On BTS, writing and what makes an artist

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My flight to Los Angeles for the Permission to Dance concerts in November 2021 was a red eye, but I was wide awake surrounded by an excited ARMY crowd all ages, races, languages, sizes and genders — we were going to see BTS! We entered the doors in our hearts and emerged in heaven; we were strangers but best friends, complimenting each other’s purple hair, comparing our BT21 tags, exchanging restaurant recommendations in Los Angeles. We shared a love for BTS and had spent so many years watching seven men support each other deeply, like Jungkook’s. Films from the Golden Closet highlighting fellow group members or how they present themselves to each other solo songs. The same is surely happening for thousands of people this week, as BTS takes over Las Vegas, renamed Borahaegas, for a four-date concert residency. The ARMY link comes automatically, inspired by the exquisite brotherhood that runs through Bangtan, reminding us that we will never walk alonea reminder given to me again and again by the people and art I love.

During the press conference in Los Angeles, Jimin said that “…we want to bring healing and consolation to everyone who is also going through these difficult times and experiencing these challenges together… [These concerts] made me feel like we were back where we belong, and hopefully everyone can end up where they belong.

We ARMY have ended up where we belong. We belonged at concerts, singing, dancing and crying with each other and with our favorite artists, and I can’t wait for us to continue snuggling up in belonging – at BTS concerts, yes, but also at bookstores, the art galleries, the cinemas, our homes, the arms of our loved ones, our soft and tender selves – because we belong to everything and whoever makes us thrive, revel and ruminate in this universe.

In his book The end of the romance novel, one of my favorite writers, Vivian Gornick says about her favorite writer, Grace Paley, that people enjoy life more because of her writing. This writing by Paley makes us “feel the crazy, sexy excitement of life.” I, and many other ARMYs, undoubtedly feel the same way about BTS. Isn’t that the purest, truest sense of art? This feast of life?

How can you love them so much, a friend asks. How is your brain so hard wired to fangirl, asks another. The answers to these questions may lie in the fact that for me there is no difference between listening to a BTS song and standing in front of a Devon Shimoyama The painting. No difference between watching a Leslie Cheung film and observe Etel Adnan leporello and hang my friend’s artwork in my living room. It’s art for me. An art that reminds me why this life is worth living.

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