Back Home: Seoul Stages Just Turned Five Years

It’s been exactly five years since I started this blog,*** right after arriving in Seoul for a year of intensive Korean classes at Sogang University. My first post is, when I read it today, a rather obscure text on memories, ghosts, and a walk through my neighborhood in Sinchon (신촌), all written in front of a convenience store overlooking the rotary. Indeed, this area is still quite “haunted” for me and I spent a considerable amount of time here, one month in a motel, one week in a guesthouse, and almost a year in a hasukjip (student boarding house), all within a radius of one minute.

After settling down on the other side of Mapo district in late 2011, I have visited the neighborhood infrequently, often for a performance at Mary Hall, the on-campus theatre of Sogang University (She She Pop are regulars there). There are new apartment blocks as well as new buildings on campus, the former railroad tracks between Sinchon and Hongdae have been turned into a park (at least partly), there is a new subway station, some restaurants are gone, others have emerged. What is clear is that things keep on changing… and so will this blog.

When looking back at the last five years of mostly irregular blogging, I found my original plan—to present parts of my ongoing research on pansori—to give way to more diverse impressions, often unrelated to pansori or theatre. Recently, I went to see more art exhibitions and wrote about some of them. In 2010 and 2011, when I was in the middle of getting into existing Korean-language research on theatre, I posted translations of the tables of contents from books that had impressed me. Now that I have grown (a bit) more accustomed to reading in Korean, I rarely do this anymore. At times I experienced with videos, but kind of grew tired of holding the cellphone, especially during performances. Nowadays, I try to add more images and galleries. From the start, the blog has been a great way to keep on writing, more casual and wider in scope than the dissertation.

Here are some fun facts from the last five years, provided by WordPress:

The most popular post is, incredibly, one of those translated tables of contents, that of Seo Yeon-ho’s History of Korean Theatre (the first volume on modern, i.e. Colonial era theatre). The runner-up is a glorified link to English translations of the five classical pansori pieces provided by the Jeonju Int’l Sori Festival, probably the most click-baity post I ever wrote. Seems that just adding the word “free” really works! The third place goes to a follow-up to a Shakespeare paper that took quite a lot of time, in effect an “update” with several mini reviews of literature on the matter that were published after the article.

The number of posts per year has, after the enthusiam (and freedom as a student) of the first year (32 posts in eight months) had worn down, steadily increased: nineteen (2011), twenty-one (2012), twenty-four (2013), twenty-five (2014), and so far ten this year. Recently I have re-visited many posts drafted out at an earlier time and generally posted shorter texts (mostly written on the way to work and back), this way increasing the posting rate a bit. I’m not sure if I can keep this up, but we’ll see.

world map of blog visitors between 2012-02-25 and 2015-05-12 via WordPress.com

world map of blog visitors between 2012-02-25 and 2015-05-12 via WordPress.com

With regard to the visitors’ location of origin, South Korea clearly dominates with 3,877  thus during a period of about three years. The United States (2,826), Germany (1,850) and the Philippines (1,061!) follow, then Great Britain (531), France (316), Singapore (286), and Canada (267).

The most frequent search string, besides my name, is “pansori lyrics” (remember, those free ones) and then, interestingly, “karl valentin”, an early 20th-century comedian from Germany (I wrote a report on a Korean production that uses some of his sketches quite a while ago.)

The majority of referals (whatever that might be?) comes from Facebook and there are some from Twitter (where I am not very active). But there are also those visitors who come from other blogs that put me on their blogroll—thanks a lot to the following three that I know of (finally did the same):

  • Prof. CedarBough Saeji’s “Footnotes” on mask dance play, pungmul-training, Korean academia, and so much else—and with great photos!
  • French filmmaker Yann Kerloch’s “Timeless, bottomless”, where he shares his “views on Korean music, movies, and whatever I want”.
  • Janet Hilts’ “timbre.tales”, a blog on classical music, both old and new, in Korea and by Koreans, unfortunately a bit sleepy these days.

Finally, to get an overview on what I usually write about, this is the top–12 of categories (some posts are filed under two), unsurprisingly spearheaded by pansori-related posts and more or less detailed recollections of performances I attended:

I hope that this might be an occasion for some of you to dig a bit deeper into this mess of ephemeralia, “objects that people tend to accumulate, like receipts and ticket stubs and tissues” (according to the Urban Dictionary). Like German new folk philosopher Odo Marquard (about whose death at the age of eighty-seven I just learned today) said: “I don’t collect, I just don’t throw anything away.” (quoted from memory)

– 12 May 2015 (火)

PS: By the way, I recently found out about a “twin site” on theatre in Japan: “Tokyo Stages”. Since early 2009, Tokyo-based writer, editor and translator William Andrews blogs on “Japanese contemporary theatre and performing arts”. Have a look at his insightful and detailed texts on a variety of themes related to theatre in and about Japan.

*** Although the first post is dated May 2nd, I actually posted in on the 12th. As you may have noted, the dates given at the end of my posts are not necessarily identical with the day of uploading. They rather refer to a date relevant to the content of the post.

About Jan Creutzenberg

Jan Creutzenberg, friend of theatre, music, and cinema, comments on his performative experiences in Seoul and elsewhere.
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