A Note from an Independent Publisher


What follows is the transcript typed by artist Ryu Hankil during his performance Description for Other Things on September 7, 2012.

This is probably about my works, but without any detailed description. I repeatedly have written and erased; then I reached the conclusion that a nice and kind presentation of my works is not my job at all. If you wonder how my works are like, it is your job to look for and at them. Having organized numerous events and published several works, I have realized that all the blame and complaints have been aimed at me. All of these were aimed at my lack of kindness and readiness to explain myself to the audience. For the fine art scene, I was a musician; for the publishers, an illustrator; for the performance art scene, a sound artist; for the music scene, an artist, but not a musician. I felt estranged to all of these given identities. I spent all my energy attempting to resist them, but at last I gave up. Now I realize that my practice of aesthetic difference depends upon keeping the ambiguous position in the middle.

My tentative conclusion is that keeping my unkindness—rather than responsiveness—has changed the situation around. In other words, the very chance to present myself through this writing and the current exhibition didn’t come from my eagerness to fully explain myself, but from the exact opposite.

My quick realization that the existing art market would not help my aesthetic activities was a kind of relief and it opened up the great possibility towards living in material poverty.

Nonetheless, self-publishing and distribution of my own works alongside with my friends’—whose work I am personally fond of—has provided enough immaterial satisfaction, with a little help for my material needs. Despite the mainstream conception that there is no hope for new music in Korea, I am still thrilled at the possibility. In the face of all of these abstract pessimisms in music, I recommend that you still endeavour to develop your own concrete model for making music, which has actually helped me to get out of the domesticating and taming effects of the existing art market. I prefer “the aesthetic” to “the artistic,” because of its inherent extensiveness and expansiveness beyond the official artistic world.

Independent publishing has been the best method to practice what I have considered “aesthetic,” without any help from the establishment of the art world. I can keep my inhospitality explicit and don’t need to sugarcoat my stupidity. Or I can sugarcoat it in my own way. Just like the established publishing world’s obsession with catalogue, independent publishing is obsessed with archive. Archive as the mixture of inhospitality and ambiguity. It enables the exchange with writers—or, more precisely, the aesthetic practitioner—without any entitlement provided by the art system. All my thinking has been focused on this process of exchange and the possibility of collaboration. Thinking itself is not something marvelous; it is nothing special. What is at stake is not just thinking, but how to connect thinking with concrete actions and practices. There is no natural and automatic causality between thinking and action. It is time to think and talk about practicing what has been considered “nothing special” in different manners. And we need a lot of time to continue the trials and errors that occur in these kinds of practices.

As you all know, nothing’s easy with the world, society, system and people. Without personal reflection on actions and practices in a concrete situation, we would rely on naive thinking and reflection on what we “should” do. You cannot solve this problem alone, but it also won’t be solved by submitting to somebody else with powers, whether religious or intellectual authority. How would it be possible to build a temporary rally point of dispassionateness for all the lonely and desperate Boat People and Missing Links in the contemporary world? And how would it be possible to build a flea market there? What can I contribute to this task? I feel I have found even a very small fragment of the answer from my critical experience in self-publishing, distributing and collaboration.

Now if anyone asks me why I run Manual[1], my answer is “to produce something weird.” If I’m asked why I created Manual’s sublabel Trigger[2], my answer is “to produce something fast and weird.”

Translated by Hong Chulki

Trigger is a sublabel of Manual, which claims to specialize in “dance music for oneself.” In fact, it was founded for the music that cannot be released by Manual, how quickly it would be produced.

Translation Services: Accompanying Texts

This text was first published on September 8, 2012 in



  1. Manual is a one-person independent publisher and music label founded by Ryu Hankil in 2006. It exists mainly to publish work by people who cannot be neatly classified by the genre-specific art system. Recently it has focused on collaboration with underground poets and writers. Its long-term plan is to release movies, but no insiders or friends know when or how this would be possible.

  2. Trigger is a sublabel of Manual, which claims to specialize in “dance music for oneself.” In fact, it was founded for the music that cannot be released by Manual, how quickly it would be produced.