Magazine YOOHEE No.19 <Punctum>

The Sense of Security You Experience When Entering a Space, ‘Punctum’

Magazine YOOHEE No.19 <Punctum>

As you stroll through Seochon's various alleys, you'll be reminded of healthy, hearty meals in a tranquil setting. Punctum is a restaurant located quietly on a deserted street that has been frequently visited for meals alone since its temporary opening. Although the streets are relatively quiet during the winter, you can see people snooping around the windows, drawn by the warm light emanating from the store. As usual, a space where exotic music greets you as you enter. The owner handed me a cup of warm mulled wine just in time, and we could discuss the restaurant Punctum and how to fill the space.

Chapter1.  A Strange Restaurant on a Quiet Street in Punctum

To begin, please tell us about Punctum.

Punctum is both a restaurant and a bar. I moved here from another French home-style restaurant in Seochon called My Beautiful Laundry, where I changed my name, menu, and overall concept. I decided to prepare something entirely different than the previous French home-style meal. I've been wanting to try curry for a long time, as I adore curry. There's "Ratatouille" on our menu, right? New regulars from the past discovered the menus I created previously, and I liked them as well, so I included them.

I'm intrigued by curry's allure and the characteristics of Punctum curry.

That, I believe, is the allure of spices. I adore exotic spices, and spices like ‘cardamom’ are highly prized and used in the production of perfumes. Combining these spices creates an appealing curry flavor. While deciding on curry, I was inspired by a book. Helen Nearing's book Simple food for the good life is one I read a long time ago. It's a straightforward approach to cooking with healthy ingredients, and I figured it would be appropriate to apply it to curry. I wanted to stay true to the basic recipe, but add beneficial ingredients to the body and alleviate stomach irritation, so I wanted to create a light, healthy meal.

I recall my first visit being during the temporary opening period. I assumed Punctum was a new curry restaurant in Seochon, but upon further investigation, it was revealed to be a French home-style restaurant. Because the combination of French and curry was unfamiliar to me, I wondered if it was a reinterpreted curry in the French style.

Customers assumed it was a home-style French meal. I'm not sure if that’s what it says on the Internet, but people keep associating it with the French home-style food, but I want to keep it separate from the past. You stated that you were unaware that you had French home-cooked meals prior to your first visit, but did you think the curry menu was out of place?

It was definitely unique in comparison to other curry restaurants in Seochon, rather than being out of place. It's was not too strongly seasoned, and eating it made me feel healthy. You stated that the space was unfamiliar, but I believe I continue to seek it out because there is a sense of comfort associated with unfamiliar areas.

I prefer unfamiliar feelings to those that are familiar. When you get used to one space, you get bored later. If you visit a new location, you can fill it with something new. I believe I was on the lookout for similar items. After about five years of My Beautiful Laundry, I had grown accustomed to it, and people tend to consider it because regulations have already been established. It was a little disappointing that you could see the entire universe without any expectations through the Internet. Initially, I refused customers to take photographs, but I eventually allowed them. As it became widely known, there were undoubtedly positive aspects, but my unfamiliarity with the media space seemed to be draining on my emotions.

The space's atmosphere can only be experienced in person.

That is correct. I believe I was extremely exhausted as those processes continued. Eventually, I took a break and began running a curry restaurant, something I had been wanting to do for a long time. A Curry that is both exotic and beneficial to your health. I was able to choose between Dhal Curry and Palak Curry after some consideration. Initially, I was drawn to the concept of a pop-up store and desired to change the concept seasonally. In reality, there may be numerous obstacles, but there are quite a few restaurants abroad that completely change their menus according to the seasons.

Chapter 2. "Punctum", a space that elicits a range of emotions in each individual

In some ways, I believe that many people were curious about the stories prior to Punctum's reopening.

To some extent, I didn't want people to know, but they would find out later. I desired to conceal myself in the alley but was unable to do so.

If that is the case, I'm curious as to why you named it "Punctum" when you first opened it.

Punctum is a concept from Roland Barthes's book Camera Lucida, which I enjoyed in college. Studium and Punctum are classification and interpretation concepts for photographs, and according to what I've read, Studium is a photograph of the photographer's intention objectively grasped, while Punctum is a photograph of a feeling derived from a subjective experience. I adored the Punctum concept. When you listen to images, photographs, or music, you receive additional personal impressions in addition to the general ones. That is why we chose the name for our store. I happened to see it while passing by, hoping it would be a store that evoked a range of emotions in different people.

Was the reason for your selection of this location similar?

Rather than that, this is a place devoid of people, which I discovered while looking for a parking space on a not-so-complicated road. Indeed, I desired to conceal myself further into the alley than I am now, but there was no suitable location. And the road on which the store is located is quite lovely, particularly in the spring and autumn. This space was previously occupied by a shoe store. It was a store that specialized in handmade shoes with piled-up leather. Seochon has been a favorite of mine for 15 years. I originally lived near Sangsu-dong, but I frequented Seochon despite my residence there. Unlike now, there was a sense of stillness and nothingness at the time, but it was so good; every alley was so enjoyable. Then I relocated to my current residence.

I believe the neighborhood's atmosphere has shifted significantly as a result of what you've been doing, as you told me.

Nonetheless, this area is not as developed as Bukchon. That was when I was running My Lovely Laundry, and it was at its peak; however, it now appears to be deteriorating.

Chapter3. Concerning the peculiar flavor that pervades Punctum

Now, allow me to ask you about the specifics of filling in the space. The majority of the utensils in the restaurant appear to be vintage French products.

All of the restaurant's utensils are so valuable that they have been acquired one by one over the last two decades. These are so valuable that the store inquires as to how I intend to use them. Cups and glasses are also items that I have retained.

That was most emphatically the case. While the majority of restaurants use unified tableware, the products are all distinct.

Some were acquired in France, while others were acquired online. It may be too vintage for retail use, but I enjoy it.

While the tableware is similar in characteristic, I believe that the sound of the music playing in the space adds a significant element to Punctum.

My favorite item in the restaurant is probably the audio player. From the start, space and music were critical. For the simple reason that I enjoy music. I purchased the audio version of "Levo" because I was required to listen to music while I worked. I had a lot of CDs, and initially played a lot of CDs, but one day I switched to Internet radio. I was completely mesmerized by the languages broadcast worldwide. If I understood it, it sounded like a language; however, if I had no idea what it was, it sounded like music to me. I particularly dislike German because I do not understand it, but I adore its distinct masculine vibe. Occasionally, I'll play it all day.

I believe that the music emanating from the Internet radio channel harmonized with the space, adding to its exotic feel. How do you choose music, and if you have a favorite music or radio station, please let me know.

I generally enjoy classical and piano music, but it is so far out of my comfort zone that I refrain from playing it in the restaurant when there are customers. I have two CD boxes at home. My preferred channel changes on a regular basis. The channel you are currently listening to is a Belgian broadcast, and it features the latest music. Additionally, the channel "French Music" features French, classical, and a little bit unusual music. When you tune into Italian broadcasts, you're treated to exhilarating Latin music.

Not only that, but I can sense the love for music all around me. Initially, you used a sketchbook as a menu, but this time, you used the cover of a CD.

Yes, I initially drew one by one in the sketchbook, but it quickly became worn out due to its low durability, and I replaced it twice later, but it didn't last long. As a result, I converted it to a CD case. I had two paper CD cases, and changing them felt wonderful. There are a plethora of attractive CD covers.

As with music, I'm curious as to why posters and paintings adorn the walls of the store.

I purchased it because I enjoyed the sensation of seeing it on the Internet and having it delivered to me in its entirety. This is a painting by my favorite artist, and while many people mistake it for a photograph, it is actually a painting. Alexander Coleville is a Canadian painter. The poster for "À Mouchamps" on the wall was purchased from an 'ofr' in Seochon. I haven't read the book in its entirety, and I purchased it because I liked the poster in the store named ‘ofr’. I suppose I was drawn to it because it evoked memories of my time in France.

Did you create the artwork on one side of the wall?

That is correct. Some of the items in my diary were stolen, while others were drawn during previous travels. These are the sketches I made in my notebook while at the park. I didn't want to over-decorate the store because I preferred the open feel, but I hung it because I thought it would be interesting for customers to see.

Did you study drawing in school?

Yes, I attended a French art school. I enjoy creative endeavors such as painting and music, but I also enjoy watching films. Recently, I watched a French film called Things to Come, and I liked and enjoyed Tom Ford's film, Single Man. I enjoy films with excellent mise-en-scene. Of course, there must be Yorgos Lanthimoses "The Lobster."

I'm curious as to how the proprietors of the store, which are brimming with the tastes of those who run establishments such as Punctum, spend their days and holidays.

Every day is the same.  I'm unable to travel much at the moment due to COVID-19, but I spend a lot of time in Seochon after work. I enjoy strolling through alleys, but Seochon's hanok and alleys are so lovely that you can simply walk around and admire old doors, bars, and doorknobs without doing anything else. I appreciate well-constructed buildings and structures.  Additionally, "Unpurpose Building" was quite cool recently.  Seochon appears to be a place where one can stroll and take in those sights. Along with the Daelim Museum of Art across the street, there are several frequently visited shops, of which I particularly enjoy "Irasun". I specialize in photo books, but it's tucked away in a difficult-to-find alley. Additionally, I frequented The Book Society as a bookstore. There are numerous intriguing books available. I've lived in Buam-dong before, but I believe Seochon is superior. It's pleasant because it's quieter here, and each alley has its own distinct personality. Buam-dong is a little higher, which means it has a strong character and better scenery, which is why I enjoy those parts.

Occasionally, people believe Seochon is "Europe in Seoul," and I believe this is for the same reason you mentioned earlier.

If you travel to Europe, you may encounter similar areas with numerous old houses and alleys. Additionally, I believe it is less time-consuming.  If you travel to Europe, you will discover a plethora of small shops. In the provinces, there are few large franchises or department stores. On the other hand, I believe that Korea has an excessive number of commercial establishments. It encourages excessive consumption. When I was in France, the French were not known for their frivolity. It is a structure that values small consumption highly and is incapable of consuming large amounts.

Chapter 4. Concluding the interview

Chapter 4. Concluding the interview

Have you ever considered creating another unfamiliar space in addition to Punctum? Even if the establishment is not a restaurant.

I'm already ecstatic to learn that you're discussing another unfamiliar territory. I hope it isn't too much of a place to impose personal preferences, but it will eventually become one. The following space is not mandatory, but I want to create a space that we can all share. On one wall of empty space, a large beam projector is installed. Instead of watching Sergey Polunin's "Dance" all day, consider a space where you can share your feelings and thoughts with those who come while listening to the orchestra's music conducted by Gustav Dudamel.

Finally, I'm curious about the mindset you want those who visit Punctum to have.

I'm doing my best to maintain the mindset that even if one person comes, he or she will believe they are a guest visiting my home and treating me well. I believe I'm giving it my all with such focus that I'm nervous even if there is only one customer. I hope customers sense that sincerity, and are treated warmly, even if they only order from one menu. I'm very concerned about the nutritional value of food. Additionally, high-quality ingredients are used, such as turmeric, which is used to make turmeric rice. Even if it is a little costly, it is critical to consider and focus on preparation. Also, I eat a lot of our lunch menus here, so I hope you eat something healthy before you leave.

Furniture and interior design that is sophisticated. In Seochon, independent stores continue to emerge one by one amid stores brimming with respectable products. Punctum is one of them; it is a space where "Punctum-like" is projected from the menu to the space's details. Additionally, the phrase "a space where individuals can share their tastes without being compelled to do so" lingers strongly. Let us go beyond simply appreciating what we like and support Punctum, in his quest for a space where we can suggest and share.

INTERVIEW DATE / 2021. 01. 19



Edited by | SEOCHONYOOHEE          Photo by | SEOCHONYOOHEE  


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