People / Critic

Yoonsuk Choi : Go Straight

posted 29 July 2020

It has been seven years since I started driving in 2013. Every time I grab the steering wheel I repeat my motto: the best driving is safe driving. There are countless implied promises on the road that we make to each other. Everyone has to stop for a red light and to put one’s foot on the accelerator when it turns green. In my opinion, it is indisputable that driving is a compelling performance. We have to be thoughtful while driving, controlling the speed and distance carefully and considering the other performers – who we do not know and cannot predict – who happen to be on the same road at the same time. Yet the car is sometimes even more private than home. You can play any music you would like to listen to and increase the volume as much as you like, regardless of the traffic. The reason why I shared my history and philosophy of driving first is, in short, to talk about the driving of Yoonsuk Choi, a driver I met last year.

Yoonsuk Choi was the one who was sitting back and watching me as I took the wrong route and struggled to find the way with someone else sitting next to me. That was when I experienced his generosity toward other drivers. Then how about his driving history? When I looked into it more closely I realized that driving is his work and his life since the started in 2001 when he entered an arts university. At the time he studied Western Painting and drove along the bypass every day. It was when we learned ‘what is driving’ from an old professor’s notebook or when we were told about showy drift driving skills by seniors who did not even own a car. However, since arts universities here always prioritize how to select a good car, it was never easy to share concerns about good driving.

What is good driving? What decides good driving? Drivers still have many different ideas about it so there is no magic answer. I was impressed by his driving. Although it is not well-known, he used to draw cars almost every day. To me – who went to his place and saw his sketchbooks – it is a pity that his drawings have not been widely seen. He also collected all the receipts from everywhere he spent money while driving, including service centers and petrol stations, restaurants, tollgates, and cafes for a few years and weaved them into various shapes (〈Mass of the Year〉, 2009–2013).

최윤석 〈깊은 잠이여 오라〉, 2017, 양모극세사, 200 x 140 cm. 〈Come Heavy Sleep, Come〉, 2017, wool micro-fiber, 200 x 140 cm

Yoonsuk Choi 〈Come Heavy Sleep, Come〉, 2017, wool micro-fiber, 200 x 140 cm

I should detail his driving performance. He usually takes the approach of recording himself with a black box installed in his car. He often presents very private driving. He sometimes reveals the sound of driving while cruising along the same road for eight hours (〈Untitled (8 Hours of Drawing)〉, 2011). He also shared all the pictures and videos of him sleeping at highway rest areas that were recorded over 12 years by his friends and colleagues (〈Sleep Book〉, 2004–2015); he collected all the dust and debris in his car to create a video (〈Bed Scene〉, 2012); he turns the air purifier on in the car and reviews how it works for an hour (〈Air Purifier Review〉, 2019). These performances give penny-dropped moments. I have been watching videos on his black box archive over the last few months on his YouTube channel 〈Homemade LAB〉 (2019-) and I learned that he likes to listen to AM radio. It reminded me of his strict taste in sound.

I have an urge to mention the roads he often drives on. One of them is the interchange (IC), which we Koreans usually call the ‘ai-see’. As entering points that connect highways and bypasses, they are often built with a toll gate (TG). Crossing ICs, his concerns about driving as a job and driving for a living deepen. Here, the meaning of the ‘toll charges’ that he had to pay is only known to himself. He often looks at the other side of the road due to driving for a living, which taught him the strange habits of drivers. This made him like using the junction (JC) – this is usually called ‘jeong-sean’ by Koreans. Perhaps many drivers might not know about the JC. It is the road that connects a motorway to another, that merges cars coming from different roads. He often likes to use the JC and Lecture Series: 〈Glass Mirrors〉 (2016–2018), which is an educational broadcast for drivers, is one of them. Even though he knows the speed of the drivers on motorways, Choi smoothly directs the driver he is helping to the JC. His extraordinary talent is navigating traffic, which allows us to see drivers in different ways.

To sum up, whether the road he drives on is bypass, motorway, or JC, and however many times he passes the IC and pays toll charges, whichever JC he uses when he is mixed with other drivers, or whether he stays in the resting area for a bit longer than expected before entering the motorway, his driving always attains the status of art. Of course, when he drives on the road and passes roads mindlessly, sometimes he might ask himself: why am I here? But as far as I know, he will grab his steering wheel and go to Goyang-si before the end of this year. He said to me once that he could ‘go straight into artistic status’ whenever he goes to the small studio at a building in Goyang allocated to him. I will grab my steering wheel to get to his studio before this year ends. I am glad that I can sometimes share the road with a driver like him.

※ This content was first published in 『2019 MMCA Residency Goyang: A Collection of Critical Reviews』, and re-published here with the consent of MMCA Goyang Residency

Sooji Park


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