Welcome to the party

SATURDAY AFTERNOON we hosted Arts & Letters Society at the cafe of the National Museum here in Kuala Lumpur.

Have moved over to Southeast Asia for the autumn tour to make more zines, meet more people, find new stories, and co-create works of creative nonfiction. (If that sounds like a tall order, well, maybe it is. But we’re on for the challenge.)

Why host popup salons?

‘Designers Korner,’ Stumbling Monk, Seattle 2006-9

I HAD GROWN tired of the usual meet ups around the places where I was living in the past. Seattle for tech events. Durham NC for the feelgood community spaces where, you know if I’m really honest, I never felt like I could be part of because me being me, I had one foot always ready to jump out the door and exit the country. See things. Go places. Meet people. Discover. Why? Because… the new. Searching and drifting, looking and listening. Managing to do this, somehow, in a wobbly way at first (2013 was difficult), but then, with growing confidence, and practice, and, hey, people who were interested in the same, and co-creating, and then, amplifying our work together because we’re moving in the same vein. Let’s do this, I’d say. Let’s play.

Things in S P A C E, 2005-present

 

 

An art of the moment

‘Breakfast in Cambodia’,TINI Phnom Penh,  2016

HAVING BEEN AT IT making Atelier S P A C E for a year now (pics on instagram, zines in our store), we’re getting more practice at the ‘how’ of designing the spaces in which new and different others can find remarkable moments of connection. It’s very airy, I guess, to say it that way, but what it really looks and feels like is a cozy, fun, light and casual conversation party, and, when it’s good, you’ll see ridiculously deep moments of insightful breakthrough that occurs when we are talking together. This happens between, and this bit is important, because this is what makes it S P A C E and not a general meet up, it’s between people who haven’t ever met.

Zinery! in Chiang Mai, with SB, 2014

Shifting and growing.. Moving and changing. The art of noticing. The art of paying attention. Less talking. More ambient being-together. Not over-intellectualizing. Calming down. These are the shifts, of late. This fall there will be more of them, I’m convinced. But what, exactly, and how, are still open to discover. If there’s anything I learned from Finland, it’s this: we are where we are, right now, at the moment.

Everything ahead ‘depends.’ Katsotaan, ‘let’s see.’ You don’t have to know everything up front and have it all pre-defined, agendas outlined, bullet-point lists typed up to distribute.

‘Origin,’ Embassy of Bulgaria, Phnom Penh 2017

The old style of DK (‘let’s get to the point, and make it snappy’) is morphing a little into a mellower, kinder new one (‘let’s play’). Why? We were always more about the play side of things, I think. Somewhere along the way we lost sight of that because DK turned into ‘a business,’ or ‘work,’ or ‘a consulting boutique,’ or, um.

What would you call it… ‘A job.’ A job? A job? WTF. DK is never a job. DK is DK because it’s a space for play, exploring, experimentation, discovery, co-creation, shifts, drifts, meanders, and the rest. I don’t want DK to look or feel like a job. So I’m writing this blog again, first-person, directly.

I hope you can enjoy with me the new stuff. Which, honestly, has been about stripping all the facades and getting back to exactly where I started, in 2005, right here. Blogging every day, from DK World HQ in Capitol Hill, Seattle. Telling whomever might find it interesting what my personal opinions were, back then. Embarrassing, really, when I think about it. But if it wasn’t for the blog I never would have found people like Seattle-based CE, or Durham NC’s JM, whose mentorship and patronage gave DK the boost it needed in those days to continue to evolve, to develop new programmes, and to test out some of the things that we had no idea about. I’m writing this as if it’s a big moment of reflection or some kind of wild milestone, or something, and it’s just… not that, but it… feels really good to go back to the original DK. Where we just played. A lot. Almost every day.

‘N’ Hanoi, Nhọ Nồi, 2017

In real life with people we liked, going to the parlors and bars and cafes and parks and museums and theaters and otherwise ‘third places’ and designing S P A C E. Who remembers the party ‘Dazzle?’ Or ‘Sugar?’ Or ‘Pop?’ I still remember when one of our guests said she’d driven past the house, then circle back when she saw a giant plastic floor lamp, a kind of round thing that looked like a big fat flower, blaring light from the doorway. ‘I knew when I saw it that had to be the place.’ It was. It still is. Now our lamp is blaring in a different kind of way: conceptually. I know, I’m getting esoteric here again. Sorry about that. It’s really not that hard, or intellectual, or anything. We’re kind of um, just. Um. Always. I guess this makes it really not-work. But I’ll say it. We’re just having a really good time. Like a party.

‘Expat’, Havana Durham NC, 2012

Remember Primal Scream?

Remember ‘Loaded?’

Yeah.

Now, that’s what I’m talkin’ about.

Exit Vantaa

IN THE 1990s, I used to make tons of mix tapes. I wish I could make one right now, but I don’t know how to do that easily so what I’m going to do is cue up a playlist for you. It’s inspired by the things I got to know a little bit about over the summer, a few inspiring soundbites that left me thinking and wondering and curious and open to learning more, in each of the different musical directions. (You’ll see, in a bit, what I mean, I hope, when you see the list.)

That’s how it is in S P A C E. Keeping an ear to the ground, walking towards the new. Seeking the opportunities, when the mood is right of course, not always. I’m not always looking for an ‘experience.’ But when I find one, hey. Let’s note it. Let’s make a blog post. This one kicked off my last night in Helsinki, when I went to a concert and heard the song ‘Kaksi Planeeta,’ which means, ‘Two planets,’ by Maagine. Of course I had to ask them, personally, some questions about it, and find out more, and discover things about the planets and so on because, after all, we are writing every day here in S P A C E about spacious things. This happened at a back-alley venue in Helsinki called Semifinal, which took me a bit of time to find, but I’m glad I did. (Special thanks to VK for inviting me to listen to the show, and for the good conversations, both in Helsinki and Kärsämäki. Conversation… my favorite-ever kind of jam.)

The mix tape is called ‘Exit Vantaa.’ Find it on Spotify here. Or check out the YouTube links, below.

I hope you like it.

E X I T   V A N T A A
elokuu 2018

S P A C E || H E L S I N K I

A

Kaksi Planeeta
Maagine

The Lion Sleeps Tonight
 The Tokens

The Book of Love
Magnetic Fields

Killing me Softly
Roberta Flack

The Look
 Roxette

 

B

‘Don’t just document, Make Art’
DK x Benjamin Nwaneampeh

If Your Mother was a Hamster 
Gunslinging Bird

Itserakkausjuttu
Mariska

Fly me to the Moon
Brenda Lee

Beat It
Michael Jackson

Nyt On Lähtö
Vesala

New endings and new beginnings

THE ONLY TIME I start to get philosophical about ‘home and away’ is when I’m at an international airport, train station, or bus station. Crossing borders. Time and again. This seems to be the story of my life: frazzled and diffident, scruffy suitcases in hand and popping-off handles, the bungle of disorganization that I’ve no one to blame anything on but myself, and the relief at arriving where I am: moments ago, I sat down, and here I am. About to get on the next leg of the next journey to the next place to the next things. Things to come are many and multi-faceted, perhaps ten-sided, like string theories and multi-verses and courageous, real, and upturned stones. We start where we are. We go when we are ready. The only one to decide what ‘the first step’ is will be us, each of us, as we think, or learn to not-think, and rather, go with the feeling. Or the flow, as the river by my summer residence showed by example. Wu-wei and the cosmos, the Dao, the whole thing. I’m reminded of Pirsig’s Lila, maybe a little late to the news that he died, and as I take this seat and sip the first water I’ve had all day, I’m letting it sink in. The person who wrote the book that inspired the 2013 ‘Year of Uncertainty’ project is no longer with us, in this realm. But maybe in the one between worlds, where we can psychically and dream-state dance within. Jung and the whole. Bohm and Krishnamurthi. Dialogues, rhythms, pent-up things dissipating. I had a giant philosophical conversation with two people today, in a quick succession, and I had promised myself I would not dally on my way to the airport. Last time I did that I missed my flight from Bangkok to Phnom Penh; a conversation got in the way, a woman with yellow feathery earrings and great green pants, from Rio, she said, and we had coffee in the sun for a little bit too long of a lingering-over conversation. This time, I was to get here early. I did not. Boarding now. Going to get on the plane. Here’s to new beginnings, the stories, and the next.

 

6 years after ‘State of Publishing’

LOOKING BACK, it must have been at the conversation salon ‘The State of Publishing’ that I got the first inkling of what the thing is that today I call S P A C E. In which new and different others gather for a unique, once-off, real-life moment for remarkable connexion.

This is me, at that event:

Dipika Kohli (standing) hosts ‘State of Publishing’ at Mercury Studios in Durham NC // 2012

SO MUCH happened there. So many old ties, crisscrossing with new ones. There had been a decade interval since the time I was in the Triangle (Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill, NC, for those who are not familiar). I had been there for university and my first jobs, including freelance work in photography and illustration, back in the 90s. So I of course had to invite some of the editors I knew from those days, including the people behind what was then the cool creative nonfiction-style not-a-magazine, and not-a-newspaper that was called the Urban Hiker. UH had run my first-ever first-person story, ‘Midmorning Lakeshimmer,’ which had been about sitting lakeside in Udaipur, Rajasthan, enjoying, guess what, a conversation. With a fellow passerby. The content of that conversation, and the publication in which it ran, set in motion, I think, to me, the notion that we can tell our first-person true stories, in the ways we like, if we just make a space to publish them. It was with great admiration that I continued to follow UH, until I read somewhere from the other side of the country, or perhaps when I was abroad in Ireland, prior to that, that it folded. Well, then. But the spirit of writing, conversing, connecting, and sharing: that was glittery. And that’s what I think I am carrying forward, here, in my own way, with the zines and salons in S P A C E programmes near, far, and online.

More to say about these ideas, about a hat tip to the past salons and of course, to the people who came, who shared, and who, in the end, made the magic moments happen. It’s all about showing up; showing up is Art, to me, and making the space for new and different others to convene in remarkable ways is what I’m up to here, at DK. Come a long way since freelancing for the then Spectator in Raleigh, I’d say. But then again, I remember walking into that office, asking what’s up, and getting a commission, on the spot. Not bad. Same thing happened over the years, repeating, telling me and confirming for me that yes, people want to hear about others, read about places, discover through the simple act of sharing what it is to go beyond the edges, and see what gems one might discover there. Thinking about these things, considering the tracks since I was back in NC, one of my many homes.

Another pic from State of Publishing:

Breakout groups at State of Publishing roundtable, Durham NC 2012

 

 

OF COURSE IT IS IMPERATIVE that we have a strong sense of self before we can really engage in the kind of peaceful dialogue that will help all of us quell the ills of the world, what with its many division-making tendencies. Too this or too that, you’re relegated to too ‘out.’ You stay in the margins long enough and you discover other people are there, too. That’s how it happened, really. That’s how DK got going. We were wacky. We were curious. We were open. We were not buying into the program. We wanted new things, but didn’t know where to find them, or how they would change us, or why we felt compelled to go further into the ‘out there.’ The unknown. The not-yet-knowable. The uncertain, the different, the new. In the end, it’s because of the chance encounter with that one guest at SoP that led to the thought that it was no longer interesting for me to be in North Carolina, that I had things to do, somewhere else, wherever ‘somewhere else’ might be. I knew, after I put it down, and spent 9 hours writing a blog post that got circulated a little (and accidentally deleted when, well, it’s a long story, has to do with not making backups, something that people who aren’t as organized as they wish they could be have a tendency to fail to do), and yea, it was that time, and the people I met, and the things we said, and the books that got recommended, and the reading of those books, that led to new things.

Philosophy, I read recently, is the work to examine questions that will allow us to live more pleasurably. As I write from my very last night on the long, twelve-week stretch of being still for the ‘slow moment’ in northern Finland, I’m thinking about that. I’m thiningabout the chance encounters and the conversations and the people and what we made together. I’m curious about what will come of this, in my own thinking, and the style that will become what it will, as ar result of all the influences of being here. I remember a 17 year-old girl walking, at sunset, letting me stop and say hello, letting me say, ‘Thank you for participating in that workshop we did, the other day. It was nice to meet you.’ Letting me talk a little more about my feelings about being here, in a rural place, and sharing her own ideas, too. Then meeting her mother. Meeting a woman whose poise and patience were both of the highest level I’ve seen, and I’ve seen a lot of leaders in my life, and I saw that she was of that kind of upper crust calibre, and I saw that she did that work of mothering with the kind of gentle hand that we need to see in leadership today, in every walk of life. Because the mothers of the world know how to be tender. How to listen, with love, how to give of our affection. We aren’t expecting anything, when we’re mothering at our best. We just do. We just be. That’s the lesson I’ve learned, too, from being here, in Finland.

Just be.

To the journeys, then. The new, the near, the now, and the next.

Hello from Finland

THANK YOU to those of you who have been connecting with me off-thread for these last few weeks; we’re really jazzed to share some of what all these various conversations have led up to. In short, new stuff! A collection of print zines: S P A C E || Finland. Just a handful–we like very limited editions, so there are no more than 5 of each of the short stories. The pieces are titled ‘Letting Go of Dead Things,’ ‘Michaela,’ ‘Hei Kesä’ (which is Finnish for ‘Hi, Summer’), and ‘Kesärakkausjuttu’ (‘Summer Love Story’).

People and place

I’D LIKE to acknowledge a few people with whom I spoke in depth and at length, over teas and coffees in cozy spaces in Oulu and Kärsämäki. A story isn’t a story if it isn’t based on real life sharing in such moments, right? That’s why I am feeling incredibly grateful. 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. (Additional thanks to Merja, too, for the gift. A knife to cut magazines. Well, wow. It’s fabulous.) None of the stories in the pages of S P A C E || Finland would have been possible to make without you all. I’m a little bit of a nerd about relational aesthetics, so of course it’s a lot of fun for me to share about our conversations here, in a paragraph in which all of your names (and with them, my associated memories of our shared time together) are included. It’s the parts that make the whole. And a composition is only what it is because the parts are each unique. At least, that’s my take.

I had promised myself a year ago that I would go on the road in search of new people in new places, and interconnect real, contemporary, hyperlocal stories through a set of international zines. Creative nonfiction, and stuff. This is the beginning of starting to really see the fruit of all this intent. A character from ‘Briefly in Sheffield’ comes to Helsinki in ‘Kesärakkausjuttu’, for example. Everything’s based on real life conversations, real places I’ve been personally to ask a lot of questions. People interest me. A lot. And people you don’t often get to hear about, when you are reading the news. I was a reporter for a while… two years at a weekly, two at a daily. Then something changed. I felt like writing first-person stories, or at least, stories I felt like were about us just hanging out, asking our big philosophical existential questions, in some instances, or just telling damn good jokes. The absurd and the esoteric are flip sides of the same coin, are they not? Let’s see. How did we get here? Er… from journalism to design to… uhm. S P A C E. Chance, serendipity, veering towards what’s interesting. The thinking goes like this: Well, let’s just do that. Let’s just go there. If it sounds weird, good. If it wasn’t weird, it wouldn’t be DK. More like this is ahead.

Comments are open, for the moment. Say hei?

Snail mail

NOW, on to the ‘how to order’ bit. Want some zines? Limited edition and one-of-a-kind. Order today or tomorrow and I’ll put them in the post to you before getting the bus to Helsinki. Yay! Snail mail from Finland. And soon. Order here.

A bouquet for September

SLOWING. Stilling. Finding the quiet space. Wrapping the stories. Getting set for the road that takes me home. Always love this part: the feeling that anything is possible, around the next bend. In search of meaning, in pursuit of beauty, framing the sensation of urgency in this, this very thing: the new, the near, the now, and the next. In the meantime, this gathering of current flowers. My way of showing you what’s ‘on’ right now on the sandy banks by the river I’ve gotten to know a little bit better, these twelve weeks in Finland, wondering how to sit still.

Mariska’s Itserakkausjuttu

JUST FOUND this by happening to be in the right bus, at the right hour, in the right place, to happen to hear it. This is the very stuff of S P A C E. Chance encounters, serendipity: veer. You go where you don’t know what might happen, and you happen to run into something magical. I call this the ‘magic moment,’ when it happens. I was on the bus. There was a young woman in the row in front of me. The bus was pulling in, but this song. This song! What was it? It was in Finnish, but having been here for three months now, I could pick out the words that stunned me. The refrain (catchy, poppy) sounded exactly like the title of our new zine. How does that happen? It just… does. You go to a place and you look for the art, the things that people are trying to express, or that you feel they are sharing with you, and you make a piece. In the case of DK, a zine. That spells out our explorations into what people shared with us about ‘summer,’ and ‘love,’ and the ‘love story.’ In the case of Mariska, it was a song. ‘It’s like a love story.’

‘Exit Vantaa’ mix >

Love connections

Pre-order >

Ours is called Kesärakkausjuttu—A Summer Love Story.

Hers is Itserakkausjuttu—[Update: A Self-Love Story] It’s like a Love Story. (Listen to it on our ‘Exit Vantaa’ playlist at Spotify, here.)

Mmm-hmm.

There it is.

The chance encounter with… someone else feeling and expressing similar things to us. So even though it was a song over the radio, that didn’t mean it wasn’t important or connecting. It mattered. Mattering. There’s more to say about that, but not here, not yet. Saving it for the book, Kesärakkausjuttu. Editing this week. Almost done. Friday is my deadline. Whew. Almost there. But meantime, pausing to appreciate that another artist in the same country, in the same summer, also hit on this exact idea—our media of expression are different, but conceptually and aesthetically, our pieces are exactly aligned. Isn’t that what we call ‘good chemistry?’ It’s amazing when it happens—rare, beautiful, impossible to believe, at times, and almost always, the kind of sharp and pungent hit of dopamine that might be exactly what you need, in a particular place, time, and space. When you get the sharp high, everything moves from ‘this,’ to ‘adventure.’ And it’s adventure where DK loves to explore at the edge; that’s the ever-emerging shape of S P A C E.

ROAD TO ROVANIEMI. I heard it on the bus, yeah. I was in Rovaniemi, or just-about-to-be. It was kinda cold out, me and ‘d gotten rained on, and I was like, ‘Let’s just get back and get warm and eat something.’ But then, um. The song. It struck a chord with me in a way that hasn’t in a very long time. Um. This! Wow. This? This. Yes. It was going to mean staying on the bus a bit longer. All the way to the train station. But I had to. To find out. Who was it by? How was I going to find out? Well. There is a young woman in the row in front. Let me just… ask her. Then there were phones, typing, googling, youtube, and the name of the artist… Mariska. ‘The title is Itserakkausjuttu,’ she said, almost as delighted as me for having helped me find out something that seemed important to me. I showed her this page of our website, and we were talking. Talking, talking, talking… all the way to the train station. Lengthenting the trip for J, but um. The song. I now had it. Which was exactly the nut I needed, in order to secure an important kind of bolt. Let me elaborate, to try to clarify what I mean. Hm, how shall I put it. Okay, here it goes…

All summer I’d been wondering what to write to take away from Finland, what to post, what to blog, what to publish, what to eZine, what to put into the whole set of printed pieces that will be sent by post this weekend. And then, with the song, something important happened. The pieces were there, the collection was ready, the channel of the bolt was carved, the bolt had been placed. Everything was loosely there, but the last bit was missing. The nut. The nut that tightened it all; the song was that nut. The aesthetics of this book and this song were importantly aligned. (That was my gut feeling; and as you know, if you read this blog, you know it’s from the gut that I move.)

But yeah.

A collection begins

THE BOOK, the summer, the story, the collection S P A C E || Finland. With this new little piece of a happened-upon sound clip, the aesthetics of Kesärakkausjuttu and accompanying pieces were now set.

A Summer Love Story is the name of our piece.

Hers is called Itserakkausjuttu, which translates by my bus companion in front who helped me find it as ‘A kind of love story.’

Summer.

Love.

Flowers.

Midsummer.

The nature. The calming.

These things: all of these things were swimming about in the brain, and then we wrote some stories with Alexis Jokela, and then we printed a few of those and shared them in Oulu and here in Kärsämäki at a short series of conversation parties called Hei Kesä. Testing things. Why not talk about summer and happy things, we were challenged, instead of melancholic depressing ones?

 

Emergence

TALKING TOGETHER, working out the story, sharing in small snippets, testing, translating some of these, sharing those, limited editions, hidden chapters, Rated R things, stuff like that. All of it is part of the summer of Atelier S P A C E, writing, deigning, exploring, conversing, connecting, and discovery. It’s always that, but this was the first time we had expanded it to three full months, and not interwoven Atelier S P A C E with any other DK project. So that meant, focus. And concentration. And hopefully, a work of…. Art.

CUTUP. Those who know DK know that a big part of the zines made here are from the cutting-up of magazines, especially womens’ magazines. Why? I hate that these magazines try to tell us a story about what women ought to be into or how we ought to look. So when I google translated the song that I’m talking about and found a few lines about exactly that, I knew for sure I had hit on the right piece to listen to while editing the whole collection these next few days before leaving Finland. These are the lines, and the full Finnish lyrics are below. Thanks, Mariska!

 

Let’s see the women’s magazines again
How bad and bad I am
Although not true at all
I wondered, “what’s wrong …”

I like my life
I enjoy my skin…

***

Update: Listen to it on our ‘Exit Vantaa’ playlist at Spotify, here.

Mariska’s Itserakkausjuttu

Olen vihdoinkin käsittänyt sen
Mä oon fiksu ja kivannäköinen
Kaiken hyvän todellakin ansaitsen
Mitä tielleni sattuu
Helppo muista on kyllä välittää
Mut itteänikin mun täytyy silittää
Lupaan täst edes aina yrittää
Itserakkausjuttuu
Itserakkausjuttuu
Itserakkausjuttuu

Voi heittaajat sanoo mitä tahansa
Ei se mua liikuta, pitäkööt vihansa
Mut se mist aiheutuu vahinkoo on
Jos mä en itelleni frendi oo
Jo kiistatta oon paras minä
Ja muihin mä en vertaa mua enää ikinä, hä!
Tää on luultavasti sullekin tuttuu
Sitä itserakkausjuttuu
Itserakkausjuttuu
Itserakkausjuttuu

Naistenlehdistä lukea taas saan
Miten väärin ja huono olenkaan
Vaikkei totta se ole ollenkaan
Mietin vaan “mitä vittuu…”
Mikä mussa on muka nurinpäin
Vaikka pärjäilen hyvin juuri näin?
Suosittelen sinullekin ystäväin
Itserakkausjuttuu
Itserakkausjuttuu
Itserakkausjuttuu

Tykkään itestäni
Viihdyn mun nahois
Mä väsyn jumittamaan
Fiiliksis pahois
En dissaa vaan kehun ja kiitän
Kyl kelpaan jos tälleen mä riitän
Oon kritisoinut mua jo aivan tarpeeks
Teen sovinnon ja annan itelleni anteeks
Onni alkaa siit mihin ankaruus loppuu
Kaikki tarvii itserakkausjuttuu
Itserakkausjuttuu
Itserakkausjuttuu…

 

‘Exit Vantaa’ mix >
More songs I like >

66°34′N 23°51′E

IT HAS BEEN A SUMMER of learning. Reflection. Change.

Growing towards the next thing takes a little bit of lowering the expectations; discovering, through simply meandering but with an intention towards wanting to become better, the roads that show you how.

It is nature. It is natural.

The feeling of new beginnings begins to begin, again.

66°34′N 23°51′E. This is a different place, the Arctic Circle. Writing from Rovaniemi; taking in the clean air and hoping for a clear sky to catch a glimpse of northern lights. Focus, slowing down… remembering summer, but participating more fully, for the first time perhaps, in now. But yes. Rovaniemi. That is where I am. The coordinates are changing and evolving, constantly. Where we are is where we are. Where we are going is a question we might consider less, if we allow ourselves, and let go of the particular social programming that some of us have that says ‘this has to go to a place’ or ‘this has to become a thing.’ Intuition is probably the only thing to lean on in cases where you have no idea; in Finland, this summer, I am learning to come to rest. To ‘just be’. Putting the final touches on the zines, the short stories, the photographs, and the packing. On my way to Asia again, soon.

Another place and another moment–but always, always: here is we are.

To the journeys!, the new, the near and the next.

Sharing a moment in Oulu

GREAT CONVERSATIONS UNFOLDED as DK and friends made zines in Oulu with guests of Hei Kesä.

Hei Kesä was 16 August’s popup zinemaking workshop and mini-art exhibition.

Very special thanks to Anu Lakkapää of Kahvila Tuokio for co-hosting with us, what a great place, and to Paavo Heinonen of Ouluntaiteidenyö for the exceptional conversations.

It was cool and low-key to be part of the yearly Ouluntaiteidenyö, or Oulu Arts Night, a popup of art, literature, and music. Highly recommend putting this on your tour if you are an enthusiast of small -scale cities, nature, new places, new people, intriguing peoplewatching, and drift. Not that many people wander this far north, and here we are, finding a moment, at Tuokio, discovering the point of it all, I feel, the point of making art, anyway: discovering the beauty of now, here, where we are. In real life, together.

ZINEMAKING. Zines from the summer. Zines from the moment. Learning together about how to let go of the ‘this is what art making looks like’ ideas, in order to just play. Like, improvise. On the spot. Together. Co-creating poems in the dada style, choosing buttons from a bowl and sewing them into our books. Folding, cutting, drinking coffee, enjoying. Very special, very cozy (like our hygge experiences at small clubs in Copenhagn, and fika conversations in Malmö).

There are a lot of people who informed the design and content of this, and I’ll be talking more about that sometime, but meantime before battery runs out on this machine, and before I fall asleep again, I want to share one picture today of what it felt like to be there.

Here is:

Kahvila Tuokio x DK 2018

Next stops: Helsinki, Kuala Lumpur, and Phnom Penh for salons, workshops, and ateliers. See our upcomings here.

 

 

S P A C E || Take on Me

ONE OF THE FUNNEST things about being in the middle of Finland all summer is listening to Radio Nova. I’m not kidding. I really like it. I don’t know. I think it’s because of all these 1990s songs, hit songs, stuff I haven’t heard since… well… then. I don’t listen to the radio much except when I’m in places that are otherwise rather remote or quiet or just the sound of the new language is interesting to hear. Pieced between the many announcements, often about ‘summer,’ because I am beginning to pick up a few words (‘Friday,’ ‘good,’ ‘let’s see then, maybe,’ ‘thank you,’ and ‘mind peace’), there is stuff like A-Ha. I’m listening to’ Take On Me’  Great video–do you remember that? I remember that. I remember being very, very intrigued. Drawing and animation and this song. This song. I’m listening to it right now. I was going to link to the YouTube but you know what, they have these stupid ads now, and they have tracking, and it’s annoying–and—wow that’s a high note—and it’s been… really interesting to hear how people listen to songs like Roxette‘s Listen to Your Heart and Sinéad O’Connor‘s Nothing Compares 2 U. Plus that one that’s been playing all summer and is ‘oh, you don’t need to know the words, it’s like all the Finnish songs, about being sad and lonely and depressed and wanting to commit suicide…’

BLAST FROM THE PAST. Nineties music. Nice to hear it all. Zining while listening to this stuff reminds me of something else.

Mix tapes. Collaging. Curating. Sharing. Now you just queue things up on Soundcloud, in a playlist. Or?

Thinking about all that, all those things. Listening to the ‘Hot 9 at 9’ back home. One of the places that used be home, but isn’t now, I guess, would be more accurate. Talking about Home in one of our online forums. Talking about Arrivals. Talking about Slow Moments. Talking, talking, writing, writing. Listening to the radio and drinking coffee at 11:25PM and wondering where the sun went. It is the first time this summer that I’ve needed to turn on the lights.

Bicycling home last night from karaoke, too. First time I had cycled in the dark.

Next, I’m pretty sure, Radio Nova will play us some Michael Jackson. Annie are you okay…

Making the book ‘A Summer Love Story’

IN NOT TOO MANY DAYS, this thing will be finished.

This thing that is the summer residency in Finland.

This thing that is the A4 zine, ‘Slow Moment,’ whose lead story is going to be ‘A Summer Love Story’ by Alexis Jokela.

This thing that is the smaller zine series, the set of stories created and co-created in the time since DK got here, early June… so many things have happened. Hard to think it all out. But I wanted to show the process a little, today. The conversations lead to things, they don’t just stay there, they lead to the making of things that are, in fact, solid and concrete. And if I’m lucky, have a particular unity to them. They have a meaning that will resonate, I hope, with people who read or view them.

 

Making a story, discovering the meaning

THE ART things are this way, are they not? If they’re good, they land somewhere–someone’s heart. I’ve seen people reading the short stories of Alexis’s now, and there are tears. Honest. There are. Talking with lots of people around us to gather the mood and feeling of one story to share in an 8-page A4 zine has taken all these weeks, so far 10?, and there are two to go. Wrapping up time. There are translations into Finnish, you see, so that means it’s easier to get into them. And so many people have told DK and our team at Atelier S P A C E here what they are feeling about summer.

The whole idea of making the show ‘Hei Kesä’ in Oulu next week, in collaboration with the team at Ouluntaiteidenyö, was born, in fact, of real life and contemporary, in the moment and right here and now conversations. How could it be otherwise? To learn about a place you have to go and see it, in real life, with your person. In Denmark I learned an expression, about how if you want to know a place you have to ‘go there and then put your finger in the ground.’ So that means you sit with it, you don’t just document things for five minutes and fly away to the next town. When people travel around and do that and say they ‘did Cambodia because I went to Angkor Wat,’ for ex., I have to stop myself from getting into it. But you can’t ‘do’ a place by ‘hitting’ a couple of things. In Ireland people would ‘hit’ the Blarney Stone and so on, and say they ‘did Ireland.’ I still remember that. Three and a half years in Ireland. Here, three months. Sure, I don’t know that much, but that’s where interviewing comes in. Learning to make the stories and the pieces that tell the stories that people are telling me. That’s why it was so amazing to run into Alexis. And learn. And share. I did a lot of photos for the new A4 zine, ‘Slow Moment.’ I’m going through them now:

Drafting the zine, ‘Slow Moment’

ALEXIS JOKELA wrote the story, ‘A Summer Love Story.’ We’re trying to decide today if it will be in Finnish in the final print, or in English. Maybe both? I can’t decide. I’ll ask him, later, when he gets here. We’re going to go through this thing with a fine-toothed comb and make some important decisions. That’s the part of the creative process we are in, now. The concept is there. The story is mostly written. A lot of photos are already done, but maybe new ones will need to be taken, to tell the story better. To make the art unified, like I said, and with a particular cohesiveness. You have to know how to do that and it makes the whole thing ‘sing’. So we’re going to sit with this thing and tell it.

Look for it to launch on 1 Sept., in S P A C E. But also, in real life, at Hei Kesä in Oulu on 16 Aug.

To the journeys!

Atelier S P A C E || Finland gathers new people for new conversations to co-create an 8-page zine. This project made possible by supporters in S P A C E. DK wish to thank those of you who pre-ordered, and made this production possible. Thanks for supporting this style and approach to making art–art that doesn’t live in the walls of galleries, art that doesn’t get ‘picked up and promoted,’ art that just is what it is. Frank, honest, and contemporary nonfiction pieces made together, on the spot, in real life.

 

 

What I learned from Ireland about how to make space

I REMEMBER going to the Cork Jazz Festival in the 2000s and being irritated that it was sponsored by a beer company. That wasn’t the worst part, though. It was the way people acted. Maybe they just didn’t like jazz. Okay, okay. I know it’s a niche thing, sort of. Fine. But… what was it with the whole ‘being seen’ thing? I still remember. A weekend up in the city, away from the quieter days in West Cork. A city break, yeah. That was it. And a festival of jazz. Amazing, right? In theory, yes. In practice, it was a zoo.

The overwhelming loudness of the people drowning out the music with boozy jokemaking was the start of a series of disappointments: more and more large-scale events in the years I would attend them since would seem to be less about the art, and more about ‘going there with my friends,’ ie, people ‘looking cool’ together instead of actually listening to the music, or having a good conversation. What about the craic, like? 

Ireland, though, for what its worth, was where exactly I learned how to begin to design S P A C E. Space for remarkable connection. Space for really sharing, deeply. For poetry and art and music happen in that country, or used to, I don’t know what’s going on now. I went to my first writing circle there, at the West Cork Arts Centre. I went to the West Cork Literary Arts Festival, and met the people at Fish Publishing who helped me understand that writing isn’t about trying to sound like a writer, it’s about telling a damn good story. Or improvising one. I still remember that week of opening up, trying things, sharing, and lots of pints. Rounds, as they say. It was what you call ‘a formative experience.’ What some people who are interested in vocabulary words would maybe see as a chapter in: bildungsroman.

Writing to learn, learning to write

The Elopement (Kismuth Books 2012)

Later, I wrote The Elopement (listen to the interview on NPR), but I forgot to put in all the things about Ireland that helped me become the designer of S P A C E that I am, today. I make space the way Irish people taught me: hosting, welcoming, inviting, sharing. I make space the way, too, I learned how from the philosophy circles at my high school summer in Laurinburg, NC, at a place called Governor’s School East. Where I met four people I am still to this day in touch with and whose stories I have followed closely, so much so, in fact, that I still feel like if it weren’t for that summer, and it was only six weeks, I wouldn’t have been tuned in to the kinds of things that say, ‘You know what? Grades don’t matter. Heck, we’re not even going to have them, this summer. And you know what I want to do? Let you lead this conversation. Let’s sit in a circle. Let’s have a dialogue. The kind with a center and not sides.’ GSE, as we called it, was an even earlier formative step. In this narrative of S P A C E.

TODAY I AM GOING THROUGH lists and memories and archives. I am searching out the people who most inspired me, all these years. I don’t mean that they became financial success; that would be dull. Anyone who has the right connections, privilege, and gets to go to the right places at the right times because of those things, can make it with their wallets. But art. Art is different. Art requires tenacity and grit and sticking with it and saying ‘fuck you’ when you have to because someone tries to discourage you from going where you are going. It takes being okay with publishing drivel and knowing that it’ll be time, and only time, and practice, and only practice, that will make you get better. And you will be your only audience. At the end of the day, you have to make stuff that you like. This is the overwhelming refrain when I ask highly creative people near and far (or ask them to be a guest editor) what they are doing and how they are doing it and more than all of that, why. They want do stuff they want to do. Period.

DO WHAT YOU LIKE.That’s what I’ve learned, too, from conversations in S P A C E with some very talented and far people. We are inspiring each other and co-creating a tapestry together, int eh comment threads of protected pages. It’s not just ‘cool’ or ‘nice’ or ‘something to do to be seen at’. It’s because we care about our practice. Of showing up, making something, and doing the work. To. Get. Better.

Self-improvement is something I learned not from Ireland, though. I learned that drive for constantly challenging myself and seeking new opportunities from someone specific. I just talked to him, the other day. It had been about six months. It was nice to tell him, ‘The most creative person I’ve known now, all my life, is you. And I’ve traveled around quite a bit you know, well, that was inspired by you, too.’ The person was delighted, I think. His wife said, ‘He’s getting emotional.’ That woman was my mother. Because the coolest and most creative person I know in this whole wide world and all its seas and continents, is RK.

RK.

Is.

My dad.

 

‘Art is in the moment’

SOMETIMES YOU FIND the red ribbon that threads the narrative of your life story. I think that for me, it’ about these ‘magic moments.’ Not just of self-awareness, but of simply being together. Noticing that. Sharing that time, and being truly present. Not in a ‘cool’ or ‘trendy’ or ‘yoga retreat’ way, but, like, for real. That’s what I experienced with S P A C E events and also ‘N’ ones, like in Hanoi. Wow. We did that. But it’s not just… me. It’s… us. All of us who are attendant. Who are making S P A C E. Quality, not quantity. Making it. Together.

Were this Ireland, someone would now say, ‘Ah, g’wan. Give us a song, like.’

And I would. (Since I’m not a singer, I’ll share something I had taped when I was working for the Skibbereen Day Care Centre kind of on a part-time basis as a help for teaching ‘internet,’ would you believe. But yeah. One day there were this kids with their musical instruments. Now, the contrast between that Cork Jazz Festival and its buzzy thing and the shared moment of intimacy and quiet and connection that I got to experience with this moment, well, wow. You can see for yourself, what it was like. I found the old video. Here it is…)

HT to all the members of ‘Slow Moment’ and S P A C E. And RK. Here it is.

 

Teddy O’Neill from Design Kompany

***

ATELIERS ARE A WAY to bring some of this to the contemporary space of real life and now, wherever I go in the world. Hosting events is a way for me to bring to other parts of the world the good days of Irish pub life, when it’s early evening and you’re with your mates and things are cozy, and fine. It’s not hard to have a good time when you’re with people who are so clearly skilled at bringing conversation to the fore. Now I’m starting to get misty-eyed.

Alright. Where’s my Christy Moore CD?

It’s the thread that makes the necklace

IN A PRETTY FASCINATING kind of collage and layering, two things I am discovering are my ‘thing’ while I have 12 whole weeks to sit around and make zines and shoot the breeze whilst listening to the sound of, well, breeze–in aspen, in birch—I am doing something new. A podcast. I know that some people have been telling me that I should do this, for some time now. I know. I heard you. I just… don’t like the idea of… voice. That said, why then, have I recorded my voice over the years, starting from microcasette tapes on that world tour that led to the short film, ‘The India Tapes,’ which some people I knew well in Seattle got to see when it screened at the Tasveer short film festival in that city some time ago. A decade back? Where does the time go? Okay, well, that is a good segue to the next bit.

The zine S P A C E || Singapore // 2017

Intentionality.

Some of the time when I am writing I get all philosophical and esoteric. I ‘lose my audience.’ A lot of people tell me that, too. But then, they listen to my voice recordings, and they’re like, ‘Are you, um. High?’ ‘NO!’

‘Art, to me, is conversation. A very particular kind… the kind that has a certain quality…. the quality of S P A C E.’

OF COURSE NOT. It’s just that when the jam is good, I love a great conversation.  I’m super into it, when there is a high quality of S P A C E, that is, and only then, really… the back-and-forth of it, the improvisation, the silences, the whole thing. I love it. It’s like… my favorite thing, ever. I write in this style because this is how I talk. I know. It’s not straightforward. It’s not direct. It’s not even linear, for feck’s sake. It’s just what it is. And it’s me. Totally, honestly, raw, unedited. These things are very underworked, these blog posts, and now… the podcasting… I’m not going to promise a lot with the audio files. Not because it’s hard to make them: I’m discovering that with Zoom, QuickTime and a couple of friends in other parts of the world to help me push the sound clips together, plus a couple of websites with sweet sound effects (I was going to say ‘fx,’ but I’m not really that trendy), well—it’s easy. Podcasting with Soundcloud is super easy. I don’t have the equipment you would want to have if you were pro, but that’s okay. I’ve never been a big fan of expensive equipment. In fact, everything I make these days is based on what falls to hand. In bricolage style. The stories that I write now (there’s some new stuff coming together for the new zines, one of which launches at Oulu Arts Night on 16 August, and stuff, well, those as well as the visuals come into shape not because I have this predetermined idea of ‘what I’m going to do,’ but because, in the process of looking around and bumping into things, people, materials, magazines, stuff just falls into place, and makes a picture. Not a picture, necessarily, like a photograph, though I do have those now, because of the camera and the ‘Slow Moment’ photo journaling workshop that I’ve been hosting online since the start of June, but other kinds of pictures. Conceptaully, imagine that a conversation is captured and frozen into a moment. Then you spool that moment out. You maybe write some kind of short fiction piece. Or you actually record it and edit it into a sound file. Or make a short video and share it at a festival. Well. There are so many things you can do when you have the essence of the moment and you are able to see the art in it. Not easy, to see things. That’s part of what I talked about with some of the new guests in ‘Slow Moment’, in June, over email and forum-salon conversation spaces. Well, mostly email. Occasionally, a phone call. I am in Scandinavia now so I have so much wifi and since it’s way up here by the Arctic Circle, I also have tons of brightness and tend to be awake 23 out of the 24 hours of the day now. Which renders the time differences and timezones irrelevant.

Mostly.

This is good.

This is leading to some very important and unique moments of catching-up. And going back to the people who most intrigued, or left impressions, or seem to have been on their way to interesting places, back when I met them.

Reconnecting. Rekindling.

Writing letters. Making S P A C E. // 2017

‘It’s the thread that makes the necklace’

I’M EVEN GOING back to some of ht many, many hundreds of thousands of words I’ve written in the past and doing that good thing that all writers must: rewriting. Thank you, Dropbox, for holding all this stuff in your digital vault. I’m ready to dump most of these archives, though. Keep only… the highlights. Because short and sweet is another thing I like. Keep it short. Keep it simple. Zines let me do that. So the zine form—8 pages, nothing more—is a good way to repack some of what I’ve written (while also giving it a little bit of a tweak because when you are younger and writing and when you’ve written much, much more and are writing, you are also able to see the thread, the thread!…. and it’s the thread, after all, that makes the necklace.

Pearls on a string. Here we go. Now it’s not so much about the discovering of the new pearls to add to this thread, as it is feeling like I’ve found what my set is, already, and have closed the loop, and am now going back through the circle, saying ‘hi’ to the many lovely gems of people and places and conversations and… artistic moments… that I’ve been lucky enough to collect. And sharing these new learnings and reopening those stories, but only selectively. Only in S P A C E. To the journeys, the new, the near and the next.

Next in S P A C E, today’s prompt, for ‘Slow Moment.’

Are you wondering where I am? It’s cool to contact me—I’m not that hard to reach. Email me, maybe? Here’s a form.

Feature photo credit: OMNI Studiophotos, 2012