Transcript March 27, 2017 — Interviewee: Céline Ethevenin
Note: This is a transcript of a recorded interview — all speech as is, except for common filler words removed. The full episode is available here.
Can you briefly introduce yourself?
Yeah, so my name is Céline, I’m from France and I came to live in Korea in 2009, so it’s going to be eight years this year. I worked in London briefly, and then I’m working here in a travel agency. I like to read and travel and cook! Bake cookies.
Do you participate in the arts at all?
In a very passive way. Of course it depends on your definition of arts, but then thinking of the word artist is quite wide. From what I would do or be implicated the most would probably be music, because I learned when I was a child, so organ first and then about ten years of keyboard and a tiny little bit of piano, but these days I mostly listen, I don’t play anymore. Mostly because I don’t have a keyboard here.
I see. Do you consider yourself an artistic person?
Not in the way that I could make or create arts because I don’t think I have enough imagination. I’m always amazed at people who make music or dance or ballet or even writing books, it seems to come out of nowhere and I don’t think I could do that, but I enjoy going to a show and watching something or listening to music, or I don’t go to museums that often, but I like to receive more than I create.
I see. Okay, so what drives you to the arts? So if you listen to music or go to a show, what interests you, or what’s your motivation for doing that?
With shows, it’s mostly when I want to take a break or get out of the daily work routine, it’s a good way to maybe escape a little bit. Music, I listen to music every day. I listen to a little bit of everything, but depending on my mood, I can listen to classical or pop, or more sad, or more energetic, upbeat things. Yeah, and exhibitions or paintings these things, I’m not too much into abstract, but I would be more interested in classical stuff, if something’s in town, then if I see a poster, I think, oh, this looks nice, I’ll go. I’m more of a visual person, say, all these things. If it catches my eye, I’m tempted to go. With music, it’s more the melody, I don’t really listen to the lyrics at first, mostly because when I first listened American pop, I wasn’t that good at English, so I couldn’t understand what they were saying, so I listened to the melody first, and then Korean is the same, I don’t really understand what they say when I first hear it, so if it sounds nice, I just listen to whatever and get interested in the words later. It’s just time when I don’t have to think or worry about things to do or deadlines.
Yeah. Do you have a particularly memorable experience of the arts?
Yeah, Phantom of the Opera I still think was one memorable experience, because it’s one of the first pieces I remember hearing, and it was on TV, and I didn’t know what it was at first, but then I went to London and I saw they were playing it, because they’d been playing it close to 30 years I think, and there’s one I have to see, it’s going to be that one! And I went eventually and I think it’s one of my favorites. I couldn’t say why, but in that one I like I think the mix between pop and opera, mostly because I kind of wanted to be an opera singer when I was really young. And that had nothing to do with the music, it’s just the way they were singing, and you know opera singers the voice doesn’t come out the way you speak, and I thought it was really fascinating, even though I couldn’t understand what they were saying. Just the way they used the voice, I just thought oh I want to do that. I didn’t, but that’s okay, I still like to hear.
So seeing Phantom of the Opera for the first time, or hearing the music, kind of stood out to you?
The first piece was hearing the music, the Phantom of the Opera piece when the girl sings really high, just waa, like how can you do that? That piece of music stuck, and then when I heard it again years later, it was “ohh that was the thing! That’s the one I want to see.”
Do you think that you experience the arts on a daily basis?
I think yes, and mostly unconsciously. Because you have the literal art, that say, art gallery, or museum, or something on the street from the shops or whatever. And I told you last time about that small gallery I walk past every day, and it’s still there, but they’re renewing something, so there’s nothing, there hasn’t been anything for a few days. But I guess that would be a literal way of experiencing, just seeing something that’s obviously artistic, and then there’s things painted on the walls, and there’s a daycare center not far from where I live, and the kids have decorated bottles and then they use them for flowers and stuff, you could say it’s art too, so there’s plenty of things if you stop to look or think about, hmm, it’s artistic, so I guess if you don’t think of it as art when you pass by or hear or see, thinking back it is some form of art.
So do you think if all of that stuff wasn’t there, would you miss it, even if you don’t necessarily experience it consciously?
Having seen or heard it for some time, if it disappeared I would notice for sure, I guess I would miss it too, but if I never heard music or never seen anything, I don’t know if you could say that you miss it, but I think if there were no colors or nothing pretty, you would think there’s something a bit boring about all this.
Well that’s basically the question, which is the thought experiment side of things, which is that what does a world without art look like, for you or in general?
Very…square, like a square. Black and white, and a bit bland. Last time I told you about a musical I saw, called Pest.
I think you mentioned it.
That was about in a future where music and all forms of art have disappeared or have been banished -
What’s it called again? It’s based on a book, right?
It’s based on a book, but it’s not a literal interpretation of that book, it’s called Pest, and it’s from a French novel, and Pest is a disease.
Did you say it was by Satre?
No, it was Camus.
And, well the book is about the Pest, the disease, and they’ve translated it into a world in the future where there is no art anymore, and the main character is a doctor who’s looking for a cure to kind of revive people because they’re, I think they’re dying slowly, they don’t know what from, and on the side there’s someone who discovers a guitar again, that’s in a museum but they don’t know how to play, they don’t know what it’s for, and they have two people who are a bit dreamers, and they’re curious and they want to try, so they figure out sounds and pretty sounds, so it’s a parallel story about finding the cure for people’s disease and music coming back. I’m not sure I understood everything because it was all in Korean, and in songs or dialogue that was sometimes too fast, but that was the main idea, it was a nice way of translating the story, which I haven’t read because it’s a bit gloomy, and that maybe an example if there was no art in the world, people might get sick.
Interesting. People might get sick.
But not know what from.
The lack of music sickness.
Maybe, they’d probably all get depressed, but not know why.
Yeah, interesting. I was just off in the world, I was just trying to picture it.
The costumes were all white, like uniforms and it’s very straight lines and no break of flashy colors and quite — what do you call it — you know the word sterile in French?
Yeah, it’s the same word in English.
How do you pronounce it?
Anyway, with no external input it’s very clean and a bit boring.
I haven’t heard that idea before, that the lack of arts might actually make us sick, it’s just an interesting thought.
I think it helps. You often say of painters that they’re a bit — how do you say in English —
Not crazy, just distraught souls.
Yeah, and it’s a way for those people to get out everything they feel. And then people who see it or hear it or whatnot, it helps soothe you, if it’s pretty or beautiful, you can look at it for hours and just — somehow it calms you. And if there is nothing like that to help you release your stress or whatever, I think you’d eventually get sick.
And so, do you think it would be the same — would we have that same sickness if there was still music around us, but we couldn’t really experience it as art? Like we could hear the sounds, but it didn’t give us any reaction, do you think it would kind of be the same thing?
Well if you can hear the sound but you don’t know what it is, I guess either you might reject it or just be curious and want to hear some more. Then if you’re forbidden to hear, then it’s a different thing, then you might get sick too. Maybe a bit like a drug that you can’t take.
But it’s hard to imagine, because once you’ve heard or seen something, you can’t unsee or unhear it.
Right, yeah, it’s not easy to picture. I’m looking at the stuff on my walls and being like —
Imagine it’s not there.
Imagine it’s not there. Or imagine it was there, but I couldn’t like see or appreciate it, then I probably wouldn’t have put it up in the first place. Anyway. Moving on. What do you think it means to live an artful life?
I’ve never thought that way. Uh. Well, I’d say — anything that’s not — well. Typing. You should type something, it’s either from a typing machine or a computer, it’s very, well, even that you have different fonts, so if you choose a pretty one, or even not a pretty one, but a different one, you could think of it as not necessarily art, but a bit. If you do anything of those things, even a bit unconsciously, I guess you could say you live an artful life. Not to the same degree as someone who maybe works in arts or does that or they learn, but I still think I’m more a receiver of artsy things, but even listening or seeing it might mean that you’re involved in it somehow, because people who make music or paintings they make them for someone, I mean they make them for themselves too, but to me, they make them to be heard and seen so if I see or hear it, I guess it’s being part of it, and being a bit active — passive-active.
Do you think that you live an artful life?
Yes..but not 100%. Not compared to you. Not on the same level.
Right. Yeah, but as you said it’s hard to compare that because obviously arts professionals are going to be in it a little deeper, but I think it doesn’t necessarily mean that someone who receives the arts doesn’t live an artful life. Just a different kind of artful.
Different kind, yeah, that’s a good word. Even the way say, you organize your house — choose colors, choose shapes, they’re unique to you. So different levels of arts and participating, a tiny bit.
Well, as you say. Stuff needs to be heard, music needs to be heard, paintings need to be seen. Do you have any final thoughts or comments to add?
Well like I said last time, if you look up, or pay attention, you can see art, not everywhere, but in more places than expected.
So in that case, then I have to ask one follow up question, which is that do you think it’s worth it to look up?
Oh yeah! See, now that you’ve lived in Korea for over a year, you get sucked into that crazy rhythm, work, house, work, house, and sometimes try to do something a little trip somewhere or just a day out of the city, and then you realize, oh, it’s good to get out. You have to make the effort. Oh, I need to not work today and maybe do something to relax, so days like that you go see somewhere, you go to the park and just sit there and look up. So I think it’s worth it, you need it. Especially in countries like Korea where people have gotten used to just work and then they — Koreans are kind of a good example, at least the older generation, they haven’t been used to enjoy themselves, at least not the men because they work and earn money for the family, and then well the women are stressed too, they have this aspect of the culture where the women sacrifice their life for the children so they can have a good education and later a good job but then on the way they forget to take care of themselves a bit so in that sense Korean are a good example of people who have forgotten a bit not necessarily by choice how to have fun or enjoy or do something that doesn’t necessarily have a purpose. They are slowly rediscovering the joys of having a day off, and the younger people they can’t keep that rhythm anymore, mostly because they’ve been sheltered a lot as children and working seven days a week doesn’t work for them, so yeah slowly I think they’re learning again to do something for themselves, and I think you need it.
Yeah, and I guess in some ways that the doing something for yourself often looks like arts or involves the arts in some ways.
Cool. Yeah. I like that last little culture note. But thank you!