed about what tone and what rules to take for the next experiment, and so on. After all, it’s necessary to prepare another version of experiment to reflect the results very well [note: through repeated experiments/trials and errors we’ll get the better understanding and result]. I talked about Yoo Ah In’s profession and Uhm Hong Sik’s desire, environment, and the follow-up steps in the broadcast, and I reflect this pilot experiment in another experiment I’m doing right now.”
That day, I watched Yoo Ah In who naturally and faithfully performed his role during the broadcast. You looked very respectful, but you seemed a little tired? (laugh)
“Sometimes everyone gets tired of work, don’t they? But I’m a bit uncomfortable with words like ‘he’s different’, or ‘Yoo Ah In is special’. I don’t know how to accommodate/respond to it. If I wanted to be downright different, I could have just acted like a crazy kid (laugh). I want a bigger value of being different in action than just ‘being different’. But since now everybody lives a different life, I feel that some of my temperament and elements cannot be projected to be ‘something different’ naturally. It doesn’t look cool, it’s not gonna be effective, it doesn’t seem to make me so fed up (laugh). It doesn’t make me look like a decent/good person. So I have a lot of thought after the live broadcast, that this [action of live broadcast] is not that hard than what I imagined. It’s not that my life will change. I’m scared, but I’ll just do it.”
Even for an ordinary person who doesn’t need to shape an image, doing the live broadcast without any guidelines will make them nervous. But, I think you were nervous about this idea [of live broadcast] the most.
“I was thinking, ‘do I want to keep my fear til the end?’ [note: Yoo Ah In has a stage phobia]. If you don’t want to try doing the dreadful things, when will you overcome your fear? I wanted to find out what I really wanted to protect/hold on. ‘Is it just about my reputation? Because I don’t want to get the failure tag? Is it a feeling of discomfort if I look less competent? Are these things important to me?’ While thinking like that, I let down my guard a little. On the other hand, I feel that I have a celebrity disease instinct (laugh).” [Note: he felt that he had a celebrity disease instinct because he was also worried about his reputation/image and he had fear that failure would affect his image like most celebrities are worried about, so he wanted to cope with this fear]
I was surprised to see the pressure. But aren’t you a savvy person to use the situation smartly?
“Because it’s not just about the attitude I take, but how to get more people to watch this broadcast? My mind was complicated by these things. I also wondered whether we set the goals appropriately, and I was worried whether we brought a proper topic or not. Because I was unconditionally a ‘Yoo Ah In’ [in that live broadcast], I wondered whether this ‘Yoo Ah In’ label has caught a celebrity disease. For example, I want 10,000 people watching [the broadcast], and if I hang on to the fact that I have succeeded [reaching ten million views], our [original] goal is not our action anymore, but the object or the person who views it. That’s scary. So, every moment I’m fighting that idea.
We live in a world of success and failure. If we fail to make a success that society has prescribed, then the world regards it as a failure. But, how do you want Studio Concrete to show its own different style/view of success?
I really don’t have any accomplishments whatsoever, but I have succeeded in this experiment, even though I didn’t do it all by myself because this wasn’t something I could complete alone. Besides, this is a business [which requires teamwork]. If we sell ten millions of ‘1TO10’ series t-shirt, people will say that the business is doing well, they will hear our [successful] story, and they will say that I have the power [note: people will deem the success of 1TO10 series is because the power of Yoo Ah In’s name/image, despite the t-shirt being so popular due to its unique design]. But I don’t want to be only the power of Studio Concrete. ‘Did we have fun? Who consumed our product? How is our profits distributed to the world? What kind of accomplishment are our crews getting here? Aren’t we too busy with success?’ I really wish to take more playful stuff in that part.”
[Translator’s Note: by checking the instagram hashtag of Studio Concrete, most of the people, if not all, go to the Studio because they are fans of Yoo Ah In. Through their love for him, they get to see and appreciate the galleries taking place at the studio. Most of them write in their photos captions that they came hoping to catch a glimpse of Yoo Ah In. So he’s indeed the driving force behind the success of the studio. His popularity and cool factor are the main attractions, even though he’s not there on a daily basis]
Didn’t you say that confidence in failure, not success, gives you confidence in your actions?
“Yes. The important thing is what I want to do. That’s what made Studio Concrete, that’s what made Yoo Ah In, that’s what made our clothes, that’s what I do at twitter…We are required to be a successful person at all times, but shouldn’t we feel the joy too in our effort of making good results and getting praise from more people? That’s my concern. Therefore, ‘experiment’ is a safe word choice, because experiment can make me possibly do anything I want. I feel bored by the lack of fun/adventure from making products in massive quantities as safely and confident as possible for the consumers, but it’s hard when you see yourself as a producer who has to make profits.”
With the gallery, the fashion business, and any kind of business, it’s not easy to give up/turn away from the what-so-called success, so what are you going to do about it?
“Whether it’s a branding, marketing, or image-building, we will eventually be throwing an experiment in, like, how to solve the crisis. Rather than talking about how to manage the common risks, it is much more interesting and fun to struggle with risks. We’re not kids whose aim is to make [and sell] clothes. We are fashion people who are having fun. And I hope that Studio Concrete’s attitude in treating fashion is not ‘I am the best’. Studio Concrete doesn’t just take the role as a channel to introduce better outcomes, but also to correct attitude/character to certain extent.”
Do you have a special chance for evaluation?
“We thought about it shortly after we started our business. I, too, sometimes evaluate my taste, but evaluating a taste seems too simple. If we think we can do well, we will begin working on it. As we begin our works, we show them our own taste. Eventually, you can only have/we leave only ‘look and feel’ or ‘tone and mood’. We are aware that we might get pitfall trapped, but we’re just going boldly. Now during the Aerospace moment, we discuss about ‘who’s who get better?’, ‘let’s fight for this/let’s do this whether it will look good or bad’, and ‘what is cool, anyway?’. We don’t know yet what we’re gonna do next.”
When I’m different from what people think, I give the feeling that ‘ideal and reality are different’. In the case of ‘Yoo Ah In Café’ [where lots of Studio Concrete visitors come to see the actor Yoo Ah In besides the exhibition], you can be both actor and creator too. How do you feel about it?
“It’s very tiring to spend 95% of the time taking pictures [with people] in a 4 hours event [note: he’s referring to Studio Concrete’s exhibition opening parties]. I would like to talk to people and exchange with people too during the exhibition opening parties… (But) there are many times when I encounter the fact that people want to communicate with me in the party by taking picture and putting it on their instagram. Many people are curious about what I look at and where I go and compare me to other entertainers, but it still consumes me. It’s frustrating when I feel the gap between what I want to do and what people want from me. Because, I want to be able to live as a producer/creator who inspires and delivers inspiring things to the world.”
I wonder, without Yoo Ah In, there would be no Studio Concrete? [Note: the Vogue editor is alluding to when Yoo Ah In enlists and he’s not around for his studio, wondering if Yoo Ah In’s popularity is what makes Studio Concrete thrive, then will people care to go and see the exhibitions while he’s not around for 2 years?]
“Lately, I have been thinking about that so often (laugh), ‘could that happen?’ [could the studio becoming unpopular when he’s not around?]. I hope that it can remain thriving/successful. I think that it should stay successful. Having the mindset of ‘without me, it’s nothing’ destroys everything. Anyway, this is the Concrete spirit: although we often talk about the business ideology of things, we also say that it doesn’t matter if we sink/fall all of a sudden. We don’t have that kind of concept of ‘either doing well or failing’ [note: he means to say “we try not to be affected with the success and failure of our projects. We try to be creative and keep on trying regardless of the results”]. In order for us to remain secure and be able to have the motto ‘we are free’, we have to seem free in the first place. It is necessary for us to have a flexible attitude towards things [success and failure]. When I’m doing some work [movie/drama] activity, I don’t want to create a gap where Studio Concrete is thought of as ‘this doesn’t seem like Concrete’. I don’t want that idea to be formed when I’m not there. Perhaps if I was more involved, it could take that direction [note: he means, “I don’t want people to say that when Yoo Ah In is not around at Concrete, the place doesn’t feel like Studio Concrete at all. I wish that people will appreciate the studio regardless of whether I was around taking care of it or not. Perhaps if I were more involved personally with the exhibitions of Studio Concrete, things could take that direction, as in, people might assume that I’m indispensable for the success and existence of Studio Concrete”]. If I think that something is completely mine, that means that my faith in the group members has disappeared/that I have no ounce of faith in them (laugh). It becomes Studio Concrete with each member taking care of his designated area, while facing each other. And I wish for them to bring (to the table, creatively) as much as they want.”
[Translator’s note: truth of the matter, Yoo Ah In has always participated just as the director and founder of the Concrete space. He doesn’t intervene with the artists and their works. He hasn’t participated with his art work as of yet. He takes care of the exhibitions as a whole. He promotes the studio nonstop. He looks for talented artists to support. He tries to let the artists shine. He doesn’t draw the attention to himself. He has only been extremely and visibly involved with the latest Aerospace collection/The Other Side Exhibition, since he is the main director of this art project. He was the one behind all the elements of this very creative venture that included art galleries, casual wear collection, musical performances, short films and massive promotions via MAMA awards and big magazines such as Vogue and W . It is the first Concrete project where Yoo Ah In, as a creator, has truly shined. And according to his answer, he hasn’t tried to be visibly involved before fearing that people will think of Concrete as incomplete without Yoo Ah In being there]
I feel that the criteria for what is considered ‘meaningful’ has changed.
“Others would say, ‘there are many times when I feel like the world is rude/disrespectful to me’. I used to feel like that too. This might make me sound like a an annoying lecturing old man, but I want to say this to young artists in particular: ‘you know that it’s you! You! [as in: the problem relies in you, the world is not conspiring against you]. Does admitting your weaknesses have anything to do with your self-esteem? It doesn’t matter at all’ [admitting your faults doesn’t mean that you have a low self-esteem. Quite the opposite]. We seem to live our lives trusting so many ideals that don’t actually matter. Sometimes we get the applause of the world on the plane ride that the world gives us, and that does feel pretty fine, but that can never sustain your life [you shouldn’t rely on the adulation of the people]. It is hard to watch you pretending ‘that you are not like that’ [note: he means to say ‘it’s hard to see you guys pretending that you don’t care for what people think of your art, when in fact it matters greatly to the extent that it ruins your life and spirits’. Yoo Ah In wishes that young artists be stronger. He wishes that they don’t make their life and aspirations dependent on having a positive feedback from the masses. Because they can’t guarantee having this kind of response all the time. He wants them to be truly strong. Not pretending to be strong and confident, when they are crushed on the inside. Seeing them pretending like that makes him sad. He wants them to admit their faults and weaknesses. Not blame the world for their failures]. For instance, I think that it felt rather good when I admitted that I’m a secular person (not religious). To me, that felt like some sort of confession.” [Note: he means the sacrament of confession according to the Catholic Church. Yoo Ah In encourages the young artists to acknowledge their weaknesses. He encourages them to stop pretending. He gives a personal example to show how admitting your flaws can be a positive thing. He says that admitting his flaws publicly/admitting that he’s not religious publicly felt so healing and comforting. Like how the sacrament of confession feels like. It felt good because he was honest. He was not pretending nor hiding something from people]
Have you reached a level where failure is not regarded as a failure? (laugh)
“That’s an accurate statement. Because I’m so weak, I’m creating a process to redeem all those social failures that I did. But I won’t sink/bury [the past failures] even if I become a successful man by the world’s standard. For example, just like the exhibition, everyone lives by exhibiting/showing off themselves. We all know the exhibition form has existed since the Stone Age (laugh). So, I don’t want to approach the concept too conservatively [he doesn’t only want to show off/exhibit his best side or successful side, but also his failure and weak side]. I show something in this age, I show myself, I reflect something of me, I create something, I make a tendency, I look, I feel- I hope I can make a positive moment of the whole process. The essence of ‘please keep watching me’ doesn’t change. I think my motivation/power is still derived from isolation or loneliness, and I try to feel a higher level of isolation and a higher level of loneliness [note: he wants to break his loneliness and isolation feelings by showing himself in the hope that he gets noticed, mingled and touched with society, so breaking the loneliness becomes his motivation in doing exhibition]. As long as our driving force to live is to show ourselves, the concept of exhibition will continue to change.”
You have several names but you have only one body. In this “actor Yoo Ah In’s live-stage”, have you ever wondered how to show the utmost side of you in acting?
“To know this, I have to act as myself. Actually, regardless of what I’m doing [artistic activities with Studio Concrete], it doesn’t have a big impact on my acting style, except for my private life. I’m working on Studio Concrete in my 30s to pour the explosive energy out of my head after such a period of loneliness, crazy writings, arguing with the world, and period of anger. After doing my first [Studio Concrete] project, I was curious on how I faced it and how it would be reflected in my acting. But since I’m not able to do this completely, I keep thinking how to do it, this way or that way, that’s who I am.”
To be continued to Part 4
© Yoo Ah In International Fans Community
※ Any copying, republication or redistribution of YOO AH IN SIKSEEKLAND’s content is expressly prohibited without prior consent of YOO AH IN SIKSEEKLAND. Copyright infringement is subject to criminal and civil penalties.