Unofficial programming at Singapore Writers Festival: Atelier S P A C E || Singapore

Unofficial programming at Singapore Writers Festival: Atelier S P A C E || Singapore

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Editor’s Note: Design Kompany spent most of October so far exploring the idea of going to Singapore for a popup zinemaking atelier. A new concept came into shape after more than 40 conversations. But A. Spaice tells the story from behind-the-scenes, of just how hard it is to co-create (and why making space for it is that much more important.)

I FORGET that so many people want to be sold to, not think. And certainly not to think with you. I forget that, when I make the initial overtures of, ‘What do you think? Want to explore something we could create, together?’ But lately, in the overture-making to possible co-hosts for Atelier S P A C E, I have re-learned this. It feels like I’m back at my old job. And that’s not a good thing. Openness is more interesting, to me.

Open Space. Which of course, is the whole idea behind Atelier S P A C E. When we meet together, just 8 of us next month, we’ll come up with ‘a thing that it is’ together. But only after conversations. Lots of them.

AFTER MORE THAN 40 conversations in recent weeks with people in Singapore about ‘what it is’, the unifying concept for Atelier S P A C E || Singapore has taken shape. (Will spell it out for you, in a moment). Finding it, though, had a lot to do (edit, had everything to do) with learning what it is people told me they thought it might be, or how it could be interesting for them. Of course. This, in design, is called ‘user testing.’ Which sounds weird. It’s just like saying, ‘Hey. I’m making ice cream. This is the sample. Do you like the sample? No? Why? What about this sample? Better? No? Why? Tell me why, or. You have a better idea? Great! I want to hear it. No, no. Tell me, really. Do.’

 

AN EMERGENT IDEA. While I was on the virtual journey towards this set of designs, selection of venues, and ideas for programming, a lot of things happened.

One: I found out I really prefer real life. (If you know me, this one is ‘duh.’) I forgot that I’m much more happy to talk to people in synchronized, real life conversations than online. Then again, it is easier online. You can send links and instagrams.

So there’s that.

But I also found out that I don’t have to do this. If no one whatsoever had played with the ideas with me, I would have skipped right over this and headed straight to the next stop. Already started putting out a call of interest for co-hosting venues, people, collaborators, design houses, scruffy cafes, slick clubs, cocktail places, all that. At the start, you have a wide, open field. Later, you close in on a concept, and once you have that, you do not veer. Which is why it takes so long. I don’t veer, so I need to know it’s this one, not that other thing that I thought of ten years go, or the thing you just said, just now. No. I need to know. This one. And for Singapore, I have this one. Meet in public spaces. Popup style. Off the cuff, off the official programme. See what happens. Make magic, because the real art isn’t what’s on the walls or in the vaults of institutions. the real art is us, showing up, right here and now. How magical! For this moment. Together. Shazam!

Many people left the early conversations. Or didn’t reply. The early conversations are the toughest ones, though they are also the most important. Because the early conversations are the ones that we use to design this thing. Talking. Talking with us. Helps. Maybe in the early conversations it’s clear that DK doesn’t seem like it’s going somewhere. Or, in a few instances, people just came back to us with an unwelcome hard sell. That was odd, and unfortunate. Like, are you gonna buy from us, or what? And we don’t do that. I mean, it’s not like we don’t buy anything, but until I get there and we start talking, then I can’t see you or know you. Maybe that’s how they feel about me? But co-hosting isn’t buying something, is it? Maybe people are worried to lend their name to something that’s unproven. A risk. But nothing cool comes without risk. Every single one of DK’s clients, 1995-present, knows this.

The weird part was when people wanted to sell me their products, or advertorials.

No. Definitely no, no no.

I’m just not into that. That’s okay.

New people have emerged, ‘getting it’, I imagine, or maybe it’s just better communicated and that massive question, ‘What IS it?’ has found a compelling ring of what seems to be a well-articulated answer. Which is what the early conversationalists who left were looking for. Tell me what it IS. At a time when I just couldn’t. But now, thanks to the early folks and their stated or implied ideas about this, I, myself, now know, personally, what this IS, why I’m doing it and why the people who I’m looking for should care.

Like on every other design journey, so far, the thing it is has emerged.

The earliest folks are gone.

Meantime, new ones are knocking and saying ‘hi.’ This good. This is how it happens.

THE CONCEPT. The overarching feedback was that the people in Singapore are looking for an experience, a nightlife kind of a jam. Not too much like a scruffy coffee shop jam session, mind you, which would be totally fun for me (and probably will put that together in Seattle or San Francisco, when the atelier moves to those places). But Singaporeans, we found through our conversations, are more interested in something that has style, elegance, poise, and gravitas. Does it connect to something prestigious? Does it have weightiness? Will it lead to something more interesting, i.e. new people, new connections? If yes, then it’s more interesting. That is what we heard.

So we’re gonna do that. We’re gonna do the nightlife thing, in unofficial popup style. Take the stages of public spaces, go where people are convening. Here is the kicker. Notice that the real art isn’t what’s on the walls, but what’s there, in the ambient interstitial space, the S P A C E that we will make, in real life, *together*.

Who’s interested in doing this?

Let’s *make* something.

Let’s play.

Hit me up.

A. Spaice
PS Or if you know for sure you want to really do this, go here and book your spot. SYT!

 

‘Let’s make zines!!’ Chiang Mai, 2014