Eavesdropping in Kuala Lumpur

‘Not a suit. But suitlike.’

I’VE JUST ARRIVED. It’s twenty to one. A man in a nice cotton blue suit-jacket, not quite a suit, mind, but a suit-like thing, was hanging around momentarily. Ostensibly waiting for his coffee to be made, fresh for a take-away (a pet peeve of mine, personally, the take-away cup). But there comes a woman. Equally well put-together. Both wear light cotton pants, hers are white, his are a little less white, but still, nicely offset by the blue. I think I mentioned the blue already. Yes, yes I did. I think I was thinking about the color emerald green… yesterday… I was thinking about a certain otherworldly Northern Europe color palette, a tendency towards the muted colors. Yes, I like those, too. Had gone through a phase of that. Bluegreys. Seattle. One of my homes. Another one is turning out to be Kuala Lumpur. Keep coming back here to host things, it feels like. And I love the atmosphere, the color, the texture, the city vibe. And all this great teh halia, too. See stuff DK and friends have hosted here, at this page, DesignKompany.com/Malaysia. (HT TS: ‘Don’t ask me where I’m from, ask me where I’m local.’)

 

Beyond the edge of the world

Seattle

SEATTLE. I remember. A lot of rain fell, and then, the cloudburst came, in the form of ‘The Dive,’ (Kismuth Books // 2012), which I realize I must have talked about a lot, in many places, but in short fragments, a lot of things come in short fragments, don’t they? And then you go into the quiet zones, and stay there. Perhaps too long. Because when you forget how to speak up, speak forward, speak without muting your voice too terribly much for fear you’ll be chastised, chided, critiqued, questioned, challenged, humiliated, or otherwise made to feel bad about the fact that you are you, and you alone, unique as DNA, then being purposeful and insistent in holding out and sharing with others the very you that is you becomes, well… hard. Because you’re worried. Anxious. Uncomfortable. It’s uncomfortable to be the very you that is you. Of course it is. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t—it’s okay and it’s easy to say and words are cheap; sometimes they are, of course at other times they are very exquisite, not cheap at all, not cheap… but then there comes his coffee.

One now. Almost the time for the office workers to come in. I’m taking up two tables. I better collate this stuff. Maybe get going. Too many people; it’s uncomfortable. I might say I’ve become more Finnish, in this regard, but I think it was always there, and underscored when I had lived in Seattle. A tendency towards being more alone, than with others. Wanting a lot of room around me. Not liking the oppressiveness of being in the airspace of too many people in too small a room. It’s happening. I’m starting to feel it. Suffocation. But, wait. It’s not that bad. It’s still Malaysia. It’s still developed. There isn’t going to be a lot of noise and there won’t be dust or dirt. The people will shuffle in, and as quickly, shuffle out. They will. They are in motion. They are on the clock. Time. Time is a thing, for some people. I get it. They have to go punch in, punch out. Me? What am I? Slowing down. Slowing in the moment. But maybe this is the wrong environment for that. I’m wishing I could be in Melakka, too. I was there. I liked it there. The weekdays are a better time to be there. But I’m here, preparing for Phnom Penh. Sounds odd, writing that. Haven’t I tried, many times, to ‘move on’ from there? But… the question is a real one, and smacks and smarts: to where? Where is the next home? It’s a big, open field, and you can go in any direction. Instead of getting lost in the amorphous not-knowing, though, I’m learning to embrace it. The field is one of my homes, too. Like the road. And North Carolina. And Seattle. And, and…. Phnom Penh. Four years is a long time to be parked there. Four years, writing nothing much, really, except for, oh yeah, Breakfast in Cambodia. A two-year anniversary of that little book just passed. I’m happy about this. I can try again, for something different. Maybe finally finish ‘Socheata’s Comb.’

Back to KL. Back to right now.

 

Kuala Lumpur // DK 2018

Real life is the stage

I AM READYING to make a move. Or maybe not. If they leave, I’ll stay. If they stay, I’ll leave. She is asking him something. He is saying something else. They are acquainted. They talk about weathers. Not the hurricanes, like I am doing in emails with people in North Carolina, because of the flooding in the east of that state, but about… well, the sun and Melbourne and smalltalk. Smalltalk is nice, has its place, at times. No? Of course it does. Work colleagues, maybe. I try to assess. They are cordial. Do they work in some kind of fashion retail outlet? Perhaps they are middle managers. Perhaps, perhaps.

My mind makes up stories. Connects dots that aren’t quite there, but might appear to be in places if, after some amount of time observing the stage of real life, always the most exciting, could become rather realistic. Reality. The strangest sort of fiction. Or is fiction real? I don’t know. What am I talking about? These are the kinds of things that gather momentum here, when it is not yet lunch rush and the caffeine is starting to find its jolt. The jolt that makes the story. The sentences place themselves, one in front of the other. I go back to writing, perhaps. The man leaves, in a hurry; it is abrupt. She is not worried. She is not even moved. She barely acknowledged him, anyway, I noticed, at the start. No one was trying too hard to start talking. That’s okay. That’s fine. You don’t have to talk all the time. Gosh, if I didn’t learn that in Finland.  She was on her phone. So was he. Both of them distracting themselves or pretending to. Looking at things. Texts and so on. He had tried to make eye contact. That is a thing unknown to some of the younger ones. They may dress impeccably, but they don’t notice the noticing. And that’s where the breakdown begins, isn’t it? Of communicating from ap lace that’s honest, real, raw, and unfiltered. Facades get in the way of relating. And I guess that’s why, for the first time in a long time, I’m okay writing again, in first person. More on the way. More to share. More, in the form of short books, long books, poems, novellas, plays. And, best of all, co-creations.

Listening in to other people’s conversations… stories of: moneymaking plans, insurance, school and work, weather banter, international transit, general exchanges on the exchange of services and goods, rubber, fear of other, mistrust, putting up with things, and, of course, celebrating a new government, with an optimism. The kind that says, ‘Some glimmer of things to come shan’t be smothered, now.’ That’s the feeling, this go around, here in Kuala Lumpur.

Back in November, for this.

Join S P A C E and be part of the international, asynchronous forums and online salons from October. (Which is when we begin again with a select set of candidates from around the world newly discovered, for the salon, ‘Philosophy of the Moment.’) Scholarships available. Application required. Learn more here

Direction of motion, friction and planes

THUNDERSTORM. But not as bad as it might become, and quickly. so I’ll stay where I am yet a bit.

Am thinking about the conversation just now.

 

Motion and formula

The one about going with the flow. About going out of where you’re used to, in order to see what else is there. Taking risks. Stepping out. Going. Going, is the point. I remember talking about the coefficient of static friction being greater than the coefficient of kinetic friction, once, on a very different journey, to try to put it into some kind of easy-to-understand visual. But of course that is eleventh (or twelfth, depending on where you grew up) grade physics. 

(The inclined plane, anyone? The mass and the force of gravity and the normal force, equal and opposite reactions, Newtonian physics, etc, and so on?) Those things change when we get quantum, but hey, most of the people in charge of things are still, let’s face it, in some kind of denial that there re still Things Not Yet Explainable by these Modern Methods of Science. We have no idea. In other words. We have no idea. Still, Bohr told them then to ‘Believe in the Existence of Atoms.’ I guess there is always going to be someone out there doubting something, smearing the thing that is emerging as a kind of paradigm shift, because it’s uncomfortable. And here we go, back to friction.) I want to talk about ‘frictionless coexistence,’ like we did in The Mirror. I want to talk about inclined planes. I want to continue my conversation with PC iabout d-v-a-t formulas and then start a new one with KE and MV about imaginary numbers and string theory.

Found on a diagnostic exam for third grade math skills: ‘No calculators! This is a third grade math test’

The journeys are alighting.

The rain is starting. Stopping. And starting up again.

Let me change tables. Sit outside a bit. Where there is more airflow; where there might be a new nugget of a kernel of an idea that inspires the ripple of a tug of a stone on the surface of the new lake. A lake, say, in the middle of northern Finland, where the sun sets as the moon rises, simultaneously, in the month of June.

Koivu, DK’s new book about the summer of ‘white nights’ in Finland, is set to release autumn 2018. Learn more.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Point and Line to Plane

FOR THE FIRST TIME, probably in a long time, instead of a long ramble, I’m going to tell you a story. About the time I met L.

The reason I want to bring this up is manyfold, but begins and ends, I think, in Kuala Lumpur. Which is where I have just returned to, and where I keep popping in, it seems, for two- or three-month blocks. Looking for the story, is what I had said, before. But it’s more than that. It’s looking for the life.

‘It’s not that I want to make a living from these zines,’ I had said, at that tea place with many shelves of carefully arranged books on feminism, cooking, and LGBTQ features. ‘I want to make these zines live. And you need to have great stories for that to work. To really work, I mean.’ What was I talking about? The dream quality was there, that day. You know that one, right? When time slows, almost stops. You notice this kind of thing, especially when you are alone, on the road, waiting for tea, waiting for the rain. Looking at the bookshelves, but only kind of. Most jacket spines were writ in Chinese.

The Book of Ennui // DK and friends, Phnom Penh, 2016

So in the end, I was reading nothing at all, for once, instead writing in my head, writing blank columns into the aetherspace of just-zoning-out. Same like the moment I chose to amble up those stairs (unmarked, curious, vaguely intriguing), and into the cafe-cum-bookshop’s front atelier. But I peeked over the edges of uncomfortable-looking but perfectly-colored red sofas. Of course I did. Was there a backroom?

There was.

It had a large window that looked out onto a balcony. Floor to ceiling windows. I love those. I followed the sightline.

That’s when I saw her. L.

Her things arranged meticulously around her, but I could tell, for a long time, she wasn’t paying attention to those bits. Paper, a laptop, some cords, some phone stuff, maybe a few more electronic things that I couldn’t identify, really, because I’m out of touch with that kind of thing. I stick to paper, still, believe it or not. Pencil, paper, scissors, glue.

But.

L.

She was elsewhere. In the just-beyond, in a way, at least, that’s how it seemed, to me, on that afternoon with a soft rain, not the monsoon, but the lighter kind, about to fall.

‘Ever since I met you,’ she would say in not that much time, ‘which was ten minutes ago, I feel like I could really… connect.’

Et voilà.

Enter the heart of S P A C E.

 

Kandinsky’s window

AS IT IS WITH BEGINNINGS, it is, too, with the middles, I think, of the space that is shaped when we go around the bend, see what might be there, and begin to go quiet into the space of just-being. Maybe a couple of minutes passed, maybe a few hours. I can’t be sure. I’ll never be sure. She was there, and I was there, and we talked at length about many, many things related to, hey, feminism, and showing up, and real life, and circumstances, and how things change, and where we are, and, of course, uncertainty. My beat. I write about this, I talk about this, I calculate nothing really, anymore. The second law of thermodynamics was how it all began, in a summer classroom half a world away, sitting there, Mann Hall, N. C. State. Was that where? It was. A summer of learning how things flow, where turbulence arises, how entropy works (or how we think it does), what professors can do with a constricted schedule that blocks classes into longer hour-periods, instead of longer weekly semesters. Summer and then. But… I’m getting nostalgic for another time; that won’t do. That is a distraction. That takes away from here, hijacking the moment. This moment. Now. (Not to get distracted further, but um. The future. Ask me sometime about an upcoming salon, ‘Kandinsky’s Window,’ which is about the viewfinder of the street window, and the life that’s just beyond… ask me sometime about the book Point and Line to Plane, too. I’m always more than happy to talk non-Euclidean or multidimensional bric-a-brac in the forum-space, ‘Strange Geometries.’) But first, let me quickly recount the short, real conversation that happened when I met someone who reminded me in every way of the people I love discovering, on the road, in the moment, away from everything, because they have that expressiveness in the eye that says, ‘Well, hello, who are you?’ But she said—

‘Hi.’

And I said–

‘Hi.’

(Things start so simply, don’t they?)

Geometries and strangenesses, the ever-changing shape of space. Is L. in Kuala Lumpur? Will we meet again? I don’t know. I can’t know. Nothing is for sure. (Remember, uncertainty is my beat.)

‘There is so much bad art in the world.’

‘Yes. Yes there is.’

Conic sections

What’s good? What’s quality? Where can we go to find it? We can seek theories in books, or write essays that philosophize about these big questions. But we can also go into the quiet space. The in-betweens—where, I’m finding, at least for me, things like ‘good’ and ‘quality’ and ‘beauty’ and, yes, I’ll say it, ‘magic,’ exist and co-exist. Here in the edge-finding rooms where we go, now, me and the people I write and talk deeply with, at length, in conversation salons or put-together-in-this-now gatherings that may be impromptu, spontaneous, planned or unplanned, well, here is where we are headed. The magic moment. I know, I know. You want me to spell things out. ‘Make it clear, DK, what this is and why it will make my life better.’ Well, truth is, I can’t do that. I can only show you what I feel when I feel the magic moment happening to begin. It’s really… um. It’s… well. It’s personal. I can’t share that kind of thing in the public blog space, which is why I resort to protected-page forums.

In which there is… well. Sharing. Conversation. Connection and interconnection. One designful moment at a time. I can’t really begin to describe all the magical things that happened when people connected across S P A C E here and there, like in The Mirror in the early part of the year, and currently, we’re going to be finishing something soon called Slow Moment. I’m humbled and grateful for the chance connections that have led to new thinking, new input, new… feelings. It’s where the world of imagination and heart can take us: it’s where we can begin to slow down, let go of our inhibitions, disclose things that might feel very hard to open up about, and, in this way, build new shoots and germinate anew.

On the bus on the way from Helsinki city center to Vantaa for the airport, I met someone from my part of the world. With my very accent. My style of speech. My idioms, my cultural references, my diction, my slang. But: we did not relate. I couldn’t. There wasn’t the same quality of space there that there had been elsewhere. Just because we share the same passport doesn’t make us familiar. What makes us familiar is the intricate and curious longing to go somewhere else, to seek, to quest, to discover. And not make it into a big deal: to just go.

 

The magic of now

‘The Book of Time’ // DK and friends, Phnom Penh, 2016

LATELY, I’ve revised my thoughts about what ‘art’ is. Dislcaimer: I spent like ten minutes in art school, this was in Brooklyn, this was a zillion years ago, and I’ve been pushing around in the world, ever since, I think, trying to feel it instead of think about it. In moments, it arrives: that feeling. The one that says, ‘This. This is art.’ I’ll tell you more about that in a second. But first, what is not. (To me. Everything is relative, after all.)

It’s not a book or a novel or a painting or a YouTube video. It’s not a song or a worked-over collage that no one will ever see. It’s not the words in the diaries that someone who wrote them wonders if their great-grandchildren will read and somehow recall them, or at least, know a hint of a whisper of their having-been. No. Art is closer to us than any of those things. Art happens, to me, in the quiet stillness, in the noticing of: being here now.

Which happens at a specific kind of moment.

The moment of something that has turned, somehow, into a kind of novelty. A real life meeting, eye to eye.

These days, to me, the making of art isn’t the accruing of ‘stuff.’

These days, to me, art is simpler.

Art is showing up.

The good stuff follows, thence.

 

This is a part of the series, ‘100 conversations,’ inspired by real encounters with real people, and is supported by members of S P A C E.

This post is for L.

7 Sept | Popup zinemaking atelier in KL

ZINES. Conversation. Real life. In an age where the internet can confuse and lie to us, ‘zines’ (xeroxed short publications we make ourselves and give our friends) give us a tangible grip on the *here and now*, and remind us that at the end of the day, *we* get to create and write our own stories: the stories of our lives, the stories that remind us who we are. Make. Eat. Drink, and relax with us to put together your own 8-page zine. We’ll show you how.

*** UPDATE: Be sure to grab a special discount when you apply the code ‘DKlovesyou’ at the event page (where it says ‘Enter promotional code.’) ***

 

Zines at Oulu Arts Night in Finland, 2018 // Photo by DK

Continue reading “7 Sept | Popup zinemaking atelier in KL”

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.

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 >

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?

Affirmations

WHAT A FUN DAY.

I didn’t know that we would get together with the small group that we did for our event, but wow. We did. People had warned me: ‘Don’t expect too much; it’s a small town.’ I never expect anything, these days. I mean, with the conversation salons that I host that have such esoteric titling as ‘Rooftop Philosophy,’ for example, or ‘Beauty: what is it, who gets to decide?’ or, hey, this really happened, ‘The Book of Time,’ I never expect anyone

‘The Book of Time’ salon // Photo by DK 2016

to come. But they do. Occasionally, they do.

And when they do, when they self-select to become part of ‘the experience’ as I think of S P A C E now, when I talk about it to my close associates and friends and mentors and when I begin to form budding partnerships with people who are also in the same line of work as me (making space for remarkable connexion), then yeah. It happens… we talk about what brought us out of our daily lives and into the shape of space that lets us slow for a moment, take the time out from the usual, and discover something about ourselves—together. It’s nice.

It really has been a pleasurable day of conversations and slow moments. Even with the new rain. A respite from the heat wave (?) that we were having here in Finland. (Did I say ‘we?’ Hm. How easily I adapt to wherever I am.)

New things.

But.

By invitation only.

From here on, rather than hosting something and asking lots of people to come, and wondering if they will, the new angle will be much more personal. I guess it’s always been more ‘us’ that way, really. The parties in the nineties in Raleigh, for example. Or after that, in West Cork, then Seattle, then Durham NC. The salons in Phnom Penh, Bangkok, and a smidge of stuff to begin, perhaps, in Kuala Lumpur. And of course smatterings of things in Scandinavia–where I find myself returning (Sweden, Denmark, now Finland. Norway is next, isn’t it.)

Personal connection, though. Is what we’re into. And we used to do that more. Calling. Writing letters, even. Remember? All of that stuff we used to do before it got social media-y and less ‘call me and I’ll be there’-ish.

Now, returning to the past.

Style.

Of reaching out to just a handful of people, one person at a time, and inviting them to just exactly the kinds of things that DK’s Akira Morita and Dipika Kohli together feel would make sense. For them. In very small circles we can get more deep and more conversational, more quickly. I prefer small scales, really. Small is lovely. You have a good time. You’re making something, together, on the spot, and you’re getting to participate more when there are fewer people. As a host, I like it this way. Super opt-in. Relaxed. Low-key.

Taking the concepts, learning, gatherings, and growth and creating more moments for others to connect in remarkable ways. The shape of which we call S P A C E. Installations like today remind us not to quit. Not yet.

Because there is still learning.

And the learning is good.

Special thanks to Cafe Onni and guests today at Hei Kesä. 

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?

Tervetuloa viettämään aikaa, juttelemaan, valmistamaan oma uniikki zine

TERVETULOA viettämään aikaa, juttelemaan, valmistamaan oma uniikki zine. Aikuiset ja yli 6v. Hinta 10€, lapset ilmaiseksi. Sis materiaalit, kahvin ja leivoksen. Facebook: Hei Kesä.

CAFE ONNI and Design Kompany jointly host ‘Hei Kesä’ on Saturday, 21 July. Celebrating International Zine Day as well as time talking together in real life, this is an occasion not to be missed. It combines food, friends, family, and fun.

Relaxing at Cafe Onni, and making zines.
DK fell in love with Cafe Onni’s colorful atmosphere.
On display: zines by Design Kompany inspired by the colorful summer in Finland.

Discover the ‘zine,’ color with us, or just enjoy the time socializing. We’ll have pastries. Coffee and tea. And a demonstration of how to make your very own 8-page ‘zine.’ For creative people of all skill levels, this event is for anyone ages 6 and up. Tickets are €10, which includes something to eat and drink, and the event is free for children 12 and under. Find the event on Facebook, here.

FESTIVAL OF THE ZINE. This event is part of a daylong celebration, a mini ‘Festival of the Zine.’ Read the full programme here.

An architecture of S P A C E: ‘Quality basic ingredients’

IT IS 11.30PM and I am wide awake. In fact, the night is young, here in the north of Finland where it will not get dark for another two hours, then the light will dim a bit, then it will be almost dark enough to need to turn on the light, and then, voila!, the sun will pop back up out of just over there, about a twenty degree angle away from where it went down. Behind the trees. Beside the river. When the sky turns pink, you know it’s almost time. Then again it may be raining, in which case, wait a bit. It will be harder to spot, when the dark dip occurs. 

In this post, I want to share a little bit about the design intent behind S P A C E, and how the architecture of it has come into form from the time it was first conceived, in a borrowed room in Delhi at the top of 2014. But I’ll start from yesterday.

My weekend has been packed with quiet moments. Slowing, stilling. Writing to the new guests who have just joined me in the online photo journaling conversation salon, ‘Slow Moment.’ It really is happening. That’s what’s awesome about design. You kind of start with a thing that you want to see in the world: you envision it. Then you backcalucate ways to make that happen. 

 

Design is making meaning

DK make S P A C E for remarkable connexion. No dogma. No agenda. Flat hierarchy. An open floor.

WHAT IF I could block a full 12 weeks just to the exploration of a single question: ‘How can I slow down to see now?’ This was the start of how ‘Slow Moment’ got designed. Even better, what if I could invite some of the most talented photographers, writers, and friends I have met over the dozen or so years that we have been doing DK to be part of the emerging conversation? That’s what is going on, now. That’s what we are making. Together.

I am lucky to know these people, to have them be part of my circle of acquaintanceship and conversation partners in all things related to aesthetics, science, physics, life, poetry, the pursuit of beauty, the love of color, the search for meaning, politics and ideology, social justice, software design, engineering, architecture, and more.

You go around the world with your eyes and heart open, and magic happens.

People find you. They tell you things. You then learn to embed these things into your own fabric, weaving what sticks into the next. That’s collage and bricolage. That’s relational art. That’s… hell, that’s living. And I got the start of this design idea many times before: I wanted to have ‘mix it up’ parties, over and over again, from the time I was very young, to gather people and connect them, but not people of one stripe: people of many kinds of styles and accents, viewpoints, and experiences. That’s interesting, to me. That’s where we learn that we don’t have to agree on everything. So much variety: a vivid ecology of humanity.

 

‘Let’s talk jazz’

The first issues of S P A C E centered around Kepler’s ellipses and Platonic solid stuff. MS noticed. That was cool!
In 2016 in London, we got to hold a real book by Kepler! Nearly cried. Then actually cried. HT Sokol Books.

WHO WANTS TO BE BORING, I mean, really? Who wants to do the same thing with the same people all the time? Who wants to stay home and never budge? Who wants to insist on one way of thinking about things, and not be open to the possibility to be changed by what she or he might hear? If you’re happy with the status quo, this is as far as you should read. If you love improvisation and the interconnection and unexpectedness and surprise, let’s keep jamming. Because it’s about to get good.

In 2014, I tentatively made S P A C E. I cared about it. I still do.

I care about it a lot.

Not just because I’ve always wanted to run a magazine, but had a hunch that the kinds of topics I want to write and share about would never fly with mainstream audiences (the multiverse, anyone?… oh, wait. HL, hey! I see you there.)

Atelier S P A C E in KL // Photo by DK 2018

S P A C E invites people from all kinds of places and walks of life–except the close-minded. It necessarily precipitates, by its very design, the kinds of individuals who are seeking and are curious, who want to discover, who are not yet so jaded they’ve checked out from life, who are ready for a different kind of jam. And it is a jam. If you know me, you know I love jazz in particular of all music genres because it invites improvisation and the jam.

That is why I am hoping to interview MA sometime soon. (M, if you are reading this, expect a call from me. Let’s talk Finland. Let’s talk jazz. Let’s talk about designing stages for magic moments, and how I can do that more artfully with a cultural awareness when it’s 21 July. Thanks for being in touch. I will follow up. I usually do, on the important things, and with the people whose thinking peppers new influences on my own. Paprika and mustard–speaking of flavors and accents–are kind of hitting the spot, lately, in the new cuisines I’m getting to sample. When I’m not just hanging out eating leaves and seeds and sprouts with rye bread, or muesli, or boiled eggs, and other things that are really about the simple basic ingredients and not a lot of flair.)

 

SMPLCTY

Zining in Finland // DK 2018
Reception for ‘Today I Love You’ art show by DK // Photo by OMNI Studiophotos 2012

I GUESS that’s my style: use good quality materials, and make something out of them that has a personality to it all its own. ‘Your cooking style is like how you make the books,’ said YL, who was living in the house with us up until the end of June. I laughed when she observed it; she had really keen sensibilities and could see things clearly. But she was right. I make things out of what’s there. I collage with what’s at hand. I find people I really enjoy talking with, and I gather us, in the same spirit of collage, in instances, in S P A C E. The Mirror happened in this way. A Nomadic Existence. Those were online. The real life ones were too numerous to bring up here, but some highlights for me were: ‘Hello August’ in Phnom Penh, ‘Choices’ in Siem Reap, ‘Gather’ in Seattle, and ‘The State of Publishing’ in Durham NC.

The State of Publishing salon in Durham NC // Photo by DK

All good mixes of people, all smatterings of happened-upon conversations that led to the conversation salons that got those of us who I imagined would enjoy connecting with one another into a space where they could then interconnect. Did you come to MAKE? Scale? The reception for ‘Today I Love You?’ Did you join us at Kornerhaus for ‘Flourish: What is the role of the artist?’ Or maybe one of the dessert parties–Sugar in Seattle, for example, or the same idea–bring yourself and a dessert–when we were in the southwest corner of Ireland? Those were the early days of beginning to understand that the drama is the conversation, that the eloquence is artful, that content is huge, but so, in many ways is something else: caring.

 

Every thing I learned about writing, I learned in County Cork

CARING ABOUT the subject. Caring about the audience. Caring about the people who will be there, say, in the pub with you if you are in County Cork waiting for the lads to arrive and the rounds to begin. Johnny Don’t Go to Ballincollig, Johnny Don’t Go to Carrigaline. Waiting is in and of itself a kind of drama. Waiting for Godot. Waiting for the moment. Waiting for the Book of Five Rings. Waiting for the slowing; stilling. The poetry. The artfulness of just being together, seeing the moment of now. I learned all of this from the people I bumped into, by chance or design, or luck, or work, in Co. Cork. That’s really where this all started. HT MO’B.

The West Cork Literary Festival, for example. Then, later, with others who were just hanging out with me in the intermissions of concerts, getting rounds. All kinds of good memories; it might be time to get back there again. Maybe next summer. Maybe with a group. Maybe to make Atelier S P A C E | West Cork. Let me try to pull that together. It always takes planning, of course.

But if you care about a thing, and you care damn hard, then yeah, people come around, they do, they come out and say hi and see what you are doing.

And take part. That’s important. Because I could throw all these salons and workshops and so on, but if no one came, there wouldn’t be a conversation. There wouldn’t be the possibility of being changed by what we hear. It would be… boring. It would be… staid. It would be, also, simply a vanity project. Too many of those, in these modern times. Too much self-published crap that gets passed off as ‘this is my book I wrote’ and not enough quality. Quality! And here we go. Back to where I started the Year of Uncertainty project in 2013, which led to the full-on leaving of one continent and going out into the big black yonder, to discover, who knew what, with whom, where, how, when, or for what aim: except, maybe… Quality. Reading ZAMM and practicing uncertainty. That really happened. It sure seems weird to think about, looking back.

No plan. No agenda. No income. No savings. No prospects. And plane tickets to nowhere in particular via RDU -> Hanoi, for a quest into the Unknown.

 

‘You wear your heart on your sleeve’

‘Kanishka’ by Dipika Kohli (Kismuth Books // 2015)

POSSIBLY BECAUSE OF THE ROOTLENSSNESS, I focused on ‘being a writer.’ So I wrote. Tons. Badly. Often. Mostly super long, long emails to practical strangers during that 2013-2014 timeframe when there really was nothing to report. Except, of course,  for the feeling of swimming in a sea of doubt and aiming at nothing in particular. I guess that built something in me, though. Practicing how to write towards the thing that the sheafs of voluminous writings became: the short, hyperlocal series of zines popped out from that process. Instead of writing my own thoughts, what about creative nonfiction? Instead of just more philosophizing and intellectualizing, what if I just tapped my old skills as a reporter and did actual interviews to discover stories in situ? Ohhhh. 

So I changed it up. And now I’m making these.

Mm-hmm.

So that’s how it evolved.

Yeah, I’m grimacing now, remembering sending all those emails. A little embarrassing, really. Emails that went to filters. Emails that went to junk. Emails that went into the void.

But some landed.

Zines / Photo by DK 2018

I mean, a few. They really did  land. Square. Some of you told me. Some of you thanked me. Some of you bought my books, which was cool, and I appreciated that. Maybe there was resonance in simply showing up, was it weekly? Gosh. That was a lot of email. Sorry. But yeah. Trust and reliability come of showing up, don’t they? And sometimes, that hits the right note at the right time. In certain places, with certain readers. And those were the ones I kept in touch with, later, and whom I invited to my online circles, in S P A C E, in 2014, when the whole kernel of the gem of an idea started to burgeon: How can I gather people in quality conversations, in the way that we love to do in real life, using the two-way and indeed n:n stream that makes it possible to connect us in fascinating, high-quality ways?. Someone has to design for that. Design is making meaning. I’m used to this kind of work. I trained in engineering, after all. So that’s how it happened. How it came into shape: this, the architecture of S P A C E. Right. Enough nuts and bolts. Returning to poetry and philosophy, let me leave you with one of my favorite quotes from Rilke:

‘Be patient toward all that is unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves… Do not… seek the answers, which cannot be given to you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.’ —Rilke’s letters to a young poet

‘And the point is to live everything.’

(Question: But are you really living, or able to live the questions, if you don’t even see the now? And if you can’t find caring in your heart for the living of everything, then is it artful? I read somewhere that philosophy is a means of discovering our way towards living a more pleasurable life. That’s cool. And also, design is about making meaning. I asked my clients at DK, often, ‘What will be the legacy you want to leave? How will you find the way towards that?’ We know there’s not that much time left, so let’s get going.) Shall we?

Here’s what’s next.

Oh! It’s getting dark!

The dark dip… Right now. Good morning, Midnight!

This post is for all members of S P A C E–thank you for your support these last four years. Couldn’t have come this far without you. And now, it’s about to get good.

21 July | A festival of the zine in Kärsämäki

ARE YOU IN FINLAND? Great.

Join Design Kompany and new friends in Kärsämäki for a once-off event, a Festival of The Zine. Celebrating International Zine Day, this will take place in various venues on Saturday, 21 July.

What are zines?
Zines are independently published periodicals. They are not fancy, nor are they mainstream. Rather, zines are part of the “indie, DIY (do-it-yourself) culture” that shares its spunky style with punk and other subcultures. With a zine you can express yourself freely, without the need for an editor. You can make as many or as few as you like, and you can decide who gets to read them, if anyone. Unlike social media and sharing of digital streams, zines are hands-on, and they’re shared in real life, with real people. You get to have a conversation. You get to see how people respond. It’s much more about the exchange and the quality of the connection, we feel, than it is about ‘producing’ for the sake of making ‘content’ for the masses. In an age where the internet can confuse and lie to us, zines give us a tangible grip on the here, and now, and remind us that at the end of the day, we get to create and write our own stories. The stories of our lives. The stories that remind us who we are.

Click the pic below to read the full programme for the day.

 

See the programme >

 

Discover zines with us at Cafe Onni. Find the event on FB >

 

For more advanced participants, we have a workshop, Atelier S P A C E. Make a zine with DK >

 

 

Zining in Finland II

CONTINUING. To make. Zines, mostly, in June. July looks different. July has a different feeling to it. The flowers are changing. The fragrances, too. I feel like I’m a teenager again: staying up really late, talking to people about everything, joking, cutting up paper and sending little notes out into the world, writing letters, sharing the time with friends, and generally being curious about ‘what’s going to happen today.’ Slow moment. Slowing. Noticing. Making things is a way to do that, of course. You put something together with your time, focus, and your craft. You make a thing that, after some time, begins to take shape.

New S P A C E zines by DK, inspired by conversations and places we are discovering in Finland // Photo by DK 2018

This zine (pictured) was one of the first ones I made here, when I got to the residency and started obsessing about ‘producing stuff.’ It was a limited edition of just 3. Two of them went out into the world to new people I’ve met. One is left. It’s the favorite of the ones that people peruse, when they examine the three dozen or so little books that I’ve made since I’ve been here. I’m in a conversation with someone who is going to maybe help me put together a little exhibition, at the end of July, so we can share them in a giant popup style installation with the general public. It would be very DK. Come as you are, have a read if you want, put something back, take a look, enjoy the books, talk to each other, ask me anything. More and more, I’m realizing the books and art pieces are just conversation-starting prompts. They invite some query, sure, introspection, even. But like everything I make and do, it’s the conversation I care about most. The giving and receiving, the interconnection, the sharing of S P A C E, and of course, time. Art, at its best, is a conversation. Something I find myself saying over and over again, including yesterday evening upon parting with my new possible collaborator in the making of installation art here in, um, Kärsämäki. Finland, like. Who knew.

Friends and new acquaintances. Guests in ‘Slow Moment.’ Members of S P A C E. All of you are always welcome, to meet me in the aether, the forums, the real life spaces, the public squares of our lives and disconnect from the internet world, where there are only facades and cropped pictures of the things that are really real. But go to a lake or down by a river, look at a rainbow or find the moon and the sun together in a bright white sky, and there is no way to capture or record that feeling. The smell, the people, the ambient nature of it—you cannot put that into a square photograph and expect it to be received the way you’re receiving it. The scene, I mean. And that means… here it is, the crux of it, the thing I wanted to say, that means, when you just document for the sake of it without paying attention to where you are and who you’re with and the things that are being said with words and gesture and the blank space that convey far more than either, then you’re not really there. You’re not sending something cool and interesting into the world if you’re just shooting a quick pic and blogging it or microblogging it somewhere. You’re just… looking for attention or validation. Let’s admit this. Social media is about validation-seeking. Isn’t it? And you know what? That means–you’re not fully there when you’re presenting something to someone. What you send is vague and tattered, what’s received is even more so. That said, I’m concluding that this is probably the major reason I don’t have a mobile phone or trade texts with anyone or even use most social media these days. Why? It’s not a great conversation. And if conversation and dialogue is what I care about most–and it is, making great space for remarkable connexion and interconnection—then I better find the channels and media that work best to do just that.

Real life, for example.

Real life is best.

DK hosts ateliers in S P A C E in real life. Next up: Atelier S P A C E: Kärsämäki on 21 July. 

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.

 

‘The time does not come back’

THE LONG DAY is reminding me about old conversations, in many places, about time. Philosophical, you could say. That’s part of who DK is. It took a while to admit to it, but then, didn’t we do a TEDx talk about how there’s not that much time left? We did. Six years ago. Seems like a lifetime: I’ve been on the road for a year in Asia, then parked for four years in Cambodia, now I’m on the road again–in Scandinavia. Well, kind of on the road. Because I’ve learned that bouncing around from point to point is not as intriguing as sitting still in one spot and absorbing it more fully, I’m here for three solid months in the middle of northern Finland. Lapland is over yonder, there is talk of reindeer meat, or reindeer hitting your windshield, and how nice it is to see the sun. Lots of talk on the talk radio about summer. Festivities and the cheery feeling of it; the sun not going away, the lakes reflecting all of it, with a mesmerizing shade of light grey twinged with blue. Chillin’. I noticed it’s a quiet day, today, here. I saw some people getting their cameras out and taking pictures of the river. I saw some others getting gas and going in for a bite to eat–the hamburger place, the pizzeria, the cafe where I’ll be co-hosting a zine popup this month. Buncha stuff. There are people who come through this town because it’s a stop on the motorway from Oulu to Helsinki, a major throughline, though the road is only two lanes and looks like it’s any countryside road, to me anyway, in the smaller counties of North Carolina. One of my many homes. That’s another thing, though. That’s drift. Today, time.

Making zines // Photo by DK 2018

Slow down to see now

‘The Book of Time’ salon // Photo by DK 2016

SLOWING. That’s the topic, these days, here. Slowing down to sense. Slowing down to see. Slowing down to feel. Letting things catch up… feeling the ambient awarenesses that have been percolating for years, but haven’t had time to precipitate out into the here and right-in-front-of-you, because… time. ‘The way we live our days is, of course, how we live our lives,’ it has been said, and many times, and I am thinking about my friends who will say, ‘Yes, I wanted to, but I didn’t have time.’ I’m thinking of DB in Seattle, who, in his drawing class for freshman and sophomores, would make a comment about how texting and drawing nude models just isn’t a good idea, that you don’t need to multitask here, that, ‘we all have the same amount of time.’ Priorities are the thing to focus on, instead of how to make more time. How to do the right things, instead of just doing things. How to… well, wait. I’m turning into one of those productivity blogs. I don’t meant to do that. But I do agree with PT who said, ‘Relentlessly prune bullshit.’ You just have to, if if you want to move the ball further down the playing field, towards the end zones that you decide are worth pursuing. You can’t just… wait for things to happen, nor can you… wish for more time. All of these thoughts are trickling in and out of the S P A C E of spaces where I’m conversing with some of you, some new people here in Finland, too. And learning. Always, always curious. Wanting to know more. Where does the time go? What did we do with it? Is it important to plan? What are the benefits of not-planning? And: what will I do with my days, while I live? This is the question, ultimately, that the TEDx talk landed up, asking about. What will be your legacy?

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not like I was aiming to go up there and make a long philosophical statement about how people are being busied into being busy and forgetting how to slow down, notice now, and be present and aware of what it is they actually want their lives to be about. What is the story your life will spell? (DK always asked this of our clients, and then, added to it, with: How can you design for that?) Not that popular a topic. Thinking about the life you want to live and what you can do to make it happen? That’s big-picture stuff. That takes overarching grand views on things and letting some time go by so as to reflect. But who has time for that? The day to day details of getting things done are at hand. And that’s why, really, honestly, the pervasiveness of the ‘to-do’-ers and their insistence that making time is more important than making artful connexion and meaningful moments of their time is probably why I decided to come here to focus on ‘Slow Moment.’ It’s a long story. It’s going to have to be shortened, though, because ‘Slow Moment’ will be an 8-page zine. That’s later, though. Now, I’m thinking about a time I sat on a terrace and talked with someone I hadn’t seen for more than a decade, about what we did with our lives, in the interim.

‘The time,’ he said. ‘The time does not come back.’

I wonder if he remembers it as clearly as I do.

 

Unacknowledged feelings

‘What is metaphysics?’ by Heidegger // Photo by DK 2016

YES, IT WAS DIRECT, and sort of out of nowhere. ‘The time does not come back,’ he said. Did I detect regret? Resentment?

I remember looking out over the plates and chairs and people who were talking together in groups of two or four, drinking their wine and beers and partaking of desserts and salads, and the sun was setting, and it set, and we were still talking, and I remember this clearly, about that line, ‘The time does not come back.’ Of course, I’d wanted to say, and then add something about reversible time and physics and multiverses and some theory–but it wasn’t that kind of a party.

Time. Not reversing. But that’s why we have to notice it, right? Be here now. All that stuff. Notice it and do the things that feel good, make the work that matters–to us. It’s relative, after all. Why follow someone else’s prescription for ‘what counts’ and ‘what matters?’ A job is really you just selling your time. What is the work that matters to you? Are you doing that? What is the legacy you want to leave?

I’d wanted to ask such questions, of course. I always do. Was there something you had wanted to do with it that you didn’t? (This is mostly what I had wanted to ask, but couldn’t, of course. Acquaintanceship is different from friendship, after all.)

We parted. The year ended. The next one came. This is life. This is the cycle. This is how things go. Probably won’t ever see one another again, either. Something about feeling… a sense of distance. At not knowing why the action and initiative weren’t there. I felt he had regrets, but they weren’t faced on, not looked at, not examined, or questioned. Self-awareness of this was missing, too. There was some weird sense that there was a lacks somehow. A lack that could not be felt, or seen, until another day, and time, which, I got the feeling, would not come.

Because making the time and space to reflect isn’t for everyone. Those who do come out, I think, with a purpose to their life that goes beyond ticking boxes of filling in lines or paying bills. Those who are able to assess themselves clearly can do… living. Yes. Do living. Do it. Without trying so hard to conform to someone else’s pictures of ‘success’. Without avoiding looking in the mirror, and asking the hard questions, ‘Is this for me? Am I living the life I want? Am I being true to myself?’ So many people skip this. Well, of course. It’s hard.

But I think about these things a lot. I look for others who do, too. I count those people amongst my friendship circles. I listen for the curious, the ones who are saying, ‘There’s got to be more. Help me think about this.’

‘Did you see Waiting for Godot?’ I’ll ask them. ‘Or read the play?’

‘No.’

‘Beckett. Read it. Then let’s talk more.’

Philosophically, these kinds of existential queries—what is the point of it? what are we doing with our time? where is the meaning?–are the ones that we thinky-thinky types like to dwell on. (Sometimes too much. Acknowledged.)

More philosophy and so on, ahead this month in ‘Slow Moment.’ Be a part of it, when you join us in these places in S P A C E: ‘Slow Moment’ the salon, and ‘Slow Moment’ the zine.