'This is a chord. This is another. This is a third. Now form a band.'
What are zines? Why do they exist? Who does them?
People who want to go against the grain. Not just because it’s ‘cool.’ But because if you want real integrity, that isn’t pushed by some media source of that doesn’t have an alt agenda, then zines are a way.
Kirsty Leishman, a tutor in media studies at an Australian university, writes ‘an explainer’ piece in The Conversation about zines. An explainer, yes. This is what I have been looking for! ‘Why are you doing this, DK?’ THIS IS WHY!
For those who want one, an explanation that is, about why people zine, this is a good source. I especially love the quote in the title of this post about the culture of ‘just go do it, do it now, and don’t overthink it! that is embodied in the ziner-lover-and-zine-maker’s ethos. This part is cool, too:
I TOLD HER the truth. I was a little dejected. Another ‘No’ for Bangkok ‘N’.
Slow going, this. Asking 16 strangers to get tickets for something they’ve never heard of, that asks them to pick a date together, that comes from ‘the internet.’
It works like this: 16 people, on their own paths, converge ONCE for a conversation about a theme that starts with ‘N.’ In a venue that has an ‘N’. In a city with an ‘N,’ too.
Being interviewed about ‘N’ the concept
I MET A FRENCHWOMAN on her way home. She was fascinated with ‘N’, but she was also skeptical. ‘Pessimistic,’ she said. But she had me, when she asked a terrific barrage of questions. She is in marketing.
It went something like this.
You need a ‘speech.’
DK: A speech? No, no, that sounds like… no. this is just… This is just what I’m doing! ‘N’ is the thing I need to do! I don’t know. Oh, you’re saying I’m not being clear about what it is. About how to make it accessible? Oh, that. Yeah. I’ve been criticized for this. It’s kind of like jazz or esoteric theater, isn’t it? You know, I don’t want to be like that, though, even though I think jazz and esoteric theater could be messaged in a better way so more people see how cool it is to go out into the weird space of improvisation or just thinking deeply and connecting lots of threads in a thoughtful, artful way. Not like Mashable, you know? Anyway. I realize, you’re right: it’s about how well have I communicated what I’m offering, what I’m making, why I care about it, and why I’m inviting people. Okay. Hit me.
What’s in it for you?
DK: Connection. Just once. Nothing hard. Outside of work and family. Connection, yeah. I was in reporting and news for four years as a staff writer. And before that, I did a lot of independent traveling, on my own dime, from savings from jobs in architecture, cafes, the usual gamut of oddball things that one does if one is in their young years and learning about the world. And I found from all this learning that there is only ONE thing that really turns me on. Great dialogue. It doesn’t have to be smart, or overeducated, or labeled something. It just has to be GOOD. And you can design for that. You really, really can. I have a seven-point checklist now, that I developed when I met some of the greatest people who make you feel, quite quickly, at ease. So I took what I learned from all the conversations of my life and made ‘N.’
Related: Some years ago, this idea was foreshadowed in Ireland, in our 2003 short video, ‘Teddy O’Neill.” Watch it here >
Because the magic happens in the MOMENT, and it’s not about being prepared for it, or looking for ‘a website,’ or an app, or a ‘perfect person.’ It’s about right there, right now. Eye contact. Being in the same place at the same time. Sheer chance. For me, making that happen simultaneously for 16 people is a real achievement. It’s way more interesting to me than sitting about writing or drawing and trying to pitch my work to loads of people in the hope of ‘being published.’ This is being published, this blog, right here. You’re reading. If you weren’t reading, I wouldn’t be writing.
And it’s only because there is a RECEPTION that anything meaningful really happens. It’s only because the SENDER has a RECEIVER, and they are locked in a conversation that’s timeless and wordless because it hits on a sensation that only they can know. I know, it’s really big stuff here, what I’m talking about. I call this moment of reception ART. Everything else, when ‘artists’ go around the world talking about themselves but not caring who’s listening so long as the room is full, well, everything else is just public masturbation.
Why do you do this?
DK: Make space. For real. In a short, designed block (a volume?), and not get overwhelmed with the work of human contact. I know, it sounds crazy psychology kookiness. But sure, Carl Jung’s Man and His Symbols informs this. So does Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. So does ‘Basic Writings’ by Heidegger, if you want to know, and all those guys who figured out that when you change the way you look at things on a quantum level, the things you look at change.
How do you choose whom to invite?
DK: Gut feeling. I’m looking for people who are: Open. Making. Doing. Sharing. Yet the invitation process is designed to let people self-select.
What do people need this for?
DK: The ones who balk at this are the ones who need it the most. But of course, I can’t say that. The reason people need this is because we have to get out of our heads sometimes, our usualness, to find out what’s really interesting. To go to the edge and see what’s there, and sometimes that’s just not what people want to do. One person put it this way: ‘I’m not ready to emerge a butterfly.’ Fair enough. But if you want to realize your fullest self, you have to push yourself to the edge, and break it.
But are the strangers you meet REALLY that interesting?
DK: EVERYONE is interesting.
Concept of ‘N’: One moment can change the vector of your life forever
AS I WAS packing my things and taking leave of this lovely new acquaintance yesterday afternoon, I was marveling at how the conversation lasted two hours. She is probably on a plane right now. She and I will possibly meet again but it is going to take a lot of coordinating so it’s not totally one hundred percent guaranteed.
Still, we had a connection. We talked about life, and what people really crave and how we just want to talk, and be heard, and then she told me about the meaning of someone she knows’ tattoo, and drew it for me in my notebook, and we talked about that. Action. Dialogue. Things happening. Things having mattered.
Confirming the reality of our own existence and its worth because we had eye contact, or if the SENDER isn’t alive anymore, (Guy Debord’s book Society of the Spectacle popped out of my bag during this conversation), then you can still have that CONNECTION even through temporal space. I told her about the red dress I got at a boutique right after seeing Dali’s Dream. The shopkeeper made a comment about something that she saw in me, (and I can share that, if I ever meet you in real life.) I stopped blogging at this site about my personal stuff because I realized it wasn’t being RECEIVED in a way that let me know it was being received. And I couldn’t ask, ‘How are you finding this?’ Even if that response is something crude or rude, it’s still a response. And you know, when you have people saying NO that just means you’re on your way to something very interesting, indeed.
So we were saying all this, and then I took a deep breath, and it felt like the Dream again and also reading Debord, and I looked at her and said, ‘Thank you for the great conversation! I really learned a lot.’
‘So did I!’ she said. And then, there it was. The answer to her question, the title of this section. Are the strangers you meet REALLY that interesting?
‘Yes!’ I cried. ‘See??!’
We laughed. Then she said, ‘I knew you were gonna say that.’
‘N’ gathers 16 strangers for a big blind date in each of 16 cities. *Cities with an ‘N’ in them. To talk about a topic that starts with an ‘N.’ In a venue that has an ‘N’ in its name.
MATH & GEOMETRY. Okay, I need to explain the little arrow on top of the ‘N’. And the ‘variable’ idea, behind ‘N’, too. This is a bit mathy. So, yeah. Okay, now I have to talk about vectors. That instance of intersecting vectors (16 of them), that moment, that is a point. Right. Bear with me now. A point is onceness, in a tangible spatial representation. I know this is heady. But yeah. Imagine it. Picture it. Sixteen people meeting just once in their city. What might happen? I love that. The urgency of now. And this is the ‘onceness’ instance we call ‘N’. Making space for ‘N’ moments to happen is the reason we are going around the world hosting ‘N’. No one is sponsoring this. No outcomes to share outside of the circles of people who are saying ‘yes’ and opting in. No donors, no advertisers, none of that. Guests contribute towards tickets, that’s it. But who cares about monetary stuff. Let’s find a way to be interesting. Yes?
INTERESTINGNESS. Let’s make it even more interesting. Let’s host each ‘N’ in a venue that starts with an ‘N’. Let’s enjoy a theme, too, and for each city pick a new one, a theme that will start with an ‘N.’ And just to be even more arbitrary rule-y about this, let’s do ‘N’ events only in cities that have an ‘N’ in their name. Constraints, right? Don’t designers love playing with the room you get, which can be so expansive, within the bounded box?
The story so far
SO FAR. ‘N’ started in 2014. That’s when ‘N’ happened in Phnom Penh. The next year, 2015, DK hosted ‘N’ in Bangkok, and in 2016 it went to London, in 2017 to Hanoi. What happened so far? Who came? Are you wondering? Well, there is nothing to report. Because the wholething about ‘N’ is that it’s about who comes and what happens in that exact moment. To write about it afterwards from my own perspective wouldn’t be interesting, and it’s too hard to get 16 people to contribute to a writeup. (I’ve tried). But I did chronicle the Hanoi one, just because people were curious and asked, and because it was about NARRATIVE, so that made sense.
But yeaSo we are leaving it quietly mysterious, and that’s just fine. Each person who has joined ‘N’, that means committed, gotten a ticket, helped choose the date, and arrived on the day, each guest that completed the ‘N’ journey was asked to select a unique color from the 256-block color grid pictured above. So that means, by the time this project is finished, we’ll have a person connected to each color. What we look like, how we sound, what we think about, what we choose to identify with… these usual ways we define ourselves gets thrown out. And we become, in the short space of ‘N’, a box of color.