Dipika Kohli is the director of Design Kompany, or 'DK.' Dipika's work is centered on relational art, and the aesthetics of the conversation that happens when new people and new places serendipitously meet. Juxtapositions and intersections inform her field reporting, which she then casts as creative nonfiction zines, mostly, or 'conversation installations.' In each of which she assembles and collages a S P A C E to highlight what she calls 'the magic moment.' Dipika was an environment editor for a Seattle daily and a managing editor for an Irish weekly before starting DK as an LLC in Seattle in 2005. Find her drawing in line at a jam session at some scruffy, small jazz club, if you're in a city that has that kind of thing. Or meet her in S P A C E. Dipika edits and sends our weekly eZine.
The change of epoch is announced, in the sphere of knowledge, in the process of delinking from long lasting effects of epistemic colonial and imperial differences. According to this frame, Native Americans have wisdom and Anglo-Americans science; Africans have experience and Europeans philosophy; the Third World has culture and the First World social sciences, including anthropology who study the cultures of the Third World; Chinese and Indians have traditions, Europeans modernity; Islam dwells in religion, Europeans in secularism. Those beliefs in such hierarchies are gone among a growing number of non-European scholars, intellectuals, thinkers, activists.
Could we be on verge of a paradigm shift? In which someone who belongs to a particular geographic locale isn’t stereotyped into being the way that the old model would have pegged us to be? It’s exciting to think it’s possible to move forward from these outmoded, boring strongholds. Given the state of the world and the world order at the moment, something that despite all effort to focus on ‘being here now’ is impossible to turn a blind eye to, perhaps it’s just a matter of the natural evolution towards something else. Because what we have is just not working.
To what, though? And how? Let’s talk about that, in October, in S P A C E. Everything starts again, here.
NEW THINGS. New beginnings. New frames. New perspectives. New points of view, voices, perspectives, world views, and conversation-starters. New kinds of jam sessions in our intellectual play spaces, which are coming from not books but from us, talking together, writing in S P A C E, in the moment. The moment being now. Our now. This now. The one that is relative to us, all of us, 7 billion and counting, on this planet, in this solar system, in this galaxy, in this universe. So much to talk about. Discovering, every single day, in real life as we amble about the geographies near and far that most intrigue, excite, invite, and challenge us, with our very small circle of curious and open collaborators and co-creators here at DK, so many things. New is what we are interested in. Finding new writers, authors, original thinkers, still-awake-to-possibilities-of-optimistic-outcomes dreamers, responsible social leaders, owners of third places, makers of all kinds, and, all of us, at our hearts, poets and philosophers. Can we get back to the 50 billion years of evolution that are intrinsic within each of us, to explore what we all know, in the ambient space between us? The ‘luminiferous aether,’ remember that old idea? let’s say, I still like that defunct concept, or Jung’s collective unconscious, or the things that Krishnamurthi writes about. He was interetsed in us being better, as a collection, as a species. Not just some of us, but all of us.
There is no end to relationship. There may be the end of a particular relationship, but relationship can never end. To be is to be related. -J Krishnamurthi
LET’S INVESTIGATE, can we?, for a moment, let’s just say four weeks, okay, how far we’ve come since evolving from trilobytes? Can we play in the imaginative spaces that link most handily to the warmest places of the human heart? Can we discover, in the chambers there, where we all want the same things, really (for our kids to be okay, for us to be able to live in a way that lets us be who we really are, with all the daily needs met and then some, with comfort and emotional security and stuff like that, yes: is this resonating?). Design can make things better. I’ve been seeing how, for 10 years at DK and before that in jobs in architecture, when, that is, the studios were really good. But it’s time to design a new social philosophy thats inclusive and extensive and rooted not in words that weren’t even made in a time when we had the new sciences that we have now (quantum physics, multiverse math). Let’s update, can we? Sure… so, let’s talk philosophy. A new philosophy. A philosophy of the moment. Artfully. With respect to one another, with respect ot the whole. DK are inviting people from near and far into our inner circles of conversation. A balance of place, but also, of the ways of thinking that will invite the kind of dialogue that we really need now more than ever: the kind with a center, and not sides (HT M. Angelou, Mark Twain, Jean Rhys, William Isaacs, W. Heisenberg, Robin Davidson).
What is philosophy, though, anyway? In a nutshell, this:
Philosophy is a way of thinking about the world, the universe, and society. It works by asking very basic questions about the nature of human thought, the nature of the universe, and the connections between them. The ideas in philosophy are often general and abstract.
RAINING IN PHNOM PENH, as I write this. Wondering where the next few days and weeks will go. A few more days, a few more moments. Conversations in the real life salons, conversations in the online ones, too. There are things to say, so many of them, and I’m lucky to be able to have a chance to bounce ideas around with people and mostly just generally get to play. In S P A C E. And also, here and there, bumping into stuff, much like The Missing Piece goes around looking for things, falling into holes, bumping into walls, and so on. (HT: Shel Silverstein.)
A few more moments.
I could get poignant and philosophical here–
I could talk about how all the moments are one quick moment, as we had discovered in our salon here in Phnom Penh some years ago, The Book of Time, which I co-hosted with Anakot Asia’s Chhunny Noem. What a powerful moment. Maybe it was the sum of all the moments, smashed together into one infinity, here and now, oh, no, here I go, getting esoteric and rambly, and well, I ought to save those kinds of conversations for the intimate spaces of real life and conversations with just. those people who are actually interested, not foist them onto the blog and the internet and hope that people will say, ‘Yeah. I want to know more about this. Where can I meet other people who want to talk about meaning, existence, philosophize about things without quoting dead white guys, or just, generally, be How can I find more meaning in my own day to day just by simply talking to other people about the big questions hat are popping up in my own world, where I am? What is the point?’ And more. I’m partly inspired writing this by last night’s conversation with CM, who is really asking these questions, I think, the more I talked with her and the later it got and the louder the roomful of people, and the drunker, and the more frequent the occurrence of breaking ceramic mugs and glasses (?), well, the more the time went by, the more I realized, ‘You know, there are places where you can ask these questions and get to skip over all the smalltalk. It’s real. It can happen. We can design for it. I’m into that, that’s my thing that I’m into.’ (Easy to say, hard to prove. But the people who know, know. And for me, that’s enough. So we continue, charging into the world, with the goal of simply hosting and co-hosting more and better space for dialogues that have real feelings int them, real emotions. Not just… well… fodder for the bored, schedule-fillers for the lonely.)
‘I like to try to make myself uncomfortable sometimes,’ C had said, and I replied, ‘Because that’s how we grow.’ Growing used to be such a weird word to me, so touchy-feely and clinical and psychology bollix, but you know, it’s kind of all we have, really. To be able to improve ourselves? What else can we do? Add another do-goody NGO to a country that doesn’t want you here? If you’ve just arrived in Cambodia for something and you think you’re going to ‘make a contribution,’ be aware that this is a lot of nonsense and perhaps more about your own ego than anything else. I don’t want to even get started on the mansplaining that I saw and ranted about, when I saw it! [deleted]. Think about that.
Once more, upon returning to this country, where I have lived for three-and-a-half-years without having meant to, I found myself miraculously thinking, ‘Huh. I can see how this could be an interesting dialogue. And it reminds me of one, from before… also in this city. Quite unexpected, a small collection of us, new and different others, did we have 5? That was a crowd, then, for our salons, which are usually me and maybe 2 or so people… but always, always, always, I love the conversations that unfold. I’ve never been regretful about going and seeing and trying these, because you just never know. Maybe you’ll meet someone who’ll wander in from out of the internet and change your life forever. Gosh.
And given the right framing and the right collection of people… it can. And has. And will. Where are the artists? Everywhere. Much of this is amorophous and fuzzy, and that’s fine. Who cares about making sure everything fits some arbitrary logic-box? That what DK writes here and there as a collective is not refined, not finished, not concrete, not logical, mystical sounding, and open ended? How about this idea: a billion suns are in motion, right now. And N. Bohr, who said: ‘No, no, no. You’re not thinking. You’re just being logical.’ I’m looking at a philosophy of the moment: one that’s not based on old sciences that are Newtonian-only, out of touch and completely miffed by multiple and contradictory ‘truths’ co-existing. Frankly, philosophy is as obsolete as the fax machine.
And so on. And so forth. A blink–a moment. And infinity, too.
But, guess what? [Some of ] those [mainstream publishers and academics and philosophers] who consider things ‘good’ are the ones who are stuck in the old logic-boxes. They can’t conceptualize a new way of doing things because the old way is so engrained. SHR, a mathematician friend of DK’s, and I had met I a pub in London when I was that way, a very good and curious conversation in which I had asked him why things are devolving instead of progressing, society-wise. Wanted to say things about least common denominators and stuff but that is too fourth grade math and not that interesting to S, so I just threw out a thing about, oh, systems, and equilibriums, and turbulences, and he had said that people like the status quo. That’s why we’re not evolving up. They like the status quo. It’s hard to change it.
Me, thinking: Even if it’s stupid.
Not saying this, but it’s pretty easy to read me.
Him saying, without words, Yup. Even then.
Part of the concept with Atelier S P A C E is not to get parked for too long in any one place. Houseless and offliceless, But, I’m finding out on this miniature return, not friendless. More in a second.
First, from Lao Tzu‘s Tao Te Ching:
Hold fast to the way of antiquity
In order to keep in control the real of today.
The ability to know the beginning of antiquity
Is called the thread running through the way.
Meeting the way
IT’S BEEN really cool catching up with some of you who might be reading here, in this city. Phnom Penh. Reminiscing about things past, or sharing about the things that had happened before, or recently, or on the road. The way and the road. Basho—need to go back to that author and explore more fully. Important. But, not now. It’s also important to just be here and notice the things going on right where we are. I’m going to have to share more in the e-mail circles (not doing facebook now, not really hanging out on instagram), about the invite-only conversation salons on the way here, in Phnom Penh, before heading off to Australia and India and possibly the Pacific Northwest in those United States—gaw, I can’t believe I’m even writing that. I had wanted to get out of there, so much, but it’s been four years since Palo Alto, so… Yeah. Let’s see how it all unfolds. Things take time, I get that, but it’s also nice to peg a few things here and there, sometimes, too. But it’s loose and light, now. Letting go of illusion of control. Big changes. Ask me why sometime, if our paths cross in real life or in our online conversations in S P A C E.
This weekend, I’ll host Atelier S P A C E | Phnom Penh and write, together with others, maybe some of my actual friends?, a new set of zines, set here, hyperlocal creative nonfiction. Next stops, Idontknowwhereyet, but onwards is the definitely for sure direction. Plus, visa. Visas expire. Keeps you moving, doesn’t it? On. These are long stories. Not for everyone. I’ll write them. I’ll put them in S P A C E. Maybe I’ll keep writing about Cambodia. I mean, a little bit. It’s definitely easier when you have four years of experience in a. place and ambiently know where the streets go, how things connect, what foods are going to taste like, what’s ‘not okay’ when it comes to cultural sensitivity or mansplaining OMG, how everything you think you know about something is completely hot air, and how, when you come here, the thing you learn is that you don’t know anything at all. Some of that I wrote into the first book about my experiences here, Breakfast in Cambodia (Kismuth // 2016), which look at that, has just celebrated a two-year anniversary. Exciting. I wonder if I should have another launch-y kind of moment for the new books, set in Finland? Could be nice. I hope to, but it’s also fine if it’s just an inner-circle thing. Maybe. launch at, say, my house. Easier, these days, than making a big rah-rah out of it and trying to get people to show up. This has gotten increasingly harder, I’ve found, in the last six years. I’m seeing the futility of it, in a way. I may not even… well. It’s a lot to write here. I’m always starting to write a little here and then hesitating because, who is reading this blog? I don’t know. Which is why I’d prefer to converse in S P A C E, or email. Email me, if you are there, know me, want to stay in touch in a more firm way that has nothing to do with reading and checking and checking and reading. I’m here. I’m listening. Say hi? So that I know it gets to me, what with all these weird filters and hackers and spammers and people breaking into emails and stuff, it’s so weird now, it would be cool if you could use the form on our contact page. Could you? Here it is. Kay. Cool. The thing to do now is just get started. And trust the process. Be okay with getting lost a little, in order to find center. All righty, then. Let me figure out where to go next. Let me find that set of darts.
‘Fresh and original input’
WHEN I WAS IN AARHUS in 2015, I met someone who said, after a whole long giant hour-long conversation marathon, in a thank-you note to follow up the next day, ‘Thanks for the fresh and original input.’ Same person who talked to me about Heisenberg and principle and got me to see the Danish view of things (‘Oh, really? MIT says that? Are you sure it’s all of the people at MIT who say that, and not just some of the people at MIT who say that, and yeah, there aren’t other people at MIT who completely disagree with those people at MIT? Think about that.’) This is going into the zine, S P A C E | Aarhus, by the way. Coming in December. But yeah. Input, of course software people love DK because we are a kind of arbitrary asteroid-quality sort of ‘input’ for them, and the innovative spirit feeds off of random encounters out of left field (and S P A C E). So yeah, back then, way, in 2015, as the autumn was settling in and I was getting set to return to Cambodia where it would be instantly warm again in not-so-many-days, I’d thought. That’s a new way to put it. And today, the phrase comes back, ‘Fresh and original input.’ Why? The conversations that we have in S P A C E-like rooms in real life as well as in our online forums are like that, to me, all he time. Expansive, curious, inviting, insight-making at their best, but also, just… fun. I’ve just found some new and fresh original input that I had talked about in the post about the music I found myself wandering into while in Helsinki on my last night, and today, I’d like to share a track from one of members, Esa Puolakka, of one of the bands (Maagine). I’m looking forward also to soon interviewing the lead singer, Matti Halonen, for our podcast. Watch this space. Meantime, I’ll leave you with this track from Esa… (For me, the two tracks on his soundcloud are so very much in the vein of ‘fresh and original input.’ So here we go, passing it forward, making it up, jazzy, as we go.) I’m looking forward to the new and the next. More soon, from S P A C E. Tuesdays at 7AM, in the e-box.
Earlier this year S P A C E | Sheffield (with the lead story, Briefly in Sheffield) and S P A C E | Kuala Lumpur (Kaunter Tiket) had launched, but yesterday, something new.
HELSINKI. This time, S P A. C E is both a print-edition zine as well as a PDF. But, seriously, a wallop of a PDF, this round. It’s a 30-pager, packed with photos and some creative nonfiction from the summer in Finland. Three months there, all told, to gather and write the feelings and conversations and make some kind of arc out of it. I am really pleased with the way this one turned out.
Why? Writing. Is fun. Relaxing. Coming to the places that are where I want to be, writing about them, sharing what I’ve learned, gathering other people’s voices along the way and co-creating short packed works of hyperlocal creative nonfiction, informed, of course, by local knowledge, experience, and the culture of a place. The work to bring these things into shape is lovely and rewarding and invigorating and hard. And it’s getting more complex and sophisticated, I think, this zinemaking journey—one year, so far. I started Atelier S P A C E over P’chum Ben in Battambang, here in Cambodia. This coming weekend, it’s P’chum Ben again. So that means I’ve got one more year in this 2-year, roving, popup, zinemaking atelier that is getting run mostly out of pocket, with the occasional contribution from ticket sales, zine sales, and, hey, people who just want to buy me a lunch or coffee because they like this idea and can’t think of why anyone would put their own expenses down to make it happen. But for me, it’s obvious. I want to do Atelier S P A C E because I love new people, new input, fresh and original and faraway places that are new to me, and of course, writing, publishing, and sharing. So it hits all the right keys. It took me forever to think up the idea, besides.
So once it was there, it was like, ‘Of course I’m going to do this.’ Battambang was not too terribly far from Phnom Penh, so over four days, completely offline and on my own, I found the story to write the lead piece, ‘Here Comes the Dance,’ which, wow, is really about the Age of Anxiety. I really love S P A C E | Battambang. Probably my best one, but wait, no. Helsinki. No, no. I love Sheffield. Chuffed, still, to have gone there to finish researching the story. And then, there’s Kuala Lumpur: a place that’s becoming home away from home (away from… home?) I’m not sure what this is all going to lead to but I’m excited to share more news, soon, about upcoming Atelier S P A C E programmes abroad. It’s gonna be great, in the words of M, there in Finland, who taught me how to let go of the hard things that relate to grudges and difficulties in getting over yourself in order to show up properly for others, and who, in part, inspired this edition of S P A C E. Massive learning, this trip. The conversations with Alexis Jokela, too. Good craic, as they say in Ireland. In case you were wondering why I have an Irish accent sometimes, just google ‘The Elopement’ and ‘Kismuth Books.’
There you go, then.
For the bigger story.
Kismuth was the prequel, I guess, to the stories ahead, in S P A C E. Creative nonfiction, but in first person, so they were talked about as memoirs. I got all into that whole idea, even though technically it was too soon, in some ways, to write memoir. Someone who wasn’t happy about me publishing anything had said, ‘Who would want to read anything you write?’ Can you believe that? Some people actually hate it when you do the things you really want to do. What did I do? Leave the country.
As always for me, it’s the process of getting lost in order to find center that is inviting me to share some of the stories from ‘the road’ in the series of zines. Curious? Download S P A C E || Helsinki instantly when you order over here.
Enjoy it with a nice cup of chamomile (or, if you prefer, vodka and gingerale) while listening to the track, a mix tape, sort of, Exit Vantaa. Here’s to the journeys, then. The new, the near, the now, and the next.
READING, today, stories about #deletefacebook, and find myself nodding every time someone talks about how the social fabric is getting ripped apart because people are addicted to pings and hits and likes.
For example, I found these quotes in one of the first articles you get to on google if you search ‘delete facebook’… They are:
And that means that we need to sort of give you a little dopamine hit every once in a while, because someone liked or commented on a photo or a post or whatever. It’s a social-validation feedback loop … exactly the kind of thing that a hacker like myself would come up with, because you’re exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology. The inventors, creators — it’s me, it’s Mark [Zuckerberg], it’s Kevin Systrom on Instagram, it’s all of these people — understood this consciously. And we did it anyway. Sean Parker — Former Facebook President
I feel tremendous guilt. It literally is [at] a point now, where we have created tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works. That is literally where we are. The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops that we have created are destroying how society works. No civil discourse. No cooperation. Misinformation. Mistruth. And it’s not an American problem. It’s not about Russian ads. This is a global problem. ChamathPalihapitiya— Former Facebook VP of User Growth
Of course we can argue about the good things and the not-so-good things about technology. But don’t think you have to have it if you want to live a meaningful, connected, or creative life: you don’t. I don’t have Facebook, not a personal one anymore, and though I’m on the fence about what to do with instagram. But okay, it’s fine. I don’t have WhatsApp, or even a mobile phone.
I should repeat that last one.
I don’t have a mobile phone. Or even a non-mobile phone. Today I’m borrowing one of the latter, though, to meet up with some people in Phnom Penh who might be wondering what the hell I’ve been doing on the northern side of Finland all summer, and something about Malaysia, and yeah.
HONEST. I used to have one, in the mid 2000s, when I was living in Seattle and had ‘a business,’ which of course was DK in its first iteration—solid brick and mortar shop, complete with $800 laser printer, fax machine, cool phones that I still kinda miss because of their button design, giant computers, a reception area, a conference room, swivel office chairs: the works. But what I didn’t know then that I know now is that none of it was that important. Social media presence? Not a big deal, because DK sold itself through one-on-one interpersonal interactions in real life. We got gigs in Seattle. More, later, elsewhere, too. But not because of the online stuff, or the appearances of something big. By being good. Really. That’s how it works. But being good is only part of it. You also have to be easy to work with. Not that easy to work with and not that good? Forget it. (Unless, of course, you’re cheap, and fast. But who wants to work with people who are just trying to penny-pinch and don’t care that much about the quality of the output?)
More thinking. More reading. More turning the clock back to think about where we’ve been and what we were doing. I am glad to say that it’s through the building of relationships that we are here, where we are, and continue to develop. Not that I’m the greatest at this, in fact, I’m pretty shite at it. It’s DK’s Akira Morita, who took the time to build the networks and keep in touch with the people here where I am writing from (Phnom Penh) in order to begin that lattice-formation that has come to be one of the most important things we’ve ever had in our orbit. Social orbits are big: I was writing and thinking about these things quite a lot in recent days, conversing in S P A C E forums and real life and on voice calls. Less email. Less writing short. And the next podcast (!) will be about the internet—about the love-hate relationship with this thing that connects us (and keeps us from truly connecting, at the same time).
True connection starts, I’ve found, with showing up. Commitment to a person, idea, or project, or a job, well, commitment is what leads to trust. Trust is huge. You have trust, and you have all you could possibly ask for in a relationship. Trust the process, sure, but trust other people. Sure. It’s hard. Of course it is. Relationships are work. Did you see that thing I put here about George Vickers? How about Moominpappa? I feel like here at DK, Akira is the former, and I’m the latter. We’re interested in relationships, but he’s better at that, and I”m interested in possibility, and exploring to the edges: scouting the new and the next. Together, we’re still at it, officelessly and houseless-ly. We’re moving around the world looking for people who are ready to try new things, be they NGO-sector officials, small businesses, innovation-minded larger groups, individuals, or colleagues, or co-creators, or even friends. Are you ready to try to get to the next, whatever, or whatever, it turns out to be? Then that’s it. Talk to DK. Let’s play.
Reclaiming space for real life
I’LL LEAVE YOU with this bit from the Guardian article, ‘Be a pioneer — delete Facebook’, by Jaron Lanier. And comments are open, if you’d like to say ‘hi.’
… these deleters are indispensable. They should be celebrated. We all benefit from them.
The primary value of a boycott in this case is not mere protest to damage Facebook, but to invent what life can be like today without the social network.
A deleter must reconsider how she holds her social life together. She will therefore rethink what a social life is.
Is having a publicly broadcast number of associates a good thing, or does it foster a meaningless sense of social competition? Does Facebook’s method, which combines user tracking with stimuli calculated to foster addiction and behaviour modification, really reveal the most beneficial options for her? Does an experiential feed constructed by algorithms serve her, or other people who are paying to modify her behaviour? Are the components of the Facebook experience severable or not? Can you have a modern social and professional life without the manipulation? Is it even conceivable? Who will ask? Who will find out? The deleters will!
And they already have. Making space for real life interfacing, for remarkable human connexion: that’s the whole thing, for some of us, writing, connecting, meeting, sharing, and, hey, living. Online is fine. I’m online to post this. Online is fine, but online isn’t the only place it’s at. Real life is out there. Let’s go get it.
LIFE. STORIES. Multiple, divergent, intersecting, and contradicting pluralities of narratives: the things we are pursuing here are not so much about gathering outcomes and publishing stuff that sounds and looks interesting (but has no content); rather, we want to invite into our innermost circles, in S P A C E, the exact kinds of new and different others who will show us, together, as we get going, in our conversations in the protected-page posts that constitute, as a set, the thing we call S P A C E, well yeah. All of it. Is a thing now. There’s a bulk to this that I can’t deny; a gravitas and a resonance that stays with people. They tell me this. ‘I really enjoyed that exercise you did; it was super relevant at the time, do you remember, you put us in groups, ‘Past,’ ‘Present,’ and ‘Future?’ asked my friend MR, whom I’d met at one of my events in Bangkok and who went on to join DK again at something called ‘16N‘ in that same city, the next year.
(Honestly, we didn’t recall that exercise or think much about what it might have meant to everyone; at the time, we were just hosting, and hosting means you’re talking to people and making sure everyone feels included, that her or his voice counts, that she or he is invited to all the conversations circling about, moving, changing, diving into other spaces, letting that happen.
Of course the afterparty for ‘N’ there had to be at a jazz club: improvising in collage and collaborating with jazZ happens! there, that was also very fun. With both, it’s a jam session: making it up as we go, but also, playing off what we learn, together, from one another. Most importantly, there’s no hierarchy. It’s flat. We’re talking, together, in dialogue. Round tables. Let me tell you a bit more about this idea, of circles. (SN, watching Akira Morita in action one time hosting a meeting, had called it ‘circle time.’ We love circle time, here at DK. Why? Lots of reasons.’)
Dialogues that are really good are the kinds ‘with a center, and not sides,’ as William Isaacs, had put it in his book, Dialogue. How lucky I am to have been able to reach out directly to Isaacs, ahead of my conversation salon series, ‘Modern Sikkim: What does it mean to be Sikkimese?’ which had happened in Gangtok, Sikkim–a part of India that my relatives in Delhi aren’t too familiar with outside of an image of ‘the snowy mountains’. Well, wow. There is of course Kanchenjunga, but before I go marveling about the miracles of the Himalaya, and daydreaming about going back there in November (yes: mark it! Atelier S P A C E || Gangtok is in the works), well, yeah, so what was I saying? Oh! This: I’m lucky, very, I could ask William Isaacs directly, over email, in 2013, thinking hard about the design of Modern Sikkim and how to collaborate well and whom I should contact to make a go of it and what we would do in the spaces-to-become, well, yeah. How I could make such a conversation salon series work well was important to me. Researching that. Learning what to do in the instance that someone tried to be overbearing (this happens a lot, in societies where there are hierarchies established from social class, economic status, or hey, let’s be real, male and female gender roles), all that normal stuff you have to figure in, and be ready to take on, when it does hit you, all that. And I remember the email coming back. What a good feeling, to get a note from the internet to say, Just do what you’re doing and here’s some more stuff to think about, more or less. Well. What a nice thing to feel reassured that no one knows what’s on the way, not ever, not fully, but that allowing things to pop up by hosting a space that is inviting, safe, comfortable, relaxing, and readied for the things-that-might-happen, well, that’s the work. And the art. So it began. A journey into making more and better such space, or, as I call it now, S P A C E. I’m the architect of it; we follow a checklist, it has 7 points, to do this in a way that works, in DK’s style. Which is what? Well, you can read my personal artist statement thingy at this website, if you’re curious about what interests me about gathering people in these ways. ‘I want people to relax. To feel air, space, and comfort.’ Find it in context at dipikakohli.com.
But in the meantime, there’s this.
Philosophy of the moment
GETTING SET. For our first-ever online salon, ‘Philosophy of the Moment.’ In which we’re going to share all of the best learnings and gathered notes from our decades-long pursuit of the big questions, ‘What are we doing here? What does it mean? What is ‘good’? What makes it remarkable? What does a meaningful life look like? How can I make changes so that I can better enjoy the life I have? What does it mean to love? How does it feel to let go? Where are the important notes to carry forward? What kind of legacy do I want to leave? Who am I? Who am I, apart from you? What is my role in society? How am I doing, and where I am going, and does it mean much to consider these questions, and besides, what is ‘time?”‘ What’s this all about? Find out.
Chapbooks, next. From our experiential publishing programme, S P A C E.
First one will be about the multiverse, inspired by the intriguing words and ideas about Brian Greene, whom I’m listening to an NPR interview about parallel universes with right now as I’m writing this. It’s on the multiverse. I first heard about the multiverse from a friend of mine, MVR, about ten years ago; M had been a neighbor and sometime-collaborator when DK had Kornerhaus on 19th and John in Seattle. Great things came of those meetings: math-inspired, philosophical, wide-ranging, and high-key. Enjoyed those, quite a lot, and haven’t met anyone as colorful in some years, now, when it comes to math-and-art mixtures of personalities. (M, if you see this, hi-5 from Phnom Penh. Also, do you know about this?:–)
QUICKLY, I thought it would be good to highlight some of the things I’m discovering from the lectures and interviews I’m listening to today with Greene. Not only did I really like the movie A Beautiful Mind, and also The Theory of Everything, and also, the fascinating and still-curious film, Charles and Ray Eames‘ 1977 short film ‘Powers of Ten’, not to mention the more recent viewing of something at Kuala Lumpur’s planetarium, ‘Journey to a Billion Suns‘—
–there are more things to sum and round in the conversation-spaces to come, in the hallways of our since-2014 and counting, very low-key and flat-hierarchical salons, ie S P A C E, here at DK’s innermost circles. We talk about stuff like this. Like, really talk.
Well, here’s the bit that is interesting that I found from a cursory quick search of what kinds of things might be worth zining about, when it comes to explaining (or at least, hinting at the possibility at) that which is related to the ‘multiverse’ idea.
‘In any finite region of space, matter can only arrange itself in finitely different configurations. You and I are just a configuration of particles… everybody in this room is just a configuration of particles.’
‘A large number!’ interjects the interviewer, who isn’t very helpful, really.
‘A large number but a finite number,’ Greene continues. ‘Similarly if I take a deck of cards, if I shuffle the deck, the order of the cards differ, [but] the number of orders is finite. If I shuffle the deck enough times, the order of the cards… has to repeat. Similarly, the order of the particles would have to repeat too. [And] if the configuration of particles repeats someplace out there in the cosmos, it means all that we know is repeating. We are out there. And that’s a very straightforward mathematical conclusion from a simple starting point: space goes out infinitely far.’
Elsewhere, he expands to say that math opens the realm of possibility, and ‘the art of physics is to be able to sniff out which mathematics is relevant for reality, and which isn’t.’ In other words, the things that math can do for us are to help us get to ‘the border of understanding,’ and then push over the horizon, as he says, so that we can use the things we can calculate and guess at through our mathematical calculations in order to test stuff out, with observation and experiment, and decide if it’s worth keeping around in our chambers of things we hold to be ‘true.’ A debatable idea, ‘truth’, (read something about how goldfish see the world through curved bowls and isn’t their idea of what’s ‘real’ just as valid, even if it comes together to them through a concave plane?’) but that’s another story.
If, though, we find out that our experiment and observation give us good cause to believe that there are things that are different from what we think they are, then hey, we’re on to something. This is how people had found out that the Earth isn’t the center of the solar system, after all. And is the stuff, then, of paradigm shifts and scientific revolutions. Too often in our current mode of thinking in the Western thought that has dominated for so long the scope for thinking about ‘what could be’ and ‘what lies outside of our understanding’ is so limited that it is shoved into a weird box of something called ‘spirituality,’ blech, or metaphysics or philosophy or existentialism, transcendentalism, or something else. Labels don’t help. What we need to do is find a new philosophy, a philosophy of this moment, in which all the things that the scientists have shared and shown and pointed out to us can inform an illuminated thinking about our existence: the main questions of philosophy which still stand, which have been said to be, in a book that S. Hawking co-authored, these: 1. Why is there something rather than nothing? 2. Why do we exist? and 3. Why this particular set of laws and not some other?
YOW. PRETTY NIFTY. THESE DAYS, I’ve been reading up at the libraries and listening to anything I can find on the subject of the multiverse and string theory. Following on the anecdotal stories I had gathered in real life, popping in to scientific establishments in California in 2014 and Denmark the next year, yes, all very popping-in, over here, as we do, in our meanders through S P A C E, in order to spot the people and stories that I’d like to interview for our podcasts (coming, also), and now, the new zines, and next, the chapbooks. Small, simple steps, these: moving towards discovering our concept and now, sharing out the learnings that are the most intriguing (to us).
S P A C E. The stuff of our online magazine… it’s about vastness and possibility. Yeah. Possibility, the search for the edge, the invitation to take a leap into the unknown, chance encounters, and the discoveries along the way in the very fine, very small, intimate moments of simply being, and simply observing: all of that is folded into our interactive magazie-cum-real-life-salon-series, S P A C E. where we go in the world isn’t as important as whom we find when we get to the places where we land. Sometimes it’s by invitation, other times by sheer brute force, to go and see what we could do if we simply turned up, to try. I heard that in 30 years, philosophy will be a subject that will be in-demand for jobseekers. Cool.
An art of possibility
QUANTUM PHYSICS has always been a keen interest of study for DK, not just because some of us have been trained in engineering, but because the innovation spacemaking that is so important right now if we are to continue to develop and progress as a set of collaborators in the world instead of isolated, narcissistic pockets of people who have wealth, privilege and power, well, yeah, so yeah, if we’re going to try to make things better for more of us, we have to get out of the usual treads and jump up and out into something… not-yet-known. Why? Because that’s where interesting things can be discovered. ‘Give yourself an A,’ says Benjamin Zander, in his book, Art of Possibility. We’re gonna do that, moving forward. Just gonna brute force method turn into a miniature publishing house. Starting with zines, last year, and now, moving towards chapbooks. Seriously fun stuff.
So far, it’s been about trying things with our senses and taking the time to get some feedback on the things that work well, and don’t. Showing up for real life in the salons and ateliers since 1994 (!) has been a work in the practice of how to get up and get going and see where things can lead, but that’s just our practice, here, behind the website, and we are now starting to share the learnings, the methods, and the outcomes, through the community that we are building, one small conversation at a time. Sometimes there are curious intermingling, in the protected pages of our online forums, which open the insights and give the shape to the things being co-produced, co-written, and co-
created. Why make this happen is a giant question for so many people—whatever is the point, DK, of going around the world on your own dime getting people together in unusual, hard-to-explain ‘ateliers,’ in order to do, what exactly? Oh, philosophize? Reflect? So that they can do what, you’re saying? Um…. remarkably interconnect and connect to discover new ways of thinking, meet new people, and meet themselves anew? But. Um. Why?’ Um. I guess I could say, watch my talk, ‘Fuzzy Quantum Pop.’
Brian Greene tells us that, according to mathematics, there are copies of ourselves, ‘out there,’ if we can accept the assumption that space goes on forever. In many of the interviews we are listening to in order to understand his idea, we’re seeing that he has to get past all these weird obstacles like how the interviewers are doubting the whole potentiality of math showing us that the way we normally think about things could be completely limited. (For ex, ‘That sounds like religion.’ Or, ‘I don’t believe space goes on forever.’) I’d like to find an interview where he’s able to just talk without those piddly questions. What is possible is what intrigues… the more we can talk together about that, the more interesting things can get, discussion wise. At least, that’s our take.
And I’ll leave you with this…
Let’s learn about the Maxwell Boltzmann distribution
NEW THINGS. Starting again. In S P A C E. In very small circles. Trusting the process and enjoying the adventure, creating the design for hosting and engaging some of us, some of us who are still curious, still open to the possibility of being changed by what we hear, and still ready to learn, from any chance encounter: as did the people I met at the N. Bohr Institute in Copenhagen when on a visit there, or in the corners of philosophy classes after the teachers left and texts were closed in my high school summer at Governor’s School East in Laurinburg NC, or in the empty moments just being on the edges of the world, for all the edges are at the edge, are they not?, in Nagarkot, Manali, Kyoto, Berlin, wistful piazzas in Bologna, the drone and hum and boisterousness of the throng of the West Village in 1990s New York, and more, and, other, and, more recently, in S P A C E. Here’s to the journeys, the new, the near, and the next. Ready for the 8 Oct thing. Ready, set.
The opposite of a profound truth may be another profound truth. —N. Bohr
A DAY AGO, I sent an email invitation to a handful of people in: Seattle, Durham NC, and the place that I affectionally call ‘The Road.’
What kind of invitation? To join me for an online salon in October called ‘Philosophy of the Moment.’ I’ll tell you about that more in a second. But the feeling is this. So many people. So much time. So many places. And so many great conversations. What if I could find a way to wrap us all into one space, to talk together about ideas and things that have popped up, from these, that we would all find curious? Or maybe handfuls of us would? And if that could happen, what might we learn, together? What could we make, too, if things got really interesting? An anthology, perhaps? Like The Mirror, in 2014? Something in print? What about zines? What about, what about? And that’s how I got excited about it. The starting of the thing–an interactive forum-salon, in protected-page posts, that is S P A C E.
LET ME ELABORATE.
Those places I met the people I invited? They’re from certain bases, of my past life in different parts of the world. Presently I’ve been thinking hard about such ideas as bases, because… well… it’s al long story, and one that I’m not totally sure I want to put here in the public space, but one in which a few of us explored quite nicely, in a 2016 writing salon called, ‘Home & Away.’ That was the first-ever forum-space. Some people really dug it. Some people left. But you have to take chances on things if you want to see innovations. And I like risk taking, if you know me you know that, but some of the time, I take much smaller steps than I wish I could. Writingwise and art wise, though, it’s much easier for me to take big jaunts out into the unexplored territories because, unlike most stuff, with writing and art I feel like I’ve had a lot of time and space to really practice. To get past my own qualms about, ‘Is this good enough?’ F yeah, it is. So go for it. So I do. I make S P A C E into salons, I do that because I like to correspond. I write a lot. Maybe too much. Maybe too often, certainly, too long at a time. This one, this [post] is long. I’m writing the extra bits in, I’m seeing that pargraphslong texts can be daunting, but… that the people I connect with best read. They read, to the end. And you know what else? They check links. AM and CW were among our very first clients in Seattle. (Hi, guys!) I still remember when they came to the office, that was my first one that I had ever rented, committing cold, hard cash to a thing as nebulous as ‘rent,’ because of a promise of it leading to ‘possibilities,’ which you know of course, it did. Big ones. Manyfolded. And at our meeting, I had said, you know, my blog has lots of long, long posts, that people don’t read. AM had countered, ‘I read. I read everything.’ And you know what? Most of the people I really like in life, they read. They read everything. The whole checking links thing was part of a post that used to be on this blog, about the Seattle-based DIY indie fair, ‘Urban Craft Uprising.’ I went to that not knowing what the hell to expect but finding
myself surrounded by a very specific type of person and writing a post called ‘Psychographics.’ In which I had quoted CJ, whom I’d met a the art gallery OKOK and run into again at UCU and he, there, upon hearing my comment, had said, ‘Yeah, yeah. These are very specific people all right. They’re the people that check links.’ Check links! Wow. Well, okay then. Let’s let that be a thing. ‘Kay, cool. Lessons learned: My favorite people, who are DK’s community and network and clientele and collaborators and friends, read til the end, read everything, and check links.
From out of left field
I GOT QUOTED ONCE, on study abroad, in the back of the ‘yearbook’ for saying something that, my goodness, my hero N. Bohr might have enjoyed hearing me say. I said, ‘I don’t make statements. I just say things.’ See? Statements imply you know something. But Bohr, good man himself, said: ‘The opposite of a profound truth may be another profound truth.’ The friends that I had in those days didn’t give two shites about quantum theory, or possibilities, or new angles, or the potentiality of multiverses and suchmuch. They just wanted jobs. Jobs! My jobs almost always turned into departments of philosophy. I can tell you some stories, but I’ll spare you. Because: Ichiro.
Instead of trying to ‘figure things out,’ or hit a homer for every single damn thing you try to do, the way that they tell you when you’re younger you need to, if you grow up in a country where I grew up, because success looks like a major league baseball game where all the lights are on full blast in midsummer and the crowds are loud. You go there and you watch and you see the big show. Casey at Bat notwithstanding, you go. You hit homers, if you’re good. That’s the thing. But me? I’m changing. I’m interested in other ways to do it, to show up for my own at-bat… Yeah. Show up like…
Yeah. I’ll rev up like Ichiro, try to make a poetic thing happen by just stilling into the moment. Show up for the on-deck circle, then head up to the plate. Batter up. A single to right field works for me, these days: no need to get high and mighty, trying to be Cecil Fielder, or anything like that. Work is getting around the bases. Work is making your way to home plate.
Arriving at home
Work is the work it takes to score the runs that earn the points for the team. Collaboratively. This. This is the new thing. Showing up, but also, being aware of the strengths of the rest of the team. And our team is pretty wide-ranging, now that I look at the whole picture. Some fascinating people have come through DK’s doors.
Things moved into cojournaling spaces, and now, we have the interactive magazine, S P A C E. And print zines, too. Lots, and lots, in other words: but the philosophy thread remains consistent. It’s where we are most intrigued. Exploring together the art of the conversation that gets us all thinking more critically and with an eye towards making our own lives more pleasurable. I read somewhere once that is the definition of philosophy. Then SY told me about Epicurus… And more to say, one day, about that. (But if you’re curious, read this fabulous poem that S had introduced me to, ‘Oriah’s invitation.’)
Clients, interns, part-time collaborators, commissioned artists, and more. I’m really lucky to have had that chance to make and share, and to work things out, in a way that’s evolved, these last, oh, I don’t know, what’s 2018-2005… okay… so, that’s what, 13 years. Thirteen years freelance studio-ing up at DK. I think we’ve learned where our strengths are: we have good pitchers, that’s pretty much the secret sauce around here. Pitchers who have a clear awareness of the simple but important fact that every at-bat is its own thing. That each batter up is her own ball of questions, struggles, philosophies, psychologies, temperaments, and triumphs. All of us are playing baseball, really. Just that, sometimes, it goes the way you think it would, like it’s a Cubs game from the 1990s, and you’re just watching them go through the motions. I can hear Harry Carey in my head saying it, ‘We’re just playing 1-2-3 baseball, here,’ and then, later, if things go his way, ‘Cubs win! Cubs win!‘ But the game is different, here. A wider field: the one that takes up the entire surface area of the globe. We’re going to play, now. A big game of giant rounding-around-the-bases. Batter up. And here’s the pitch…
Introducing ‘Philosophy of the Moment’
NOW THAT DK have been based in Asia, more or less, for the past four years, we’re using this angle on the way the world seems to have shifted to gather people in online forums and talk, together, about what to do to make stuff better. I know that sounds really heady, and lofty, but the truth is, that if we can make our own lives more clear to ourselves, and understand our own contributions to ‘the world,’ and I’m not talking about in a way that’s corny, cheesy, or ‘do-gooder-y,’ like toooooo many people [from abroad] come to Cambodia every single season (and last, if they’re lucky, three months to do… well, let’s see, what I’m really saying is… the stage is pretty giant, the stories myriad and numerous. Influenced by the new perspectives of having been, by sheer osmosis and inertia, in one place for so long (one year in motion in South and Southeast Asia, followed by four years at the time of this writing, in Phnom Penh, with the occasional excursions to Northern Europe–Sweden, Denmark, and [this summer in] Finland, and I’m not sure which spot is next but I’m going back, sometime, I can’t help it, the palette is what draws me, mostly, but more than that, the quiet spaces, but that’s a different story). And yeah. I’m ready. To share the conversations more widely: there are so many intriguing people whose paths have crossed with mine in these last five years, (the four here in Cambodia, and the one before that, on the road, in search of ‘uncertainty,’ or the practice thereof, long story, very esoteric, landed in no fashionable bullet-point list of outcomes, just lots and lots of e-correspondence in the time since with people all around the world whose ideas are still intriguing to me, people who have taught me very much, and people whom I’m really excited to interconnect, though S P A C E. More and more, lately. But in very small circles. Invite-only, kind of, since the end of the last registration period. That was for ‘Slow Moment.’ This time, it’s just a small circle of us probably who’ll join in to POTM. We’ll dive into philosophy. Of the moment. Ergo, ‘Phil. of the Moment.’ Like that?
Mm-hm. So okay. What is it? Philosophy of the Moment is a four-week side conversation online, nested in our ongoing interactive salons happening concurrently in our forum, S P A C E. We are going to spend some time over four weeks in
October talking together specifically about ‘Philosophy of the Moment.’ It’s open format. Four rules of Open Space: the people who come are the right people, it starts when it starts, ends when it ends, and the things that happened are the only things that could have happened. In other words, give yourself a break when hosting an Open Space because it’s about framing the thing and letting the jam just happen. As jazZ happens in Bangkok put it on email to me before we made ‘The Book of Blue’ together there, ‘Let’s let it roll.’
The people who come will be the right people. We’ll explore creative writing tips from experts whose advice has gotten us places. Collectively, sharing what we know from individual experience. Just like in our real life salons, like, for example, this one. We’re going to make things, too. A short anthology. This project is for people whose paths DK has crossed in recent months, whose writing and ideas have inspired, and intrigued us. We want to make a ‘room’ in a virtual space (that would be a protected page on this blog, with comment threads, and a password to get in), so that we can send weekly prompts to get us talking together, to get us learning together, too. From each other. I said that already, didn’t I. Guess it matters a lot to me: listening to one another, hearing each other’s voices and perspectives, being open to the possibility of being changed by what you hear. And all in a flat hierarchy. In which every. Voice. Counts.
‘The secret is to just begin’ –As told to DK by A. at AOTZ
MAKING SOMETHING through art or writing is one goal, but learning together is the main objective. Experiential publishing, this.
This is our method pre-start, this month:
Invite guests to take part. Make sure they are from a wide range of backgrounds, geogrphic locations, past experiences, and philosophies on life.
Ask people if they want to commit time to this project. Make sure they do have the bandwidth to do so.
Be interested in other people, and check through the application process if the guestlist also is so inclined.
Know that we are all going through this as if on a journey, together. That the outcome will be less important than the process of learning as we go. Being open to the veering and changing is hugely important, and we must communicate that up front: this is a journey we’re going to largely improvise, as we go. Are you cool with that? Then let’s begin.
Begin. Gather people to register before 8 October. Start on that date. Continue through the end of October. See what material has come together and. where we could push the envelope and see what kind of meaningful story or narrative or poetry or art we could fold into a short book. The anthology could be a collected work that becomes a digital book (if material is sparse) or a printed one. We’re in conversations with a book designer in Singapore about this, and we are quite serious.
Sample questions to get started: Travelers and artists, romantics and poets all know about the difference between time that is spent and time that is well spent. Kairos and chronos time, the shifting edge from one to another. Can we focus and look at these questions: when is it good, what makes it great? How do you know when to change things up?
With everything I make, I want people to relax. To feel air, space and comfort. Philosophy: the pursuit of making life more pleasurable through considering it from various angles. Let’s try this. (More about POTM is at this page.)
Let’s converse? Let’s play. Curious? Ask me anything. Leave a review. Comments are open. Say hi?
I’VE JUST ARRIVED. It’s twenty to one. A man in a nice cotton blue suit-jacket, not quite a suit, mind, but a suit-like thing, was hanging around momentarily. Ostensibly waiting for his coffee to be made, fresh for a take-away (a pet peeve of mine, personally, the take-away cup). But there comes a woman. Equally well put-together. Both wear light cotton pants, hers are white, his are a little less white, but still, nicely offset by the blue. I think I mentioned the blue already. Yes, yes I did. I think I was thinking about the color emerald green… yesterday… I was thinking about a certain otherworldly Northern Europe color palette, a tendency towards the muted colors. Yes, I like those, too. Had gone through a phase of that. Bluegreys. Seattle. One of my homes. Another one is turning out to be Kuala Lumpur. Keep coming back here to host things, it feels like. And I love the atmosphere, the color, the texture, the city vibe. And all this great teh halia, too. See stuff DK and friends have hosted here, at this page, DesignKompany.com/Malaysia. (HT TS: ‘Don’t ask me where I’m from, ask me where I’m local.’)
Beyond the edge of the world
SEATTLE. I remember. A lot of rain fell, and then, the cloudburst came, in the form of ‘The Dive,’ (Kismuth Books // 2012), which I realize I must have talked about a lot, in many places, but in short fragments, a lot of things come in short fragments, don’t they? And then you go into the quiet zones, and stay there. Perhaps too long. Because when you forget how to speak up, speak forward, speak without muting your voice too terribly much for fear you’ll be chastised, chided, critiqued, questioned, challenged, humiliated, or otherwise made to feel bad about the fact that you are you, and you alone, unique as DNA, then being purposeful and insistent in holding out and sharing with others the very you that is you becomes, well… hard. Because you’re worried. Anxious. Uncomfortable. It’s uncomfortable to be the very you that is you. Of course it is. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t—it’s okay and it’s easy to say and words are cheap; sometimes they are, of course at other times they are very exquisite, not cheap at all, not cheap… but then there comes his coffee.
One now. Almost the time for the office workers to come in. I’m taking up two tables. I better collate this stuff. Maybe get going. Too many people; it’s uncomfortable. I might say I’ve become more Finnish, in this regard, but I think it was always there, and underscored when I had lived in Seattle. A tendency towards being more alone, than with others. Wanting a lot of room around me. Not liking the oppressiveness of being in the airspace of too many people in too small a room. It’s happening. I’m starting to feel it. Suffocation. But, wait. It’s not that bad. It’s still Malaysia. It’s still developed. There isn’t going to be a lot of noise and there won’t be dust or dirt. The people will shuffle in, and as quickly, shuffle out. They will. They are in motion. They are on the clock. Time. Time is a thing, for some people. I get it. They have to go punch in, punch out. Me? What am I? Slowing down. Slowing in the moment. But maybe this is the wrong environment for that. I’m wishing I could be in Melakka, too. I was there. I liked it there. The weekdays are a better time to be there. But I’m here, preparing for Phnom Penh. Sounds odd, writing that. Haven’t I tried, many times, to ‘move on’ from there? But… the question is a real one, and smacks and smarts: to where? Where is the next home? It’s a big, open field, and you can go in any direction. Instead of getting lost in the amorphous not-knowing, though, I’m learning to embrace it. The field is one of my homes, too. Like the road. And North Carolina. And Seattle. And, and…. Phnom Penh. Four years is a long time to be parked there. Four years, writing nothing much, really, except for, oh yeah, Breakfast in Cambodia. A two-year anniversary of that little book just passed. I’m happy about this. I can try again, for something different. Maybe finally finish ‘Socheata’s Comb.’
Back to KL. Back to right now.
Real life is the stage
I AM READYING to make a move. Or maybe not. If they leave, I’ll stay. If they stay, I’ll leave. She is asking him something. He is saying something else. They are acquainted. They talk about weathers. Not the hurricanes, like I am doing in emails with people in North Carolina, because of the flooding in the east of that state, but about… well, the sun and Melbourne and smalltalk. Smalltalk is nice, has its place, at times. No? Of course it does. Work colleagues, maybe. I try to assess. They are cordial. Do they work in some kind of fashion retail outlet? Perhaps they are middle managers. Perhaps, perhaps.
My mind makes up stories. Connects dots that aren’t quite there, but might appear to be in places if, after some amount of time observing the stage of real life, always the most exciting, could become rather realistic. Reality. The strangest sort of fiction. Or is fiction real? I don’t know. What am I talking about? These are the kinds of things that gather momentum here, when it is not yet lunch rush and the caffeine is starting to find its jolt. The jolt that makes the story. The sentences place themselves, one in front of the other. I go back to writing, perhaps. The man leaves, in a hurry; it is abrupt. She is not worried. She is not even moved. She barely acknowledged him, anyway, I noticed, at the start. No one was trying too hard to start talking. That’s okay. That’s fine. You don’t have to talk all the time. Gosh, if I didn’t learn that in Finland. She was on her phone. So was he. Both of them distracting themselves or pretending to. Looking at things. Texts and so on. He had tried to make eye contact. That is a thing unknown to some of the younger ones. They may dress impeccably, but they don’t notice the noticing. And that’s where the breakdown begins, isn’t it? Of communicating from ap lace that’s honest, real, raw, and unfiltered. Facades get in the way of relating. And I guess that’s why, for the first time in a long time, I’m okay writing again, in first person. More on the way. More to share. More, in the form of short books, long books, poems, novellas, plays. And, best of all, co-creations.
Listening in to other people’s conversations… stories of: moneymaking plans, insurance, school and work, weather banter, international transit, general exchanges on the exchange of services and goods, rubber, fear of other, mistrust, putting up with things, and, of course, celebrating a new government, with an optimism. The kind that says, ‘Some glimmer of things to come shan’t be smothered, now.’ That’s the feeling, this go around, here in Kuala Lumpur.
Join S P A C E and be part of the international, asynchronous forums and online salons from October. (Which is when we begin again with a select set of candidates from around the world newly discovered, for the salon, ‘Philosophy of the Moment.’) Scholarships available. Application required. Learn more here.
FOR MY FRIENDS in North Carolina, a little note to you. I am hearing about it. From email. The flooding. Hurricane stuff, over there. Out this way in Southeast Asia, we have seasonal monsoons. Not the same thing. How are you doing? What’s going on, there? Floods. Tell me how it’s going, when you find a moment. Concerned.
Sorry, also, that I don’t have a phone or WhatsApp or facebook or anything like that to communicate in a way that’s normal. But I’m checking email. I always do. So do let me know how you’re faring? I’d so appreciate it. Cool. Yeah, so, um. A little awkward, email, but… it is what it is. So that I know it’ll get here, here’s a form… Just let me know. Are you okay?
THUNDERSTORM. But not as bad as it might become, and quickly. so I’ll stay where I am yet a bit.
Am thinking about the conversation just now.
Motion and formula
The one about going with the flow. About going out of where you’re used to, in order to see what else is there. Taking risks. Stepping out. Going. Going, is the point. I remember talking about the coefficient of static friction being greater than the coefficient of kinetic friction, once, on a very different journey, to try to put it into some kind of easy-to-understand visual. But of course that is eleventh (or twelfth, depending on where you grew up) grade physics.
(The inclined plane, anyone? The mass and the force of gravity and the normal force, equal and opposite reactions, Newtonian physics, etc, and so on?) Those things change when we get quantum, but hey, most of the people in charge of things are still, let’s face it, in some kind of denial that there re still Things Not Yet Explainable by these Modern Methods of Science. We have no idea. In other words. We have no idea. Still, Bohr told them then to ‘Believe in the Existence of Atoms.’ I guess there is always going to be someone out there doubting something, smearing the thing that is emerging as a kind of paradigm shift, because it’s uncomfortable. And here we go, back to friction.) I want to talk about ‘frictionless coexistence,’ like we did in The Mirror. I want to talk about inclined planes. I want to continue my conversation with PC iabout d-v-a-t formulas and then start a new one with KE and MV about imaginary numbers and string theory.
The journeys are alighting.
The rain is starting. Stopping. And starting up again.
Let me change tables. Sit outside a bit. Where there is more airflow; where there might be a new nugget of a kernel of an idea that inspires the ripple of a tug of a stone on the surface of the new lake. A lake, say, in the middle of northern Finland, where the sun sets as the moon rises, simultaneously, in the month of June.
Koivu, DK’s new book about the summer of ‘white nights’ in Finland, is set to release autumn 2018. Learn more.
TODAY I WILL OUTLINE, in a short but detailed note, the creative process that happens when one is writing a book. A book, not a blog. A book, not some clickbait links that someone is going to pay you a lot of money for because you work as a copywriter at a fancy ad agency. A book, because books are where we have a moment to really get deep and moody, and write, not because the writing is for a purpose (to sell something, for ex, which is most often the goal it seems with a capitalistic system ruling everything nowadays), but because the writing conveys something stronger: emotion. I could talk a little here about the mourning that happens when one realizes how cheap things have become, and how transactional (as F. has just pointed out in a recent comment on this post, ‘Trust the Process.’)
But I will refrain from editorializing.
I know that writing in first-person is mostly just editorial, okay, fine. Admitted. But still.
There are times when certain pitfalls are there, and I have this weakness for falling into them. Pitfalls that, for example, are really just one’s own projections on things that one feels importantly committed to. Things like how X or Y is just so unfair, and how Z and T ought to be installed, instead. But you know what? That’s just more dogma. And dogma is getting us in trouble, in this world. Righteousness and an insistence on sticking to a thing and not budging, not a bit, no matter how educated you are or what you have built—staying unwilling to open to new ways of thinking and new points of view is going to be the thing that, in the end, makes it hard for you. (Yeah, editorializing and saying it ‘like it is.’ Must find a way to suggest my thought in a less black-and-white insistent way, but that is what we are trained to do, isn’t it, those of us who grow up on Western eduaction systems that love to be abolute and ‘right’ about what they think? Mmm-hmmm. Oi.)
FLASHBACK. Thinking specifically about a conversation in Durham, NC, with an old friend of mine; a conversation that became a sort of philosophical sparring. I put the best chunks of it, from memory, into Breakfast in Cambodia (Kismuth Books // 2016). Because that insisting that I recall, an insisting that insisted that her way was better than my way, for whatever reasons, reasons undisclosed, but there it sat, the whole thing: the righteousness and dogma, that one way supersedes by default another, that did it. That sent me packing. I was on the road not many months after that, uprooting the American Dream or whatever and setting foot out into the unknown. Well, Hanoi. The traffic, my gosh. That was then. That was 2013. Now, I’m used to Asia and its ways of moving around vehicularly. I just got to the place I’m typing you from by crossing illegally maybe four crosswalks, including one that was rather huge—a four-lane freeway cut in the middle by the thing that ran above it, the monorail. I’m in Kuala Lumpur. The city is saying ‘hello’ after a long summer away, writing and photographing for the book. Oh, right. I was going to talk about that, wasn’t I? The way it starts. The way you get started on a thing. Or at least, how I have managed to get started and in so doing, completed a series of books, so far. None of them are ever as good as the one that’s current, though, when you’re writing a lot. And so I’m going to put all my chips in on Koivu, probably my best one, of them all. Of course I would say that. I’m still writing it, so you know. I get to say that.
Part 2. The thread. The thread is important. Because it’s the thread that makes the necklace. Finding it can take a lot of looking through things, but also, letting things go. Pieces of paper, unwritten bits, written things that don’t fit the story. Not talking about the arc or the narrative. I know some people have more of a system that is linear, like that. Go with the outline, build each piece. Sequentially, maybe even. Not me. I’m a bricolage artist. So I go with what’s in front of me. What falls to hand. If someone right next to me starts to talk to me about a thing, guess what? That thing almost always informs where I go creatively that day. Today, I’m thinking about righteousness. (Can you tell, based on the above?) This morning someone told me that X was X, and not otherwise, and not listening, not a bit, to any falsifying evidence to the contrary. He was stubborn, and wouldn’t budge. Insisting. That’s why I brought up the story about my old friend and I arguing in the tea shop. She was really mad about things. I was less mad than stunned. I still remember the feeling, dry-mouthed and almost gaping. I had had, until then, quite a lot f respect for her. After all, she is well-schooled (more degrees than me, or most people I know), but… there was no scope for play. For improvising. For making it up as you go. For listening out for a new kind of angle. That, to me, was deafening. How could I stay put in a country where what’s valued is the insistence on being right, instead of the openness to dreaming outwardly and openly towards whatever might make itself apparent, and emerge? No wonder I loved the N. Bohr Institute, in Copenhagen. Guess what? I just walked in, the front door, just followed a PhD student inside, followed her to Auditorium A, I think it was, the famous one, listened to WS and GJB and others talk about dark matter and gluons. And then, to write about those things, of course, in that story that I was compiling in those days, at that time. Of course. Because part 2 of the process of writing a book is to find, and follow, the thread. Don’t second-guess yourself, when you seem to sense that you’ve got it. When you’ve got the thread, you’re mostly done.
Part 3. Framing and sequence. Now is when you add things to the thread. The details, the scenes, the story makes itself to you. It’s easy to start with a bunch of notes and feel like you’ve done your work already, and that’s where I am today. But you know what? I left all of them at home. I’m out into the space where I can start to remember things, instead of report them. I want to remember things as they come to mind so I can thread the necklace. Because this cookie is going to be good, I can tell, and I want to let it come forward naturally and organically, not in a too-formal way. If I was too insistent on making it into ‘a piece,’ with too much of too much, I think it would punch through the soft underbelly of this thing. It is delicate and unformed, as yet. I’m happy to be in this spot, writing and thinking and going through the photo archives from June, July, and August, as I work out the stuff of Koivu. Which means, ‘Birch,’ in Finnish. Did I tell you? I’m learning Finnish? Yeah, well. Kind of.
Part 4. Sharing. This part is where I think most people see what I’m up to. I’m all about ‘Hey! Lookit!’ but I forget to share the process, as in, steps 1-3 above. The process is where, though, the working-it-out happens. Sure, it’s really personal stuff, too. Writing about it even in this third-party style is a little strange, to me, in some way. But I’m changing these days. I’m going to share more about where things go, how they get to those places. Travel is like the creative process. You go out into the world looking for whatever might emerge, and that’s one way to travel. And that’s my way. And not most people’s, sure, but so? There are still a handful of us who are curious and seeking and going to the edges, like I talk about a lot here on this blog, and in real life, a lot. I mean, a lot. But I’m not interested in knowing all of what’s to come ahead of time—I remember this couple in Seattle who had downloaded the menus of the restaurants they were going to go to in Paris before they took their trip there. And they did this months ahead of time. They also had been to those restaurants before. They had these things in a clear sleeve folder. I think that was my first inkling that, well, DK and our style of making and doing and traveling and going around discovering was very much against the grain from what mainstream America thinks is kosher. Having a plan. Knowing what you’re doing. Knowing where you’re going. Knowing, instead of feeling.
And here we are, back to the start.
Writing with feeling.
Writing with heart.
Not for everyone, of course. But for the people who are seeking and curious, like some of us here in these online circles behind-the-scenes, well. For us, it’s all that matters. For us, this being open and curious and wandering around and seeing what might happen is, honestly, the whole thing. Is all there really is.
Not sure why, but it sure seemed to come up a lot in conversations. And maybe that’s why the next word I learned was ‘maybe.’ Things are always, it seems, in a kind of flux. You just have no idea what’s going to happen. You live in a countryside town, and you’re a farmer, say, and the things that evolve in the day have nothing to do with what you might have imagined, at the start of it. Staying flexible and being open to things suddenly veering is part of the everyday mindset. It’s actually kind of beautiful: you let things happen, you don’t go in there with an agenda and a list of things ‘to do.’ Summer in Finland and these things became clearer and less intense; the idea that you have to ‘produce’ is somehow out the window. For better or worse. Some of the new people I had met told me how they feel like it’s a bit of a drag, sometimes, like not having ambition could be a way you perceive this lack of momentum or the lack of some kind of urge to ‘do something.’ Thinking about things sometimes substitutes for doing things, as I learned, on my last night, talking away to the last person of the series of many, many chance encounters that informed the conversations that led to the knitting together of a new narrative. I’ll tell you more about that, tomorrow.
Meantime, let me get the final edits done.
There are a lot of people I wish to acknowledge, people who contributed to the making of this series, and I had first mentioned them at this page. Doesn’t hurt to underscore my gratitude, I think, by sharing again. So here we go. Many warm thanks for the great conversations to: Eveliina Karsikas, Asta Sinerva, Sirpa Heikura, Simo-Sakari Niemelä, Fırat Taşdemir, Johan Engström, Maria Raasakka, Sanna Upola, Rastislav Somora, Seo Jin Ahn, Ana-Maria Ovadiuc, Charles Tirkey, Saarah Choudhury, Benjamin Nwaneampeh, Joanna Ohenoja, Paavo Heinonen, Reijo Valta, Eero Österberg, and Merja Vedenjuoksu.
AT A CAFE. In between meetings. Next to me there are two people in good conversation, in English, but occasionally Japanese. This is my other language. I am resisting, it is hard, the urge to say something to them. I have this weird and occasionally surprising knack for chatting up strangers and somehow, making solid acquaintanceships in a very compact space of time. Why this is probably has everything to do with the charm of my father, which I think has a lot to do with finding the silliness in the everyday moment (at least, when my mother allows it). Rest of the time they are both pretty serious, or pretending to be. When I think back on the most extraordinary and fulfilling times with my folks, I always feel like we were in transit somewhere, far from the social programmes and mores of the places and communities in which we were rooted. Movement became the kind of thing that set the stage for engaging. Deeply. Curious and different others were somehow very attractive; sometimes my mother would hold back and let my father fly into his own world of talking away to people he didn’t know about topics ranging from thermodynamics and entropy to the kinds of things that one talks about in the middle of a trip from Away to Home, whatever those things were. I don’t know. I would just be hanging out playing cards or something with my little brother; the topics and their content were irrelevant. What mattered was the people who were there, smiling with my father, smiling away. Being in real life. Being in the throes of it. Being noticed. Noticing. For a moment, the shared space. Which nowadays I design for in my own world, making architecture of social spaces, and remarkable human connexion, in the thing that happens online and in real life in the project that since 2016 I’m calling S P A C E. It’s nerdy. I know. So? I like that. And the mentor for this was, of course, my dad. I still remember my father trading postal addresses in the 1980s with total strangers he’d chatted up at, say, Frankfurt Airport, on our way to and fro. My mother would kind of be like, ‘What the hell?’ But, I wish she could have just noticed it. My father likes the new and different. is curious. Is open to trying new things. That is the spirit of innovation, really, isn’t it? Going to the edge, and past it, and exploring to the next-to-now. It’s actually quite in-demand, now. This business of being open to the new. It’s called ‘innovation consulting.’ You go around the world a few times and you start to find ways to make your skills work for you in weird and curious ways. Be open. Say yes. Show up. Try new things. You just have no idea where the next gig is coming from. Just around the corner, you’ll find it, if you’re open to it. The gems. Staying put is boring, for the likes of people like me. (Dad, are you reading this? I think you should go on a trip sometime, maybe with me, maybe with Mom, but really. Trips are where we flourish.)
Starting all over
KEEPING THINGS IN CHECK, maybe, by not getting too carried away with being too joie de vivre-y. Sure. This is more normal, I suppose. I guess that is just a self-limiting thing. You have to do what you have to do in order to maintain a kind of decorum, ‘in the eyes of society,’ Words of the pragmatists, who used to be friends, who have been slowly but confidently let to drift on a long, loose line and not quite cut from my current life but, well, yeah, I guess more or less cut.
Here’s the thing. Caring about what society thinks… you think that you have to. But what if you don’t? What if you don’t have to worry about that? What if what other people thought about you, and what you say, and what you do, and how you do it, and even more importantly, what if you yourself stopped caring about your image, what your words are perceived to be (by you perceiving the predicted perception—you see how this is a little unwieldy?), what you do, and how you do it? What if, what I’m saying is this, now, what if who cares what the reaction is to your self-driven initiative to go out into the world and see what’s there?
What I’m saying is, ‘What if you could just be yourself, the real you, the honest you, the totally unedited version of you. The one you were when you were, like, 8.’ What if? Would you find it easier to chat up strangers? Or, would you come to the realization that it’s not even that important-–the most important thing is knowing what you care about.
You don’t have to pretend like you are some kind of a big deal just because you can get into a conversation with anyone. Even E., on a crosswalk yesterday, on her way from Sydney to England via everywhere that she wants to go in between. (Hi, E.! Yes, I was listening).
Making friends in the cafe.
Making friends on the bus.
Making friends in the…. crosswalk.
I love that.
Let’s keep it going. Let’s keep the conversations in flow.
Let’s chat up the strangers. But not now, not today. Today I’ve got to finish some books.
Here’s to the journeys, the new, the near, the now, and the next.
OMG. I couldn’t help it. Chatted. They are so nice!
THE CREATIVE PROCESS itself was the subject of two conversation salons in Durham, NC: MAKE and MAKE II. ‘What is the creative process? Who uses it? What changes as a result?’ We had a dozen guest speakers at those two events; and a crowd. I can’t believe it, still, thinking back, that when I first returned to the Raleigh-Durham region after a decade away to throw the ‘do that we called MAKE how almost 100 people drove in from far and near vertices of the Triangle to connect, converse, listen, and learn.
Was just marvelous, that time, so we hosted the same event a year on.
MAKE and MAKE II were occasions, to me, the kind that I wouldn’t forget. I had no idea at the time that relational art would become my kind of party, that the being-together was the whole show. That awareness came way later, probably the night I read from the chapter ‘Blankslate’ at a cafe in Phnom Penh–the first chapter of Breakfast in Cambodia, to the group who had gathered that night–‘I know this street, I know that feeling, I know, because I”m here!’–that was the feedback.
And we were. Together, there.
In the moment, in the place that was written in the pages.
Diving in and out of S P A C E.
Yes. There’s a lot of philosophizing I could do here, but I’ll get back to the story of MAKE.
BEING THERE. I still remember JW, a sculptor and guest panelist at the first MAKE, talking about birds and the beautiful metaphor he gave us that day about how the creative process is like a flight. I can’t properly fit the whole feeling here… I couldn’t eloquently state it here; you simply had to be there, that’s what these salons are for, after all—the real life, real time experience. A co-created improvised play, which happens on the spot, and which ends in rather no time at all. Ephemera and the heightened moment of the urgent, sequestered ‘now.’ Oh, no. I’m getting philosophical. Well, let me save that sort of talk for another day. Perhaps this one, in Phnom Penh.
EVERY SO OFTEN, and this happened just last night, someone says something that reminds me of the existence this video that someone made, animating radio host Ira Glass‘ thoughts on the creative process. Of course any mention of IG makes me remember JK‘s story about picking the man up from the airport and getting starstruck–too funny. JK, what are you up to where you are? What are you making lately? Questions I would foist your way, if we were in good e-communciation. I’m still around to talk about these kinds of things, you know. Hopefully in a comment thread to come, over here. But yeah. The video.
Here it is:
FILE UNDER ‘RESOURCES.’ Personally, I just like to ‘do’ the creative process. Instead of just diving in and making something, which is my usual habit when I have this kind of focus time, today, I’m writing to people around the world whose work I think is curious, and whose perspective I’d love to hear when it comes to questions about the creative process, why we make anything, and what we’re doing this for. It’s a big question, of course. The point is not to get ‘popular,’ for me, anyway, or ‘rich.’ I just want to make good art. Did you see that video, ‘Make Good Art?’? SK had sent it to me, right before I left the States. I must say it was a contributing factor to the decision to get going on the road, indefinitely, without a fixed income, savings, or a plan. But yeah. I found a link. Here’s the YouTube video:
For further reading?
Anyone have further resources to add?
Please leave a comment with your link. Really would be great if you could point me to some people who aren’t white men, hey. I’ve been looking but it’s tough–women and people who aren’t white tend to just simply not get the spotlight as often. Imagine! But it’s true. That doesn’t mean that they aren’t there, with things to say. Help us find the important stories? Connect with me or just leave a comment below. I love the interactive part of writing this whole blog thing, because it’s not a flat space, we’re evolving it as we add to it. The geometry of a space is the set of all points within that space. And: S P A C E changes because you’re there. It’s kind of fun to think about physics and space, spacemaking and the fourth dimension. I can talk more about that, sometime. Let’s get to know each other, though, a bit first.
Thanks! Comments are open for a bit.
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IN THIS POST, I will share with you some of the current thinking behind ‘At rest while in motion,’ but also, walk you through the actual in-the-moment journey of how one goes about trying to figure out the vague answer to the superlative question, ‘What am I doing?’
This last because it is a question that pops up a lot in the conversations I have with people in a very short space of time: ‘DK, tell me what to do now. You seem to have things figured out.’ Er. Hardly.
Those who know me personally know that I’m hardly well put-together; behind-the-scenes, I am a bundle of bits of paper, slips of notebooks that go in boxes, some of which I’ve lost track of, and all of which are existing in perhaps dusty, surely disquiet collections in patches, tucked away in the nooks and apartment closets, houses and spare rooms of very nice people (and sometimes relatives, wow), who take them in and hold them for me, indefinitely, until it is time to revisit with the old material and see how it fits with the new.
I guess I have something figured out, though, if I’m honest about it. Since 2013 I’ve been ‘on the road, indefinitely, with no fixed income, plans, or savings.’ And DK started in 1994, and then became an LLC in 2005, which was the last time I had a 9-6 day job. So, what does that mean? Well, when it comes to answering one question I think I have a thing or two to say. The question being, ‘How to take a step out, when you’ve no idea where you are going…’ Mmm-hmm. Story. Of my life.
But wait. I’m getting off on some random tangent. Let me talk about the creative process. Let me start with material.
MATERIAL IS THE FIRST thing that I am looking at, right now, when I am considering the first thing to do now that I am in one spot, for a time, with the bookings made through at least the end of the weekend, which, in our new state of ‘nomadic drift’, which isn’t new at all, really, but this time, there really are no flats or monthly rentals to contend with nor people who are there to say hello to every day, but rather, the flux. The flow. The movement. I like this, but I also have a lot of stuff with me. Stuff that moves in packs with me; the suitcases are not as heavy as they were in 2013 (left one in Delhi, left one in Bangkok), but they still are there. Taking up room. What to do with all this material? What to keep, what to let go? There are snippets from the deep past, somewhere in a box in Cambodia, there are things from even further back, well before that, art show leftovers in rolls in Raleigh-Durham. I always wondered what I would do with all that stuff. Stuff. So much of it. Might explain why somewhere along the way, I switched from doing print work to going digital only. This is coming around again to the world of somewhat limited edition and very custom, very one-of-a-kind printed stuff, but again, it’s stuff, and that means, ‘What do I do with this?’ It’s been neat sending some things off in the postal service, through the S P A C E || Finland page in our online store. It’s been nice to share things with people in real life, people I’ve just met, people who say, ‘Those are nice. Wait, are you selling them? Great. How much? Okay, that’s fair. I’ll take one of those.’ It’s like giving away kittens, I think. You have a lot of offspring and you don’t know where they’ll go; but you don’t want to just leave them around. You want to find them good homes. And that’s what’s happening. The rest?… the rest is with me. I’ve got an extra bag now. It’s got Moomintroll on it. After all, this was the summer of stuff I made in Finland. But it’s also… good material. For zining. On into the next. I like it when bits and pieces from the last place make their way into the current works. And so, now, I should talk a bit about the creative process.
‘Trust the process’
FOR THE FIRST TEN years of DK, I would always start with a few things with every new client. First, I’d ask for a book recommendation: ‘What book sums the story of you? I’ll go and read it.’ Then, I’d ask for them to have a look at this slideshare, because it’s really quite simple to read through and puts a lot of stuff in perspective. Lastly, I’d ask them to ‘trust the process.’ To trust me, really, to guide the way towards some kind of breakthrough.
That’s not an easy thing to sign up for, but sign up a handful of people did, each year from 2004 until now, which means that’s why DK is still here, existing, making space and now S P A C E (online magazine) and Atelier S P A C E to gather us for short-run weeklong or four-week-long stints of time so as to delve into the exact style of the foray into the creative process that DK had delivered to clients in Seattle, Raleigh-Durham NC, and more recently, in Phnom Penh.
Because I myself am in the midst of a design overhaul here at DK, not unusual because we like to reinvent quite a lot around here, well, I’m taking stock of the materials gathered and looking ahead to 2019. Where shall we take things with DK? Who wants to collaborate with us, who wants to connect in S P A C E? Does S P A C E want to become something different from what it is, right now? Or is it working, as it is? Even in very small circles (which is my personal preference), there are moments of real and true connexion, you can feel it, it’s not just me saying that, and then we get philosophical and talk life and meaning and sometimes about life plans but not in the usual terms, more in… the kinds of words that one allows oneself ot speak when she or he feels at ease. I remember this from a past life, a longago summer, this wild and crazy time of just being, just hanging out, with friends. Before the era of justifying your existence through the use of social media channels, there was just us being around each other talking late into the night maybe with some music going in the background or someone with a guitar, but always, always, always, there was that ease and comfort when you felt like you could just hang out, just chill, just be around people, just be. A long time ago, yes, that I felt that was the norm. Now, what happened? We are distracted and I forget to get back to the work of making S P A C E. At the Form/Space Atelier show I was invited to put together in Seattle (thanks again PP), I remember writing the artist statement and saying something about BTFL SIMPL. Which was: ‘I want people to relax. To feel air, space and comfort.’ That has not changed.
S P A C E for play. S P A C E for conversation. S P A C E for slowing down. S P A C E for the easygoing ‘third place.’ There is so much to talk about. That’s because… there’s so much material. The work now is to sift through all of this and see what makes sense to keep, what to let go. Editing is this. Editing is being aware of the thread that makes the necklace, and letting the string sing while the gems and pearls add to the vocals, rather than distract and detract. The vocals matter. The vocals. Erm. Ah. I sound like DK is some kind of a band. I talk a lot about jam sessions. I talk about jazz. Chords. I guess, in a way, I’m kind of the vocals around here. I’m looking for the baseline, the guitar, the horns, someone bring a triangle, and whatever else you’ve got. Come out and play with us, with the people who are here and ready. Jazzy, light. It’s okay. I don’t have to overthink this. I don’ have to intellectualize. Either you get it, and you want to try it, or you don’t.
It’s okay to say, ‘I don’t know.’ Just ask N. Bohr (you’ll have to go to Copenhagen and find his grave at Assistens). But for the moment, at the top of the journey of a parabola upon which a ball is tossed upward, there is a spot where the velocity is zero. That means, we’re at rest. That we’ve stopped moving. For that moment, you have the view. The vista, the zenith. Take it all in; look around. See what’s what. But don’t try to put meanings to things that you’re looking back on, and don’t investigate too deeply into what’s next. Because the moment is here, is now. And we are at zero velocity.
CHECKING IN. Catching up. Conversing. In real life, on voice, through the space that is the forum ‘Slow Moment,’ and, in this odd but one:many way, through the blog. It was 2006 when the blog began; I remember. I had been to Gnomedex, a bloggers’ conference (HT CP), and while everyone else was on laptops typing and talking on twitter, I think, (‘this is the backchannel conversation,’ someone informed me, educating me on this digital stuff like no one had at my newsroom), I was there with an old-fashioned reporter’s notebook and a pencil. The notebooks had been in the closet in the storeroom at work. Work was a newspaper. A daily. I went daily, to write things. But the things that we were writing had, I saw fully and clearly, no relevance or bearing on this other group of people. The people who were writing what was going on now. In new ways. Ways that I hadn’t been even remotely aware of. Those of you reading who are digital natives, be forgiving. I am ill-adapted to the modern modes of communication, sorry.
FOR THE FIRST TIME, probably in a long time, instead of a long ramble, I’m going to tell you a story. About the time I met L.
The reason I want to bring this up is manyfold, but begins and ends, I think, in Kuala Lumpur. Which is where I have just returned to, and where I keep popping in, it seems, for two- or three-month blocks. Looking for the story, is what I had said, before. But it’s more than that. It’s looking for the life.
‘It’s not that I want to make a living from these zines,’ I had said, at that tea place with many shelves of carefully arranged books on feminism, cooking, and LGBTQ features. ‘I want to make these zines live. And you need to have great stories for that to work. To really work, I mean.’ What was I talking about? The dream quality was there, that day. You know that one, right? When time slows, almost stops. You notice this kind of thing, especially when you are alone, on the road, waiting for tea, waiting for the rain. Looking at the bookshelves, but only kind of. Most jacket spines were writ in Chinese.
So in the end, I was reading nothing at all, for once, instead writing in my head, writing blank columns into the aetherspace of just-zoning-out. Same like the moment I chose to amble up those stairs (unmarked, curious, vaguely intriguing), and into the cafe-cum-bookshop’s front atelier. But I peeked over the edges of uncomfortable-looking but perfectly-colored red sofas. Of course I did. Was there a backroom?
It had a large window that looked out onto a balcony. Floor to ceiling windows. I love those. I followed the sightline.
That’s when I saw her. L.
Her things arranged meticulously around her, but I could tell, for a long time, she wasn’t paying attention to those bits. Paper, a laptop, some cords, some phone stuff, maybe a few more electronic things that I couldn’t identify, really, because I’m out of touch with that kind of thing. I stick to paper, still, believe it or not. Pencil, paper, scissors, glue.
She was elsewhere. In the just-beyond, in a way, at least, that’s how it seemed, to me, on that afternoon with a soft rain, not the monsoon, but the lighter kind, about to fall.
‘Ever since I met you,’ she would say in not that much time, ‘which was ten minutes ago, I feel like I could really… connect.’
Enter the heart of S P A C E.
AS IT IS WITH BEGINNINGS, it is, too, with the middles, I think, of the space that is shaped when we go around the bend, see what might be there, and begin to go quiet into the space of just-being. Maybe a couple of minutes passed, maybe a few hours. I can’t be sure. I’ll never be sure. She was there, and I was there, and we talked at length about many, many things related to, hey, feminism, and showing up, and real life, and circumstances, and how things change, and where we are, and, of course, uncertainty. My beat. I write about this, I talk about this, I calculate nothing really, anymore. The second law of thermodynamics was how it all began, in a summer classroom half a world away, sitting there, Mann Hall, N. C. State. Was that where? It was. A summer of learning how things flow, where turbulence arises, how entropy works (or how we think it does), what professors can do with a constricted schedule that blocks classes into longer hour-periods, instead of longer weekly semesters. Summer and then. But… I’m getting nostalgic for another time; that won’t do. That is a distraction. That takes away from here, hijacking the moment. This moment. Now. (Not to get distracted further, but um. The future. Ask me sometime about an upcoming salon, ‘Kandinsky’s Window,’ which is about the viewfinder of the street window, and the life that’s just beyond… ask me sometime about the book Point and Line to Plane, too. I’m always more than happy to talk non-Euclidean or multidimensional bric-a-brac in the forum-space, ‘Strange Geometries.’) But first, let me quickly recount the short, real conversation that happened when I met someone who reminded me in every way of the people I love discovering, on the road, in the moment, away from everything, because they have that expressiveness in the eye that says, ‘Well, hello, who are you?’ But she said—
And I said–
(Things start so simply, don’t they?)
Geometries and strangenesses, the ever-changing shape of space. Is L. in Kuala Lumpur? Will we meet again? I don’t know. I can’t know. Nothing is for sure. (Remember, uncertainty is my beat.)
‘There is so much bad art in the world.’
‘Yes. Yes there is.’
What’s good? What’s quality? Where can we go to find it? We can seek theories in books, or write essays that philosophize about these big questions. But we can also go into the quiet space. The in-betweens—where, I’m finding, at least for me, things like ‘good’ and ‘quality’ and ‘beauty’ and, yes, I’ll say it, ‘magic,’ exist and co-exist. Here in the edge-finding rooms where we go, now, me and the people I write and talk deeply with, at length, in conversation salons or put-together-in-this-now gatherings that may be impromptu, spontaneous, planned or unplanned, well, here is where we are headed. The magic moment. I know, I know. You want me to spell things out. ‘Make it clear, DK, what this is and why it will make my life better.’ Well, truth is, I can’t do that. I can only show you what I feel when I feel the magic moment happening to begin. It’s really… um. It’s… well. It’s personal. I can’t share that kind of thing in the public blog space, which is why I resort to protected-page forums.
In which there is… well. Sharing. Conversation. Connection and interconnection. One designful moment at a time. I can’t really begin to describe all the magical things that happened when people connected across S P A C E here and there, like in The Mirror in the early part of the year, and currently, we’re going to be finishing something soon called Slow Moment. I’m humbled and grateful for the chance connections that have led to new thinking, new input, new… feelings. It’s where the world of imagination and heart can take us: it’s where we can begin to slow down, let go of our inhibitions, disclose things that might feel very hard to open up about, and, in this way, build new shoots and germinate anew.
On the bus on the way from Helsinki city center to Vantaa for the airport, I met someone from my part of the world. With my very accent. My style of speech. My idioms, my cultural references, my diction, my slang. But: we did not relate. I couldn’t. There wasn’t the same quality of space there that there had been elsewhere. Just because we share the same passport doesn’t make us familiar. What makes us familiar is the intricate and curious longing to go somewhere else, to seek, to quest, to discover. And not make it into a big deal: to just go.
The magic of now
LATELY, I’ve revised my thoughts about what ‘art’ is. Dislcaimer: I spent like ten minutes in art school, this was in Brooklyn, this was a zillion years ago, and I’ve been pushing around in the world, ever since, I think, trying to feel it instead of think about it. In moments, it arrives: that feeling. The one that says, ‘This. This is art.’ I’ll tell you more about that in a second. But first, what is not. (To me. Everything is relative, after all.)
It’s not a book or a novel or a painting or a YouTube video. It’s not a song or a worked-over collage that no one will ever see. It’s not the words in the diaries that someone who wrote them wonders if their great-grandchildren will read and somehow recall them, or at least, know a hint of a whisper of their having-been. No. Art is closer to us than any of those things. Art happens, to me, in the quiet stillness, in the noticing of: being here now.
Which happens at a specific kind of moment.
The moment of something that has turned, somehow, into a kind of novelty. A real life meeting, eye to eye.
These days, to me, the making of art isn’t the accruing of ‘stuff.’
ZINES. Conversation. Real life. In an age where the internet can confuse and lie to us, ‘zines’ (xeroxed short publications we make ourselves and give our friends) give us a tangible grip on the *here and now*, and remind us that at the end of the day, *we* get to create and write our own stories: the stories of our lives, the stories that remind us who we are. Make. Eat. Drink, and relax with us to put together your own 8-page zine. We’ll show you how.
*** UPDATE: Be sure to grab a special discount when you apply the code ‘DKlovesyou’ at the event page (where it says ‘Enter promotional code.’) ***