Flâneur-ing 101

They say that there’s an equation for happiness. To increase happiness, you need to lessen expectation. To be the happiest of flâneurs, you need very little to no expectation.

“Someone who is wandering the streets, not with the intent of getting somewhere, but as an observer and philosopher. ”[1]

On a recent trip to Seoul, I had one of the best experiences I have ever had – totally unexpected. I usually stay in the Ikseon-dong area, because it is close to Insa-dong – by far one of my favourite areas in Seoul. I usually have breakfast at the bakery by the top of the Insa-dong pedestrian street before I start my day. The bakery has a great view of the area, and observing passers-by compliments my bagel-and-coffee really well. On the morning in question, I was making my way to the bakery when I thought of the Space Group Building, and decided to go by there first – just to see if it was open yet.

To give you a little background, I learned of the Space Group Building during the Venice Biennale in 2014 – when Korea won the Golden Lion. I was introduced to Kim Swoo-Geun. This in turn let me to the colossal Sewoon-Sangga and efforts to stop it’s demolition. At that time, the Space Group Building was not open to the public. In fact it’s future was uncertain. At some point in the summer of 2014 I went there to see if I could at least take pictures of the exterior, and found that it was boarded up with signs that said “Arario, opening in September”. I was excited, a little concerned, but mostly excited because I might be able to enter the building in September. I learned that Kim Chang-il, owner of the Arario Gallery and a millionaire art collector, had acquired the building.

Approaching the building at 10 in the morning (breakfast was turning into brunch) I saw that the boards were down and that people in Arario T-shirts were walking to the building with me. It was open! I figured I’d quickly walk through and then go for breakfast after. As I was there first and the only person in the gallery at that point, I had the place to myself (except for the staff who keeps an eye on you – no pictures allowed inside). In the end I spent two hours walking through the building, touching surfaces, trying to figure out what was changed in the renovation. Look the art was great too, in fact I really like what the curator had done – the order of the pieces made sense to me, they related to one another very well – almost spoke to each other. The Kohei Nawa Pixel Deer stopped me in my tracks on the staircase.

A man had quickly passed me several times in the gallery. It was clear he wasn’t there to look at art. I figured he was also there for the building. He didn’t look happy. After seeing, touching and mentally filming the Space Group Building, I went down to the shop, hoping to find a catalogue or documentation of the renovation process – like the video they show in the courtyard. The man was there too. He had expected there to be some sort of book or brochure to take away. I found him badgering the shopkeeper for not having a comprehensive catalogue or compilation of the renovation videos. She politely said “I’m sorry” to which he replied “No, you’re not” and stormed out. In his absence, while leisurely browsing through the shop, I found several books published by The Space Group, one among them having original plans and drawing of the Space Group Building. I was elated. I had discovered gold. And then I had lunch.

[1] Flaneur-ing in one easy lesson

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