A conversation installation in Bangkok: NOW

'N' BangkokALL TOTAL, ‘N’ as a project will meet 16 people in 16 cities. Of the whole entire world, that’s just 256.

Will I find them?

'N' Bangkok
‘N’ Bangkok

OUR NEXT CONVERSATION INSTALLATION is ‘N’ Bangkok, which will gather 16 strangers who’ve never met in that city. But just ONCE.

Ever since the first ‘N’ event in Phnom Penh, I’ve been thinking hard about how to talk about it in a way that’s clear, and yet tells the story without divulging too much about it, because no two moments are the same. That’s kind of the idea.

Onceness.

Framing the moment, the urgency of NOW.

Pictures? No pictures. Why?

Because why should someone get to consume an experience in pictures without taking a risk to show up for it in real life? That’s not fair to those who DO make the step to take the chance, and join in on something that who knows what it is.

People.

‘N’ is about the people who choose to play.

A slew of conversations, good and bad

THE MORE PEOPLE I CONTACT THROUGH all the channels I remember how to use from my days in newsreporting (and the ones that came in handy, after, when I set up Design Kompany LLC in Seattle), the more I’m learning about how we are all so very, very different in our styles of talking to each other. Sometimes I get really amazed and happy, like when certain people just immediately say ‘Cool, Where is the signup?’ Because those people are going to be really fun to meet: already know this, without even going anywhere. Of course there is the other side of the story. The first time I got a hate mail I had to go lie down for about an hour and talk it out with my best friend on this very intermittent signal that wasn’t quite clear, and though I didn’t cry, I sort of felt sad. Because who wouldn’t want to meet 15 other people interested in NOW?

A lot.

But that’s okay. All total, ‘N’ as a project will meet 16 people in 16 cities. Of the whole entire world, that’s just 256.

Will I find them? I think so. Already on my way.

Are you curious about ‘N’? Go here.

‘N’ says: ‘Hej København’

'N' is coming.A SPECIAL GUEST post, ahead of ‘N’ Copenhagen: NEARNESS. Coming here soon, from a friend in what he described at our first meeting to be ‘a small country, it’s called Denmark.’

'N' is coming.
‘N’ is coming. Read about 16N >
N
Read ‘N’ posts related to Copenhagen >

COMING TO COPENHAGEN SOON.

The way ‘N’ work is this.

When 16 people join ‘N’ we will fix the date, time, and place.

Because of this: it’s about the people. The exact set of 16 who will choose to join this conversation installation. It’s not really about anything other than the MOMENT in which we can align the stars (well, vectors), so that people converge. Once.

Yep. That’s what ‘N’ is—

‘N’ is about the people who choose to play.

How far are we from creating ‘N’ Copenhagen? 14/16ths of the way.

Looking forward, NEARNESS is our theme.

A special guest post, coming here soon, from a friend in what he described at our first meeting to be ‘a small country, it’s called Denmark.’

ARE YOU CURIOUS?

More about ‘N’ Copenhagen. More about ‘16N.’ —DK

Is it obvious? True validity isn’t about making bank

S. P. A. C. E. is for dreaming.IN THE LAST SEVERAL WEEKS, for the eZine S. P. A. C. E., I’ve been thinking nearly continuously, like a long line from the intersection of Street 63 and Mao Tse Toung Boulevard all the way up to where there is supposedly a well-lit designer-y kind of space that one day I am recommended I ought to go and see. Oh, what have I been thinking on? One thing. VALIDITY.

IN THE LAST SEVERAL WEEKS, for the eZine S. P. A. C. E., I’ve been thinking nearly continuously, like a long line from the intersection of Street 63 and Mao Tse Toung Boulevard all the way up to where there is supposedly a well-lit designer-y kind of space that one day I am recommended I ought to go and see. Oh, what have I been thinking on? One thing. VALIDITY.

Following a hunch

SUPPOSEDLY I AM TO FOLLOW that vertical road’s line one of these days. To the end. Meet a person. Say some things. Do something. If I do, it will be just another opportunity to do the big work of ‘N+1.’ Go outside the comfort zone, see what’s there. Even if that means taking a risk. Getting lost, getting hurt, getting stuck in the rainy season flood, losing my shoe, getting caught out in a conversation that is no fun at all because the other person is a total narcissist, etc. etc. You can always opt to do the so-called safe thing, and stay where you are. But that would not be ‘N+1.’ It would be ‘N+0.’

And that doesn’t sound like it would really be that important, at the end of my life, to have been like, ‘N+0+0+0…’ I prefer growth. Conversations, high-quality, are good ways to make space for that to happen. So that’s what all this stuff is about. The ezine publication. ‘N’ the series of 16. And other stuff too that I’m sharing only with a very inner circle of people who ‘get’ it. It’s easier that way; because life is short and it’s simpler to talk in these embryonic stages of designing a thing that will evolve sooner or later from good to brilliant, to stay low-key about it. To keep it light, small.

Making space for ‘N+1’

I HAVE ALWAYS WONDERED how no matter which city in the world I wind up in, I start to get pegged as ‘that person who does things and gets people together.’ Sometimes, I would do this quite happily and voluntarily. It was nice to be the one person everyone at a party or gathering knew, and that really inflated my ego. Maybe it’s in response to all that overwhelming attention I got personally that I’m not talking too much with my real name. Because in the last year, everything I’ve learned from books, and smart people, and creative folks, and clients, is this. It’s sooooo not about ego. The best things happen when they’re not about you. Which is the case when you’re designing something for a client, of course, as well. You have to really let it be about the other person, if you want it to be truly great. But then, it’s sooooo hard to re-imagine ‘design’ as something that does the big work of ‘N+1,’ even though really, design is about making things way better by thinking them through completely and intelligently. Too often today design = photoshop, and that’s dumb. That’s why even though we have “design” in our name, we never, ever talk about us doing design these days. Can’t. The word’s been co-opted by the people who buy Illustrator and say, ‘Okay. Now I’m gonna do the thing I need to do for my creative outlet.’ Let them. That’s not what we’re doing, here.

OVER THE LAST TEN YEARS, the big partymaking (Dazzle, POP, Sugar, Flourish, Gather, Math+Jazz, etc, etc) have moved into a smaller space. Tiny, invite-only salonmaking. Because the partymaking of old days had happened in a city where people fan the flames, constantly, on the egomaking stuff. They like to collect you. Into their collections. Now its instafame. Then it was Facebook. How many followers? As if one’s inner sense of worth was reflected accurately in those numbers. As if the social proof which is so arbitrary and fleeting and tenuous and not even real, mattered more than everything. (Including actual worth).

So what IS value? What DOES count? Why? How do we think about this, about yardsticks and societies and cultures and breaking free to create our own dimensions of that which we deem to be hugely meaningful. Because isn’t that it? Isn’t value not a number, but a sense of something’s capacity to be interesting? (Our Sept/Oct series of S. P. A. C. E. will take as its—oh, my God! A cockroach! Okay, I have to wrap this pretty fast). Isn’t value about a person’s glistening, true, inner, powerful, capacity to give? To contribute? Is this not worth?

How VALIDITY became a theme for S. P. A. C. E>

TONIGHT IT IS LATE as I type this, and maybe that’s why I’m not going to hold back. There used to be times when I started blogging again here (very recently, as you may take note), that I would think, ‘But that’s more ME and not so much DK, is it? And so, where to put things? Which boxes?’ It turns out that there’s only one box. I really only care about one thing. It’s new. It’s this year. It’s something that I didn’t realize matters to me more than I ever imagined it could or would. It’s about questioning assumptions about what and how we measure as ‘worthy’ or ‘good.’

Turns out there are whole vocabularies around these ideas, and schools of philosophy, too. As a kind of pop philosophy person, someone who doesn’t get all up in the face of people and isolate certain areas of possible ‘issues to be taken with X or Y or J,’ but rather, someone who just wants cool ideas about things to get talked about a little more, and with more verse and rhyme and poetry, you know, well. That. That’s what I’m trying to make and do here.

So when the things got complex about what it is that we ‘do’ at this blog (because now it’s just a blog, like in 2006), what it is that we do became a question to many, I realized it’s quite all right to blog in the first person again, as I always did, and probably always will. First person is real. First person is honest. You can’t hide behind some kind of name (okay, guilty—I’ve been doing quite a lot of that in recent days and weeks and months), but you can’t, in first person, TRULY ever hide. I read somewhere that the computers can figure out your writing style, like in four milliseconds, if they had to crunch it. They could know. They could suss you out because, like DNA, the way we speak and how we write is unique.

What counts, then? What’s worthy? What’s valuable, what’s meaningful, what’s important? I read the best quote yesterday online. It was this anti-capitalist ‘love notes’ series, and one of them said: ‘You are worth so much more than your productivity.’

So when we start to think about what value we can add to the world at large, what we can bring to society in the form of actual content, not just goods and services that people will buy because people will buy anything that is nicely packaged and overly done up even if they can’t be sure what they’re getting inside. People. Buy. Everything. They consume, left and right, and so do I, and we don’t even think about it. Critical things, like where is this food coming from? The way the young visitor who came here and celebrated an impromptu wedding (long story) on the upper levels of the building spoke of. Things like this. How we feel when we literally consume—partaking of chemicals that are buried in our food—didn’t occur to me since the days of reading Integrated Nutrition because I had a low iron count.

What I wanted to tell you that I haven’t yet is this. Work isn’t the only thing. Moneymaking is just one kind of way—a means, to an end. It’s not about what we have in our lives, but who. It’s about who we are, too, not just whom we’re around. You could get more philosophical here. You could even get pop philosophical. But I’ll save that for anyone who wants to meet me in S. P. A. C. E.

VALIDITY is here. —DK

Gearing up for ‘N’ Bangkok: our theme is NOW

16 people x 16 cities.THIS WEEK as I do some research to learn about what people in Bangkok think about NOW, I’m getting to meet some extraordinary people. I’ll be able to tell you about some of them, soon, in a blog post series that I hope will bring new voices into ‘N’, the project, and document along the way some of the learning that’s going on. This could start with the people behind a giant boxing match that just happened on Saturday; can’t think of anything more immediate about the physicality of NOW than a fight.

OUR THEME FOR ‘N’ BANGKOK is NOW.

NOW.

‘N’ is a conversation installation that gathers just 16 people. Just once.

16 people x 16 cities.
16 people x 16 cities.

It’s about the moment.

Right here. Right NOW.

IN THESE LAST FEW MONTHS as I have been talking in the back channels with more people than I realized I would when I dreamed up this project, I have been doing a lot of learning. About people. Being someone who has largely worked alone (writing, design work, the occasional art show), I find it really humbling. I have learned very quickly how to deal with the things that I heard happen. Passive-aggressives. Trolls. Those who are comfortable slamming you from the other side of a screen, but would never say those things to you, in real life. Never.

I get it. People don’t want to be pushed out of their boxes. Boxes are comfortable. (But they are stifling).

AT THE TIME of this writing, we have only six five spots left. Which is lovely and incredulous and beautiful and makes me want to say, ‘Thank you,’ profusely, to the 10 who have so far put their trust in me to design an ‘N’ that’s great. (I hope a few from ‘N’ Phnom Penh will share a couple of lines, telling Bangkok what to expect, so I can post here? Have been musing on a way to link the ‘N’ conversations, but not without losing the ‘onceness’ idea. Hard.)

Anyone working in creativity or something in the world of making and doing in this age already sees the value of this kind of opportunity. You know that new ideas don’t just fall onto your head like an apple. You have to go outside (metal landscapes, physical ones). And you have to talk to people. That’s what one of my editors used to say. ‘Get out of the office. Talk to people.’ They loved that ‘Man on the Street’ interview style and it was fun to do, too. I wanted to do more of those but you know, it’s so much easier to not.

What to expect now…

THIS WEEK as I do some research to learn about what people in Bangkok think about NOW, I’m getting to meet some extraordinary people. I’ll be able to tell you about some of them, soon, in a blog post series that I hope will bring new voices into ‘N’, the project, and document along the way some of the learning that’s going on. This could start with the people behind a giant boxing match that just happened on Saturday; can’t think of anything more immediate about the physicality of NOW than a fight.

But before that, a short Q&A with a Bangkok magazine editor, and what he thinks about the ‘Thainess of Thailand,’ as well as our theme. Here. Soon.  –DK

 

Thinking of Bangkok

'Bangkok' January 2015. A zine by DK ‘Bangkok’ January 2015INVENTING DIALOGUE SPACE is sort of a lofty goal, I realize, but it IS one way for us to connect. I know that ostensibly meeting strangers in a short space can be great for networking for business, or just making friends, but it’s also… I’m not sure how to put this, but… it’s also a way for us to discover who we are, and begin to see that there are so many other ways of thinking about the SAME topic or idea. And that the ‘scholars’ don’t have copyright on thinking out loud, together.

Bangkok
Bangkok

THIS IS WHAT HAPPENED. Was talking to a lot of people intermittently through the last three or five weeks, about making ‘N’ happen, in Bangkok. Clearly things are different about Bangkok now that someone detonated a bomb in a shrine in the city center.

Trigger, for me. Bomb. A bomb that exploded in the underbelly of a particular plane, in 1985. That one. That bomb forever changed my existence. This was 1985. THIRTY years ago. And I’ve thought about it every day since—because that bomb took my closest friend. Finally put that story together, just in June. See KANISHKA >

'Bangkok' January 2015. A zine by DK
‘Bangkok’ January 2015

So it’s kinda insensitive-seeming, maybe, to zip right back to the project of ‘N’ when something like this happens. A bomb blows up and people are freaked. Of course. But, there’s this—

I remember when that happened in 1985. A bomb. And… the whole reason I made ‘N’ in the first place was in response to the things I have discovered are a way to combat the hate. The crime that happens because someone somewhere had a kooky idea or got brainwashed into thinking something. Without dialogue, so much goes awry. Without closeness and human contact (love, affection, friendship, community), people go crazy. They are seeing this happen in America, right? I mean, I think so. The hate crimes. Random shootings. Seething, under-the-surface stuff that is HARD to figure out, point at someone and say, ‘That. There. Take that person away, let’s not have any of the riffraff anymore.’

INVENTING DIALOGUE SPACE is sort of a lofty goal, I realize, but it IS one way for us to connect. I know that ostensibly meeting strangers in a short space can be great for networking for business, or just making friends, but it’s also… I’m not sure how to put this, but… it’s also a way for us to discover who we are, and begin to see that there are so many other ways of thinking about the SAME topic or idea. And that the ‘scholars’ don’t have copyright on thinking out loud, together. I love salons. In art school in New York (short-lived), I remember going to poetry slams for the first time. Cinematographic features and shorts. Architecture lectures. Game nights. Nightclubs. Everything for a lot of different kinds of stuff; all of it intriguing, all of it alive, because of its very uniqueness when juxtaposed to the thing just prior, just after. I loved this mix of New York. Back then, anyway. A time before I lived anywhere else, really. Asia, now. Asia again. Japan for a year—way back—and now Cambodia. Loooooong story.

The tickets for ‘N’ Bangkok were released today. That means we are making our way there. Even if there is going to be some worry about future attacks—you just don’t know what’s going to happen, ever. Risk, uncertainty. Conversation, connection. What do we have if we don’t have our memories? The time we spend together, in high-quality, deeply connected, even if that’s just for the fleeting NOW?

See you soon, BKK. Thinking of you and those whose lives were jolted this week. —DK

On the challenging nature of not-knowing

NTOLERANCE. EMPATHY. Sizing up the self and learning to connect deeply, with real awareness, to others. It’s self-actualization stuff. I know, top of the pyramid in the hierarchy of needs. But some people who might be reading this know: it IS a need. And that is why there is this project. That is why there’s 16N.

N
Read ‘The Man Who Discovered N’ >

THE INTERNET ISN’T CONNECTING on this computer (Dell, borrowed), but I’m okay with that. I’ve been meaning to write you for a while. Tell you some of what’s been happening, in the heart of the city where I’ve been living a year plus now. Seems weird. Phnom Penh. Cambodia?? Who knew.

I guess that’s part of what I wanted to share, today. The not-knowing but thinking, ‘Heck. Why not?’ series of steps that started as concept, vague and ambiguous, but caught form when you had to do something concrete, like buy a visa.

Things that you did and realized, with time, were taking you to a general new direction. Where things you thought, before, that were obvious and given, now you question, daily. With a critical eye. Like: Capitalism, sure. Politics? That’s about people caring about the greater good… isn’t it? Art and artists and contemporary galleries and the way it’s really about commerce, not beauty, not really, if you get down to the heart of it. And then there’s the whole regime of the school system, the work system, the things that Robert Pirsig synthesized into the mammoth work Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (imploring us to think about stillness and artfulness versus just the nuts and bolts of getting things done), that masterpiece that really in a big way was the prompting towards this thing that got started, this thing we now call ‘N+1’ work. well. All of it. It’s… different, when you’re away, especially for a long stretch, and you can see the far horizon from whence you’ve come, and kind of be glad you’re away.

Learning from crusty, gritty, and terribly wise people on The Road

THE ROAD TEACHES LOTS, and you can occasionally forget to notice its lessons. A guy in Gangtok with a hat in his middle years said, ‘Ýou don’t know what a trip’s about until it’s over. And even then, it takes a while.’ The work that I was doing here with Design Kompany changed after my 1-year amble around South and Southeast Asia. You could say I was looking for something, but I’ve done this thing before, a couple of times, so I knew, too, that the thing was always right here, right with me. And now I’ve found it. It’s ‘N.’

Related: 16N gathers 16 people who’ve never met for ONE moment of CONNECTION >

The making of space. For uncertainty. For others to experience that which we learn when we move, one step forward, into the territory of the not-known. It’s pretty fun, actually, when you start to get confident with it. It stings, too, (but less with age), when you meet with blank stares, name-calling, or the other thing: hate. America and other parts of the West have tremendous volumes of it, and I sense, even though I can’t know, I sense that the reason why there’s so much of a mess right now in the USA with regards to hate crimes is because no one ever really sat down with someone else (new, strange at first, seemingly so different) and just had a conversation, out loud. Real life is relegated to the realm of Guy Debord‘s Spectacle. He called it. So did Orwell. Damn.

Is there a way to ‘fix’ this? Tolerance. Empathy. Sizing up the self and learning to connect deeply, with real awareness, to others. It’s self-actualization stuff. I know, top of the pyramid in the hierarchy of needs. But some people who might be reading this know: it IS a need. And that is why there is this project. That is why there’s 16N.

Meet. Connect. Find the new.

This, this very opening, inspires the way to the Next.

Which, of course, is the point of everything. Who really wants the status quo? Not me, and not anybody I’ve learned to care about, deeply, and over time.

Related: ‘Relationships matter’ and what a systems thinker said about that, at our LinkedIn profile >

—DK

An open letter to ‘N’ invitees

Kings Cross Saint Pancras //  Photo by A. Spaice 2015WILL I SEE YOU AT ‘N’? This is just once. This is just to discover 16N. Are you wondering, ‘Who else will join? What will happen? Will I get something from this? Will I learn?’

I found you because I am coming to your city. And I want to meet you. And if we are really, really honest, it probably won’t happen unless we design time and book space.

Kings Cross Saint Pancras // Photo by A. Spaice 2015
King’s Cross Saint Pancras // Photo by A. Spaice 2015

HELLO AND WELCOME. IT SURE MUST BE WEIRD, from your perspective, getting an invite to something as obscure as ‘N’.

First things first: Perhaps you’re not into it. And that’s okay. Thanks for coming this far, to see what it’s about.

But maybe you are wondering… what is this?

Yes? Please read on.

AS YOU ALREADY MAY HAVE NOTED, I AM SENDING ‘N’ invitations to people who seem, from what I can read online, to be interested in ‘interestingness.’ What does that mean?

Interestingness is the quality of being more inclined towards the not-so-obvious.

Interestingness is about curiosity, openness, and readiness to accept multiple viewpoints (as opposed to just one’s own).

It happens in places where we are allowed to experiment with ideas, to play, soft and light, towards the things that happen in the breakthrough moments, when they happen.

‘Ah-ha!’

But interestingness—or the quality of becoming ‘interesting’—involves a little bit of risk.

Related: The Man who Discovered ‘N’ >

MOVING TO ASIA from Seattle started all this. The ‘N’ thing. And the ‘N+1.’ People who are interesting are: looking at things critically, considering new angles, open, enjoy new input, aren’t overly pinned to their own ways of thinking and being, care about real life conversation, want to connect intellectually with others who want to do the same, look for new opportunities to try new things, are always challenging themselves, are ready, are listening, might just be in the right place at the right time. For ‘N’.

Related: What George Bernard Shaw said about circumstances >

WILL I SEE YOU AT ‘N’? This is just once. This is just to discover 16N. Are you wondering, ‘Who else will join? What will happen? Will I get something from this? Will I learn?’

I found you because I am coming to your city. And I want to meet you. And if we are really, really honest, it probably won’t happen unless we design time and book space.

You can leave the hosting part to me.

All you have to do is say, ‘Yes.’ —AS

‘But are strangers REALLY that interesting?’

'N' Phnom Penh  // APRIL 2015SO 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' Phnom Penh // APRIL 2015
‘N’ Phnom Penh happened at NUK Cafe. Now inviting guests for ‘N’ in Bangkok, London, and Copenhagen.

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.

16 people x 16 cities.
16N

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.’

‘It’s not about being right.’

She knew I was gonna say that, too.

Read more about ‘N’

DK’s ’16N’ project gathers 16 people for ONE moment of conversation. See DesignKompany.com/16N

What counts as remarkable, valuable, and real? VALIDITY is our theme for July and August eZine S. P. A. C. E.

Theme is VALIDITY for July and August series of weekly eZine S. P. A. C. E.
Theme is VALIDITY for July and August series of weekly eZine S. P. A. C. E.

WHEN I WAS A NEWSPAPER REPORTER, on staff at a daily in Seattle, my big day was Tuesday.

That was the day ‘my’ page came out. Page three. ENVIRONMENT, it said, right there at the top. My business card said, ‘Environment Editor.’ Showtime.

This was a trade journal, a daily. All week I would be working to gather just the right things to include, and only those that would be of interest to specifically the kinds of people who would pay for this paper, and that wasn’t everyone, not even a fraction of the mainstream, if you had to be honest about it.

Which is how I learned about niche publishing. How I got interested in, over the years, switching up from ENVIRONMENT to S. P. A. C. E. Maybe it was the architects DK (my after-newspapers and self-designed collective) worked for in Seattle, or the dreamers, artists, engineers, musicians, organization heads, and so many, many other people in the time since, but I got into it. Spacemaking. And that’s my newest, most favorite-ever beat.

Still gathering bits from people. Still getting wind of things through the Net. Trying to curate just the right set of stories, tips, resources and fine fragments, while also holding the safe space for true dialogue (the kind with a center, and not sides). Members of DK (who are those who pay dues) get S. P. A. C. E. every Tuesday at 7AM USEST. Today I’m gonna send one announcing the new July/August theme, VALIDITY.

That’s how things shift, isn’t it?

You find yourself doing what you know how to do (curate, edit, share), but for exactly the people who care about what you care about. Niche. It’s a real thing. Maybe S. P. A. C. E. isn’t for everyone, but what I learned from Seattle is that it totally doesn’t have to be for everyone, and it’s better if it isn’t.

So lately my ‘Tuesday page’ is S. P. A. C. E.

Of course it’s not mine at all. It’s members’.

It’s what you tell me, and what you say, and how that fits into the big thing, that 100th monkey idea plus collective unconscious and other things that connect us, even when we aren’t right next to each other, face to face. Wish we could be, but this is a way to keep the conversation flowing, and to keep it progressing. Hard, when we are inundated with feeds, tweets, likes, links, kids, spouses, work, our own hangups, friends, not-friends, and more. Pro-tip: Declutter the channels. Go with what you like. And just that. Niche.

How to get S. P. A. C. E.

S. P. A. C. E., Design Kompany’s eZine ($), comes out on Tuesday mornings. Don’t miss the July and August series on VALIDITY. Join today: here >

A snippet:

TALKING TO PEOPLE offline a lot more in recent days. Getting back out there, fraternizing, seeing what’s going on.

A particular topic keeps coming up: What ‘counts’ as ‘worthy.’

So this July and August, let’s explore ‘validity.’ That is, let’s take a round look at the ideas of: remarkability, weightiness, validity, quality. Already a few friends here in Phnom Penh are resisting, but I think the challenge is part of this space. More on relationships and why I believe great ones come from a mutually inspiring push and pull, in a bit… —Read more when you join here >

‘N’ London: NOTEWORTHINESS. What’s remarkable? Why?

2015-05-17 22.58.14POSTS. TAGS. Tweets. Comments.

Handwritten letters. Memos. Novellas and plays.

2015-05-17 22.58.14
‘N’ ticket. 16 in total.

POSTS. TAGS. Tweets. Comments.

Handwritten letters. Memos. Novellas and plays.

How do people decide what to note? What to omit, where to expand, or how to refine even an instapic as a narrative?

What are criteria to decide, “This! This is worth making note of.”

How do we choose what’s worth giving focus and attention to, and what isn’t?

That’s the framework for the conversation installation ‘N’ London, set to take place later this year in that city.

Just 16 people. Invited personally. For a MOMENT of CONNECTION in a short frame of time. Details to be shared to registered guests only.

Curious? Say hi, request an invitation: Contact DK >

When scientists hate logic

Niels Bohr, Danish physicist [1885-1962]IT’S NOT ABOUT VISUALS, or smart and overpromising headlines. It’s about what’s here, right here, in our connected, subconscious, unconscious, and querying minds and hearts. It’s about our asking questions, and discovering, in doing so, our very humanness.

Published in S. P. A. C. E.

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Niels Bohr, Danish physicist [1885-1962]
Niels Bohr, Danish physicist [1885-1962]
I KNEW THERE WAS SOMETHING special about Niels Bohr.

Being a nerd about small units of matter, about particles, about fuzzy logic, quantum math, and the general area of work in which people are asking giant questions on scales both very large and very small, it was only a matter of time before I’d investigate what the physicist thought about things.

Them personally, I mean.

There are some amazing scientists who have fascinating things to say about existentialism, being, and if you watched The Theory of Everything about Stephen Hawking in recent months (as I have), you will be on the same page with me about the wanting to inquire about brilliant scientists’ philosophical musings, too.

So when I found it, I said it.

‘Eureka!’

This quote:

‘No, no,’ said Niels Bohr, the physicist who gave us the model of the atom. ‘You’re not thinking. You’re just being logical.’

Dissecting purpose

ON A 2007 VISIT TO DENMARK and the splendid city of Copenhagen I found the cemetery where you can wander about and happen upon this man’s grave. It’s pretty magnificent, in fairness, for a place of final rest. You can tell someone really loved him. But he also had things to say about poetry, poetry!, what about that has anything to do with science, the PhD kids from Raleigh-Durham would want to know. Asking questions about the why and how of things, the metaphysics and existentials, what the? ‘Why would you bother about that when you can dissect the genome, cut open a rat, or brew potions designed to numb the brain?’

‘Well, I say!’ I think, cornered.

Saying nothing.

(Nearly broke up with quite a few friends over the dogma of theirs, but being in the Research Triangle Park I was outnumbered. Then I left. Then through the natural drift that happens when people move to the opposite side of the globe, relationships with scientists and logicians largely fizzled, to my great relief.)

Had I had a comeback, it would have been a direct quote. Bohr, of course, again:

We must be clear that when it comes to atoms, language can be used only as in poetry. The poet, too, is not nearly so concerned with describing facts as with creating images and establishing mental connections. —Niels Bohr, physicist

There had to have been something to give them, though, but I just didn’t know what it was. Couldn’t possibly guess, because I was still too young, too fresh, too oblique and earnest and believing of the old idea. That, okay, I’ll go ahead and say it. That people want to hear about philosophy. That they want to be challenged to go outside the boxes. See what’s there. Possibility. Potential, et al. But, as it was clear when I got to talking with my dear friend Patti Rieser in recent days, that people just can’t cope with too much of too much. Is that what we said? It was a different time, a different time zone, but that was my take-home message.

What? They don’t want to ask,

‘Who am I? Where am I going? Will this have mattered, in the end, at the big giant finish line of life?’

Protest, from me.

Squirming.

The same kind of resistance to the things that familiar people had said when pressing me against the wall. Of reason. Of making sense of those giant things that of course had to have a rhythm, a pattern, an orderliness. It’s the stuff of Man and Superman, Bernard Shaw, the very essence of wanting to get to the bottom of it. Except… There isn’t a bottom, and if you found it, it’d be, well, it’d be… turtles! All the way down.

This is only the top shell. I’m sharing about Bohr today at our eZine, S. P. A. C. E., which publishes for members every Tuesday at 7AM USEST. I’ve been wanting to tell you more about that, in this blog, but have gotten a little distracted with making up ‘N’.

More about S. P. A. C. E., though, just below. —DK

Get more like this

IMG_1087
Collaging airline magazines, as per usual.

DESIGN KOMPANY IS SHIFTING this year towards a subscription eZine in lieu of our more usual blog.

I know we had one for 10 years or so and if you were following that, thank you. But as we are adless and not sponsored and don’t put in little product thingies into our blog, not ever, and never have been, and don’t ever plan to be, the only way to generate new works of high quality is to give them time.

Time that I want to spend writing for you (if you are one of those people I almost immediately connect with, because you want to read things to ask big questions and not passively swallow whatever’s presented by Giant Corporations, that is) will require a little bit of confidence that you are there, reading. Membership is a way for me to know that there are people out there, who want, as I do, inspiration that’s out of the bounds of the usual.

It’s not about visuals, or smart and overpromising headlines. It’s about what’s here, right here, in our connected, subconscious, unconscious, and querying minds and hearts. It’s about our asking questions, and discovering, in doing so, our very humanness. 

Published in S. P. A. C. E.

Subscribe now

Design is in motion for new ‘N’ events in Bangkok, London, and Copenhagen

YOU MIGHT BE WONDERING what all this ‘N’ stuff is about. That’s cool, I mean, I think that part of the idea of creating something is to let it discover itself, as it grows and matures. Kind of like a plant. Or a toddler.

We are just 1/16th of the way into the big project, ’16N’. First one was in Phnom Penh, back in April. After ‘N’ Phnom Penh I have a bit more to say about the how and why of ‘N,’ but also, it’s largely going to become what it does because of who chooses to self-select and become part of it, too.

As in the case with Phnom Penh, there are going to be 16 people who choose to join in something that doesn’t have a clear point-by-point “what it is” because part of the whole journey is the exploration. That’s not to say there is zero formality. You will, if you get a ticket and register and everything, get an agenda, and instructions about the expectations, too. It’s like a cross between a workshop and an improv theater and something else: maybe just school. Without grades. All of us are teaching and learning, because we all have so many extraordinary things to say. It’s amazing. ‘N’ is for uncertainty, it’s for ‘Anything,’ it’s for… whatever it feels like it is to you. When this all got started, I had this crazy notion about the ‘N vector’ but then it got really mathy and geometry and Euclid and non-Euclid started coming into the picture, and when I started to go on about it with SM in recent days and things got quiet for a split second he said, quite astonished and astonishing me with the clarity of it, ‘Where do you get these ideas?’

Oh, well, that’s a long story. But for now, I can share the themes?

Themes and space for interpretation

Here’s what’s up:

  • COPENHAGEN. For ‘N’ Copenhagen, it’s NEARNESS. As in: What’s close? How does it affect me? Proximity. Self-awareness. Relationships of all dimensions. Thinking about Denmark and reminiscing on a trip there eight years back, I recall the comment: “We have to speak English. It’s a small country, with so many others on so many sides.” As in with NORMALITY as a loose theme we picked for Phnom Penh, the idea is to leave things open enough for some play and interpretation but also give a frame for the upcoming event. ‘N’ Copenhagen will be a space for 16 people I will invite personally between now and then to spend some moments thinking together about this very abstract idea. Because it is in a new country with a different language from mine, I’m asking for help from a few people in CPH, too. Want to help? Contact DK >
  • BANGKOK. ‘N’ Bangkok is on the way, too. Theme is ‘NOW’. What’s happening in this moment? Can’t think of a better place to have a conversation installation about the very essence of what ‘N’ is about, which is, namely, celebrating the MOMENT. Framing the urgency of NOW. I know, I know, it’s all so very esoteric and philosophic. But really, it’s play. Design Kompany has always been about play, and it won’t stop just because we grew up a bit.
  • LONDON. ‘N’ London is getting sorted, as well. Theme: ‘NOTEWORTHINESS.’ What’s remarkable? Why? In a big city like London, you have a lot of people going about their business, looking at their feeds, processing data, making data, all of that. But what of it is really worth taking note of? How do we know?

The idea isn’t to make a long-term party or networking “thing”, but rather, see who comes forward in this self-selecting way to participate in something that’s by design a little quirky. Playfulness is more relaxing. Play and sharing, seeing what might happen, emergence, that sort of thing. Improv is part of this story. Serendipity, chance. Want to help? Contact DK >

The next ‘N’ is coming to Thailand, and this is why

'N' is coming to Bangkok
‘N’ is coming to Bangkok

A FEW PEOPLE ARE ASKING ME ABOUT the next ‘N’ event, since there will be 15 more to make to complete the series ’16N’.

The first one, ‘N’ Phnom Penh, took place at NUK Cafe in April. It was a test, of sorts. In today’s “Culture of Maybe” I’ve been feeling a little lost when it comes to creating events, and even when attending other people’s events; mostly, I think there’s a lot of great stuff that happens in real life, live and on stage, or when we are partygoers ourselves and enjoying the simple act of randomly bumping into those whose paths we may never have otherwise crossed.

PEOPLE HAVE FOUND CONNECTIONS that led to new housemates, romantic love, and even new jobs at some of the events Design Kompany has hosted in the past years (2006-present). But that’s not the objective, it’s just a natural outcome. You do the work to show up and you tend to meet other people who also think it’s important to do the work to show up. Most often, they’re curious. Open. Engaged. I know, I know. I’m biased because I like to host these kinds of parties. But even in Ireland, which pre-dated our time as Design Kompany LLC, even in West Cork, our party there, the dessert party on the farm in Shepperton? Maybe you were there. Maybe you remember. What a mix-it-up and what great craic.

Making space for great conversation to happen—spontaneously, in the round, and with a personal invitation that comes from a real person who thinks you’re just right for it—that’s what ‘N’ is about. Bangkok, being a stone’s throw from DK’s base in Phnom Penh, is the next place to head to because I adore this city. The theme is NOW.

I’d love to give you the password to this page, if you’re there, and interested in talking more.

I could expand, if you’re interested? Especially if you’re in Bangkok this summer, (or Copenhagen or London after that), do get in touch. Here’s how: Contact DK >

The end of all our journeying happened in Sikkim

AND SO, TODAY I AM BACK IN MY USUAL ROUTINE, after a while away in a few completely other places where things were familiar (queues, quiet) in a strange, oblique way and yet, because of the move to Asia in 2013, things were completely weird (queues, quiet) from this point of view. “Back to reality?” this Italian woman asked me on a train. Reality? I feel like Cambodia is reality now. It’s all relative, right? Two years in Asia so far. That’s enough time to get my head around it. I’m looking forward to sharing in the future about the Khmer aesthetic, the subject of some research for something I’ll be able to talk more about in 2016.

sikkim
Sikkim, India

BEEN UP LATE A LOT THIS WEEK. And thinking. Mostly about how much I love being up late. There’s this kind of stagelike quality in the dead stillness of twilight. Sure, I could have worked harder at getting back to the regular sleep cycles, but I was relishing that feeling of complete, what would it be? Repose, maybe. Yes, that’s it. A quality of unrehearsed but perfectly choreographed dialogue—you, the space around you, the giant wide big black all above. I made some voice recordings. I wrote a poem: it took five hours. It’s for someone, of course, those directed-to kinds are the best.

Come to think of it, I don’t remember the last time I wrote a poem. For some reason it seems like we are valuing more of the “how to get rich fast” and “how to win people” sorts of writings these days in our society over those other kinds: poetry, sure, not all of it is for everyone. But sometimes you can waltz your way to discovery of beautifully put-together phrases (Dickens, Tagore, et al.) and, as C.-san said in the deep hot rainy season of Hoi An, “You can find good friends in books.”

Into the mist

STAVING THE LONELINESS THAT IS INEVITABLE when one moves to a part of the world where language is completely unknown has been one part of it. But then, that’s okay, because your whole perspective gets flipped. See this picture? It’s from Sikkim, India, where I first got wind of the inkling our little collective was about to become a very different sort of outfit than we’d imagined it in 2004 and even before that, in 1996, as kids in the world thinking Making It meant making cash, and lots of it. Now I know that it’s about the journey, the taking chances, and when people say “viewfront” now I always think of Gangtok, and the terribly expansive sheet of monsoon flows and currents that touched DK’s heart in Sikkim.

Instead of complaining and worrying, instead of ennui, instead of the nostalgia that for so long has tied my hands, I am going to do the thing that has been pulling me towards its very center, with a gravity that has become more forceful as Newton pointed out (force is inversely proportional to the square of the distance). What’s more, what’s more!, is that I’m not resisting anymore. I’m going. I’m getting there. I’m getting to work, finding friends in books, dropping a lot of people, and writing.

S. P. A. C. E. is the place, said Sun Ra, and in the very vector that races our hearts towards the thing we must not cease from doing because it is the only thing that we cannot not do, I’m going to finally succumb.

Art.

It’s all there is.

Journeying now, processing it later

The moving towards, nay, racing to the mountain, has irrevocably begun. But maybe it had, already, when I went to Riverside in New York and found a museum dedicated to the works of one Nicholas Roerich, and whose book, The Invincible, I bought on the spot. (Quotes, paraphrasings coming in a future issue of S. P. A. C. E.) Along with two posters of his favorite mountains, the great Himalaya. Put those on the wall, and in a year, found myself looking at the pink twilight twinge of sunup on the deity, Mount Kanchenjunga.

AND SO, TODAY I AM BACK IN MY USUAL ROUTINE, after a while away in a few completely other places where things were familiar (queues, quiet) in a strange, oblique way and yet, because of the move to Asia in 2013, things were completely weird (queues, quiet) from this point of view. “Back to reality?” this Italian woman asked me on a train. Reality? I feel like Cambodia is reality now. It’s all relative, right? Two years in Asia so far. That’s enough time to get my head around it. I’m looking forward to sharing in the future about the Khmer aesthetic, the subject of some research for something I’ll be able to talk more about in 2016.

IMG_1087
Collaging airline magazines, as per usual.

Redesigns and shifting winds

DESIGN KOMPANY IS SHIFTING to a patronage model in lieu of our more usual blog. I know we had one for 10 years or so and if you were following that, thank you.

But as we are adless and not sponsored and don’t put in little product thingies into our blog, not ever, and never have been, and don’t ever plan to be, the only way to generate new works of high quality is to give them time.

Time that I want to spend writing for you (if you are one of those people I almost immediately connect with, because you want to read things to ask big questions and not passively swallow whatever’s presented by Giant Corporations, that is) will require a little bit of confidence that you are there, reading. Membership is a way for me to know that there are people out there, who want, as I do, inspiration that’s out of the bounds of the usual. It’s not about visuals, or smart and overpromising headlines.

It’s about what’s here, right here, in our connected, subconscious, unconscious, and querying minds and hearts. It’s about our asking questions, and discovering, in doing so, our very humanness.

Interested in getting to know more about this?

Connect in S P A C E by becoming a patron. Here’s where to go.