EARLIER THIS WEEK, in the regular Tuesday posting of our subscription eZine S P A C E, I wrote all about my feelings connected to this picture. So very many angles here, in one frame. It is a highly personal story, not for public consumption here, but it is hitting the notes that play a chord that chimes in resonance with dozens of real life conversations with local people here, all week, on the feeling of creating within a very tightly bounded box.
Many emotional clips were shared with me in confidence, as I and our team at DK had reached out to more than 65 people, groups, businesses, and nongovernmental organizations to find out what to make in SG. (We tried to talk to government groups, but found out that one can’t call a mobile number in Cambodia, do skype, or reply to us with any less than 20 emails, going in a useless loop. Hmm.) That’s okay. We are pressing on.
I STAYED UP far too late last night reading a short story about loneliness. Some part of me was totally depressed reading how the main character was so lonely he paid someone to watch him on the video stream on his laptop. But then, going around this gleaming city each day, watching people with their own portable screens and streaming on the go, I got less sad. This is the reality we are in. We can’t talk to each other, face to face; that’s too weird. It has to be vetted, now, first. There has to be a real reason to know you have something to say to me, personally and I can’t do that if you are approaching me, in 3D, out of nowhere, and now ‘nowhere’ is the real world. Then, it happened. I met someone. Late, late, late. In the lobby of the hotel. Shared space. Common rooms. Where I found the book. The *oddest* things took place, things I can’t talk about on this blog because this blog is public space in the modern, new, updated, revised way, it’s public like ‘I can see what you write and think and feel,’ and not public like ‘I’m in this room with you, right now.’ A younger version of myself would have wanted to construct a blog post today that would outline for you the weirdness, in discrete segments of particularities, (because we all know it’s the details that make a story good), of what happened next, after our awkward greeting. (But I am saving that for next Tuesday’s S P A C E. Subscribe? http://gum.co/space). The shape of space of the evening was total alienation; bizarre and disjointed. It was, however, a theatrical rendition of the modern mindscape. We are bedazzled by spectacles, but we can’t see the presence of the thing that is the true miracle, which is this moment of a shared here and now.
ART. What is there to do but to continue to make S P A C E, for real life, the framing of the magic of chance connections, and the ongoing awakening that can happen, if we let it, when people who notice the detail of now and the slowing of a full moment in which no other pictures or sounds or other people’s annotated commentaries on That Which They Deem Interesting can eclipse this here… Who cares about what a friend, colleague, boss, or lover thinks or shares at a distance, far from me? I care about here. Now. If you walk into this stage, for even a second, there it will begin, the play.
IT IS SUNDAY. Laying low, conversations are being kept to a min. It’s that kind of mood, here, what with throngs of people out and about soaking up the city at the weekend. I remember this. All my city travels were like this… the weekend is when you really want to keep it to a minimum, the hubbub, at least, that’s how I feel about it. All scenester and hipster and instagrammy and it’s weird, and strange, but you could just go to the same places on a different day, say a Wednesday afternoon, for ex, and enjoy the space for much more airiness and lack of crowds. For a conversation salon space maker I am a terrible hermit, I suppose. But maybe that’s because I like to save up my energy and interactions with just a very small handful of self-selecting others. When people choose to take part in S P A C E, it means a lot to me because it says, ‘Yes, I, too, want to try new things. Show up. For something new. I want to try it.’ Maybe it’s just once, maybe we’ll never meet again, but wow, when we do this, it’s magic. Really. We can enjoy these things, can’t we? One real life conversation atelier or salon or just a bumping-into-you-for-this-moment space of time? I think so. Let’s see what happens, now, as we get ready for Singapore’s Atelier S P A C E. Only 6 days away. I’m here, I’m laying low, I’m readying, and I’m happy. The chai. I’m all about the chai. ‘One more?’ ‘But of course.’ ‘Yaar, you really look happy.’ ‘Chai, man. Haven’t had this stuff since Gangtok, Amritsar, and Delhi, way back before all the things that came.’ ‘Things?’ ‘It’s a long story. Meet me in S P A C E?‘
JUST LANDED. It’s been quite a shift for sure, from Cambodia, and we have a hefty notebookful of things to say that we will hold off on saying until we meet in real life, for Authorities might not like us making Off the Cuff Statements (and we should also refrain from Generalizations and/or Snap Judgments).
I had thought that the Atelier S P A C E event next weekend would be widely welcomed (nope). I am learning that it is the practical and pragmatic, as J. told me yesterday, that will usually win out over the merely intriguing.
We are zinemaking today anyway, to get into the mood. Who will be joining us, how it will happen, what we will make together is an open question, but here at DK we are all about the open-ended query. The shape of space that emerges, when just-because-some-said-why-not showed up, and made a thing *happen.* Battambang was a good one, we made this zine from the stories that came together for the instance of P’chum Ben 2017. ONCENESS is part of it. The urgency of now. Fun to think in a week we will start on the Singapore issue of S P A C E. Here’s to the journeys, the new and the next.
JUST FOUND this intriguing article that gives you the zine publisher’s perspective on zinemaking. Why would you do it? Why would you try? There are a lot of people who want to express themselves, sure, but this is a way for those who are interested in moving a step towards real publishing (with an audience, a goal, and a theme in mind before hitting ‘copy’ on the photocopier) from simply making something for your own consumption. I liked this quote:
If no one knows what you’re up to, zine-making is just some creepy hobby, but if it actually gets read, it’s the most satisfying thing ever. —Tsari Paxton, Ten tips for publishing zines
We make zines in print every so often, like the one pictured here. S P A C E || Phnom Penh’s theme is ‘play.’ Discover more about our online zine, S P A C E, which posts every wee, at the bottom of this page.
A three-day weekend popup zinemaking atelier. Once and that’s it, for Singapore. Don’t miss the chance to discover new themes within your own creative work, while also making an 8-page zine in a truly collaborative atelier. Hosted by Design Kompany’s A. Spaice and Dipika Kohli, you’ll have a mix of evening conversation salons to gather ideas and daytime workshops in which to flesh them out. Try something new, and be part of a global conversation that will span 20 cities in the next two years. Singapore follows Battambang. Penang is next.
People who want to go against the grain. Not just because it’s ‘cool.’ But because if you want real integrity, that isn’t pushed by some media source of that doesn’t have an alt agenda, then zines are a way.
Kirsty Leishman, a tutor in media studies at an Australian university, writes ‘an explainer’ piece in The Conversation about zines. An explainer, yes. This is what I have been looking for! ‘Why are you doing this, DK?’ THIS IS WHY!
For those who want one, an explanation that is, about why people zine, this is a good source. I especially love the quote in the title of this post about the culture of ‘just go do it, do it now, and don’t overthink it! that is embodied in the ziner-lover-and-zine-maker’s ethos. This part is cool, too:
Pictured: Part of one of the art books I made. It’s called ‘The Book of Blue,’ and I’ve shown it at clubs in Bangkok and Phnom Penh, inviting people to add to it, read from it, take a page or add a page. Interactive. But, it’s not for everyone. So I share it, only once in a while, in very small circles.
AFTER MUCH SEARCHING ONLINE, and even more not-finding, I have given myself a writing commission. Go to Singapore. Walk around. Look at stuff. See who’s doing something interesting. Discover them, drifting towards whomever or wherever intrigues, without too much noise, or fanfare. Talk to people. And see where the cool stuff is going on. The good stuff. Not just what people say is interesting, or pay to promote, or whatever. No advertorials here. No sponsored posts. That is just not what we are into, here. No thank you. We are interested in real, genuine, and authentic conversations, with people who actually mean it when they say things, and who show up, and who are, like us, intrigued by the possible, the new, the near, the now and the next. When I go around town with my marked-up map, checking out some of the cafes to see if they really are the kind of places I would go to and work out of if I were, say, a designer or a writer with a laptop looking for somewhere to lay low and focus, or a place to walk into and get inspired, or a place that just has the kind of vibe you really want to have if you are looking for ‘your people,’ in a city that feels, from what I remember, on my brief past visits, to be… let’s say… distancing? Maybe the world is just like that now, it’s hard to find space for real life. True conversation, connection, connexion. Why do I care about this so much? Relational aesthetics, et al. So many reasons. Sure I can write and write and blog and blog and who cares? If I don’t meet you, in real life and eye to eye, then whatever is the point of it? Really. I’m serious. So I’m going to outline for a few people the 25 places that I will discover. I’m gonna shortlist stuff, and post about things, but not here, not in public space. In forums,like ‘Strange Geometries.’ New mini-guide to Singapore, writ for the discerning and authenticity-seeking who are coming from out of town. No maps or pocket guidebook stuff. Just, a list, and essays, and pics. First release will be to members of our eZine, S P A C E. Join us there if you want to read it. S P A C E posts weekly, it’s USD $7/week.
MAKE A ZINE. Something quick, but lasting, with world-traveling, genre-bending, art-design-literary conversationalists. In just three days, you will collaboratively make an 8-page zine out of what we share with each other, and thin air. Make the time to sit in a small group, reflect on your life, and hit on a cool new idea together. The emphasis here is on ‘new’ and ‘now.’ No creative person can do anything intriguing without others to connect with and ‘throw around ideas to see what’s interesting.’ The zine S P A C E || Singapore, to be launched at the end of the weekend, will become part of a global conversation over the next two years, 20 cities worldwide. (What is a zine? See Wikipedia page about zines.)
Atelier S P A C E is an invitation to try something different. It’s about discovery.
Read the full programme of our Atelier S P A C E *zinemaking* weekend at this page.
It was November 2014. I snapped this pic in a public space in #Singapore, thinking, ‘I wish someone would meet me here and look out at this view with me, not a friend but a random architecture-design-art-writer acquaintance-for-this-hour.’ Not too intense, but interested in the new things, still curious, as yet unjaded. Was taking 5 from a slate of panel discussions that were, for me, too stuffy. I wandered, and bumped into a poet, who pointed out very articulately that sometimes what’s cool is not knowing who’s going to turn up, what’s going to happen, or how it will play out. The letting go started here, at this table, where I sat and wrote a page to myself in response. That note inspired all of what is coming, next month, 3-12 Nov at pre-events, salons and finally, Atelier S P A C E.
See ‘upcomings’ in the footer of this website.
Learn more about our 10-12 Atelier S P A C E || Singapore programme, including how to register, here.
Editor’s Note: Design Kompany spent most of October so far exploring the idea of going to Singapore for a popup zinemaking atelier. A new concept came into shape after more than 40 conversations. But A. Spaice tells the story from behind-the-scenes, of just how hard it is to co-create (and why making space for it is that much more important.)
I FORGET that so many people want to be sold to, not think. And certainly not to think with you. I forget that, when I make the initial overtures of, ‘What do you think? Want to explore something we could create, together?’ But lately, in the overture-making to possible co-hosts for Atelier S P A C E, I have re-learned this. It feels like I’m back at my old job. And that’s not a good thing. Openness is more interesting, to me.
Open Space. Which of course, is the whole idea behind Atelier S P A C E. When we meet together, just 8 of us next month, we’ll come up with ‘a thing that it is’ together. But only after conversations. Lots of them.
AFTER MORE THAN 40 conversations in recent weeks with people in Singapore about ‘what it is’, the unifying concept for Atelier S P A C E || Singapore has taken shape. (Will spell it out for you, in a moment). Finding it, though, had a lot to do (edit, had everything to do) with learning what it is people told me they thought it might be, or how it could be interesting for them. Of course. This, in design, is called ‘user testing.’ Which sounds weird. It’s just like saying, ‘Hey. I’m making ice cream. This is the sample. Do you like the sample? No? Why? What about this sample? Better? No? Why? Tell me why, or. You have a better idea? Great! I want to hear it. No, no. Tell me, really. Do.’
AN EMERGENT IDEA. While I was on the virtual journey towards this set of designs, selection of venues, and ideas for programming, a lot of things happened.
One: I found out I really prefer real life. (If you know me, this one is ‘duh.’) I forgot that I’m much more happy to talk to people in synchronized, real life conversations than online. Then again, it is easier online. You can send links and instagrams.
So there’s that.
But I also found out that I don’t have to do this. If no one whatsoever had played with the ideas with me, I would have skipped right over this and headed straight to the next stop. Already started putting out a call of interest for co-hosting venues, people, collaborators, design houses, scruffy cafes, slick clubs, cocktail places, all that. At the start, you have a wide, open field. Later, you close in on a concept, and once you have that, you do not veer. Which is why it takes so long. I don’t veer, so I need to know it’s this one, not that other thing that I thought of ten years go, or the thing you just said, just now. No. I need to know. This one. And for Singapore, I have this one. Meet in public spaces. Popup style. Off the cuff, off the official programme. See what happens. Make magic, because the real art isn’t what’s on the walls or in the vaults of institutions. the real art is us, showing up, right here and now. How magical! For this moment. Together. Shazam!
Many people left the early conversations. Or didn’t reply. The early conversations are the toughest ones, though they are also the most important. Because the early conversations are the ones that we use to design this thing. Talking. Talking with us. Helps. Maybe in the early conversations it’s clear that DK doesn’t seem like it’s going somewhere. Or, in a few instances, people just came back to us with an unwelcome hard sell. That was odd, and unfortunate. Like, are you gonna buy from us, or what? And we don’t do that. I mean, it’s not like we don’t buy anything, but until I get there and we start talking, then I can’t see you or know you. Maybe that’s how they feel about me? But co-hosting isn’t buying something, is it? Maybe people are worried to lend their name to something that’s unproven. A risk. But nothing cool comes without risk. Every single one of DK’s clients, 1995-present, knows this.
The weird part was when people wanted to sell me their products, or advertorials.
No. Definitely no, no no.
I’m just not into that. That’s okay.
New people have emerged, ‘getting it’, I imagine, or maybe it’s just better communicated and that massive question, ‘What IS it?’ has found a compelling ring of what seems to be a well-articulated answer. Which is what the early conversationalists who left were looking for. Tell me what it IS. At a time when I just couldn’t. But now, thanks to the early folks and their stated or implied ideas about this, I, myself, now know, personally, what this IS, why I’m doing it and why the people who I’m looking for should care.
Like on every other design journey, so far, the thing it is has emerged.
The earliest folks are gone.
Meantime, new ones are knocking and saying ‘hi.’ This good. This is how it happens.
THE CONCEPT. The overarching feedback was that the people in Singapore are looking for an experience, a nightlife kind of a jam. Not too much like a scruffy coffee shop jam session, mind you, which would be totally fun for me (and probably will put that together in Seattle or San Francisco, when the atelier moves to those places). But Singaporeans, we found through our conversations, are more interested in something that has style, elegance, poise, and gravitas. Does it connect to something prestigious? Does it have weightiness? Will it lead to something more interesting, i.e. new people, new connections? If yes, then it’s more interesting. That is what we heard.
So we’re gonna do that. We’re gonna do the nightlife thing, in unofficial popup style. Take the stages of public spaces, go where people are convening. Here is the kicker. Notice that the real art isn’t what’s on the walls, but what’s there, in the ambient interstitial space, the S P A C E that we will make, in real life, *together*.
DK’s first zine in print, S P A C E || Battambang, drops today.
This was created from the first-ever of our new roving conversation salon-cum-zinemaking popups, Atelier S P A C E. That took place on 26 September, over P’chum Ben in Battambang, Cambodia. We are focusing on the zine idea because it’s simple, tangible, do-able, light, accessible, and easy to put together relatively quickly.
Here is what Atelier SP A C E is.
Ateliers made on the road, on the fly, based solely on chance encounters and the self-selecting guests, collaborators, and co-hosts who, together with us: help design the content, select the themes through the activities we provide to make that easier than it sounds, and make venue spaces available to DK for these programmes. DK go to a new place. See who’s around, talk in real life. That’s just how it always has been. But what’s new is the making something part, now. Of course we design, we write, we get people talking, so why not bring these skills to social spaces, engage us beyond the simple smalltalk and shallow conversations that become, very quickly, a bore? That’s the concept. Of making S P A C E.
PLAY. For a while now, we have been practicing this. What, exactly? How to design space to really get people talking, about you wouldn’t believe what kinds of things, and doing this together with total strangers. (Ask any of us about how). What’s fun for us is the shaping of this space, a kind of timebound and physical geometry. As designers we love to frame the thing, and let the play that happens just happen. Not overdirecting, letting things flow. This is how people hit on their magic moments, of ‘a-ha!’, which, really, can be hugely valuable if you are feeling stuck, bored, siloed, or otherwise disengaged from people right around you. Look up, now, see them, there? Also online, reading, checking. Like me and you. What if, though, we could be reading the same invitation, to show up, to meet, in Atelier S P A C E? See what emerges. See what develops. Themes, philosophies, sharing, and, in the case of BTB’s edition, confessions. What? Yeah.
Today the digital version of the zine S P A C E || Battambangposts in our weekly eZine, S P A C E.
NEXT MONTH IN SINGAPORE, DK are going to be hosting a popup, weekend zinemaking salon, Atelier S P A C E || Singapore. It’s not quite what, I think, fits into the usual programme of ‘writer event, go to the library,’ and ‘design event, go to a conference,’ and ‘open space, that’s some kind of tech thing, isn’t it?’ But rather, a combination.
Only eight seats for this, and it’s open-invitation, this time, but the idea is to gather quite a variety of perspectives so that the thing we make when we meet to do a zine together (S P A C E Singapore), will necessarily be inclusive and curiously unusual.
It’s going to be 10-12 November. Starts on the Friday night at 7PM at the National Gallery. (That’s the meet point on the first day, when we’ll kick things off in a light, fun, easygoing conversation salon. I’m looking forward to this so very much.)
Based on the notes coming back from the internet, so far, I’m seeing at least a few Singaporeans are ready for this kind of thing. [Update Very nice to read ‘curious and intrigued,’ when I opened one of the responses. But truly, I hope so. The real creative process which I think is missing quite a lot, not just in Asia but the world in general, is one that involves tons of room to invite lots of new and different perspectives (for input, for exploration, for hitting on something novel). How can you ever hit on something different if you always approach the same people, discuss the same things, never leave the boxes? That’s the thing. The silos are where the dullness, mediocrity and complacency set in, we feel. And innovation suffers, and we’re all left with just boring stuff, all around us. Boring because it was a sole person’s ‘idea!’, good for them, but what about the whole, the collaboration, the gestures that can be made when we go where we’ve never been? Outside the comfort zone. Mmm-hm.]
At DK, we’re a little zany, sure, but we are totally serious about our work. Quality matters. It’s important to me. There will be some interesting conversations ahead, for sure, as there always are in our programmes. Conversations! Zines! How fun the two of these things together can be.
GET INVOLVED. I’m excited, ready, and… busy. Skype calls all next week with potential partners. Curious how to get involved? Check out our new page to find out what we’re looking for. Reach out through the form there for the fastest response.