Set designer aims to leave impression

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Set designer aims to leave impression


Stage designer You Jae-hun poses for a photo in front of part of a set piece he created for K-pop singer Kim Jun-su’s concert. By Kwon Hyuk-jae

Behind the scenes at extravagant performances are the people who contribute their talents to creating a more mind-blowing experience for the audience.

One of these invisible individuals is a stage designer, who oversees every part of creating a set, from sketching out a concept to installing gigantic sculptures on stage.

In Korea, You Jae-hun, the director of Youjam Studio, is arguably one of the most prominent figures in the business.

The 41-year-old stage designer has not only worked with popular singers like Psy, Seo Tai-ji, Big Bang and 2NE1, he has also worked on dance drama “Baebijangjeon” and the musical “Bibap.”

In 2010, You decorated figure skating star Kim Yuna’s ice show “Festa On Ice.”

“In the past, one person supervised everything from exhibitions, plays and concerts to architecture, but with the scale expanding [for shows], the trend has changed to one person taking care of only one genre,” said You said in a recent interview with the JoongAng Ilbo, a Korea JoongAng Daily affiliate. “Now, on the other hand, the industry is in the state of needing someone who can cross the boundaries of specialties.”

Exotic sculptures the artist has collected from all parts of the world, such as a wooden doll from the Czech Republic and a small boat from Indonesia, furnish the office inside his studio tucked away beneath Mount Bukhan in central Seoul.

But not many other indicators point out that the space belongs to a set designer.

“I don’t get any ideas when I think I’m working seriously, so a lot of the time my work is mixed with something fun and something serious,” he said. “When we get used to our work, it means we’re doomed, which is why I rewind it back to point zero every time I start on a new project.”


You stayed behind the curtain to make extravagant shows such as Psy’s “Summer Stand: The Drenched Show” (2012) [JoongAng Ilbo]

You studied fine art when he was young, but due to doubts he had about the industry, he veered to the performing arts. After spending a laborious year in the field, he became experienced enough to design his own sets and started building up a portfolio.

One of his regulars is K-pop sensation Psy who has been requesting You for his annual year-end “All Night Stand” concert since 2004.

You started work on Psy’s recent year-end party at the Olympic Gymnastics Arena 100 days before the concert itself.

During the preparation period, You decided on a concept and drew a sketch of an auditorium installed with all the necessary props, which later transformed into a completed, computerized floorplan.

It takes an extra three or four more days to construct the installations on site before they are finally ready to stand before the audience.

Design work installed on stage is usually discarded once the concert is over.

While it could seem understandable for a designer to feel let down seeing the result of his or her hard work perish, You says it is after his work is trashed that it finally becomes complete.

“The value of my stage is enough when it becomes a source of energy in the audience’s memory after the concert.”


Seo Tai-ji’s “” (2014). [JoongAng Ilbo]

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