S P A C E | ‘Dear O.’

DEAR O.,

Well, hi.

Nice meeting you. Yesterday.

That was surprising and refreshing. I had no idea… that such a small, short question could launch us into, well, I like to call it, um, S P A C E. Designing it: that’s what I do, mostly, but it’s hard to talk about when you haven’t actually experienced it… the things we said, right? Life. The journey. Etc.

Yeah. Writing a blog post and writing a journal are similar, but I’ve turned this into something else… like, public-facing letters. This. This, too. It’s a letter. Like as if we could find a way back to those times we would send postcards (except, hey, mail gets lost… I’ve already heard that an envelope went awry because of floods in the southeastern United States and because of probably rules and things you can’t put into them towards Eastern Europe. Alas.)

But so? We have internet. So let’s use it. To connect. Say, maybe, this was a postcard, or written in pencil, maybe even cursive. (As you know, there are mostly keyboards around in the cafes here, these days).

 

The things we said yesterday

WELL, I SAID I’d write up what we talked about, didn’t I? Tell you what I heard, tell you as clearly as I can given the background noise (a large group of Ozzies, but they are family-oriented types, they seem to be having a very grownup conversation about whereabouts of the travels of the others; catching up). Mind, it would be easier to write if it was as quiet as when you were here and with far fewer distractions around. When it starts filling up, I feel like leaving a place. More about that to be reflected on, inwardly: when a place gets ‘discovered’ it’s time to move on. I had this short pice I wrote about Haapavesi, in Finland, and someone saw that and said, ‘You went to Haapavesi? Haapavesi!? You go to… peculiar places!’ (Oh. Do I? I guess… I’m looking for new things. And not the things that have already been written about, blogged about, instagrammed, blah blah.) Food coloring in my avocado in Bali. Food coloring so it would be greener. You know, for the instagram. (I returned it.)

Ahead. Well. Sure. Big topic. The things to come are what they are going to be, right? We talked about, in my words, ‘where the turn happened.’ Both of us, questing. Finding one another by sheer chance, in that magic moment that later in the day, I ran into K and he and I talked about that. Some more. And som either things about narratives, but it dived into something super fast-paced and multi-layered when that conversation shifted (place, moment) to another box of space, closer to BKK1, where M was waiting with an empty plate and a laptop and ready to talk. About. Everything. Which I love. And here we are again… S P A C E quests S P A C E, I’m starting to realize, and sometimes I bump into the likes of wonderful young women like you, O, and it reminds me that I have to keep writing towards you: and the others, who are probably, if you are anything like me, wondering what to make of ‘it all’ and how to plough forward into the rough seas of the darkness of not-knowing. A good question.

 

Forays and purple prose

THAT SHOULD be a book, really. A Book of New Things. Am working on it, with some friends, behind the scenes here, to be honest. (All kinds of meanders, wanders, forays into the field, but coming back, touching down, resonance-finding and discovering.) Recently, after asking for some advice about where to take DK in 2019, someone I don’t know well told me to get rid of, in a nice way, I mean, but to tone down all the flowery language. Ornamental verse, and all. Someone else had said that, too. ‘Just say it straight, DK. If you start getting attached to all the decorative writing, it’s nice, and all, but they won’t understand and they’ll just shake their heads and if they’re talking to you say, nicely, ‘I like this but I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.’ Noted. But you know? When I talk all flowery in real life, it’s a different kind of a moment. It’s actually… sometimes… welcomed, in a way, I feel? Maybe because it’s so rare that someone wants to talk in a way that sounds like it’s being written as she talks. I guess. That’s just. How I am, sometimes. Purple prose: it’s cool.

 

***

O, YOU WERE RIGHT. It is like a journal. Yet, I get to say ‘thanks’ here, to you. For saying it like it is: if we are the type of person who thinks a lot about a lot, often, and I mean, like, really often, and we have no idea if what we’re thinking about connects to anything else that anyone else is thinking about, and then we find each other, thinking about things often and a lot and deeply and even to a pint, sometimes, of losing it a little, (yes, it’s a thing), then yeah. We can relax a little. ‘Because someone else is taking care of that part, and caring about it,’ and stuff like that. Co-creating the Work of Doing It All Better… More some other time. Leave me a note if you see this?… (I had more here but I realize I wanted to spend more time writing properly; so tired from the Water Festival traffic, heat, etc. Hope you found your way around town and that it’s all okay with the little bro, too.)

Reality and trust

Update: S P A C E members are invited to weigh in at this page. 

 

TWO PEOPLE will know what the title of this post is about. Two. Just two. I met them yesterday. A and T. The question I posed to elicit these answers is a private one, something I won’t share outside of my innermost circles. (That’s just a handful of people, around the world, with whom I connect deeply and talk about ideas with regularly, over time. For progression and depth. More about that in a second. But together, we call this journey, a foray into S P A C E). For now, I need to say thanks. To A and T.

Thank you both for being there, on the rootftop, for sharing with me and admiring as we, who are tenderhearted and questing, the view of the half-moon beneath the clouded, darkened, past-dusk, and past-nine polluted skies and the redness of that lunar orb: vague and yet, alluring.

For the last few years, I’ve been focusing so much on how to ‘design’ for these kinds of moments. So much, that I forgot how to just let the universe lead me straight into them. Which, of course, is how I first started. Running into this: the magic. The art. Oi, but it’s getting big. Already. That’s okay. That’s where the good stuff is.

Acquaintanceship

INTRIGUE. There was the mystery of it that drew me to that exact spot, to contemplate it for a bit. But also: stopping. Standing still, for a moment. Atop the world, there, or, at least, atop Phnom Penh. I’m not much of a going-out type of person, but I’ve made a pact with myself to ‘try new things’ more often, especially in the town that’s been where I’ve been lucky enough to stop for a while and take stock of the things that, for me, have been sieved out to be the clear, wide understandings that say, together, ‘This counts.’

Like I said, there was another moment, in another bar, on another roof, in the same town, on the same topic that you and I, A and T, together, explored. Because I’m a sort of nerd about relational art, I have to bring it up: I have to think about how that thing that was rests next to this thing that is. (Is this reality?) More about that another day, maybe when we all get better acquainted.
Continue reading “Reality and trust”

S P A C E | ‘What is important to learn and know about?’

‘THAT IS EPISTEMOLOGY.’

‘Hm?’

‘Epistemology.’ [The branch of philosophy that studies the nature of knowledge, its presuppositions and foundations, and its extent and validity.]

‘Um.’

‘Do you know what that is, DK?’

‘No.’

‘Oh.’

‘…’

‘Well we should have coffee sometime. What you’re saying is very interesting. I’d like to continue.’

‘Well. I’m not doing coffee dates these days. I get tired of all the admin that comes with setting them up and moving them around. I like hosting stuff where you just combine everybody, now. Or trying to get a really intriguing discussion going, like a salon. Did that in India, a six-part series, talking about modernity and change in Sikkim… Beautiful place, have you been? Hm? Oh, Gangtok. Really great. Oh! I also really liked taking about the creative process in a thing called ‘MAKE.’ What? Yeah. I do. I really do. I like titling things. Concept art is that, really. You set it all up before hand and the art happens when it starts… you let it just play.’

‘…’

‘But yeah. Salons. Fun. Plus, placing people together in a highly designed space, S P A C E, I call it now, is, um, waaaay more interesting to me. To share and connect across well, chords of a circle, in a way. Hm? Chords? Sure, I can explain. Like this, wait. Let me show you.’

[Takes out sketchbook and a black pen. Draw this:]

 

 

 

 

‘See? Isn’t that more interesting, now, than just one li’l ol’ chord, on its own?… I really prefer the relational aesthetics, to just this thing. I kinda talk about it a lot more on my website. But yeah. Chords. Remember geometry in tenth grade? Wait, here. Where’s my red pen… Oh, there. Okay, I’m ready:’

[Draws:]

 

Chord: ‘A line segment connecting two points on a curve. The red line segment connecting two points on a circle’s circumference is a chord. Note: when the chord passes through the center of a circle it is called a “diameter”. Different, la.’

 

 

[Nervously] ‘Uhhh… Well I was thinking just coffee.’

‘Coffee dates with me tend to go on for two or four hours. Not even kidding. And with some people, 10 hours. And….’ [Smiling] ‘… once, for like, twenty days. Two years ago? That was fabulous, rare, beautiful, artful, insight-making, maturifying, two years on… even better. And we’re still talking. We talk like hell. It’s weird. I love it. But yeah. And I’m trying to get a new venture started, right now. A magazine called S P A C E. So, no? Besides, we just met.’

[Hurt] ‘But… but… I don’t get to have conversations like this ! You’re making me think. About things. In new ways. I can’t talk like this with my best friend, or my wife, or my colleagues. I really want more of this… Can we? Aren’t I just amazing? Besides, I’d like to get to know you better. Personally.’

‘Best thing to do is join one of our online programmes, ‘Philosophy of the Moment Section B’ starts soon, or come to one of our events. Or join the mailing list to see what’s going on. It’s all kinds of conversations like this. These are the active spaces. Meet me and everybody.”

‘Um. Well I only have a little time. So I could meet for coffee.’

[Ad-lib. Repeating the part about events and mailing lists. Elaborates on why. Goes into depth about the meaning of social spacemaking] ‘…. whatever remains after a set of  ‘get to know you’ seasons, I like to make something. With them. S P A C E is the thing I’m interested in. S P A C E quests S P A C E…’ [Smiling]

 

 

 

‘Well. That sounds hard and time-consuming.

[Stubbornly] ‘Nothing worth doing should be an instant gratification. If quality is important, I mean. To me. To me, it’s like this: Art. Takes. Time.’

‘…’

‘…’

‘Are your parents Marxists?’

[Laughs]

This is part of a series, 100 conversations. Underwritten by members of S P A C E.

The things to come

Phnom Penh // DK 2018

First editorial meeting today, for S P A C E | Phnom Penh, ‘Angle of Incidence.’

Discovering, sourcing, planning, sharing, connecting, interconnecting and framing. That’s what it is. To start.

Getting the team together. Organizing the pages without overthinking or over designing.

Leaving room for stuff to develop, other stuff to emerge. Being okay with things taking time. Being cool with letting go of what doesn’t fit, in the collection. Bricolage and collage being my ‘thing,’ along with relational art and the aesthetics around that, which academics write about (thank y0u) but which I, personally, design moments in which me, and hopefully others who also enjoy these things, can experience the ‘magic moment.’

AHEAD. New things, ahead. Grateful for the learning, and the reconsiderations of old things. For the replies to the notes I’ve been sending here and there around the world, and calls that I’m getting to make and enjoy relaxing into, too. For the responses to the poetry, for the notes and the critiques to the Winter 2018-9 collection’s editorial calendar. For the trust. For showing up. For the new rekindlings, deepening of some of what had begun, on my last trips here, and also, for the continued happening-upon new and different others that lands me here, time and time again, in S P A C E. Today was cool. It’s not over yet, but it’s been really neat. Booked tickets. Firmed up plans for the next stops. [To the wonderful urban planner, C, whom I just met today–hey! That was one hell of a conversation and very much needed. My questions again: how do we design and architect social spaces that ‘feel great’, but also, help people discover ways to think crticically and make choices that let them live better? What does a full city contain that an underdeveloped one doesn’t? What should be doing, as people who design spaces, and whose responsible for us ‘being happy’ and ‘living such as to become our best selves?’ Used to nerd about about these topics at walkable communities conferences Stateside and the time in Seattle interviewing loads and loads of engineers, city officials, and yeah, urban planners. The podcast I mentioned, is here. So yeah. Looks like Tuesdays are turning into S P A C E-y ones. Shall I make another thing? I can. I’m thinking maybe just two or three people now. It’s tiring, sometimes, to keep at it. But yeah. Sometimes you fall into the moment and it catches you by surprise. If you wanna talk about art, design, architecture, the shape of space, poetics, cities, and what gives the fabric of meaning to them, hey. I’m all in. Just hit me up.) To A and K: safe journeys. To A and R: SYS. And yeah. For anyone wondering what’s going on behind the scenes, here is where to join the conversation.]

Bohr on the illusion of truth

Discover #philosophyofthemoment

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

Philosophy of the Moment

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.

Update: Signup for more info about POTM…


Get info about ‘POTM’…

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‘What I want, DK!…’


LET ME ELABORATE.

ANTHOLOGY. We put together a cojournaling project, then compiled the collection of opt-in contributions in the short eBook, The Mirror, 2014. Ask me for a free copy.

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

Design Kompany’s first office in Seattle, shared space with one of our our clients, D+A Studio. Hanging in the window are the square-format photos by the talented Laura Totten, who was hip to the equal-sided image way before instagram. We collaborated to make a show, ‘Dazzle,’ to exhibit her works in our office space. A great party. A great memory. More things like this, to come. // Seattle, 2006

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.

Noted.


From out of left field

 

***

Niels Bohr

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.

Ichiro Suzuki

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…

Ichiro.

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

In 2014, S P A C E was a set of themed eBooks, six in all, on topics that felt like the right ones to dive into, with the circles of people we were in conversations with at those times.

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

‘Book of Blue’ popup collage and live drawing at jazZ happens!, Bangkok// ‘N’ afterparty, 2015

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.


POTM will be hosted by DK’s Dipika Kohli.

‘The secret is to just begin’ –As told to DK by A. at AOTZ

2016: Year of the Circle. Studies in relational aesthetics.

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?

A zine. Made in Phnom Penh, in 2014. This kind of thing set the stage for what became in 2017 the roving international popup, Atelier S P A C E.
Adrienne Moore and Barry Wilson, close friends of mine, at the opening reception for my show ‘Today I Love You’ in Durham NC 2012 //  Photo by the lovely and highly recommended Durham-based OMNI Studiophotos

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’m here, and I’m listening.

 

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‘What I want, DK!…’


Ira Glass and Neil Gaiman on the creative process

TODAY I AM CONTINUING to think about the creative process. It’s a follow-up from two things:

Science podcaster JR talks with DK on the work it takes to get good.

Exploring without knowing

MAKE 2, a conversation salon hosted by Dipika Kohli // Durham NC 2011

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.

 

Two videos

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?

SUGGESTIONS?

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.

This post and other stories are made possible by support of members of S P A C E. Discover more here.

 

 

Trust the process

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

‘Internet I Hate You’ popup art installation by DK, Malmoe 2015

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.

‘Saved by Wifi’ // Illustration by DK 2014

‘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.

And that’s fine. Because, like ES had put it once, it’s not for everyone.

And like RKP had said, ‘Find the art and magic.’

Where’s next?

Exactly.

 

Art of not knowing

Phnom Penh // DK 2014

WHERE IS NEXT? I HAVE NO IDEA.

And that’s okay.

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.

Well, from the near-distance view, I see on the horizon: Phnom Penh. For Atelier S P A C E || Phnom Penh.

But… the zenith. The quiet in the height. That’s… to me… that’s beautiful.

That’s where the art begins. Noticing.

Can you dig it?

Comments open, for a bit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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.

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 >

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?

Email me, maybe

‘TELL THEM in a relatable way, DK, why this is interesting, and how it will make their life better.’

‘No.’

‘You have to. If you want people to connect.’

‘I don’t know if… spelling it out… is really my thing.’

‘Well, if you want people to understand, then you have to. You’ve heard this before. It’s so esoteric. It’s inaccessible. You are like.. on cloud nine all the time. Far, far away. It’s like… you could be anywhere. Your imagination is… running around in a tornado. And we’re all like, ‘Where… where is DK?’

‘I’m right here. I’ve always been right here.’

‘But, I mean. Email? Who does email?’

‘I do!’

‘Email is for work.’

‘Email is for me.’

‘Do you know how hard it is to compose an email? It’s like… it’s like… a task. A to-do.’

‘I remember meeting someone who talked to me about this before, telling me I need to have some social media thing or something. That I should have that, that he uses it, that he loves being able to message friends anywhere, anytime, and just go, “What’s up?” And I’m like… I don’t want people to message me anytime anywhere to just go, “What’s up?” And so I was like, but is that a conversation that actually goes somewhere? He said, if it’s getting to be like, a paragraph, or really serious or something… and I nearly jumped out of my chair! A paragraph is serious? OMG. I bet people all around the world are thinking I’m trying to get really serious with them. But I’m not. I’m just sending a feckin’ email.”

‘…’

‘This was at a restaurant. In Malaysia. Their pick. We were eating dosas and they were terrible. I should have taken him and his friend to this other place I knew, that was way, way better, family run and some of the best roti I’ve ever eaten, serious, except for maybe Chandigarh and those alupanrantha nashta’s, wow, and out of the way from the tourist square. This was in Tanah Rata. This was in Cameron Highlands. This was one of my favorite little spots in the whole of Asia, but yeah, I loved meeting people every day and talking to them about Philosophy and Life and so on. Kooky stuff, at times, like the fourth dimension, but mostly, just a lot of talk about freelance life which people are fascinated by—my last day job was 2005—and I like to talk about the way I feel people should just do what they want and creatively could explore past the usual boxes if they were really interested in doing so—here is where their are hands raised and objections given like how do you do that when you need to be responsible and what society wants and your parents tell you and expectations and and oh but I have a family and la la la and I begin to grow exceedingly bored and so on, but occasionally they stay with me and keep asking, especially if they are in the age range of, say 22-27, because past that they are all about their option-hunting and don’t even care about actually producing something of value I feel but rather showing that they are attempting to make something of impact, whatever that means and it’s such hot air and leads to nothing concrete or useful, again my opinion, but yeah, the younger ones, they stay with you, they listen, I am thinking about that time I went to Kampot on my own and discovered this (lookin’ at you, AP), but yeah, that was the first time there was an inkling of a glimmer of a hope that we, We as in Society, are not all done for yet because the younger ones are there and inquisitive and alert and smart and curious and yeah, the best part, they care about quality, or at least, they know what it looks like when it falls into their laps—and they ask it questions, like, ‘What does this mean? And they don’t get distracted by bleeping things on the table, because their *!*& phones, wherever they are keeping them, are not on their minds or on the table thank goodness when they’re conversing with me. They listen. They really, do. They can hold eye contact. And yeah, when this happens and the stage is set for what I like to call S P A C E, then yeah, things are about to get really fun. Because then it gets weird and big and expansive and heady and that’s the stuff of the real heart of DK, what gave us our ‘this is who we are’ stuff when we were freelancing in Seattle, and what landed us in the new contracts and gigs and stuff on the road, even, for these five years. Weird, right? The road and freelancing, and better yet, consulting. I mean, this is really… fun. But yeah. This lifestyle choice and living it interests people; the ‘how’ of it, for some, which is really boring for me to relate, but the ‘why’ of it for others which is far, far more extraordinary. Of course, most people aren’t ready for that conversation—I fought with WH about it, once, weirdly–so we just dip in to basics: the writing process, the characters, the narratives, the interweaving, and so on. It’s all right. Fine. This is what it means to share yourself with others, isn’t it? You go into the smalltalk and you answer their questions. Et cetera. I’m not really a hermit, you know. That time I was telling you about. That was good, too. I think we talked for like 8 hours. I’m pretty sure I’ll never hear from either of them. Because this is why. At like 3AM or something, I said that if they want to reach me, there’s an ‘about’ page and a contact form on my website, which hey, let me just say it now and you can see if you can remember it, and that form, if you find it, and use it, that should do quite nicely. For continuing. If continuing is of interest. Which for me, well, it’s up to you. I’m cool with whatever–I meet people every single day, all the time, all over the place. Mostly in public spaces. Third places, just google it, or here is ‘third place’ on wikipedia, when I’m in the mood for them. Cafes. Libraries. Airplanes. But yeah. They were like, “A form? Email?” And then it was all this resistance about email! And I was like, ‘But if you actually do it, then I know you’re interested in conversing. And I’m only interested in conversations that go places, that take a little effort, you know? They have to mean something. I’m not interested in collecting you, or your friend here, or anyone. I don’t want a collection of people I never talk to for real about anything real. Know what I mean? So email me. Or don’t. I can see that you won’t. In which case, this is enough, right? This right here, right now, shared moment. Is. Enough. Good luck.’

‘But… it’s hard to use email now.’

‘I know!’

‘It’s easier to use social media.’

‘I don’t care.’

‘You’re not easy to get to know.’

‘Of course I’m not.’

‘Why?’

‘I like my friends that I already have. I like the people who I’m meeting and connecting with in S P A C E. I like the new friends I am making in the places where I go, in real life, on the ground. For example, here in Finland. So unlikely that I would make actual friends here, but wow, it happens. I mean, black humor, for example, meshes really well with my comics. I put the new ones, ‘Midsummer Magic,’ and ‘I’m So Lonely,’ into the new zine installation that’s on display right now and will be up through the weekend because Saturday is International Zine Day and everything, and yeah, it’s a lot of fun because they get it, the way I write it. People here, I mean. Have the same wry humor. And appreciate my comics. So I’m making more of them in August.’

‘About what, may I ask?’

‘Certainly. About mental disorders.’

‘Mmm.’

‘You can ask me about it. Email me, maybe? Here’s a form.’

This is part of the series ‘100 Conversations’, sponsored by members of S P A C E.

Why marketers are liars

A LONG TIME AGO, I used to blog here every single day. This was at a time when WordPress was just coming out, facebook wasn’t a thing yet, and no one had an inkling of what instagram would do to us. Twitter was there, but it was still just for the geeks, and when you wrote the blog, people actually went to it, and left comments. Those were fun times. In fact, the blog was where we found most of our new clients: people somehow, I think, felt that they could trust our open style, and what someone called ‘your transparency.’ Is that what it is, when you write what you mean, and say what you feel, directly? I think it must be. So many facades out there. So many ways of tricking people into clicking something or buying something that doesn’t really fit with their needs, or even add up to what they imagined it would be. We have so many—too many, I feel—ways to be influenced by something we think is one way and want desperately to believe in, but in fact, turns out to be a dud. Why does this happen?

I think I’m learning a little bit this summer about why it happens. I think, for one, we fall in love with a projection of something we feel a lack of, in ourselves. So the marketers are so clever they make it like what they are selling is what you need, exactly. Much like horoscope writing, what they say lacks specificity and the terms are so big and vague and one-size-fits-all-ish that anyone might believe in what they are being told. You try to and come up with something that has real quality to it, and you try to tell people that, and my goodness, you are looked at like you are some kind of Martian. Why? Because people are so used to being sold to that they want, well, they want you to sell it to them. Whatever ‘it’ might be. Every so often, someone says it to me: ‘You need to sell this better, DK,’ for example. I find myself feeling like I did when I wore black jeans, black shoes’ and black t-shirts and zipped around New York City’s Manhattan up and down the roads at my fastest on my very dark green, almost-black bicycle. What the hell do I need to sell it to you for? Look at the damn thing. But no. Not these days. These days it’s, ‘You need a speech.’

Do I need a speech?

No.

 

‘No, I don’t need a marketing spiel.’

NO. Not for the people I want to connect with. Not for my audience. My audience is people who read long blog posts, like, even this far. They aren’t going to complain to me about how it was ‘TLDR.’ They like quality, they like good thoughtful considered points of view that come out when one is also interested in good, thoughtful, considered points of view and has listened to many others words and wisdoms. I mean, wow. The world. Order. Is so weird now. I feel. I am writing a narrative in my head, though, aren’t I? I’m connecting dots based on a projection of what I feel. That is just as bad as the whole being duped by marketers. Feckin’ hell, really. I mean, we cannot let ourselves get caught in the trap of letting our minds race around in a whirlpool, so fast, so quick, so off the mark from reality, that they consume us and keep us from seeing what’s, in fact, right in front of us.

‘The Prospect of Beauty’ // Singapore // Photo by DK 2017

The pursuit of beauty has, for many, many years been one of the recurring things in this blog that I loved to write about. Back in those days of daily posts, for example, I would write a whole series on this. Or, ‘In Search of Meaning.’ So yeah. ‘In Pursuit of Beauty’ and ISOM became my favorite categories. (Oh. If you’re wondering what happened to the old blog–so am I, kind of. It was downloaded to a laptop so we could refigure what we were gonna do in Asia with DK, and then, wham, that laptop got stolen. And no, the backup… isn’t with us or in the cloud, but some old bits and pieces are probably on some CD somewhere at a friend’s house somewhere, at least, I hope so.)

Our IT lads say the CD is not going to last forever, that the archives that we left will also fade away. Here I could write some kind of poetic soliloquy on ephemera, but I’ll save it for S P A C E guests of ‘Slow Moment‘. (I am blogging publicly, here, but saving my best stuff for S P A C E. Better. We talk in the comments. It’s way more relational that way. A real conversation. Instead of… I don’t know. What is this? Blogging. Erm. One to many.)

I don’t like that. I don’t like… the whole… lurker thing. I mean, if you’re reading and you like this stuff, and you want to say, just say hi!

Here is a form. I will continue this another day. I’m feeling a little corny right now, listening to Finnish pops on the radio and kind of starting to recognize some of the repeating artists. What I always get a kick out of is when the songs come on from the 80s and 90s. Roxette, for example. Look Sharp! I remember! And so much Phil Collins. And Michael Jackson. And Tina Turner. Then there’s A-Ha, which is lovely, and more stuff. The Finnish rap is fun, too. I am enjoying all of this bundling of various; it’s refreshing, and a change from where I usually live. Which is, uh. Currently: Destination Unknown.

Mm. After Finland, it’s ‘To the Unknown!’ again.

Oh wait. I promised the form.

Say hi?

Making time for tea and friends

‘SO YOU’VE TRAVELED the world.’

‘Um.’

‘You have.’

‘Um.’

‘You’ve been everywhere, DK. You lived in… Japan, in Cambodia… where you wrote Breakfast in Cambodia, am I correct?, yes, I thought you had said that, and of course the places where you grew up, too. You have seen and done a lot. Now you have to make something out of that. For all of us to experience it, through your eyes.’

‘That’s a tall order!’

Photo by visual artist Seo Jin Ahn, 2018

‘It is. But you can do it, DK. Show us. Show us the world.’

‘Um.’

‘Art, right? Art can show us new perspectives? Isn’t that what you like to say, all the time? How it can make you stop, and think, in new ways?’

‘Um. This conversation isn’t going to be easy.’

‘I never said it would be easy.’

‘The world is right in front of us, but we just have to let ourselves see it.’

‘How do you do that?’

‘Slow down. Notice. Show up. Make time. Keep it real. Do no harm. All that.’

‘Like last night?

‘The tea party? Yeah! I didn’t know it was going to be such a warm, cozy affair. It was, though. We had just three, in the end. I had invited some people here and there around town, halfheartedly, admittedly, because I’m not one of those people who likes to throw a raging party, rather, I like small, quiet circles. Very small circles. Kind of like with the online projects: just a few of us, talking together. Quality, in depth. No superficial mumbo-jumbo and muscle-flexing and peacocking and so on. I hate that. You go out into the usual spaces where people mix and honestly, it’s a zoo. Why we get caught up in this dance of displaying something… facade-making… I have no idea about. I think it’s because people are incredibly bored.’

‘And lonely.’

‘And lonely.’

‘Yes.’

‘Which reminds me. I’m working on a new comic book. About Finnish, um, black humor.’

This is part of a series, 100 conversations. Made with the support of members of S P A C E.