Discovering, sourcing, planning, sharing, connecting, interconnecting and framing. That’s what it is. To start.
Getting the team together. Organizing the pages without overthinking or over designing.
Leaving room for stuff to develop, other stuff to emerge. Being okay with things taking time. Being cool with letting go of what doesn’t fit, in the collection. Bricolage and collage being my ‘thing,’ along with relational art and the aesthetics around that, which academics write about (thank y0u) but which I, personally, design moments in which me, and hopefully others who also enjoy these things, can experience the ‘magic moment.’
AHEAD. New things, ahead. Grateful for the learning, and the reconsiderations of old things. For the replies to the notes I’ve been sending here and there around the world, and calls that I’m getting to make and enjoy relaxing into, too. For the responses to the poetry, for the notes and the critiques to the Winter 2018-9 collection’s editorial calendar. For the trust. For showing up. For the new rekindlings, deepening of some of what had begun, on my last trips here, and also, for the continued happening-upon new and different others that lands me here, time and time again, in S P A C E. Today was cool. It’s not over yet, but it’s been really neat. Booked tickets. Firmed up plans for the next stops. [To the wonderful urban planner, C, whom I just met today–hey! That was one hell of a conversation and very much needed. My questions again: how do we design and architect social spaces that ‘feel great’, but also, help people discover ways to think crticically and make choices that let them live better? What does a full city contain that an underdeveloped one doesn’t? What should be doing, as people who design spaces, and whose responsible for us ‘being happy’ and ‘living such as to become our best selves?’ Used to nerd about about these topics at walkable communities conferences Stateside and the time in Seattle interviewing loads and loads of engineers, city officials, and yeah, urban planners. The podcast I mentioned, is here. So yeah. Looks like Tuesdays are turning into S P A C E-y ones. Shall I make another thing? I can. I’m thinking maybe just two or three people now. It’s tiring, sometimes, to keep at it. But yeah. Sometimes you fall into the moment and it catches you by surprise. If you wanna talk about art, design, architecture, the shape of space, poetics, cities, and what gives the fabric of meaning to them, hey. I’m all in. Just hit me up.) To A and K: safe journeys. To A and R: SYS. And yeah. For anyone wondering what’s going on behind the scenes, here is where to join the conversation.]
A DAY AGO, I sent an email invitation to a handful of people in: Seattle, Durham NC, and the place that I affectionally call ‘The Road.’
What kind of invitation? To join me for an online salon in October called ‘Philosophy of the Moment.’ I’ll tell you about that more in a second. But the feeling is this. So many people. So much time. So many places. And so many great conversations. What if I could find a way to wrap us all into one space, to talk together about ideas and things that have popped up, from these, that we would all find curious? Or maybe handfuls of us would? And if that could happen, what might we learn, together? What could we make, too, if things got really interesting? An anthology, perhaps? Like The Mirror, in 2014? Something in print? What about zines? What about, what about? And that’s how I got excited about it. The starting of the thing–an interactive forum-salon, in protected-page posts, that is S P A C E.
LET ME ELABORATE.
Those places I met the people I invited? They’re from certain bases, of my past life in different parts of the world. Presently I’ve been thinking hard about such ideas as bases, because… well… it’s al long story, and one that I’m not totally sure I want to put here in the public space, but one in which a few of us explored quite nicely, in a 2016 writing salon called, ‘Home & Away.’ That was the first-ever forum-space. Some people really dug it. Some people left. But you have to take chances on things if you want to see innovations. And I like risk taking, if you know me you know that, but some of the time, I take much smaller steps than I wish I could. Writingwise and art wise, though, it’s much easier for me to take big jaunts out into the unexplored territories because, unlike most stuff, with writing and art I feel like I’ve had a lot of time and space to really practice. To get past my own qualms about, ‘Is this good enough?’ F yeah, it is. So go for it. So I do. I make S P A C E into salons, I do that because I like to correspond. I write a lot. Maybe too much. Maybe too often, certainly, too long at a time. This one, this [post] is long. I’m writing the extra bits in, I’m seeing that pargraphslong texts can be daunting, but… that the people I connect with best read. They read, to the end. And you know what else? They check links. AM and CW were among our very first clients in Seattle. (Hi, guys!) I still remember when they came to the office, that was my first one that I had ever rented, committing cold, hard cash to a thing as nebulous as ‘rent,’ because of a promise of it leading to ‘possibilities,’ which you know of course, it did. Big ones. Manyfolded. And at our meeting, I had said, you know, my blog has lots of long, long posts, that people don’t read. AM had countered, ‘I read. I read everything.’ And you know what? Most of the people I really like in life, they read. They read everything. The whole checking links thing was part of a post that used to be on this blog, about the Seattle-based DIY indie fair, ‘Urban Craft Uprising.’ I went to that not knowing what the hell to expect but finding
myself surrounded by a very specific type of person and writing a post called ‘Psychographics.’ In which I had quoted CJ, whom I’d met a the art gallery OKOK and run into again at UCU and he, there, upon hearing my comment, had said, ‘Yeah, yeah. These are very specific people all right. They’re the people that check links.’ Check links! Wow. Well, okay then. Let’s let that be a thing. ‘Kay, cool. Lessons learned: My favorite people, who are DK’s community and network and clientele and collaborators and friends, read til the end, read everything, and check links.
From out of left field
I GOT QUOTED ONCE, on study abroad, in the back of the ‘yearbook’ for saying something that, my goodness, my hero N. Bohr might have enjoyed hearing me say. I said, ‘I don’t make statements. I just say things.’ See? Statements imply you know something. But Bohr, good man himself, said: ‘The opposite of a profound truth may be another profound truth.’ The friends that I had in those days didn’t give two shites about quantum theory, or possibilities, or new angles, or the potentiality of multiverses and suchmuch. They just wanted jobs. Jobs! My jobs almost always turned into departments of philosophy. I can tell you some stories, but I’ll spare you. Because: Ichiro.
Instead of trying to ‘figure things out,’ or hit a homer for every single damn thing you try to do, the way that they tell you when you’re younger you need to, if you grow up in a country where I grew up, because success looks like a major league baseball game where all the lights are on full blast in midsummer and the crowds are loud. You go there and you watch and you see the big show. Casey at Bat notwithstanding, you go. You hit homers, if you’re good. That’s the thing. But me? I’m changing. I’m interested in other ways to do it, to show up for my own at-bat… Yeah. Show up like…
Yeah. I’ll rev up like Ichiro, try to make a poetic thing happen by just stilling into the moment. Show up for the on-deck circle, then head up to the plate. Batter up. A single to right field works for me, these days: no need to get high and mighty, trying to be Cecil Fielder, or anything like that. Work is getting around the bases. Work is making your way to home plate.
Arriving at home
Work is the work it takes to score the runs that earn the points for the team. Collaboratively. This. This is the new thing. Showing up, but also, being aware of the strengths of the rest of the team. And our team is pretty wide-ranging, now that I look at the whole picture. Some fascinating people have come through DK’s doors.
Things moved into cojournaling spaces, and now, we have the interactive magazine, S P A C E. And print zines, too. Lots, and lots, in other words: but the philosophy thread remains consistent. It’s where we are most intrigued. Exploring together the art of the conversation that gets us all thinking more critically and with an eye towards making our own lives more pleasurable. I read somewhere once that is the definition of philosophy. Then SY told me about Epicurus… And more to say, one day, about that. (But if you’re curious, read this fabulous poem that S had introduced me to, ‘Oriah’s invitation.’)
Clients, interns, part-time collaborators, commissioned artists, and more. I’m really lucky to have had that chance to make and share, and to work things out, in a way that’s evolved, these last, oh, I don’t know, what’s 2018-2005… okay… so, that’s what, 13 years. Thirteen years freelance studio-ing up at DK. I think we’ve learned where our strengths are: we have good pitchers, that’s pretty much the secret sauce around here. Pitchers who have a clear awareness of the simple but important fact that every at-bat is its own thing. That each batter up is her own ball of questions, struggles, philosophies, psychologies, temperaments, and triumphs. All of us are playing baseball, really. Just that, sometimes, it goes the way you think it would, like it’s a Cubs game from the 1990s, and you’re just watching them go through the motions. I can hear Harry Carey in my head saying it, ‘We’re just playing 1-2-3 baseball, here,’ and then, later, if things go his way, ‘Cubs win! Cubs win!‘ But the game is different, here. A wider field: the one that takes up the entire surface area of the globe. We’re going to play, now. A big game of giant rounding-around-the-bases. Batter up. And here’s the pitch…
Introducing ‘Philosophy of the Moment’
NOW THAT DK have been based in Asia, more or less, for the past four years, we’re using this angle on the way the world seems to have shifted to gather people in online forums and talk, together, about what to do to make stuff better. I know that sounds really heady, and lofty, but the truth is, that if we can make our own lives more clear to ourselves, and understand our own contributions to ‘the world,’ and I’m not talking about in a way that’s corny, cheesy, or ‘do-gooder-y,’ like toooooo many people [from abroad] come to Cambodia every single season (and last, if they’re lucky, three months to do… well, let’s see, what I’m really saying is… the stage is pretty giant, the stories myriad and numerous. Influenced by the new perspectives of having been, by sheer osmosis and inertia, in one place for so long (one year in motion in South and Southeast Asia, followed by four years at the time of this writing, in Phnom Penh, with the occasional excursions to Northern Europe–Sweden, Denmark, and [this summer in] Finland, and I’m not sure which spot is next but I’m going back, sometime, I can’t help it, the palette is what draws me, mostly, but more than that, the quiet spaces, but that’s a different story). And yeah. I’m ready. To share the conversations more widely: there are so many intriguing people whose paths have crossed with mine in these last five years, (the four here in Cambodia, and the one before that, on the road, in search of ‘uncertainty,’ or the practice thereof, long story, very esoteric, landed in no fashionable bullet-point list of outcomes, just lots and lots of e-correspondence in the time since with people all around the world whose ideas are still intriguing to me, people who have taught me very much, and people whom I’m really excited to interconnect, though S P A C E. More and more, lately. But in very small circles. Invite-only, kind of, since the end of the last registration period. That was for ‘Slow Moment.’ This time, it’s just a small circle of us probably who’ll join in to POTM. We’ll dive into philosophy. Of the moment. Ergo, ‘Phil. of the Moment.’ Like that?
Mm-hm. So okay. What is it? Philosophy of the Moment is a four-week side conversation online, nested in our ongoing interactive salons happening concurrently in our forum, S P A C E. We are going to spend some time over four weeks in
October talking together specifically about ‘Philosophy of the Moment.’ It’s open format. Four rules of Open Space: the people who come are the right people, it starts when it starts, ends when it ends, and the things that happened are the only things that could have happened. In other words, give yourself a break when hosting an Open Space because it’s about framing the thing and letting the jam just happen. As jazZ happens in Bangkok put it on email to me before we made ‘The Book of Blue’ together there, ‘Let’s let it roll.’
The people who come will be the right people. We’ll explore creative writing tips from experts whose advice has gotten us places. Collectively, sharing what we know from individual experience. Just like in our real life salons, like, for example, this one. We’re going to make things, too. A short anthology. This project is for people whose paths DK has crossed in recent months, whose writing and ideas have inspired, and intrigued us. We want to make a ‘room’ in a virtual space (that would be a protected page on this blog, with comment threads, and a password to get in), so that we can send weekly prompts to get us talking together, to get us learning together, too. From each other. I said that already, didn’t I. Guess it matters a lot to me: listening to one another, hearing each other’s voices and perspectives, being open to the possibility of being changed by what you hear. And all in a flat hierarchy. In which every. Voice. Counts.
‘The secret is to just begin’ –As told to DK by A. at AOTZ
MAKING SOMETHING through art or writing is one goal, but learning together is the main objective. Experiential publishing, this.
This is our method pre-start, this month:
Invite guests to take part. Make sure they are from a wide range of backgrounds, geogrphic locations, past experiences, and philosophies on life.
Ask people if they want to commit time to this project. Make sure they do have the bandwidth to do so.
Be interested in other people, and check through the application process if the guestlist also is so inclined.
Know that we are all going through this as if on a journey, together. That the outcome will be less important than the process of learning as we go. Being open to the veering and changing is hugely important, and we must communicate that up front: this is a journey we’re going to largely improvise, as we go. Are you cool with that? Then let’s begin.
Begin. Gather people to register before 8 October. Start on that date. Continue through the end of October. See what material has come together and. where we could push the envelope and see what kind of meaningful story or narrative or poetry or art we could fold into a short book. The anthology could be a collected work that becomes a digital book (if material is sparse) or a printed one. We’re in conversations with a book designer in Singapore about this, and we are quite serious.
Sample questions to get started: Travelers and artists, romantics and poets all know about the difference between time that is spent and time that is well spent. Kairos and chronos time, the shifting edge from one to another. Can we focus and look at these questions: when is it good, what makes it great? How do you know when to change things up?
With everything I make, I want people to relax. To feel air, space and comfort. Philosophy: the pursuit of making life more pleasurable through considering it from various angles. Let’s try this. (More about POTM is at this page.)
Let’s converse? Let’s play. Curious? Ask me anything. Leave a review. Comments are open. Say hi?
I’VE JUST ARRIVED. It’s twenty to one. A man in a nice cotton blue suit-jacket, not quite a suit, mind, but a suit-like thing, was hanging around momentarily. Ostensibly waiting for his coffee to be made, fresh for a take-away (a pet peeve of mine, personally, the take-away cup). But there comes a woman. Equally well put-together. Both wear light cotton pants, hers are white, his are a little less white, but still, nicely offset by the blue. I think I mentioned the blue already. Yes, yes I did. I think I was thinking about the color emerald green… yesterday… I was thinking about a certain otherworldly Northern Europe color palette, a tendency towards the muted colors. Yes, I like those, too. Had gone through a phase of that. Bluegreys. Seattle. One of my homes. Another one is turning out to be Kuala Lumpur. Keep coming back here to host things, it feels like. And I love the atmosphere, the color, the texture, the city vibe. And all this great teh halia, too. See stuff DK and friends have hosted here, at this page, DesignKompany.com/Malaysia. (HT TS: ‘Don’t ask me where I’m from, ask me where I’m local.’)
Beyond the edge of the world
SEATTLE. I remember. A lot of rain fell, and then, the cloudburst came, in the form of ‘The Dive,’ (Kismuth Books // 2012), which I realize I must have talked about a lot, in many places, but in short fragments, a lot of things come in short fragments, don’t they? And then you go into the quiet zones, and stay there. Perhaps too long. Because when you forget how to speak up, speak forward, speak without muting your voice too terribly much for fear you’ll be chastised, chided, critiqued, questioned, challenged, humiliated, or otherwise made to feel bad about the fact that you are you, and you alone, unique as DNA, then being purposeful and insistent in holding out and sharing with others the very you that is you becomes, well… hard. Because you’re worried. Anxious. Uncomfortable. It’s uncomfortable to be the very you that is you. Of course it is. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t—it’s okay and it’s easy to say and words are cheap; sometimes they are, of course at other times they are very exquisite, not cheap at all, not cheap… but then there comes his coffee.
One now. Almost the time for the office workers to come in. I’m taking up two tables. I better collate this stuff. Maybe get going. Too many people; it’s uncomfortable. I might say I’ve become more Finnish, in this regard, but I think it was always there, and underscored when I had lived in Seattle. A tendency towards being more alone, than with others. Wanting a lot of room around me. Not liking the oppressiveness of being in the airspace of too many people in too small a room. It’s happening. I’m starting to feel it. Suffocation. But, wait. It’s not that bad. It’s still Malaysia. It’s still developed. There isn’t going to be a lot of noise and there won’t be dust or dirt. The people will shuffle in, and as quickly, shuffle out. They will. They are in motion. They are on the clock. Time. Time is a thing, for some people. I get it. They have to go punch in, punch out. Me? What am I? Slowing down. Slowing in the moment. But maybe this is the wrong environment for that. I’m wishing I could be in Melakka, too. I was there. I liked it there. The weekdays are a better time to be there. But I’m here, preparing for Phnom Penh. Sounds odd, writing that. Haven’t I tried, many times, to ‘move on’ from there? But… the question is a real one, and smacks and smarts: to where? Where is the next home? It’s a big, open field, and you can go in any direction. Instead of getting lost in the amorphous not-knowing, though, I’m learning to embrace it. The field is one of my homes, too. Like the road. And North Carolina. And Seattle. And, and…. Phnom Penh. Four years is a long time to be parked there. Four years, writing nothing much, really, except for, oh yeah, Breakfast in Cambodia. A two-year anniversary of that little book just passed. I’m happy about this. I can try again, for something different. Maybe finally finish ‘Socheata’s Comb.’
Back to KL. Back to right now.
Real life is the stage
I AM READYING to make a move. Or maybe not. If they leave, I’ll stay. If they stay, I’ll leave. She is asking him something. He is saying something else. They are acquainted. They talk about weathers. Not the hurricanes, like I am doing in emails with people in North Carolina, because of the flooding in the east of that state, but about… well, the sun and Melbourne and smalltalk. Smalltalk is nice, has its place, at times. No? Of course it does. Work colleagues, maybe. I try to assess. They are cordial. Do they work in some kind of fashion retail outlet? Perhaps they are middle managers. Perhaps, perhaps.
My mind makes up stories. Connects dots that aren’t quite there, but might appear to be in places if, after some amount of time observing the stage of real life, always the most exciting, could become rather realistic. Reality. The strangest sort of fiction. Or is fiction real? I don’t know. What am I talking about? These are the kinds of things that gather momentum here, when it is not yet lunch rush and the caffeine is starting to find its jolt. The jolt that makes the story. The sentences place themselves, one in front of the other. I go back to writing, perhaps. The man leaves, in a hurry; it is abrupt. She is not worried. She is not even moved. She barely acknowledged him, anyway, I noticed, at the start. No one was trying too hard to start talking. That’s okay. That’s fine. You don’t have to talk all the time. Gosh, if I didn’t learn that in Finland. She was on her phone. So was he. Both of them distracting themselves or pretending to. Looking at things. Texts and so on. He had tried to make eye contact. That is a thing unknown to some of the younger ones. They may dress impeccably, but they don’t notice the noticing. And that’s where the breakdown begins, isn’t it? Of communicating from ap lace that’s honest, real, raw, and unfiltered. Facades get in the way of relating. And I guess that’s why, for the first time in a long time, I’m okay writing again, in first person. More on the way. More to share. More, in the form of short books, long books, poems, novellas, plays. And, best of all, co-creations.
Listening in to other people’s conversations… stories of: moneymaking plans, insurance, school and work, weather banter, international transit, general exchanges on the exchange of services and goods, rubber, fear of other, mistrust, putting up with things, and, of course, celebrating a new government, with an optimism. The kind that says, ‘Some glimmer of things to come shan’t be smothered, now.’ That’s the feeling, this go around, here in Kuala Lumpur.
Join S P A C E and be part of the international, asynchronous forums and online salons from October. (Which is when we begin again with a select set of candidates from around the world newly discovered, for the salon, ‘Philosophy of the Moment.’) Scholarships available. Application required. Learn more here.
OUR TRAVELING series 16N is next stopping in Helsinki. It’s a big blind date for just 16 people. (Who will be there? That’s the whole magic of it. The thing is a giant *surprise*.) It’s by invitation. Ask us for an invite, when you follow the story, here: http://designkompany.com/16n
IN A FEW DAYS, I will be starting the salon in our protected-page space, ‘Slow Moment.’ It’s about slowing down. Recharging. Discovering yourself when you make time to show up… for you. No obligations, no ‘to-do’s, and scrapping the idea of ‘getting something accomplished,’ the idea of this particular programme is to let it flow. Flow. So important. I have been talking with people in online conversations for about four months now, setting things up for this special 12-week session. It’s our last online workshop, for the general public, as it just became obvious that for DK, making people be creative isn’t important. What’s important for DK is helping those who have already taken a step, of their own accord, towards some kind of transformative breakthrough. Of course you can’t have a linear path to breakthrough. Or transformative stuff of any kind. Of course it takes work, struggle, sloshing about, tackling vague ideas, throwing most of them away, and starting over, when you recognize that all the work so far has been ‘sketching.’ We call it P L A Y. Playing our way towards the new and the next is what we do around here.
Zining in Finland, Cambodia, et al.
ZINING HAS BEEN, for me personally, a way of slowing down. ZininginFinland, in particular. ‘This is Finland,’ said J., whom I met last night at the pub. ‘We just… be.’ Not bad. I really enjoyed our brief chat outside of the place; karaoke was on inside and it was a thin crowd. I cycled over there with my midnight ride in the pretty-bright-still-but-not-like-before light. Mist was out. Mist. This was what we talked about. Small town life. Passerby. Chance encounters. That’s the stuff of gathering the narratives that make S P A C E the zine; showing up to ask the questions and be prepared for anything is the jazzy jam that is Atelier S P A C E. (If I don’t show up for me, how can I ask others to show up for themselves? So I am living the practice. Go where you don’t know anyone. Find out stuff. Ask them things. Talk to people. Learn. Discover. Find a theme. Then, either with guests who are interested in joining in with you or without them, write a short 8-page zine that pulls together the best of that which you pick up, makes it contemporary, gives it a shape, and then, print some of them, and share them.)
Pubs are third places. They are where we convene. I know, I know. There is an objective, most of the time. Not me. I’m there for the conversations.
Here where I am about six hours north of Helsinki, things are quiet. Conversations are slow and easy. All around is nature—and it’s handy that you can cycle around to get the things you need. Foodstuffs. Provisions. Euros. It’s convenient, small, and just fine. I am not a stranger to small town life; and this stay has got me remembering all the things about Skibbereen and rural North Carolina that I used to really enjoy. End-to-end rainbows, for example. Which I talked about in the past, here on this blog, when ‘A Slow Moment begins’ got writ.
Poetry slams in S P A C E
WRITING MORE. Zining. Making poems with people around the world. ‘Whatever of philosophy is made into poetry is alone timeless.’ These words—I had quoted them in my TEDx talk, ‘There’s Not That Much Time Left.’ Something I haven’t admitted out loud anywhere on the public spaces of the blog is this: I was kind of winging that talk, there, at the end. You have to read your audience, right, and see where the feeling is going. You have to see what fits, what’s working, what’s not. It takes time to build up to that. It’s a long, simple crescendo. You get going and you start and you begin to get the feeling. Here is what’s the story. This is where we’re synching. It’s a jam session, to me—even me on the stage felt like that. I was laughing and enjoying myself with the people in the front rows who were laughing and enjoying themselves with me. (Afterwards, a ‘speechmaker’s consultant’ tried to pitch me, and said, ‘You really don’t want to laugh at your own jokes.’ But for me, for DK, for all he things that have become, since, S P A C E, if I don’t laugh, I’m not having fun, and if I’m not having fun, whatever the hell is the point?’ Of course I didn’t ask him to help me. In fact, that was the last time I got on stage, aside from one other time, in the same city on the same stage, in fact, for ‘Fuzzy Quantum Pop.’ Too fun.)
DG said it: ‘Throw away most of the stuff you write, because you know what? It’s bad. I did that. Do you do that? Throw away most of it?’ I nodded. He said, ‘Good.’ DG is a pianist. I get along with piano people, drummers. Maybe because they like to accompany… words. I am the vocals. I realize this now. Words are my thing. Pen is my medium. Whether lines in marker, or cut lines, or lines worked out somehow (it takes a long time sometimes, but other times comes in bursts, like now, unedited and uninterrupted—a story flows) into poems, or occasional ebooks, I make lines.
Slow moment? For me, bringing the lines into shape. Giving the scaffold in architecture blueprint to the ever-emerging shape of S P A C E. Something to say? Leave a comment, below. Comments are open, until the bots catch on.
DK is making S P A C E, a weekly interactive magazine and an online community for people who are highly engaged with the creative process.
‘TELL THEM in a relatable way, DK, why this is interesting, and how it will make their life better.’
‘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?’
‘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.’
‘It’s easier to use social media.’
‘I don’t care.’
‘You’re not easy to get to know.’
‘Of course I’m not.’
‘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.’
‘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.
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 makingmeaning
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’
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 neverbudge? 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.)
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.)
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.
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’
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.
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.
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?
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.
‘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!’
‘It is. But you can do it, DK. Show us. Show us the world.’
‘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.’
‘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.
NEXT MONTH, we’re going to host an online conversation called ‘Slow Moment.’
It’s designed for writers, photographers and people who practice slowing in all its many, many forms. In this post, I’m going to tell you a little bit about how the online projects here at DK work, and also, why we’re doing the 12-week sequence on the theme, ‘Slow Moment.’ I’ll start with the latter.
The idea started when we hosted ‘The Mirror‘, in which one prompt was ‘Slow Moment,’ and the responses that came were so fantastic that it led me to dedicate an entire 12-week block to just this subject. We talked about family, the woods, walking. Hikes, oceans, and being on our own. We talked about wanting to go places, going there, and what happened when we did. Relationships. Journeys. Endings, and new starts.
OPEN SPACE. Popouts. Allowing people to spend more time talking together about the topics they are most interested in. That’s how Open Space works, and that’s how we’ve been conducting our four-years-and-counting online project, S P A C E. It’s a salon. It’s a workshop. It’s a community. (And it’s just celebrated its fourth birthday.)
For me, moving towards the focusing in 2018 on the conversations that have developed and progressed is a really cool, fun step. Maybe we’ll create an anthology, perhaps a photozine, to share sometime in the fall, based on where we take things now. You never know how things can flow, they can meander, they can fizzle, they can blossom, they can die. It’s not a big deal, really, what happens. It makes room for new things to grow. New input. Original thinking. Freshness, space… that sets the stage for innovation.
HERE’S THE THING. I could have continued doing design for the next hundred years, when the work was happening and I was getting into it, and clients were referring DK, and so on. But what did I do? Move to the other side of the country, start over. That’s how it changed into more of consulting work; but also, salons. Started doing weirder and funner things, like ‘Aether: Is the Medium Still the Message?’, a series in which we invited guests to talk with us about the old ideas and the new ones when it comes to making media. Took that from Durham NC up to Washington DC, then New York’s Bryant Park, then Boston. Came back and made even more, even weirder installations. (Like ‘I Went 2 the City (And There Was Nothing There’, and more. I can talk about them for pages and pages, but that’s not the purpose, here.)
I want to invite you to join us in S P A C E, if you are getting a link to this page from me personally, especially. When it comes to making this invitation, what I care about is the spacemaking. I show up. I have the thing designed. If people enter the box of S P A C E to play, and they do, they really do, sometimes, then I’m happy to host. That’s how it’s been and that’s what’s going to happen now. I’ve just received the first application for the 2 July start of ‘Slow Moment.’
IT’S A PLEASURE as always to read these applications. It feels like getting letters in the mailbox. It’s personal, it’s warm-hearted, it’s sharing. People write a lot of beautiful things. I can’t tell you what they are, because of confidentiality, but the whole thing makes me feel very humble. If writing for the sake of writing were all there was, we would keep our manuscripts in drawers and never show them to anyone. Of course, that happens, and it’s cool, if that’s your thing to just write and be a writer or photograph and be a photographer, and never share, then cool. That’s you. But it’s not me.
Sharing is a part of the experience, to me, of making art. And being ‘in’ on the process of how a thing is made is something, I’m just realizing as I write this, and as I make zines with people here in Finland, is a huge piece of my own approach to art. If you can’t see how it’s been made, what is the fun of seeing it in its final form? Especially now that we have this two-way medium of communicating (web!), why not enjoy the process of developing our works, as we are making them, with others to write with, share with, post pictures to, engage with. But I’m not talking about 1:N. I’m talking about very small circles. Like, four people in each. I’m inspired by my way back in the day fifth grade class, and the style we used to have there, in small groups. Four of us would have desks facing each other, and we had these little ‘pods.’ I’ve since learned about the ‘jigsaw‘ method of teaching, and realize what an impact it had on my own way of learning, approaching things, and asking peers for their ideas on what I want to know more about.
That’s probably why I’ve reached out, in recent months, to more than a dozen of my favorite photographers. People whose work I’ve seen in real life, or really admired and reached out to and subsequently met up with just to talk art-shop. People who are doing really cool things. Whom I wanted to ask, ‘What do you think about really seeing, really noticing, really going into the quiet spaces and enjoying them, and then, somehow, photographing or capturing them through written words? It’s a big question, for sure. But… what do you think?’
Some of their answers are already prepared for you, in the upcoming workshop… ahead.
But to give you a sneak peek, here’s some of what I learned.
SLOW MOMENTS let us remember what our story is. To ourselves, about ourselves, but also, who we are in relation to others. (And in an existential way, to the cosmos). In many ways, I think for many of us taking part in DK’s online salon-workshops, we’re just talking together in these online circles because it gives us a place to share.
I’ve been making S P A C E salons in real life for a while now, and the goal is to create a cozy space where people who don’t know one another can simply be together, and talk if they want, or not-talk if they feel inclined that way, and simply be who they want to be, which I hope, in S P A C E, is who they really are. So many other facades are out. So many guards are up. In the real world, I mean, and in the social media world, too. But who are we really? When I connect with people in S P A C E, I feel I’m talking directly to them, their real selves, without all the layers. That’s a privilege and a responsibility. But I think, I do really think, that I’m getting kinda good at this. That’s why I’m not quitting the salon-hosting online, not yet. I’m going to keep hosting as long as I get amazing applications. And I do. So I will.
S P A C E is where we write, talk, and comment; it’s asynchronous, and it’s international. I encourage pen names, too. It’s not about google-ability or sounding smart, or anything weird like social media commenting status quo goes. I don’t understand how social media got so out of hand. I really miss those days when twitter wasn’t algorithm-y, nor did it have promoted ads, and we could just say ‘hi!’ to @anyone, and it was chronological, and not driven by… agendas… Of all varieties.
I’m in a small part of the middle of it, close-ish to Oulu, and about six hours north of Helsinki. It’s called Kärsämäki. Will be sharing this photozine later on this summer. The reason I’m here is to make it.
Making a zine
But before getting caught up in the production-mode, I’m laying low and getting my bearings. I like to take my time. Plus, the theme for the photozine is ‘Slow Moment,’ which means you should probably get accustomed to slowing down a little before you take photos angled at that idea. No? I feel this way. I’m also realizing that black and white is the way to go for this. And that fewer words are going to be in it than most of the zines I have been making at Atelier S P A C E moments in the past. (View the new collection at this page.)
ATELIER S P A C E. This work started in Sept. 2017 with the first of the popup zinemaking ateliers, Atelier S P A C E || Battambang. So wonderful was that offline experience that I went to other cities and made more things, some of the time with others, some of the time with just me. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, you know, showing up for you don’t even know what’s going to happen yet. But I swear, that’s the way I’ve lived my whole life, and that’s why I’ve lived in so many countries [Ireland, Japan, United States, Cambodia, for 3+ years each], and had so many kinds of jobs [architecture, journalism, design], and built so many opportunities for myself. Show up, and magic happens. It does. It really, really does.
Zines? Why this format? They are short. They are accessible. They are easy to produce, and distribute. They are often photocopied, and the best part is they’re not pretentious. You can have literature in the pages, but that’s not the point. The point is that a group of people connect in time, and space, and make something, on the spot, together. Creative nonfiction comes out of this. Sometimes drawings, sometimes poetry. Sometimes more. But it’s always about seeing what emerges, when you allow the space to take the shape it wants, instead of over direct or overprogramme. The problem for me with most stuff is that they want to have a specific outcome, and these are the ‘key takeaways’ or ‘learning goals,’ but what I love the most is a lab. Give me a place to play around with stuff, so I can find out what comes out, naturally, when you move towards the things that move you. Little kids play in this way: they gravitate to what interests them. Some people let them. That’s more my style.
‘You’re a genuine person, and more people should know about you,’ said one of the younger people I met on my travels in Malaysia earlier this year. I think he really wants to see DK and our whole team here get… well… famous, but. We. Just. Don’t. Care. What I said was that I’ve resisted this in many ways because I think that you should work on finding the thing that is your thing, and not get caught up in all the other stuff that seems, from the outside, to be a thing that an artist would want (external validation, for example, in all its many, many forms). But I liked hearing these words: you’re a genuine person.
Maybe that’s all the recognition I need.
FOR NOW, I’ve been getting acquainted with this new place; it’s a small campus, very small, of about three buildings. But the fields and the nature abound. You just have no clear idea of where you are the first moment, if Finland is new to you (and it was to me), but in a minute, it starts to become more obvious.
This irrigation ditch is where the blue wildflowers grow.
Those are the birch trees demarcating property lines.
These are the dirt roads for going into the thinner arteries of the roadwork. Here is where we dine.
Connect and disconnect
Genuine. Authenticity and transparency were things people said they liked about DK when we threw all those parties in Seattle in the 2000s. They liked this blog when it used to be bigger, and more writing like I’m writing now… I think I’ve forgotten to write directly and straight-up, this is what I’m doing. News-like. For example, ‘DK are in Finland to create a photozine with others who are interested in the story form as part of a collaboration with an artist-run co-operative.’
That’s really what’s going on. I should probably say yes to this invitation to go to Kärsämäki . I should disconnect for a while. That’s what I said. That’s why I came. That’s why, too, the theme is what it is. Slow. Moment.
No ads. In international development terms, that’s like having no donor. Or in tech startup terms, it’s like having no venture capitalist who looks like Mr. Burns from the Simpsons and who will own you and all you make before you even know what happened. Or in creative fields like moviemaking it’s like not having a studio sign you, or in music, a label, or in writing, a publishing company. Sure. Of course that means you’ll be way, way less known. But so? The canvas is completely yours. (Besides, what’s really funny now is when I meet someone and they say, ‘You’re a writer? Oh? Written anything I would know?’ I kinda have to laugh, because probably they haven’t even read Dickens, or other massive basics.) But what was I saying? Oh, right. Freedom. Creative freedom. I’ve engineered my whole life around this concept: it was the one thing I value the most. Freedom.
To do as you like.
To make what you want.
Which is huge, for me. Personally. (Sure took a lot of quiet reflection to figure that out. I’m glad I did, though. It changed everything.)
Lack of these variant models of ‘strings’ is exactly why, I think, we’re going to see some dramatic and beautiful moments, ahead, in S P A C E’s online and offline ateliers.
How to start anything
OH, SO I HAVE to tell you. There is this expression I learned when I was in Denmark three years ago (doing something similar, but less formally, that time I was writing the Book of Songs) that says, ‘You can’t just show up in a place and expect to be able to know anything about it. You have to put your finger in the ground for a while, first.’ Put your finger in the ground. I remember when I once took a trip to Portland from Seattle with BR, this was a road trip, and when I got to Portland my first day I just walked around–no pictures, no drawings, no writing–and only on my last day, when I met up with B. again to catch the lift back up north, only then did I get to the camera. It was that kind of way, for me, all my life, writing is not something you do until you have a thing you really feel like you can say. Unless you’re blogging of course. Blogging is about, for me, journaling my way towards something. Grappling with the curious and different, the space of not-knowing, and writing into it. Sometimes people read these, and maybe they feel something when they do, but for me, writing here is a way to share the journey. The journey is muddled with lack of conviction, and that first step towards making anything artful, I feel, is letting go of the idea that we, individually or even as a small group, have it ‘figured out.’ (Here is the reason I avoid groups, generally. They tend to lead, even if they are well-meaning, to one-toned echo chambers, what people call ‘thinking in silos’ and they also inadvertently cause that social ill of ‘othering’ and other stuff. One of the people I’ve had a little personality clash with in recent days is into something in a fashion one might call ‘zealous,’ and it has been trying every ounce of my patience. Fact. Recognizing that I have to do my own work of inviting new and different perspectives means dealing with it. Fact. Hard! But AM told me on the phone that it’s gong to help me grow. Growth is big around here at DK, so I need to practice this way towards it.)
Mm-hmm. Cultivating the ground for new ideas to pop out and to take shape means first leaving all your baggage at the airport, or wherever it is your point of departure from the ‘old and familiar’ into the ‘new and different’ begins. Not everyone is going to enjoy this esoteric tirade; certainly not some of the people I am here, with. Phew. I will refrain from diving into the details of bumping into some of them, but I’ll give you a clue, when you start your conversation with ‘Hello’ and the other person says, ‘I do not understand what you are doing with your life,’ it can get a little awkward. [Nothing has been as awkward, however, as showing up in Seattle with no idea that there is a culture of ‘the freeze,’ and doing this right after living in southwest Ireland for a spell, mind, where ’tis all grand altogether, like, and fierce interesting when a stranger comes to town. (Yes, Ireland, and Seattle. Yes, I like rain.)]
I LIKE WRITING loose, open style words and paragraphs. It’s more me. Less news, more story. More diary? More journaling. Wasn’t blogging, though, originally ‘web logging?’ When did everything turn into a mini-ad? I hate that. I stopped reading most of the articles I used to look for online because they tend to get chopped into a meatless, droning series of words that sound like a pitch and lead to nothing of value. I feel I have wasted my attention. That bothers me. I want quality. I want to focus. I want people to talk to with me in small circles who also care about these things. Slowing down, relaxing, discovering, sharing. But yeah.
Settling in (but not travelblogging)
FEELS KIND of like study abroad, except, we’re in charge of our independent courses and there are no classes, no professors, and no grades. There is no canteen, no cafeteria, no study hour. I have no classmates, nor do I need or want them. It’s a place to get away from ‘it all,’ I imagine, for those of us who choose to join this Kärsämäki artist residency programme here, and to be quiet and apart from the things that can distract us from accomplishing, because accomplishing to an artist looks very different than it does to, say, a businessman or entrepreneur. When I roam around in the cities connecting with and discovering people, I coast into the old habit of talking shop, talking about DK, talking about the past work in Seattle. I don’t go as far as handing out a business card (I don’t have these now), but I definitely have a tendency to talk more about DK than I do about S P A C E. That has changed, a little, in recent months, but it’s definitely been a work in progress. Moving more towards the art for the sake of art, or art because it feels good, or art because it’s a way to make better things that I imagine will lead to even better work when I do start client gigs again for DK when that happens. Et cetera. Now I’ve said that twice, see that? ‘Et cetera.’ Oh, thrice, then.
Writing for the sake of writing, writing for sharing, writing for connection, and writing to get better at writing are all part of the reasons, if people need them, of why I write. I’ve been writing my whole life, and what’s weird, is now I’m in a place where stilling and centering are part of the programme (more of this kind of slow moment is on the way, and we’re also going to be sharing the real life conversations and interweaving them with S P A C E’s online forums, by the way). What’s even weirder and more curious are things I will write down, every Friday, and post in the next issue of our online eZine, S P A C E. It takes time to get to know the things to write about, but I’ve been very mindful of whom I share these outcomes with; especially because a lot of times when you write from your heart, it can fall on deaf ears.
Not that this is such a tragedy. I have zero interest in most of the writing that’s ‘out there’ for people to read, freely. I’m much more interested in focusing on the few things I have been meaning to get to and especially getting to that when it relates to the projects at hand. I’ve got a couple of books with me, a poetry book that I found in Helsinki (a lovely size), and a volume I bought in Berkeley, Calif., about four years ago. These things are going to be important, I feel, to the work at hand to write the next things that I’ll share at this site. S P A C E zines, for example, but real live art books, too. I would like to see more of the handmade feel coming through in my upcoming pieces, so I’ve stopped doing things like social media for the time, to focus. To concentrate. To see where the next big thing is, artwise, and not otherwise.
ARTWISE & OTHERWISE. DK’s summer guest editor Michael Bridgett, Jr. wrote ‘Why I Art’ in recent days, and I often think back on the conversations we had in Phnom Penh at STAMMTISCH regular meet ups on Mondays. Real life. The best way to converse, I feel. But it’s harder and harder to make time and space for it, isn’t it? I’m phone less and uncontactable outside of email, and email is iffy, and google reads everything, and that makes it hard to feel like using the computer to talk, and I have zoom now, so that is way, way better than Skype for conversing, and so on, but it’s tough to make these phone appointments and keep them, and see if they go somewhere because we are all so busy and focused on our work. But for me, work is about learning about others, discovering their stories and uniqueness, and, occasionally, celebrating the moment of this kind of ‘I see you!’ by getting us together in real life in small circles. Sometimes it’s really great. Sometimes it’s disappointing, at first, but the work and the art of it is to move the direction of the flow so that it’s less disappointing and more great. You have to be open to these things changing, as we go. Rivers do. We do, too. Who stays the same after ten years? I don’t think that anyone I count among my friends does. Stagnation is boring. Staying in one place means missing out on the views from other ones. At least, that’s how I feel. That’s some of what we’re talking about in the conversation salon, ‘A nomadic existence,’ so maybe I’m biased because that is a set of people who are also moving around the world, all the time, not staying still, not putting down ‘a root,’ because we’re all about the ‘radicant growth’ that you can discover about if you google that term, and read more about ‘relational aesthetics.’
Let’s see where this party goes. Certainly it’s easy to stay up all night. It’s bright as hell, and I’m tired.
To support this project, pre-order the zine S P A C E || ‘Slow Moment’ here.
Do you ever feel like it’s getting more and more difficult to find ways to meaningfully connect with others in stimulating conversation?
Let me repeat that.
Do you ever feel like it’s getting harder to meaningfully connect? I do mean meaningfully, not trivially
Was this easier in the past? (Or is that just an idea in my head? Like so many things, it’s easy to start to become nostalgic about ‘the way things were, before.’ But what are the bright spots of now?)
What are the modern, day-to-day items that give our life meaning, items we didn’t have before, but are important to us now? Let’s converse. Let’s meet and discover new ways of thinking, new perspectives, and new people. And old ones, too. Let’s talk about ‘Then & Now.’
In this series, you’ll have a chance to join a conversation salon that is designed to make it easy to talk deeply and connect with strangers in a very short space of time.
Hosted by Design Kompany, ‘Then & Now’ invites you to consider questions about where we are at this moment in time, where we’ve come from, and what we can imagine for our futures. Come with an open mind to hear expert speakers, make new friends, experience a ‘conversation salon’, play with improvisational theatre, and enjoy delicious food and drinks.
DK’s hosted salons since 2006 in Seattle, London, Malmö, and Copenhagen.
This conversation salon is part of the programme Atelier S P A C E.
REPORTING TODAY from a secret location in Malaysia. For a bit of space, to reflect and connect, with some whose paths I’ve crossed very recently, and with those who are still engaged with DK through our mailings in [S P A C E 2018].
‘New starts’, part LXII
I love starting over. I really do. It’s like when you open a new sketchbook and you’re just like, ‘Wow. Here we go. Where, though? Let’s go find out.’ I told some people in recent days I was in art school for like 10 minutes. It was way too early to be there, or really, it was way too wrong, for me, even then, even then I had a gut feeling about it… that style of making is just like production-oriented other schooling (commercial arts), and while I’ve no problem whatsoever with artmaking for a client (heck, that’s how I’ve lived these last 10+ years), I don’t think we should mess around with the ‘art of art.’ I will love to talk more about that in S P A C E when I get to interview someone whom I am sure you will adore meeting. I certainly have.
Anyway! This kind of quick-and-dirty art-for-the-sake-of-fame is just… not what I feel like real art is about. Real art is about experience, to me. About life, and about connexion-making. Not just you know, the usual kinds (love, work, blah blah), but about unusual and remarkable connexion. People whose paths might not have crossed, intersecting in fascinating new ways.
You know what most people say when I talk about this? ‘But, why, DK? Whatever is the point?’ These are the people who will never believe that I haven’t held a day job since 2005. The beginning half of the conversation with this set of people tires me. I stopped. I only talk now in S P A C E and with people I think would get into S P A C E aesthetically. It’s really weird. But anyway. Really, I should answer.
Why? Because quality. A pursuit of beauty that means we are noticing each other, for real. Not just superficially, gosh. Really? Come on, like how many of your ‘friends’ are going to show up for you when you ask them to come around to your show, or meet for a beer because someone just died, or something? Come on, be real about it. Ask yourself. Is all that stuff where you want to be spending your time? Not me.
Someone asked me for my facebook yesterday. I said I don’t have one. I don’t think he believed me. Then he asked for my number. I don’t have one of those, either.
Just being honest about it… about how I really… don’t collect people. I share, and interconnect, I hope, when it’s working that’s what happens, when we are all showing up for that kind of thing. It’s not arbitrary and it’s certainly not for everyone. The reason you have to get tickets for stuff we are hosting is because I want to filter out the people who are just bored and looking for something to fill their time. I want people to show up who want to show up for this kind of jam. New. New and different. New and different others, seeking meaning in a distracted world. Shall I add, an indifferent world? Because certainly this work we are up to at S P A C E and DK in general is morphing away, and very quickly, from simply being bored with boring (which is how it started, as a design studio), and catapulting headlong towards being intentional about noticing people who are not like you. Does this make it political? Possibly. I don’t know how this happens; wherever I go, I get involved somehow in things related to ideologies that move towards human connexion that builds, together, something interesting. Self-governance or maybe just art.
I’m not sure. Is it the same? Does one necessarily fertilize the other? What precludes these things? Is where we are going as a global society something to talk about, more? I wonder. (I’m just riffing here. Let’s talk, if you want to: there’s a form at this page.)
(Side story: ‘I studied the philosophy of art. A guy named __.’ ‘Oh yeah! What did he say??’ ‘It was a long time ago. I can’t remember.’ ‘…’ ‘…’ ‘…’ ‘Are you bored?’ ‘YES.’ <—- This is why I don’t go out, often, to the ‘normal’ places where it’s socially encouraged to mingle. And the exact reason I made S P A C E.)
I’m bored, of course, (of course? Is it a given, really?) with the status quo. Always have been. Always will be. The status quo is where stuff gets sucked into the pockets of mediocirty, the whole ‘We’ve already run that kind of a story,’ thinking or, ‘This is just how it has always been, DK, can we just go back to the way we’ve always done it?’ Me: Please, no. Please, let’s try something new. Can we? No? You don’t want to? Well, okay. Goodbye. How many times have I been stuck? 61. I counted. And now, let’s move forwards. Let’s go to Malaysia. Let’s go see who’s around, and what we can experience, together. Ready, set.
AVAILABLE in both print and soft copy, this issue of S P A C E is a 2-volume, limited edition zine. It was released on June 1, 2018.
It’s set in Kuala Lumpur in December, 2017, when DK and others were gathered there for Atelier S P A C E to look for the hyperlocal story and make a zine. It relates the honest dialogue between two women (‘both middle-aged, single, and tough with men’). In the story, two main characters, both brassy in very different ways, open their innermost vaults of secrets to one another, swapping candid stories about ‘the way it is,’ in their respective opinions, when it comes to love, admiration, power, and sexuality.
Sweet dreams are made of this/ Travel the world and the seven seas/ Everybody’s looking for something… —Eurythmics
THE HEROINE of this piece is a woman whose real-life story left DK so speechless, that we completely overhauled the story originally published last winter. Since then, the team collaborating on the zine continued shaping the story, to refine the so that it is much more a portrait of one particular strain of a life, a style, and a philosophy.
In this work of creative nonfiction, ‘Kaunter Tiket,’ corporate exec Ritu Raj meets a remarkable and unexpected chance encounter, and sees in an insightful instant it will reframe her perceptions of material, and personal, success.
Worlds apart, but joined in their experience of a series of life experiences with common denominators, two women enter an all-night dialogue that will touch on all angles they can manage to delve into on the subject of love relationships.
Look forward in this short, packed zine to discovering an unexpected intrigue, witnessing closehand a superior poise, cutting up mainstream media’s images of female beauty, and being allowed to witness a bright, passionate resilience.
Set in the smoky billow of neither heartbreak nor apathy, but reality, the story starts somewhere behind Jalan Sultan Ismail.
New recountings of age-old narratives invite you to rethink painted facades and false illusion, to re-examine your own storages of untested so-called certainties that may just disintegrate when challenged arduously, (as was the real life experience that inspired this story), by someone who simply knows a thing, by living it, a thing very basic and primal, and yet, a thing that many of us will never be able to access. DK insist that true connexion starts with showing up, that means paying attention, noticing and being there when someone begins to let the floodgates open. In this case, an honest beginning of just such a kind of personal connexion led DK and the team at Atelier S P A C E to revise theories about ‘status’ and ‘motive,’ and to note with alacrity thanks to one woman’s wisdom, how nothing and no one are as they may at first seem.
NEXT up, in our interactive magazine S P A C E, is ‘A Nomadic Existence.’ Our 12-week programme lets you drop into the ‘rooms’ where we are hosting deeper conversations on topics popping up each week. What’s been talked about, and what’s being talked about now, are in the protected-pages posts at this blog.
NEW. Zines. Creative nonfiction pieces. Are now for sale here at Design Kompany’s site, exclusively. These were created at Atelier S P A C E, a popup, roving, zinemaking atelier that seeks to interconnect people in hyperlocal narratives. We write them, on the spot. With the people who take part. It’s pretty fun, light, conversational, and really all about seeing what emerges when we frame a space to ‘get lost, together.’ Improvisation, poetry, philosophy, breaking out of boxes: and yet, doing all this, within the confines of a specific time-bound and space-bound frame: that’s it. That’s the whole thing. That’s Atelier S P A C E. See the journey so far in pics at our instagram, or follow the posts here.
Currently available for immediate download and pre-order:
The collection, shown below, is set to be completed by December, 2018. The entire work will interweave narratives of people, place, and story. The first story is set in 1996, in Kyoto. The last store is set in 2018, in Phnom Penh.Each zine will be released to members of our S P A C E community. Join here.
S P A C E || Zines
Research. Reporting. Creative nonfiction. Digital publishing. Limited edition photocopied zine-making. Popup atelier hosting. Welcome to the S P A C E collection made at Atelier S P A C E. Started in Sept. 2017, and is moving to new places to discover people there, get us all talking together, and publish the stories of here, and now, in new editions of the zine, S P A C E.
‘The world is a beautiful book, but of little use to those who cannot read it.’