Written by Nayun Lee

Translated by Yujin Song and Youngjoo Kang

One day I had my fortune told for fun, and three Chinese characters of my name turned out to be those that mean wanderlust. Come to think of it, I often feel restless whenever I stay put for a month or two at one place. Naturally, I have traveled a lot; sometimes to visit my friends or just about anywhere that I can come up with a reason for. You can say that the sense of restlessness drives my life to many different directions. I remember the moments that I had numerous moments that I wished I could just pack and leave. To my surprises, the desire to constantly leave, my dear wanderlust, began to dissipate. Since I am back in my hometown, my homesickness went away, and hankering to see greeneries or stand by the ocean was taken care of in 1 hour. Now sitting at a nice cafe with a book or seeing a good quality exhibition is not a city privilege anymore. Rather, there are things you can experience only in Jeju. It is time to relish the unique culture of Jeju in a high-quality setting. Jeju is indeed where the beauty of nature and culture meet.

On November, 2016, I created a Map of Bookstores, and a Map of Cultural Spaces in Jeju, with a friend director and designer. The Bookstore Map contains 13 bookstores including the ones that are planned to open in 2017. Sosim Bookstore is the first “small bookstore” opened in the rural area. The owner of Chaeg Bat (Field of Books) is a farmer as well, and he would open his bookstore when he is done working in the field. The first bookstore will open in U-do, the biggest island off of Jeju island. They all have stories to tell and people who’d share them with you. I distributed Bookstore Maps at the reception of my first book <Refreshing Days New York>, and they got heated responses. In fact, the maps traveled across the country faster than my book and 1,000 pieces ran out in a month. They were reprinted soon after. The overall response I witnessed that day was a telling sign that it is now the time of small bookstores.

Whether those who picked the maps will go check out the bookshops and purchase books is unknown. The cozy independent bookstore Like It in old downtown Jeju is always full of customers. Laba Books in Wimi village became a neighborhood sanctuary for the young people, in which the bookstore maps ran out the first. As short of a time it may have been, what I saw was the vibrant liveliness of the bookstores in Jeju. The maps were updated in 2017 and ten thousand pieces were printed altogether.

If you want to talk about Jeju Maps of Culture Spaces, we need to discuss <Nonprofit Art Space Art festival AR TOWNS: WARANG WARANG MODADRUNG> exhibition (November 18th,2016 to January 29th, 2017 in Jeju Museum of Art). Since 2012, AR TOWNS project, hosted by Nonprofit Art Space Network of more than twenty alternative spaces, tour around the country every year, which was held in Jeju this year. I was lucky enough to work as a director for the exhibition and highlighted Jeju culture places with other alternative spaces across the country. Dozens of local art spaces in Jeju displayed their work in the Archive which was built with wooden tangerine crates. Attendees from other areas were able to go visit some of them later in a group. The idea of Art Space Maps was first realized as a preparation for the show by marking all participating art spaces on a brochure.The good news is that there are more people visiting those art spaces as a response of the brochure from the show. The feedback came the curator of one of the art spaces called Art Space Yang in Georo village, Jeju, a gallery and artist residency.

It was an awakening moment for me that art and culture spaces needed a way to be organized while they continue to run as providers of ideas, inspiration, information and enjoyment. We are living in the world of bottomless information, and what the world needs is selections of quality information and friendly ways to deliver them. In other words, the need of high quality curation resonates more powerfully than ever. Curators of art galleries in the past now reach numerous fields in the society and continue their work. In the same light, Jeju began to respond to the new wave of needs by holding training for young curators and recruit professionals from other areas of Korea. There was a rapid increase of art spaces around 2010 in Jeju, though the founders of both government and private sectors didn’t realize they were far short of curators to cultivate them.

However, I begin to see the sign of good changes. Young people of my age, from the 20s to 40s, are setting up platforms for exciting ideas. The artist group, Jaejudojoa in Aewol, runs an artist residency and create upcycled artwork through beachcombing projects. Earth Visitor in Jocheon, a charming studio of an artist couple, is open to the public to share and sell their artwork. Hyangsadang, a cultural property in the old downtown of Jeju city, is open for exhibitions and lectures, serving its original purpose as a venue for cultural gatherings. Every space is unique and authentic to its local atmosphere, visitors to Jeju now mark those spaces to stop by on their way to next tourist attractions.  

Now better ideas are popping up in my mind. More art spaces are calling for more curators to work at their playgrounds. They are raising valuable curators as by learning how to have fun and find ways to better hurdle obstacles just like playgrounds help teach children by playing. Everyone has to start somewhere, and having fun could be an easy and the most efficient way to start one’s work. When I left New York for Jeju quite suddenly, I was a bit anxious that I had to work hard to find fun in the small city of the island. However, Jeju is now full of platforms to work and play. An art curator or a director’s job is setting up the playground for others to play well. Past year was a. I think I should give credit to the big playground, Jeju, for that.

Then, our next playground, Seaweed, was born here in Jeju. Now I’d say it’s time we go to town.



Illustrator。 Hae Gang Lee

Hae Gang Lee conveys messages through characters. He wants to explore existences through relationships and some inexplicable ways of being and evoke fresh perceptions of being. Starting by painting his messages on the streets, he now uses different mediums. hailhail89@naver.com

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