All posts by Sung Woo Kim

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Myth1: “Just go for a run”

FYI… RORWFTTS(Ramblings On Running While Flying Through The Space)

uno

I met John, a total stranger, last night at a floating bar on the moon of Jupiter and he started telling me about how miserable his first golf experience on Mars was yesterday.

“You know, it was… miserable man. My buddies told me, ‘You just come out with us and swing dude. You will hit it right after couple of swings and you will have a time full of merriness.’ But no, I DID NOT have a time full of merriness. Even after 100 swings, I was not hitting the ball right, and I got so frustrated that I started kicking the ball with my shoes, and I got better scores that way.”

I looked at him intently and told him.

“That sounds like our ancestors who used to tell someone, ‘Just go out and run.’ Can you believe that we were that sort of dumb dumbs?”

“Exactly.”

And we cheered to the nothingness of Jupiter and chugged our garlic infused Kombucha.

Yeah, above story is completely fictional. But, looking at how Elon Musk is crushing it with Tesla, SpaceX, and Peter Diamandis is about to be mining rare minerals from flying asteroids, I think humanity might survive the doom of climate change and play golf on Mars someday in the future.

And I guarantee you that they will have above conversation. Well, some geeky ones will, I guess.

I mean, have you heard of anyone telling you about golf,

‘You just grab a swing and take a hit at the ball, just until you get it right.’?

If you have, I think you should sceram “IDIOT!!” and run away, cuz s/he’s got that rare virus that will make you good at nothing.

You don’t just swing golf clubs hoping to hit it right.
You don’t just take your free-kick hoping to bend it like Beckham.
You don’t just go out into the desert, without any preparation, and hope to survive.
You don’t ‘just program’ softwares.
You don’t ‘just do math.’
You don’t just wake up on the morning of marathon and hope to run the whole thing (it’s very possible to run the whole thing, but your body will be in a pain you could have never imagined for a looong time).
Yes, ‘just do it’ is a great start. It gets you off the couch. It gets your blood going.

But there comes a point, rather sooner than later, where you need to look back on your progress, rectify your approaches, and leap onto another level with a structure and a routine that puts your closer to your desired result, be it joy of running, distance you want to run, or your goal time in a race.

Yes, I do have a problem with ‘Just go out and run’ approach, for every runner.

Whether you are a runner who runs for its awe or a serious runner with a specific time goal, I don’t think yo should just go out and run. It’s the most unresponsible, terrible advice you could give to anyone for running.

Would you advise your friend Chuck, who is a couch-potato and has never run more than 10 seconds in his life, except his dash to toilets sometimes, to just go out and run?

Would you guess that Mo Farah or Kenyans just go out for a run?

Legendary Prefontaine didn’t, and you shouldn’t.

Just going out for a run does not produce joy of running consistently, nor
does it produce outcomes you desire.

Find out two simple things you need to know before going out for a run, whether you are a beginner or a serious runner in my next post.

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Earth from the moon

In Myths to live by, Joseph Campbell celebrates one of the most thrilling moments of humanity, that is, walking on the moon.

Campbell writes, “That fabulous color photograph of our good earth rising as a glorious planet above a silent landscape is something not to forget.”

And he invites readers to the that feeling of awe by borrowing two lines from Giuseppe Ungaretti’s poetry:

Che fai tu, Terra, in ciel?

Dimmi, che fai, Silenzios Terra?

What are you doing, Earth, in heaven?

Tell me, what are  you doing, Silent Earth?

I have never been outside of Earth’s atmosphere, but a tiny portion of humanity had been there, and they describe this feeling of awe, induced by observing Earth in the space, as The Overview Effect: a cognitive shift in awareness reported by some astronauts and cosmonauts during spaceflight, often while viewing the Earth from orbit or from the lunar surface (Wikipedia).

 

In the video, David Loy, philosopher, talks about self transcendence and realizatino of interconnectedness in such moment:

“To have that experience of awe is, at least for the moment, to let go of yourself, to transcend the sense of separation. So it’s not just that they were experiencing something other than them, but they were at some very deep level integrating, realizing their interconnectedness with that beautiful blue-green ball.”

And even watching the video gives you a sobering feeling of self-transcendence and feeling of interconnectedness. It really puts things into perspective, and makes you wonder about your life as a human on this tiny yet ‘beautiful blue-green ball’ that weaves wondrous web of life. Listening to the astronauts speaking about their overview effect makes me so jealous that I even forget I am jealous, and I say, “Wow, I am happy that these people had such experience in their life, and can tell us about it. This is amazing.”

Maybe, vicariously, I am having the overview effect as well.

Recently, I met few alien friends. They told me that, few decades ago, while on their journey around Universes, they accidentally landed on our moon, saw Earth, and thus paid a visit, and stayed until now.

They made a painting to celebrate Earth Day and their time on Earth so far, and they are writing thank-you notes to their friends on Earth and back at home.

http://www.facebook.com/kobemoeto

I myself have never been outside of Earth’s atmosphere, but I hope I will be there before I pass away. Until then, I am going to celebrate my Earth Day writing Thank-You letters to my friends, family, and coworkers, although it can sometimes feel very awkward like below.

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Enter a caption

Happy Earth Day to y’all 🙂

Links:

Myths to live by

Overview effect

Join my alien friends on writing thank-you notes (and even donating 1% of your income this month)

Earth

Are birds freer than you?

blog_photo_Kees
Birds flying to rooftop bar to drink some beer after a tough day of work at sea; photo credit to Kee Straver (flickr)

At one moment or another, we’ve all felt jealousy towards birds.

‘Damn, I wish I can be those birds right now. Fly away to Maldives and drink some Mojitos and listen to the waves…’

Today was a tough day at work for me, and I was thinking just that, looking at the birds flying above me. I was like,

‘… You luck birds! Take me too, take me!’

But this time, I didn’t just stop there, being jealous. I actually thought about,

‘Are they really freer than me?’

And I realized that is not quite true, and that I shall rejoice in my own freedom that is bigger than freedom of any birds on this planet.

Becuase, it’s not like a bird comes up with an idea and say,

“Hey y’all, what about building a huge tower of stones so we can knock out these humans who cut off our trees?”

And the rest of the group goes,

“What a fabulous idea! You are genius. Let’s do stone them!!”

And they all fly up, look for stones, and build these towers to stone all the tree-cutters.

I do knot know much about birds, but I doubt that’s what they think about and communicate to each other.

A bit more probable picture might look like this:

“Guys it’s my ass is freezing around here, aren’t yours too?? I think it’s time to move South and find new home for some months.”

“Good call, let’s do it.”

What birds do – eating, flying, deciding where to build their houses, etc. – are all conditioned responses to the their immediate physical environment that are built in their DNA through years and years of evolution.

And as much as I love gorgeous birds that can fly, I don’t think they ever have moments of intuition like: “Mm… if I can get together hundreds of my friends, we could feast on this human living alone in the woods!”

If they could, we won’t have Warden or not much of Zen buddhism in this world, which would be a tragedy.

And I think that’s because birds are not capable of imagining a different way of living than the way their ancestors did.

However, a human is capable of holding a vision that had never appeared in any of her ancestors consciousness.

The decisions we humans make are part derived from our observation of the immediate physical world, and part derived by our reflection and imagination upon it.

And most of the time, innovation and fun things happen when these two things are fused together in our mind, not just one day or a week, but consistently for a sustained period of time.

Although we can’t physically fly, we fly far higher dimensions in our mind.

So, in a sense, I think we are far more free than birds.

We can observe what’s in front of us, and imagine a different story, other possibilities, test them, find what works to bring that better story into our lives, and share with others.

So let us ask, what vision do I see? What will I make and share?

 

Dinner for your mind tonight: Who are you trying to please?

It’s 5:15 in the morning, and my alarm clock bangs my head like thunderstorm.

My eyes don’t open easily, they are weak and a bit dry.

I only slept 3 hours, after more than 5 hours being on the train and meeting an important person for work (thankfully, he turned out to be a wonderful dude. We had a great time eating Korean BBQ, talking about renewable energy, climate change, football, rugby, and so on). But I was still tired and my bed feels like heaven.

But I get up, because I need to go back to my workplace. I reserved 6:05 bus, and that will take me to work right on time.

I am technically on ‘business trip’ for the day in my work system, but my duties are done. I could easily sleep in and report back to my work late afternoon, but there are works to be done. But mainly, I want to come back to my workplace and show my boss that I am responsible. I imagine his smile and few pats on my back, and telling me how good it feels to have someone like me working for him.

When I come back, I find out my boss is not even in the office as he is on a business trip to another city. Whole day I am not productive and cranky because I didn’t get enough sleep. I don’t get much done, and I don’t even get to see my boss for the entire day. Later in the afternoon, he comes back, but simply gives me a nod and walks in the office talking on the phone.

That’s when it hit me that I was just trying to please him, when I should have asked myself what would be the best way to put me into the best state to do my work efficiently and right. I wanted to be seen working hard, rather than doing it right.

Mm.

Oh well. For today, that was that.

‘Pat, pat.’

I give myself that. Because I learned a good lesson.

Trying to please someone doesn’t really accomplish anything.

You either show up and do a good job, or your showing won’t matter as much as you want it to be.

 

A Zen master’s surprisingly simple method to overcome lethargy (or complacency): STARVE!

법륜스님
Pomnyum Sunim. His words are wise and applicable. (photo credit to: well.hani.co.kr)

Recently, I have been struggling with actually sitting down and working on projects that I want to work on. After +8 hours of work at office, a dinner, and warm shower, the last thing I wanted to do was actually operating my brain and doing something. I’ve already ‘worked’ more than 8 hours today, I am getting a pay-check next week, my stomach is full, and I am warm. I am complacent.

But I made a promise to myself that I will work on these projects, because I really want to get them going.

So, after a warm shower and my stomach is full, I sit and open my laptop, with mild enthusiasm.

And I say to myself, ‘Oh, I actually need to message my friend A on Facebook… it won’t take more than 5 minutes.’ So I would go on Facebook, and next thing I know, I am reading statuses and watching videos, and on youtube. I haven’t messaged my friend A, of course, and it’s past midnight. It’s another full-time work day tomorrow,  so I better go to sleep. I feel bad about myself for not writing a story. I complain about long hours at work. I promise I will write for at least 30 minutes.

But the vicious cycle repeats.

complacency
<+8 hours of work – home – full dinner – warm shower – complacency>

And while there is nothing wrong with being complacent with having a full-time job that feeds myself and puts roof over my head, I want to continue writing a story I am working on, learn to draw, and read on virtual reality, dark matter and other books that fuel my brain and mind.

 

So I turn to Zen Buddhism.

I am a fan of Zen master’s teachings because they offer practical advices on life.

After a few minutes of web-surfing, I find one.

[A twenty-something Korean male asks Pomnyum Sunim, a Zen master from South Korea, during Q&As of his public talks:

“There are times in my life where I cannot get out of feeling lethargic. I feel lifeless and feel like I don’t want to do anything. It usually goes for a day, and in worst times, even for a week. How shall I get out of or treat it? I am curious how you would go about it.”]

It’s about lethargy, which is a bit different from my own problem, complacency, but similar. Both states represent inactivity and passive state of mind. Both states are completely opposite of a state in which you are in tune with infinite source of energy for your desire. So I read on.

[Pomnyun Sumin smiled and said:

“[When I was about your age,] for really tough and heavy lethargic feelings, I didn’t eat. When you starve about more than 5 days, your body says ‘I gotta do something so I can eat something’ and tries to survive. Desire to survive is the best method to overcome lethargy. Lethargy comes to you only when you are full, not when you are hungry.” (audience laughs)]

‘Huh!’

I was surprised by the simplicity and intuition in it, so I decided to try it on the weekdays (I usually come home on the weekends, and I know I would not be able to say NO to my mom’s homemade food. Also, for every sacrifice, it is wise to give yourself some rewards. So I have let myself go completely nuts on the weekends – chocolates, rice-cakes, sweet potatoes, vanila ice cream + carrot cake + nuts and seeds and on and on… – and that had be fun and good inspiration to keep myself honest during the weeks).

So, for past two weeks, for weekdays only, I replaced my dinner with a warm glass of milk (protein + fat) + honey (sugar + minerals) + bean powder (for extra protein). Some days, I didn’t even have that. I drank some water and didn’t eat any solid or liquid food.

I also inserted an exercise: a 30min run or slow pull-ups (20~40 reps, divided into any number of sets I feel like that day) right in there, because I just set up pull-bar thing on my doorwall and I felt like I should make some use of it.

better cycle!
new routine that works for me, adding exercise and replacing full dinner with meagre or no food

And I am very happy with the results so far.

After exercise, I take shower, make my glass of dinner, and sit down. I feel light and not dull. My mind is crystal clear and calmly active. I let the laptop closed until I know how I want to use my one precious evening hour (or two, when I’m lucky).

I decide in my mind whether I want to write, draw, or read. I drink, and I just do what I decided to do for the evening.

At 10PM, my phone gives off an alarm. It’s time to go lay on my yoga matt and stretch my hips. After that, I feel the hunger. I go to bed with a bit of that, and I imagine that byte of my egg sandwich in the morning. Yum.

I fall into sleep faster, and I sleep better. Because I can feel increased energy and just lighter mind and body. It’s incredible.

My morning routine – writing and 10 minute breathing – comes to me easier. My breakfast had never tasted so amazing and I am ready to go for the day!

Okay that was a lot of… what not.

I encourage you to give it a try a few days this week, if you have been feeling lethargic, dull, or struggling to work on personal projects after your full-time job hours (which is not easy, but worth it, as you know).

What surprising tricks do you use to keep your mind clear and light when it’s difficult to do? Do you have your own ways to shatter that feeling of lethargy?

I’d love to learn from you. Please share in the comments (and any other feedback).

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Bonus:

Below is a full excerpt of Pomnyum Sunim’s answer that I translated into English. I tried to minimize paraphrasing, but there is always limitation in translation.

I enjoyed reading and translating, though, and I hope you enjoy it as well.

The original excerpt was in Korean, and you can find it here.

Pomnyum Sumin in a Q&A session at one of his public talks.

Twenty-something male:

There are times in my life where I cannot get out of feeling lethargic. This feeling where I feel lifeless and feel like I don’t want to do anything usually goes for a day, and in worst times, even for a week. How shall I get out of or treat it? I am curious how you would go about it.

Pomnyum Sunim:

“It depends on every person but when I was in my twenties, this is what I did when I felt lethargic. When I feel sluggish, I would go to tombs of General Kim Yoo-Shin or King Muyeol of Silla, close my eyes, and lay quietly [Sung: They are big names in the history of Sila, one of three countries that were occupying land of Korea in 600s].

What I would do was, with my eyes closed and laying there, just imagining lives of these individuals, that happened more than 1,300 years ago, as if I am in a movie. Then, I see that what was once considered good at that time, is not necessarily considered good now. There are many instances in the history where a break-up from a loved one turned out for the better, or what’s considered to be failure at the time serves an individual an opportunity that eventually led to bigger rewards. Just reflecting on the past events and historic figures helped me build awareness of myself and  see my current life events from different perspectives.

Light sluggishness, I could solve like that. But for really tough and heavy lethargic feelings, I didn’t eat. When you starve about more than 5 days, your body says ‘I gotta do something so I can eat something’ and tries to survive. Desire to survive is the best method to overcome lethargy. Lethargy comes to you only when you are full, not when you are hungry. (audience laughs).

I am just talking about my experience here. When you are hungry and a thought ‘I might die’ comes to you, a thought ‘I want to die’ does not occur to you. Thoughts like ‘I want to live’ emerge. You climb up a mountain to jump off a cliff and kill yourself, but just before your jump a tiger appears. Then, you don’t go ‘Well, fantastic. I was about to die, so eat me tiger.’ You will go ‘Ahh!! Someone help me!’ and run away. When you are about to kill yourself and a bomb explodes nearby, you will run. (audience laughs)

Feeling lethargic is a problem that you are conscious of, while desire to live is a problem of survival, of life or death. Every consciousness is based on survival and life. In other words, desire for survival is closer to the root. So when your mind is lethargic, you can kill yourself. You can kill others or yourself. If you kill someone else that’s a murder, yourself, that’s a suicide, and that happens when your mind is broken a bit. But when your own very survival is at serious risk, such torpidity disappears. I am just talking about my experience. I do not know much about you or other people.

So, based on my experience, what if you starved a bit? I tried this. When I starved for 4 to 5 days, I didn’t think ‘I shall live!’. My body automatically goes, ‘I got to live.’ Lethargy is gone.

Well, one time I wanted to test the limit of body. Not to overcome lethargy, but there are many North Koreans that starve to death and I was indifferent to that fact. So I thought ‘How can I eat my meals when they are starving to death?’ and fasted for 30 days. Recently, I did it once in 2008. A news of thousands of North Koreans dying from hunger came out. I didn’t eat for 70 days. But I did not die.

Even when you don’t eat for 70 days, you don’t die. However, when you fast, you got to have a clear mind. Everyday activities are no problem, but if you do strenuous physical activities or get fiercely angry, you use up your energy quickly. You maintain equanimity and fast, there is no problem in everyday activities. While I was fasting, however, I couldn’t speak much so public talks were a bit difficult. After 49 days, my energy decreased abruptly, so I only meditated and fasted. Because when you mediate, you don’t use up much energy.

Another thing is when we talk of fasting, we tend to think your body does not eat anything. But when you fast, your body consumes pure 300grams lean meat. What do I mean? Body eats its own lean meat. So fasting is not vegetarianism but a meat diet. When you weight yourself, it decreases quickly in the first three days, because you are emptying your intestines. Then, 300 grams decrease daily. There is small differences depending on how much water you drink. So I came to understand my body needs about 300 grams of lean meat to maintain my body temperature and go about my day.

But when I only did meditation, my body weight decreased by only 200 grams, and with more meditation, only 150 grams per day. When you use your brain it consumes a lot of energy, but during meditation you don’t use your brain or talk to anyone, so some energy is saved and I lost less weight.

When I fast, I like to see what happens to my body, and then what happens to my mind. Some people study ‘What do you eat when you fast? When do you start eating again?’ but I don’t. What different ways of fasting would there be? You just don’t eat anything. But how to eat again is a problem. It is best for you to see how your own body reacts to the food coming in, how appetite arises, how your state of energy and mind change, how your psychology changes, what makes you get diarrhoea or feel uncomfortable, how the amount of food increases, and so on.

Considering your age, I think you will be fine after about 5 days of fasting. When lethargy comes, it is best to eat nothing. Feeling lethargic means you do not want to live. Then other than taking pills or jumping off, you can try dying by not eating and see what happens. (audience laughs out loud)

When your consciousness is seized by lethargy and you take your life with pills or other means, it is irreversible. But when you fast, it takes a while for your body to die and you get to re-evaluate your life slowly, and that energy of ‘Shit, I want to live’ will come back. If there is better method, I encourage you to find one and try it for yourself.

Twenty-something male:

Thank you.

 

 

 

Dinner for your mind tonight: Imagination or consumption

I live in Korea, where internet speed is reaching nearly 1GB/sec.

That’s a HD movie right in front of you in less than 2 seconds.

It makes consuming contents and information crafted by other people so easy. Grab your phone, swipe, touch, swipe, touch, swipe.

But constantly feeding mind with information that had been already filtered by other people can make your mind dull and reactive.

What’s really in front of us – a man hurriedly rushing to catch a train, a child skipping to his home, a mom kindly looking at her babies – might seem boring and ordinary. Where your mind wanders to when it is not attending to anything, could be chaotic and so random. But from simply observing seemingly ordinary and boring moments or giving your mind some space, curiosity kicks in with a phrase: ‘What if…?’

And you start imagining ideas and different worlds. You start crafting your own stories that might trigger positive and warm waves in people’s lives and trying them.

And I think that is pretty exciting and fun.

 

 

Baek : A man who paints of banans.

“Have you seen my BANANAS yet?” – A conversation with Baek, a budding Korean artist

begin
Falling in Love, Falling in Banana, Marylin Monroe by Baek

It seems Hyang-Mok Baek, South Korea-born, 25-years old artist, never had a proper introduction to bananas.

Tasting his first banana only a year ago when he resolved to buff himself up, Baek realized how hard it is to keep its golden color.

Baek put his first-ever banana into the fridge with a smile, thinking

‘Oh yeah, these bananas will be fresh for me tomorrow morning!’

Alas, next morning, he found that the bunch sneaked out to a tanning room over the night.

Bright yellow color was completely gone. They all turned into mix of brown and black!

Next batch, he put on the table, but found bruises on spots that held the weight.

“I loved banana’s deep-yellow color but then realized it was so sensitive,” Baek said.

“On the surface, it looks tough with it’s not-so-thin skin, with its beautiful yellow color.

But you gotta put them in room temperature and hang it somewhere, by itself, so it does not get bruises.

And this made me realize that twenty-somethings, like me, in Korea are like bananas.”

“When you are about twenty-something years old, you are naturally pretty, and of course young, strong, confident, and about to embark on something bigger than yourselves. But we are also most prone to get our feelings hurt. We are just out of school, or any other forms of comfortzones that we are so used to. Whatever people or society says to you, it’s hard to ignore or let go.

So I wanted to draw people I love, painting bananas as medium”

Kobe met Baek at Gana Space Gallery, where he had his first exhibition, in Insadong, a town known for numbers of galleries that exhibit works of rising and mature artists in Korea.

SAMSUNG CSC
Baek with his painting for Hawaii

Now 25, Baek had his first exhibition. He says he is still too yellow, that he wants to ripen and be sweet.

[Q. How was preparing for your show?]

B: Since I chose banana as my focus of contemplation and started painting more than hundreds of them in my studio, all my friends and acquaintances started sending me boxes of banana, banana milk, and all different kinds of banana-flavored snacks that you can imagine.

At one point, I was like, ‘shit, I wish I drew steak. Then I would be having fillet mignon all day everyday haha. 

Overall, preparing for the show was fun, but there were definitely hard times. I felt like I put myself into studio 24/7, sort of like a prisoner.

But I absolutely loved it there. Creating and creating…

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Palm-sized ‘Strangers’ are inspired by his friends and family members

<Strangers>

Bananas are wearing suits, t shirts, hoodies, and hats. They got facial expressions.

These are personified-bananas of people that Baek loves.

B: So yeah, I wanted to paint people I love, in portraits.

So first, here are little ones. There are my family members, good friends, nuns… And characters in the movie that I love.

Then I wanted to do them in bigger size, and I made few changes.

In small portraits, they got facial-expressions. But here, in bigger portraits, face is composed with chips of color. I believe that colors are subjective. What I mean by that is, when you see color red, what comes to your mind is different from what comes to my mind, depending on one’s experience with red.

For someone, red might bring up feelings or images of love, for some blood, or warmth. Blue might bring up feelings of cool breeze, bright sky, or feeling blue.

So, I wanted to combine various colors, paint them only in lines and dots, and let viewers interpret the expression of each banana.

i&amp;p
Gana Space Gallery in Insadong, Korea (1/25/2016)
strangers345
<Strangers> continued. From the top: his mom, his brother, and a friend.
Jaws
<Jaws>

<Jaw>

[This one was absolutely hilarious. I stared at it for awhile, thinking about the freedom the banana with sun-glasses must be, enjoying and what seems to be his Grim Reaper of the Ocean, approaching him. And no bananas are actually trying to help him.. All are just in gasp and screaming “Ohhhhhh noooo~~!!!!”]

B: After college, like everyone else, I got into job search, and with luck, I got into a good company. I thought,

‘well, I guess this is where I will try to go up the ladder.’

But, I felt something was wrong.

I was not satisfied at all, just ‘doing work’ at a place that I am supposed to be happy because the place was respected in the society and people around me thought I was a big shot.

So I said to myself that I shall do what I really want to do.

And it was painting. So, ‘Okay, let’s paint.’

And I quit my job, and all my friends were like,

‘You are doomed.’

‘Dude, you took a wrong turn…’

So the shark is expression of these cautionary and spirit-scraping words that people around me threw at me. I was confident with my decision, so I am deep into the ocean, away from the mainland.

Meanwhile, my friends are peacefully hanging out near the mainland with ducks, and only giving me caution with words, about what it seems to be a shark.

But you know, what seems to be a shark could not be a shark.

It could be someone just fooling around, or if it is a shark, it might not eat me, you know?

It might say, ‘shit, this banana doesn’t smell so good, move on to the bunches over there’ or

‘ah, a banana having a jolly time. i will let it have its fun.’

19gum
<19-Geum>

[I went to the gallery alone, and I LOLed. Right next to me, there were girls who came with friends, and were LOL-ing together. ‘Haha! It’s named 19-Geum.’ The title 19-Geum did a great job. ‘Geum’ in Korean means ‘banned’. So 19-Geum means anyone under 19 years old is banned/prohibited/not-allowed. It’s put on movies or songs that include sexual or violent content or explicit swears.]

B: You know, people often joke about banana because it looks like penis.

I wanted to highlight the humorous nature of the jokes, painting banana as it is.

I used general skin color of Koreans on the background, and peeling a bit and a bit in each successive drawings, I wanted to make people laugh.

[Q. What types of works will you be doing after the exhibition?]

B: There are  some more emotions and things that I want to show through bananas. In the future, I want to do some filmmaking, what I studied in college, and some installations; but for now, I want to do some more paintings.

SAMSUNG CSC
Pieces Baek created during his trips to five cities: Paris, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Tokyo, and Honolulu

[Q. I am sure there had been difficult times while you prepared for the exhibition. What kept you going? Who are people you talk to, places you go to, or memories you go back to?]

B: Yeah, absolutely.

When I was preparing for the exhibition, I spent 5 to 6 days in the studio. Barely going outside.

And when I do that, I would be tired of looking at my own paintings. I just want to stop looking at them. They looked like shit, and I didn’t know if I am doing it right.

Every artist has her own style and work towards it.

But since I am looking at only my paintings, I would be like,

‘Huh, is it okay to paint the way I do? Is my style right?’

Well I do not believe that there is a perfect formula in painting, but I would start thinking there is one, and I start feeling anxious that I might not be following that formula, you know.

So when this happens, I go out and go to galleries.

And when I see works of other artists, they look amazing.

Paints are splashed, there are abstract forms… and honestly I do not understand them, but they say ‘This is A and B and X and Z…’ and they all look so cool.

And I think ‘Shit, do I need to do it like that?’

And I think ‘Oh man, my painting is rubbish.’ And I get into deeper slump.

But then, I get myself up and go to more galleries. I just go out and see every works out there.

Then, I see that there are so many different works out there.

And I realize that ‘Yeah, that’s right. There are all these different types of paintings,  and different people like them. There are people who like A and there are people who like B.’

When I spent too much time by myself in the studio, it is hard to think this way.

So yeah, when slump happens, I go out and see works of others, and get that peace and juice back into my system.

Oh and I love watching movies.

And it’s same with movies. There is hardly a movie that everyone likes, you know.

If some people like the movie, some will probably dislike it.

Everything on Earth has its own lovers and enemies, you know.

So I think ‘Of course there will be some people who might not like my works’ and  let that fear go, and think ‘But also, there are people who like it’ And that helped a lot.

I think that I am still very young. So when I show my works to people, when I doubt about my painting’s style, comparing to really complex and abstract works of more known or older artists, I say to myself,

‘Well, I am still young, and I want my paintings to look like they are done by a young artist.

If I express emotions and feelings I really feel as a twenty-something in my works, there will be people who resonate with them on personal level.’

So instead of complexity and abstraction, let’s be honest.

Then my style came out to be what you see here.

I love it when people look at my stuff and smile and laugh, having a good time.

[Q. You said twenty-somethings got that deep-yellow color of bananas. Can you tell us more about what you mean by that?]

You know, I wrote that we – twenty-somethings – are like bananas with  ‘deep-yellowish’ colour. And you know, these bananas with deep yellow color are not so tasty.

I learned that half-way into my first box of banana. Ones with few bruises and soft spots, had much more sweetness in them.

I feel that we have this deep, yellow colour that is pretty on the surface, but still unripe.

I see that we are all just starting to ripen.

I see myself as a yellow banana, quite fancy on the surface, but not really ‘sweet’ yet.

I want to prepare and ripen, so I can be really sweet.

Also, my friends, who got regular jobs going or who make music or arts, we are all not so known yet, and hustling every day, to be ripe, you know.

So I wanted to throw a message like, we are beautiful, but since we are not ripe yet, let’s prepare and ripen.

end
Postcards Baek made for this exhibition

[Q. This was your first exhibition, and it probably works as your first-step into the world of arts in Korea. Is there anything that you wished you knew about this field beforehand?]

Yeah, absolutely.

Well, yeah, this is my first exhibition, a debut show, I guess.

The first thought was this.

Well, the arts industry in Korea is getting bigger, but I never knew it is still so small.

And that makes it very difficult for young artists like me to break out and to be known. That door is very slim in Korea.

I believed in hard work and if an artist has faith in her work, she can do well.

Well, I was really lucky to have my own exhibition.

But when I look at my friends around me who do arts, I see how difficult it is to be a young artist in Korea.

Looking back, I was really lucky. I just didn’t know much about the world of arts here, so I was very daring.

I just asked people around and told them exactly what I wanted and needed, thinking, ‘It will happen, right?’ in my mind.

So yeah, these days I am seriously thinking about studying in USA or somewhere in Europe.

I saw that art scene is more in the public domain in these places than in Korea.

I feel that only few people enjoy going to galleries and seeing works of art. I’m not saying that everyone in USA or Europe do enjoy arts. It’s just that more percentage of population seems to seek arts, and they approach paintings more casually I think

Well, professors I know tell me that I can study in Korea, but I want to dig more and see what’s out there.

I need to find schools that do great job in teaching things I want to learn.

inlove
<Falling in Love> & <Falling in banana>

[The moment I saw these, I just wanted to take them with me. But a red-dot sticker was on its nameplate… they were all sold. I was devastated]

[Q: I love that this piece did not just portray rainbow, good feelings of being in love. Falling in love makes one feel powerful, humbled, and human, but it also requires commitment, confusion, and navigating new challenges. Your pieces portray both sides of being in love really well, with humorous touch.]

B: I wanted to put in erotic feeling, and also show both-sides of being in love.

I also added some wit to it, so that people will find it witty and have some good laughs.

The heart could be a male, or the banana could be a male.

I wanted the painting to be delightful, while showing more than one side of being in love.

[Yeah, being in love is not always happy. There will be some pain and sacrifice…]

Yeah I also do not think it is all just happiness when you are in love.

It’s a good thing, falling love, you know, but it also comes with some aching.

So I wanted to have some blood coming out.

You also got to be patient, so when love is coming through you, you can let it be.

[Yeah. The face expression is… not happy but also not sad or doomed.]

Yeah, It’s like ‘Huh, what the hell is this? What did I get myself into?’

Is the banana stuck there, fell in there, does it want to get out of there or stay there,

what shall it do?

And this one is holding the heart, will he keep it there, or get it out?

[Q. You’ve seen Aladdin, the movie? ‘Yeah, of cousre!’ Haha, great. You go back to your studio today, and Genie shows up, and tells you your three wishes will be fulfilled. What would these three be?]

Haha, well. First, wish, if I could have it fulfilled.

I would love to have a permanent space where I can show my works to people.

In Korea, I would love to see more galleries introducing works of young artists.

Second wish would be financial freedom when I buy materials for my work.

When I am shopping for brushes and paints, I no longer want to tell myself,

‘Ah, I want to use that brush, but oh well, I will use this brush for now.’

Last wish is about getting my work noticed in bigger world. [anyone out there who like his work, spread the words! :P]

It’d be great if Genie comes to me and tells me stuff like, ‘Hey man, to apply to School X, you need A, B, and C.’

I know nothing of such information.

Like, what tests I need to do, and what scores I should be able to achieve.

So if Genie tells me exactly what I need, I can just prepare that, and knock on the doors.

Then, I think it’d be more fun, you know.

Marlyin
<Marilyn Monroe>

[And, there was, the Marilyn Monroe.]

B: You know I was studying filmmaking… I really loved her. She is the symbol of her generation.

There are so many things that can be expressed through using just her image.

So I wanted to let her become a banana. There were already some other people who’ve done the same thing. But well, I wanted to do it as well, so I did it. And many people loved it, and it found its owner already. So I am thankful.

[This is sort of out of topic but, I studied physics so it came to my mind. A banana, wearing a spacesuit, hanging out in the space. Could I ask you to do that painting? Do you do such thing?]

Absolutely, Wah, that will be fun. I like this kind of collaboration. Combining other people’s imagination and my execution on canvas. It creates more fun stuff.

[So shall we do a space-banana then?]

Oh yeah? I like it. Let’s do it.

[Q. Alrighty, we’ve been at it for awhile. I want to be respectful of your time. Last question… What do you plan to do after the exhibition ends?]

I am going to Osaka, Japan, to travel, relax, and get some inspirations, hopefully.

And with impressions I get there, I want to do bigger paintings.

One concept in my mind is like this: I will draw my friends, family members, and people I met through this exhibition, of course as bananas, and having a blast together.

Everyone having fun together, partying, I guess.

You know, bananas will be grilling, swimming around.. some surfing on the waves, and some making snowman on the side, no restrictions from global weather patterns, you know. It will be fun…! I will send you a picture when it’s done 🙂

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So a conversation with Baek was filled with laughters, what it was like to quit a safe, comfortable job to pursue a passion, and what it takes to create your own style.

Baek is now back in his studio, bringing more bananas into life. Some of his new works are being shown in Korea. I will get the info here soon. 

Say hello to Baek on his instagram: #yourmok

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