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CULTURE SKETCHFrom Minimalism to Minimal Life
Kyung-yoon Seo, Dong-hee Kim | 승인 2018.05.15 12:03|(260호)

"To have something is to be bound by that stuff. 'Non-possession' means not to discard anything but to throw something unnecessary away. Our choice of pure poverty is far more valuable than wealth." - The venerable Beopjeong

 

There is always a steady vogue for cultural history. For example, if you look at the history of art, there were trends that represented each period, such as ancient Hellenism, medieval church art and Renaissance. Similarly, human life has also had a certain trend for each generation. Until recently, the most important trend in our lives was "possession." More and more money, houses and cars to show off their lives was a supreme task for most people. But at the same time, can we say that the spirit of so many people is as abundant as the material they have? Everyone has a car to reach anywhere and social networking services to contact anytime, but people are becoming lonely and exhausted like a castle in the air. To solve this mental poverty, people started to lay down their material assets. That is, pursuing 'minimal life' that fills up their minds by discarding unnecessary things. In this article, we will introduce minimalism that started in the art, briefly explore the minimalism of countries around the world, and then look at what is in the trend in the minimal life of Korea.

■ Minimalism in the fields of Art
Minimalism in visual art, generally referred to as "minimal art", "literalist art" and "ABC Art" emerged in New York in the early 1960s as new artists moved toward geometric abstraction. Minimal art attempts to present the unique characteristics of objects by excluding the subjectivity of the artist. That is, in the minimalist art, the artists tried to minimize the trace of the artists’ subjectivity in the process of the creation, which led the viewer to be interested in the unique characteristics of the object itself.
The term minimalism is also used to describe a trend in design and architecture, wherein the subject is restricted only to its essential elements. In minimalist architecture, design elements strive to convey the message of simplicity. Especially, Architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (1886?1969) adopted the motto "Less is more" to describe his aesthetic of minimalism.
Minimalism in literature has emerged as a minimalistic novel, and it refers to novels that approach the concepts of language to the point where it can no longer be reduced by excluding unnecessary languages as much as possible. So the author expressed in minimum language, and the reader has to be absorbed in the meaning between the lines to understand it. Minimalism in music is represented by a repetition of short passages, the continuity of the same note, consistent rhythms, and certain chords. Musical minimalism has been widely used since the mid-1970s. The latest minimalist music is Minimal Techno, a sub genre of techno music, characterized by electronic sounds, simple 4/4 beats, and short loop repetition.

 

■ World-famous “Minimal Life”
Today, a minimal life that only pursues the minimum necessary for life gets a lot of attention. Minimal life refers to a life that only lives in the things necessary for daily life. It is a global life style that emphasizes quality of life rather than material abundance. Let's take a look at some examples of minimal life: "Kinfolk" in the US, "Danshari" in Japan, and "Hygge" in Denmark.
The "Kinfolk" in the United States “means close relatives, relatives, etc.” Kinfolk Life means a nature-friendly and healthy lifestyle influenced by the magazine "Kinfolk" of Portland, USA. The photographs and articles in the magazine Kinfolk show their philosophy that the pleasure of daily life is just a simple one, not complicated. At the same time, the Sharing Economy, which emphasizes social relations like “Airbnb” and “Uber”, attracted attention in the United States and enabled the development of minimal life.
In Japan, there is a "Danshari (斷捨離)" trend that seeks simplicity away from obsession with things. Emphasizing spirituality and discarding useless stuff is the key point. The vogue for Danshari was particularly prevalent after the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake. The concept of ownership for the Japanese has been redefined, as they witnessed many things collapsing and disappearing from the earthquake.
Denmark ranked third among 38 countries in the Better Life Index (BLI) 2016, which was surveyed by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). This high happiness index is strongly related to their "Hygge Life." "Hygge" means well-being in Norwegian. In Denmark, “Hygge” is a way of life that simplifies food, clothing, and shelter and also enjoys rest by being with people. Rather than spending too much material things, it is important to live simply with nature.

 

■ Minimal Life in Korea
Minimal life is trending in Korea in various ways. The field that it is the most actively trending is interior. Have you ever looked into your closet with all the clothes that you do not wear, or the shelves with books or notebooks that you do not even use, and thought ‘I want to get rid of it all’? Minimal Life interior reflect those desires, which allows you to throw away things that you do not need. That makes you to arrange minimal objects and enjoy a spacious house. Since more mid-sized apartments have increased and single-person household with short-term contracts have been increasing in Korea, more and more people are trying minimal life by dropping things that they do not need when they move out their homes.
 There are also people who broaden the scope of minimal life to human relationships. As the social media develops, we have widened the range of friends we can manage. Therefore, we became more obsessed with relationships and enthusiastic about making connections. However, there are many people who became tired of unnecessary and exhausting human relations. These people carry out minimal life through the ‘Personal Connection Diet’. Just as the goal of ordinary diet that to remove unnecessary fat of the body, personal connection diet’s goal is to remove unnecessary human relationships by deleting unnecessary contacts from the phone, or by not using social media and messenger at all.
 Finally, minimal life can be also seen as a way to reduce general consumption. Recently, the TV program ‘Kim Saeng Min’s receipt’(김생민의 영수증) has got a lot of attention. The host, Saeng Min, says that ‘money is not for use’. And he makes us to think about wasteful consumption habits. After the broadcast, people are trying lessen their money consumption by not going to shopping until the foods in the refrigerator are all eaten up, or collecting pennies from daily consumptions such as coffee. And they use those monies in meaningful places.

 

■ Why Minimal Life?
 Then why do people choose minimal life in Korea? As we mentioned before, there was a belief that ‘the more we have, the better’ in our society. But as we have more things around us, we feel more and more emptiness. Of course, the joy of consumption can not be ignored. We are delighted to make impulsive buying, and we are thrilled when we get the delivery box from the courier. However, this sense of pleasure through consumption is only a momentary stimulus. The economist Richard Easterlin theorizes ‘Paradox of Easterlin’, which says that happiness does not increase in proportion to what he or she has. Therefore, the minimal psychological effect of minimal life is strong. When we come home after a lot of information and stimulation surrounding us all day, we get comfort through empty margins and spaces. Minimal life is not just limited to things, but it can be applied to all sort of things, such as desire to covet more than you need, or dissipating energies through meaningless human relations or work. Through managing those stuffs through minimal life, it allows you to control your energy more effectively. And as you can keep question to yourself about what you really need, you gain a better understanding of yourself.

 

■ How to live a minimal life
So, how do you make your minimal life work? It may be hard to follow the extreme minimal life right away. Then why do not you start with the little steps that we introduce? The first way to practice minimalism in your life is to be conscious of your surroundings. It is important not let things out randomly, but to clear out with the purpose. Let’s decide what your ultimate purpose is, and what you really need in your life. Then you will realize that you have been living with all sorts of useless things in your life more than you think. Secondly, empty. If you listed out things that you do not need, it is time to throw it away. Let’s throw away just only one thing you do not need every day. It is a good idea to donate if you feel unfamiliar and wistful to throw away unnecessary things. Who knows if the item that you think useless will be valuable to others? Third, spend it wisely. Impulse shopping is no good in minimal life. Let’s think twice or three times about if this is really necessary and something I really need. Lastly, focus on the things that are really precious to you. If you have cleaned up your surroundings through the previous three steps, now it is time to focus on things that are really precious, essential, and find your true self.

 

■ Now, Start Your Own Minimal Life!
From the art and novel to minimal life, simplicity has influenced in various fields. Through living life simply and minimally, your life becomes richer and valuable. Let’s put down the greed, and erase the useless things from our life, one by one.

Kyung-yoon Seo, Dong-hee Kim  becky2009@, pen9uinus@cnu.ac.kr

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