DK and co-creators in S P A C E, our longtime online community of writers and thinkers, poets and friends, are making a Winter series. Interested in getting involved for 2019? Add your details here to join the community and gain your pre-requisites to co-publishing with DK. Or, be part of the conversations immediately, when you subscribe.
In search of meaning
Times, shifts, curiosity about new people and new ways of thinking, and the general crisscross of emails and vague fragments of thoughts are what we write and share about in S P A C E. Works are creative nonfiction short stories, co-created with members of Design Kompany’s team both in Phnom Penh and in the places where we are going to discover new and different voices ‘out there,’ in the field.
DK believe that the work of art is, in large part, ‘to show man who he really is*;’ Which is why we offer our cojournal this winter, ‘The Mirror 2018.’ Learn more about our spacemaking journey, so far.
*The lines came up when DK went to see the play by G. B. Shaw, Man and Superman. Great thoughts. But can we hear the new ones, from the voices at the margins? That is our goal, with our Winter 2018-2019 December, January and February ‘Work of Art’ collection. Leaving England. Quitting the United States. Making our way to non-English speaking landscapes, where people are living in ways very different from the ones we’ve known, growing up in rich Western countries. New members of DK are adding to the mix: rounding out our perspectives and offering a more global light on the topics we care about: self-awareness, self-discovery. Journeying, curiosity. Asking questions, not quitting, and never, ever giving up on your dreams
Where are the new and unusual perspectives, hiterto underreported or cast aside as ‘ethnic?’ Let’s go find them. Let’s write them, share them, co-create them. In S P A C E Meet us there? Introductory offer: subscribe for just $4/week.
THIS WINTER, DK are making S P _ C _, the sequence, around the theme, ‘The Work of Art.’ What is ‘art?’ Who gets to decide? What are we talking about when we design, and what do we mean when we ‘create?’ Is commercial viability important? What about feeding ourselves, what about crust? In the themed issues, as outlined below, DK and others in Atelier S P A C E and in our online community together explore ideas of social mores, incidental chance encounters and the new influences those bring, love, and large-scale impresses when Nature shares her beauty. This is a series not to be missed, available exclusively here. To get S P A C E’s winter collection, subscribe for our $4/week online subscription at this page.
TODAY OUT OF THE BLUE, I recalled some tidbit of wisdom that reminds me of how true it is that we are able to make things happen if we put our minds to a focused direction. The tidbit went something like:
We overestimate what we can accomplish in one year but underestimate what we can do in five.
The 5-years-and-counting journey in Cambodia is getting outlined and packed-together, in the way I like to do when taking stock and making summary statements of ‘what I’ve learned’ to myself. I remember doing that for every single project, at my first job. An architect’s office. Before that, I’d write down what I thought I’d learned from my college projects, mostly civil engineering stuff, all those diagrams, all those flowcharts, all those steel load calculation I-beam thingies.
Ace is high
IT WAS HARD work and tiring but the important part, I think, was learning to get through the tedious. Problem-solving. Arranging items, making calculations. Learning what problem it is that you want to solve. What variable you want to optimize for. These are the things of engineering school. You work all night on a homework assignment, or anyway, half of it, then you meet for coffee at usually Caribou on Hillsborough Street to find JK, who would have the other half, and there you go. Voila. Done. From what I learned, thereafter, JK went into finance. Said so, once, in a letter? Or a call? I can’t remember. I went into design somehow. Not that I studied it. Not that I studied journalism, either, but worked for a daily for two years and an alt-weekly for two, too. (‘Two, too.’ I like this little thing.) When we were seniors, we talked about what we were gonna do next in Life. The big chapter of Next. J wasn’t taking the EIT. ‘What’s the point? I’m not going to be an engineer, ever. And neither are you.’ I took it, passed. I never became a PE (professional engineer). Last time I heard from J, I was in art school in NY, cycling around over the Brooklyn Bridge at half past three usually, running around to jazz clubs with a black pen and white paper, all night long. But hell if I didn’t know how to take a derivative. LaPlace transforms, however, were never my strength. Why am I talking about math?
My father, an engineer told me not to study architecture because it was too artsy, and so I went into structural civil engineering, no, wait: it was geotechnical. Soils. Soil mechanics. Talk to me about clay. Talk to me about silty-sandy.
OR NOT. But if you did engineering, ask me to tell you my joke. Have one good joke. I’ll tell it to you. Oh, I know why I’m talking about math. Yeah. Because, KE. Fractals and chaos and our renderings on the computer all night while we tried to figure out the equations and Julia sets and z stuff. K, my best friend in those days, and roommate, and optimistic, very dear friend. K, who came to ‘Today I Love You’ the art installation where so did my high school art teacher and a new client at a big university who had signed the contract with the software guys who had subcontracted DK and whom I’d yet to meet. ‘Hi, I’m DK.’ ‘Hi!’
And yeah: serendipity. Entropy. The way things emerge. Chaos, turbulence: flow. This is starting to sound like a poem.
Poetry and math. Math and jazz. These are the things. It’s getting interesting around here. In S P A C E. Shoo.
I <3 MATH? But math is fun. Geometry, sin cos tan. Relational art and relational aehsteics and trigonometry are all related. Related ! See what I did there. Wow, I type like this when I’ve had too many coffees in a row, and it’s loud where I am because of some kid’s video game, and of course the pops. Too loud radio. Too many people on their phones. I forgot why I liked being fa away, in Finland (very very quiet). But I also had missed the chaos of all this: the noises blurring into each other and ridiculousness of conversations that the so-called ‘do-goody’ types come and do nothing of substance. But maybe they need five years… be nice, DK. Be nice. Ooo. One of them is ordering something, in that typical way of condescension, making a wisecrack that he doesn’t think anyone can understand. Me, on my headphones, trying to blare out the jarring juxtaposition but secretly enjoying it, too. The chaos. What a change from Caribou on Hillsborough, and all those gridded pages of calculations and discrepancies coming up and the most important conversation being what to do next. Here, it’s anything is possible. Anything is next.
NEW THINGS. New beginnings. New frames. New perspectives. New points of view, voices, perspectives, world views, and conversation-starters. New kinds of jam sessions in our intellectual play spaces, which are coming from not books but from us, talking together, writing in S P A C E, in the moment. The moment being now. Our now. This now. The one that is relative to us, all of us, 7 billion and counting, on this planet, in this solar system, in this galaxy, in this universe. So much to talk about. Discovering, every single day, in real life as we amble about the geographies near and far that most intrigue, excite, invite, and challenge us, with our very small circle of curious and open collaborators and co-creators here at DK, so many things. New is what we are interested in. Finding new writers, authors, original thinkers, still-awake-to-possibilities-of-optimistic-outcomes dreamers, responsible social leaders, owners of third places, makers of all kinds, and, all of us, at our hearts, poets and philosophers. Can we get back to the 50 billion years of evolution that are intrinsic within each of us, to explore what we all know, in the ambient space between us? The ‘luminiferous aether,’ remember that old idea? let’s say, I still like that defunct concept, or Jung’s collective unconscious, or the things that Krishnamurthi writes about. He was interetsed in us being better, as a collection, as a species. Not just some of us, but all of us.
There is no end to relationship. There may be the end of a particular relationship, but relationship can never end. To be is to be related. -J Krishnamurthi
LET’S INVESTIGATE, can we?, for a moment, let’s just say four weeks, okay, how far we’ve come since evolving from trilobytes? Can we play in the imaginative spaces that link most handily to the warmest places of the human heart? Can we discover, in the chambers there, where we all want the same things, really (for our kids to be okay, for us to be able to live in a way that lets us be who we really are, with all the daily needs met and then some, with comfort and emotional security and stuff like that, yes: is this resonating?). Design can make things better. I’ve been seeing how, for 10 years at DK and before that in jobs in architecture, when, that is, the studios were really good. But it’s time to design a new social philosophy thats inclusive and extensive and rooted not in words that weren’t even made in a time when we had the new sciences that we have now (quantum physics, multiverse math). Let’s update, can we? Sure… so, let’s talk philosophy. A new philosophy. A philosophy of the moment. Artfully. With respect to one another, with respect ot the whole. DK are inviting people from near and far into our inner circles of conversation. A balance of place, but also, of the ways of thinking that will invite the kind of dialogue that we really need now more than ever: the kind with a center, and not sides (HT M. Angelou, Mark Twain, Jean Rhys, William Isaacs, W. Heisenberg, Robin Davidson).
What is philosophy, though, anyway? In a nutshell, this:
Philosophy is a way of thinking about the world, the universe, and society. It works by asking very basic questions about the nature of human thought, the nature of the universe, and the connections between them. The ideas in philosophy are often general and abstract.
RAINING IN PHNOM PENH, as I write this. Wondering where the next few days and weeks will go. A few more days, a few more moments. Conversations in the real life salons, conversations in the online ones, too. There are things to say, so many of them, and I’m lucky to be able to have a chance to bounce ideas around with people and mostly just generally get to play. In S P A C E. And also, here and there, bumping into stuff, much like The Missing Piece goes around looking for things, falling into holes, bumping into walls, and so on. (HT: Shel Silverstein.)
A few more moments.
I could get poignant and philosophical here–
I could talk about how all the moments are one quick moment, as we had discovered in our salon here in Phnom Penh some years ago, The Book of Time, which I co-hosted with Anakot Asia’s Chhunny Noem. What a powerful moment. Maybe it was the sum of all the moments, smashed together into one infinity, here and now, oh, no, here I go, getting esoteric and rambly, and well, I ought to save those kinds of conversations for the intimate spaces of real life and conversations with just. those people who are actually interested, not foist them onto the blog and the internet and hope that people will say, ‘Yeah. I want to know more about this. Where can I meet other people who want to talk about meaning, existence, philosophize about things without quoting dead white guys, or just, generally, be How can I find more meaning in my own day to day just by simply talking to other people about the big questions hat are popping up in my own world, where I am? What is the point?’ And more. I’m partly inspired writing this by last night’s conversation with CM, who is really asking these questions, I think, the more I talked with her and the later it got and the louder the roomful of people, and the drunker, and the more frequent the occurrence of breaking ceramic mugs and glasses (?), well, the more the time went by, the more I realized, ‘You know, there are places where you can ask these questions and get to skip over all the smalltalk. It’s real. It can happen. We can design for it. I’m into that, that’s my thing that I’m into.’ (Easy to say, hard to prove. But the people who know, know. And for me, that’s enough. So we continue, charging into the world, with the goal of simply hosting and co-hosting more and better space for dialogues that have real feelings int them, real emotions. Not just… well… fodder for the bored, schedule-fillers for the lonely.)
‘I like to try to make myself uncomfortable sometimes,’ C had said, and I replied, ‘Because that’s how we grow.’ Growing used to be such a weird word to me, so touchy-feely and clinical and psychology bollix, but you know, it’s kind of all we have, really. To be able to improve ourselves? What else can we do? Add another do-goody NGO to a country that doesn’t want you here? If you’ve just arrived in Cambodia for something and you think you’re going to ‘make a contribution,’ be aware that this is a lot of nonsense and perhaps more about your own ego than anything else. I don’t want to even get started on the mansplaining that I saw and ranted about, when I saw it! [deleted]. Think about that.
Once more, upon returning to this country, where I have lived for three-and-a-half-years without having meant to, I found myself miraculously thinking, ‘Huh. I can see how this could be an interesting dialogue. And it reminds me of one, from before… also in this city. Quite unexpected, a small collection of us, new and different others, did we have 5? That was a crowd, then, for our salons, which are usually me and maybe 2 or so people… but always, always, always, I love the conversations that unfold. I’ve never been regretful about going and seeing and trying these, because you just never know. Maybe you’ll meet someone who’ll wander in from out of the internet and change your life forever. Gosh.
And given the right framing and the right collection of people… it can. And has. And will. Where are the artists? Everywhere. Much of this is amorophous and fuzzy, and that’s fine. Who cares about making sure everything fits some arbitrary logic-box? That what DK writes here and there as a collective is not refined, not finished, not concrete, not logical, mystical sounding, and open ended? How about this idea: a billion suns are in motion, right now. And N. Bohr, who said: ‘No, no, no. You’re not thinking. You’re just being logical.’ I’m looking at a philosophy of the moment: one that’s not based on old sciences that are Newtonian-only, out of touch and completely miffed by multiple and contradictory ‘truths’ co-existing. Frankly, philosophy is as obsolete as the fax machine.
And so on. And so forth. A blink–a moment. And infinity, too.
But, guess what? [Some of ] those [mainstream publishers and academics and philosophers] who consider things ‘good’ are the ones who are stuck in the old logic-boxes. They can’t conceptualize a new way of doing things because the old way is so engrained. SHR, a mathematician friend of DK’s, and I had met I a pub in London when I was that way, a very good and curious conversation in which I had asked him why things are devolving instead of progressing, society-wise. Wanted to say things about least common denominators and stuff but that is too fourth grade math and not that interesting to S, so I just threw out a thing about, oh, systems, and equilibriums, and turbulences, and he had said that people like the status quo. That’s why we’re not evolving up. They like the status quo. It’s hard to change it.
Me, thinking: Even if it’s stupid.
Not saying this, but it’s pretty easy to read me.
Him saying, without words, Yup. Even then.
Part of the concept with Atelier S P A C E is not to get parked for too long in any one place. Houseless and offliceless, But, I’m finding out on this miniature return, not friendless. More in a second.
First, from Lao Tzu‘s Tao Te Ching:
Hold fast to the way of antiquity
In order to keep in control the real of today.
The ability to know the beginning of antiquity
Is called the thread running through the way.
Meeting the way
IT’S BEEN really cool catching up with some of you who might be reading here, in this city. Phnom Penh. Reminiscing about things past, or sharing about the things that had happened before, or recently, or on the road. The way and the road. Basho—need to go back to that author and explore more fully. Important. But, not now. It’s also important to just be here and notice the things going on right where we are. I’m going to have to share more in the e-mail circles (not doing facebook now, not really hanging out on instagram), about the invite-only conversation salons on the way here, in Phnom Penh, before heading off to Australia and India and possibly the Pacific Northwest in those United States—gaw, I can’t believe I’m even writing that. I had wanted to get out of there, so much, but it’s been four years since Palo Alto, so… Yeah. Let’s see how it all unfolds. Things take time, I get that, but it’s also nice to peg a few things here and there, sometimes, too. But it’s loose and light, now. Letting go of illusion of control. Big changes. Ask me why sometime, if our paths cross in real life or in our online conversations in S P A C E.
This weekend, I’ll host Atelier S P A C E | Phnom Penh and write, together with others, maybe some of my actual friends?, a new set of zines, set here, hyperlocal creative nonfiction. Next stops, Idontknowwhereyet, but onwards is the definitely for sure direction. Plus, visa. Visas expire. Keeps you moving, doesn’t it? On. These are long stories. Not for everyone. I’ll write them. I’ll put them in S P A C E. Maybe I’ll keep writing about Cambodia. I mean, a little bit. It’s definitely easier when you have four years of experience in a. place and ambiently know where the streets go, how things connect, what foods are going to taste like, what’s ‘not okay’ when it comes to cultural sensitivity or mansplaining OMG, how everything you think you know about something is completely hot air, and how, when you come here, the thing you learn is that you don’t know anything at all. Some of that I wrote into the first book about my experiences here, Breakfast in Cambodia (Kismuth // 2016), which look at that, has just celebrated a two-year anniversary. Exciting. I wonder if I should have another launch-y kind of moment for the new books, set in Finland? Could be nice. I hope to, but it’s also fine if it’s just an inner-circle thing. Maybe. launch at, say, my house. Easier, these days, than making a big rah-rah out of it and trying to get people to show up. This has gotten increasingly harder, I’ve found, in the last six years. I’m seeing the futility of it, in a way. I may not even… well. It’s a lot to write here. I’m always starting to write a little here and then hesitating because, who is reading this blog? I don’t know. Which is why I’d prefer to converse in S P A C E, or email. Email me, if you are there, know me, want to stay in touch in a more firm way that has nothing to do with reading and checking and checking and reading. I’m here. I’m listening. Say hi? So that I know it gets to me, what with all these weird filters and hackers and spammers and people breaking into emails and stuff, it’s so weird now, it would be cool if you could use the form on our contact page. Could you? Here it is. Kay. Cool. The thing to do now is just get started. And trust the process. Be okay with getting lost a little, in order to find center. All righty, then. Let me figure out where to go next. Let me find that set of darts.
‘Fresh and original input’
WHEN I WAS IN AARHUS in 2015, I met someone who said, after a whole long giant hour-long conversation marathon, in a thank-you note to follow up the next day, ‘Thanks for the fresh and original input.’ Same person who talked to me about Heisenberg and principle and got me to see the Danish view of things (‘Oh, really? MIT says that? Are you sure it’s all of the people at MIT who say that, and not just some of the people at MIT who say that, and yeah, there aren’t other people at MIT who completely disagree with those people at MIT? Think about that.’) This is going into the zine, S P A C E | Aarhus, by the way. Coming in December. But yeah. Input, of course software people love DK because we are a kind of arbitrary asteroid-quality sort of ‘input’ for them, and the innovative spirit feeds off of random encounters out of left field (and S P A C E). So yeah, back then, way, in 2015, as the autumn was settling in and I was getting set to return to Cambodia where it would be instantly warm again in not-so-many-days, I’d thought. That’s a new way to put it. And today, the phrase comes back, ‘Fresh and original input.’ Why? The conversations that we have in S P A C E-like rooms in real life as well as in our online forums are like that, to me, all he time. Expansive, curious, inviting, insight-making at their best, but also, just… fun. I’ve just found some new and fresh original input that I had talked about in the post about the music I found myself wandering into while in Helsinki on my last night, and today, I’d like to share a track from one of members, Esa Puolakka, of one of the bands (Maagine). I’m looking forward also to soon interviewing the lead singer, Matti Halonen, for our podcast. Watch this space. Meantime, I’ll leave you with this track from Esa… (For me, the two tracks on his soundcloud are so very much in the vein of ‘fresh and original input.’ So here we go, passing it forward, making it up, jazzy, as we go.) I’m looking forward to the new and the next. More soon, from S P A C E. Tuesdays at 7AM, in the e-box.
Earlier this year S P A C E | Sheffield (with the lead story, Briefly in Sheffield) and S P A C E | Kuala Lumpur (Kaunter Tiket) had launched, but yesterday, something new.
HELSINKI. This time, S P A. C E is both a print-edition zine as well as a PDF. But, seriously, a wallop of a PDF, this round. It’s a 30-pager, packed with photos and some creative nonfiction from the summer in Finland. Three months there, all told, to gather and write the feelings and conversations and make some kind of arc out of it. I am really pleased with the way this one turned out.
Why? Writing. Is fun. Relaxing. Coming to the places that are where I want to be, writing about them, sharing what I’ve learned, gathering other people’s voices along the way and co-creating short packed works of hyperlocal creative nonfiction, informed, of course, by local knowledge, experience, and the culture of a place. The work to bring these things into shape is lovely and rewarding and invigorating and hard. And it’s getting more complex and sophisticated, I think, this zinemaking journey—one year, so far. I started Atelier S P A C E over P’chum Ben in Battambang, here in Cambodia. This coming weekend, it’s P’chum Ben again. So that means I’ve got one more year in this 2-year, roving, popup, zinemaking atelier that is getting run mostly out of pocket, with the occasional contribution from ticket sales, zine sales, and, hey, people who just want to buy me a lunch or coffee because they like this idea and can’t think of why anyone would put their own expenses down to make it happen. But for me, it’s obvious. I want to do Atelier S P A C E because I love new people, new input, fresh and original and faraway places that are new to me, and of course, writing, publishing, and sharing. So it hits all the right keys. It took me forever to think up the idea, besides.
So once it was there, it was like, ‘Of course I’m going to do this.’ Battambang was not too terribly far from Phnom Penh, so over four days, completely offline and on my own, I found the story to write the lead piece, ‘Here Comes the Dance,’ which, wow, is really about the Age of Anxiety. I really love S P A C E | Battambang. Probably my best one, but wait, no. Helsinki. No, no. I love Sheffield. Chuffed, still, to have gone there to finish researching the story. And then, there’s Kuala Lumpur: a place that’s becoming home away from home (away from… home?) I’m not sure what this is all going to lead to but I’m excited to share more news, soon, about upcoming Atelier S P A C E programmes abroad. It’s gonna be great, in the words of M, there in Finland, who taught me how to let go of the hard things that relate to grudges and difficulties in getting over yourself in order to show up properly for others, and who, in part, inspired this edition of S P A C E. Massive learning, this trip. The conversations with Alexis Jokela, too. Good craic, as they say in Ireland. In case you were wondering why I have an Irish accent sometimes, just google ‘The Elopement’ and ‘Kismuth Books.’
There you go, then.
For the bigger story.
Kismuth was the prequel, I guess, to the stories ahead, in S P A C E. Creative nonfiction, but in first person, so they were talked about as memoirs. I got all into that whole idea, even though technically it was too soon, in some ways, to write memoir. Someone who wasn’t happy about me publishing anything had said, ‘Who would want to read anything you write?’ Can you believe that? Some people actually hate it when you do the things you really want to do. What did I do? Leave the country.
As always for me, it’s the process of getting lost in order to find center that is inviting me to share some of the stories from ‘the road’ in the series of zines. Curious? Download S P A C E || Helsinki instantly when you order over here.
Enjoy it with a nice cup of chamomile (or, if you prefer, vodka and gingerale) while listening to the track, a mix tape, sort of, Exit Vantaa. Here’s to the journeys, then. The new, the near, the now, and the next.
Chapbooks, next. From our experiential publishing programme, S P A C E.
First one will be about the multiverse, inspired by the intriguing words and ideas about Brian Greene, whom I’m listening to an NPR interview about parallel universes with right now as I’m writing this. It’s on the multiverse. I first heard about the multiverse from a friend of mine, MVR, about ten years ago; M had been a neighbor and sometime-collaborator when DK had Kornerhaus on 19th and John in Seattle. Great things came of those meetings: math-inspired, philosophical, wide-ranging, and high-key. Enjoyed those, quite a lot, and haven’t met anyone as colorful in some years, now, when it comes to math-and-art mixtures of personalities. (M, if you see this, hi-5 from Phnom Penh. Also, do you know about this?:–)
QUICKLY, I thought it would be good to highlight some of the things I’m discovering from the lectures and interviews I’m listening to today with Greene. Not only did I really like the movie A Beautiful Mind, and also The Theory of Everything, and also, the fascinating and still-curious film, Charles and Ray Eames‘ 1977 short film ‘Powers of Ten’, not to mention the more recent viewing of something at Kuala Lumpur’s planetarium, ‘Journey to a Billion Suns‘—
–there are more things to sum and round in the conversation-spaces to come, in the hallways of our since-2014 and counting, very low-key and flat-hierarchical salons, ie S P A C E, here at DK’s innermost circles. We talk about stuff like this. Like, really talk.
Well, here’s the bit that is interesting that I found from a cursory quick search of what kinds of things might be worth zining about, when it comes to explaining (or at least, hinting at the possibility at) that which is related to the ‘multiverse’ idea.
‘In any finite region of space, matter can only arrange itself in finitely different configurations. You and I are just a configuration of particles… everybody in this room is just a configuration of particles.’
‘A large number!’ interjects the interviewer, who isn’t very helpful, really.
‘A large number but a finite number,’ Greene continues. ‘Similarly if I take a deck of cards, if I shuffle the deck, the order of the cards differ, [but] the number of orders is finite. If I shuffle the deck enough times, the order of the cards… has to repeat. Similarly, the order of the particles would have to repeat too. [And] if the configuration of particles repeats someplace out there in the cosmos, it means all that we know is repeating. We are out there. And that’s a very straightforward mathematical conclusion from a simple starting point: space goes out infinitely far.’
Elsewhere, he expands to say that math opens the realm of possibility, and ‘the art of physics is to be able to sniff out which mathematics is relevant for reality, and which isn’t.’ In other words, the things that math can do for us are to help us get to ‘the border of understanding,’ and then push over the horizon, as he says, so that we can use the things we can calculate and guess at through our mathematical calculations in order to test stuff out, with observation and experiment, and decide if it’s worth keeping around in our chambers of things we hold to be ‘true.’ A debatable idea, ‘truth’, (read something about how goldfish see the world through curved bowls and isn’t their idea of what’s ‘real’ just as valid, even if it comes together to them through a concave plane?’) but that’s another story.
If, though, we find out that our experiment and observation give us good cause to believe that there are things that are different from what we think they are, then hey, we’re on to something. This is how people had found out that the Earth isn’t the center of the solar system, after all. And is the stuff, then, of paradigm shifts and scientific revolutions. Too often in our current mode of thinking in the Western thought that has dominated for so long the scope for thinking about ‘what could be’ and ‘what lies outside of our understanding’ is so limited that it is shoved into a weird box of something called ‘spirituality,’ blech, or metaphysics or philosophy or existentialism, transcendentalism, or something else. Labels don’t help. What we need to do is find a new philosophy, a philosophy of this moment, in which all the things that the scientists have shared and shown and pointed out to us can inform an illuminated thinking about our existence: the main questions of philosophy which still stand, which have been said to be, in a book that S. Hawking co-authored, these: 1. Why is there something rather than nothing? 2. Why do we exist? and 3. Why this particular set of laws and not some other?
YOW. PRETTY NIFTY. THESE DAYS, I’ve been reading up at the libraries and listening to anything I can find on the subject of the multiverse and string theory. Following on the anecdotal stories I had gathered in real life, popping in to scientific establishments in California in 2014 and Denmark the next year, yes, all very popping-in, over here, as we do, in our meanders through S P A C E, in order to spot the people and stories that I’d like to interview for our podcasts (coming, also), and now, the new zines, and next, the chapbooks. Small, simple steps, these: moving towards discovering our concept and now, sharing out the learnings that are the most intriguing (to us).
S P A C E. The stuff of our online magazine… it’s about vastness and possibility. Yeah. Possibility, the search for the edge, the invitation to take a leap into the unknown, chance encounters, and the discoveries along the way in the very fine, very small, intimate moments of simply being, and simply observing: all of that is folded into our interactive magazie-cum-real-life-salon-series, S P A C E. where we go in the world isn’t as important as whom we find when we get to the places where we land. Sometimes it’s by invitation, other times by sheer brute force, to go and see what we could do if we simply turned up, to try. I heard that in 30 years, philosophy will be a subject that will be in-demand for jobseekers. Cool.
An art of possibility
QUANTUM PHYSICS has always been a keen interest of study for DK, not just because some of us have been trained in engineering, but because the innovation spacemaking that is so important right now if we are to continue to develop and progress as a set of collaborators in the world instead of isolated, narcissistic pockets of people who have wealth, privilege and power, well, yeah, so yeah, if we’re going to try to make things better for more of us, we have to get out of the usual treads and jump up and out into something… not-yet-known. Why? Because that’s where interesting things can be discovered. ‘Give yourself an A,’ says Benjamin Zander, in his book, Art of Possibility. We’re gonna do that, moving forward. Just gonna brute force method turn into a miniature publishing house. Starting with zines, last year, and now, moving towards chapbooks. Seriously fun stuff.
So far, it’s been about trying things with our senses and taking the time to get some feedback on the things that work well, and don’t. Showing up for real life in the salons and ateliers since 1994 (!) has been a work in the practice of how to get up and get going and see where things can lead, but that’s just our practice, here, behind the website, and we are now starting to share the learnings, the methods, and the outcomes, through the community that we are building, one small conversation at a time. Sometimes there are curious intermingling, in the protected pages of our online forums, which open the insights and give the shape to the things being co-produced, co-written, and co-
created. Why make this happen is a giant question for so many people—whatever is the point, DK, of going around the world on your own dime getting people together in unusual, hard-to-explain ‘ateliers,’ in order to do, what exactly? Oh, philosophize? Reflect? So that they can do what, you’re saying? Um…. remarkably interconnect and connect to discover new ways of thinking, meet new people, and meet themselves anew? But. Um. Why?’ Um. I guess I could say, watch my talk, ‘Fuzzy Quantum Pop.’
Brian Greene tells us that, according to mathematics, there are copies of ourselves, ‘out there,’ if we can accept the assumption that space goes on forever. In many of the interviews we are listening to in order to understand his idea, we’re seeing that he has to get past all these weird obstacles like how the interviewers are doubting the whole potentiality of math showing us that the way we normally think about things could be completely limited. (For ex, ‘That sounds like religion.’ Or, ‘I don’t believe space goes on forever.’) I’d like to find an interview where he’s able to just talk without those piddly questions. What is possible is what intrigues… the more we can talk together about that, the more interesting things can get, discussion wise. At least, that’s our take.
And I’ll leave you with this…
Let’s learn about the Maxwell Boltzmann distribution
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.
THUNDERSTORM. But not as bad as it might become, and quickly. so I’ll stay where I am yet a bit.
Am thinking about the conversation just now.
Motion and formula
The one about going with the flow. About going out of where you’re used to, in order to see what else is there. Taking risks. Stepping out. Going. Going, is the point. I remember talking about the coefficient of static friction being greater than the coefficient of kinetic friction, once, on a very different journey, to try to put it into some kind of easy-to-understand visual. But of course that is eleventh (or twelfth, depending on where you grew up) grade physics.
(The inclined plane, anyone? The mass and the force of gravity and the normal force, equal and opposite reactions, Newtonian physics, etc, and so on?) Those things change when we get quantum, but hey, most of the people in charge of things are still, let’s face it, in some kind of denial that there re still Things Not Yet Explainable by these Modern Methods of Science. We have no idea. In other words. We have no idea. Still, Bohr told them then to ‘Believe in the Existence of Atoms.’ I guess there is always going to be someone out there doubting something, smearing the thing that is emerging as a kind of paradigm shift, because it’s uncomfortable. And here we go, back to friction.) I want to talk about ‘frictionless coexistence,’ like we did in The Mirror. I want to talk about inclined planes. I want to continue my conversation with PC iabout d-v-a-t formulas and then start a new one with KE and MV about imaginary numbers and string theory.
The journeys are alighting.
The rain is starting. Stopping. And starting up again.
Let me change tables. Sit outside a bit. Where there is more airflow; where there might be a new nugget of a kernel of an idea that inspires the ripple of a tug of a stone on the surface of the new lake. A lake, say, in the middle of northern Finland, where the sun sets as the moon rises, simultaneously, in the month of June.
Koivu, DK’s new book about the summer of ‘white nights’ in Finland, is set to release autumn 2018. Learn more.
IN THIS POST, I will share with you some of the current thinking behind ‘At rest while in motion,’ but also, walk you through the actual in-the-moment journey of how one goes about trying to figure out the vague answer to the superlative question, ‘What am I doing?’
This last because it is a question that pops up a lot in the conversations I have with people in a very short space of time: ‘DK, tell me what to do now. You seem to have things figured out.’ Er. Hardly.
Those who know me personally know that I’m hardly well put-together; behind-the-scenes, I am a bundle of bits of paper, slips of notebooks that go in boxes, some of which I’ve lost track of, and all of which are existing in perhaps dusty, surely disquiet collections in patches, tucked away in the nooks and apartment closets, houses and spare rooms of very nice people (and sometimes relatives, wow), who take them in and hold them for me, indefinitely, until it is time to revisit with the old material and see how it fits with the new.
I guess I have something figured out, though, if I’m honest about it. Since 2013 I’ve been ‘on the road, indefinitely, with no fixed income, plans, or savings.’ And DK started in 1994, and then became an LLC in 2005, which was the last time I had a 9-6 day job. So, what does that mean? Well, when it comes to answering one question I think I have a thing or two to say. The question being, ‘How to take a step out, when you’ve no idea where you are going…’ Mmm-hmm. Story. Of my life.
But wait. I’m getting off on some random tangent. Let me talk about the creative process. Let me start with material.
MATERIAL IS THE FIRST thing that I am looking at, right now, when I am considering the first thing to do now that I am in one spot, for a time, with the bookings made through at least the end of the weekend, which, in our new state of ‘nomadic drift’, which isn’t new at all, really, but this time, there really are no flats or monthly rentals to contend with nor people who are there to say hello to every day, but rather, the flux. The flow. The movement. I like this, but I also have a lot of stuff with me. Stuff that moves in packs with me; the suitcases are not as heavy as they were in 2013 (left one in Delhi, left one in Bangkok), but they still are there. Taking up room. What to do with all this material? What to keep, what to let go? There are snippets from the deep past, somewhere in a box in Cambodia, there are things from even further back, well before that, art show leftovers in rolls in Raleigh-Durham. I always wondered what I would do with all that stuff. Stuff. So much of it. Might explain why somewhere along the way, I switched from doing print work to going digital only. This is coming around again to the world of somewhat limited edition and very custom, very one-of-a-kind printed stuff, but again, it’s stuff, and that means, ‘What do I do with this?’ It’s been neat sending some things off in the postal service, through the S P A C E || Finland page in our online store. It’s been nice to share things with people in real life, people I’ve just met, people who say, ‘Those are nice. Wait, are you selling them? Great. How much? Okay, that’s fair. I’ll take one of those.’ It’s like giving away kittens, I think. You have a lot of offspring and you don’t know where they’ll go; but you don’t want to just leave them around. You want to find them good homes. And that’s what’s happening. The rest?… the rest is with me. I’ve got an extra bag now. It’s got Moomintroll on it. After all, this was the summer of stuff I made in Finland. But it’s also… good material. For zining. On into the next. I like it when bits and pieces from the last place make their way into the current works. And so, now, I should talk a bit about the creative process.
‘Trust the process’
FOR THE FIRST TEN years of DK, I would always start with a few things with every new client. First, I’d ask for a book recommendation: ‘What book sums the story of you? I’ll go and read it.’ Then, I’d ask for them to have a look at this slideshare, because it’s really quite simple to read through and puts a lot of stuff in perspective. Lastly, I’d ask them to ‘trust the process.’ To trust me, really, to guide the way towards some kind of breakthrough.
That’s not an easy thing to sign up for, but sign up a handful of people did, each year from 2004 until now, which means that’s why DK is still here, existing, making space and now S P A C E (online magazine) and Atelier S P A C E to gather us for short-run weeklong or four-week-long stints of time so as to delve into the exact style of the foray into the creative process that DK had delivered to clients in Seattle, Raleigh-Durham NC, and more recently, in Phnom Penh.
Because I myself am in the midst of a design overhaul here at DK, not unusual because we like to reinvent quite a lot around here, well, I’m taking stock of the materials gathered and looking ahead to 2019. Where shall we take things with DK? Who wants to collaborate with us, who wants to connect in S P A C E? Does S P A C E want to become something different from what it is, right now? Or is it working, as it is? Even in very small circles (which is my personal preference), there are moments of real and true connexion, you can feel it, it’s not just me saying that, and then we get philosophical and talk life and meaning and sometimes about life plans but not in the usual terms, more in… the kinds of words that one allows oneself ot speak when she or he feels at ease. I remember this from a past life, a longago summer, this wild and crazy time of just being, just hanging out, with friends. Before the era of justifying your existence through the use of social media channels, there was just us being around each other talking late into the night maybe with some music going in the background or someone with a guitar, but always, always, always, there was that ease and comfort when you felt like you could just hang out, just chill, just be around people, just be. A long time ago, yes, that I felt that was the norm. Now, what happened? We are distracted and I forget to get back to the work of making S P A C E. At the Form/Space Atelier show I was invited to put together in Seattle (thanks again PP), I remember writing the artist statement and saying something about BTFL SIMPL. Which was: ‘I want people to relax. To feel air, space and comfort.’ That has not changed.
S P A C E for play. S P A C E for conversation. S P A C E for slowing down. S P A C E for the easygoing ‘third place.’ There is so much to talk about. That’s because… there’s so much material. The work now is to sift through all of this and see what makes sense to keep, what to let go. Editing is this. Editing is being aware of the thread that makes the necklace, and letting the string sing while the gems and pearls add to the vocals, rather than distract and detract. The vocals matter. The vocals. Erm. Ah. I sound like DK is some kind of a band. I talk a lot about jam sessions. I talk about jazz. Chords. I guess, in a way, I’m kind of the vocals around here. I’m looking for the baseline, the guitar, the horns, someone bring a triangle, and whatever else you’ve got. Come out and play with us, with the people who are here and ready. Jazzy, light. It’s okay. I don’t have to overthink this. I don’ have to intellectualize. Either you get it, and you want to try it, or you don’t.
It’s okay to say, ‘I don’t know.’ Just ask N. Bohr (you’ll have to go to Copenhagen and find his grave at Assistens). But for the moment, at the top of the journey of a parabola upon which a ball is tossed upward, there is a spot where the velocity is zero. That means, we’re at rest. That we’ve stopped moving. For that moment, you have the view. The vista, the zenith. Take it all in; look around. See what’s what. But don’t try to put meanings to things that you’re looking back on, and don’t investigate too deeply into what’s next. Because the moment is here, is now. And we are at zero velocity.
FOR THE FIRST TIME, probably in a long time, instead of a long ramble, I’m going to tell you a story. About the time I met L.
The reason I want to bring this up is manyfold, but begins and ends, I think, in Kuala Lumpur. Which is where I have just returned to, and where I keep popping in, it seems, for two- or three-month blocks. Looking for the story, is what I had said, before. But it’s more than that. It’s looking for the life.
‘It’s not that I want to make a living from these zines,’ I had said, at that tea place with many shelves of carefully arranged books on feminism, cooking, and LGBTQ features. ‘I want to make these zines live. And you need to have great stories for that to work. To really work, I mean.’ What was I talking about? The dream quality was there, that day. You know that one, right? When time slows, almost stops. You notice this kind of thing, especially when you are alone, on the road, waiting for tea, waiting for the rain. Looking at the bookshelves, but only kind of. Most jacket spines were writ in Chinese.
So in the end, I was reading nothing at all, for once, instead writing in my head, writing blank columns into the aetherspace of just-zoning-out. Same like the moment I chose to amble up those stairs (unmarked, curious, vaguely intriguing), and into the cafe-cum-bookshop’s front atelier. But I peeked over the edges of uncomfortable-looking but perfectly-colored red sofas. Of course I did. Was there a backroom?
It had a large window that looked out onto a balcony. Floor to ceiling windows. I love those. I followed the sightline.
That’s when I saw her. L.
Her things arranged meticulously around her, but I could tell, for a long time, she wasn’t paying attention to those bits. Paper, a laptop, some cords, some phone stuff, maybe a few more electronic things that I couldn’t identify, really, because I’m out of touch with that kind of thing. I stick to paper, still, believe it or not. Pencil, paper, scissors, glue.
She was elsewhere. In the just-beyond, in a way, at least, that’s how it seemed, to me, on that afternoon with a soft rain, not the monsoon, but the lighter kind, about to fall.
‘Ever since I met you,’ she would say in not that much time, ‘which was ten minutes ago, I feel like I could really… connect.’
Enter the heart of S P A C E.
AS IT IS WITH BEGINNINGS, it is, too, with the middles, I think, of the space that is shaped when we go around the bend, see what might be there, and begin to go quiet into the space of just-being. Maybe a couple of minutes passed, maybe a few hours. I can’t be sure. I’ll never be sure. She was there, and I was there, and we talked at length about many, many things related to, hey, feminism, and showing up, and real life, and circumstances, and how things change, and where we are, and, of course, uncertainty. My beat. I write about this, I talk about this, I calculate nothing really, anymore. The second law of thermodynamics was how it all began, in a summer classroom half a world away, sitting there, Mann Hall, N. C. State. Was that where? It was. A summer of learning how things flow, where turbulence arises, how entropy works (or how we think it does), what professors can do with a constricted schedule that blocks classes into longer hour-periods, instead of longer weekly semesters. Summer and then. But… I’m getting nostalgic for another time; that won’t do. That is a distraction. That takes away from here, hijacking the moment. This moment. Now. (Not to get distracted further, but um. The future. Ask me sometime about an upcoming salon, ‘Kandinsky’s Window,’ which is about the viewfinder of the street window, and the life that’s just beyond… ask me sometime about the book Point and Line to Plane, too. I’m always more than happy to talk non-Euclidean or multidimensional bric-a-brac in the forum-space, ‘Strange Geometries.’) But first, let me quickly recount the short, real conversation that happened when I met someone who reminded me in every way of the people I love discovering, on the road, in the moment, away from everything, because they have that expressiveness in the eye that says, ‘Well, hello, who are you?’ But she said—
And I said–
(Things start so simply, don’t they?)
Geometries and strangenesses, the ever-changing shape of space. Is L. in Kuala Lumpur? Will we meet again? I don’t know. I can’t know. Nothing is for sure. (Remember, uncertainty is my beat.)
‘There is so much bad art in the world.’
‘Yes. Yes there is.’
What’s good? What’s quality? Where can we go to find it? We can seek theories in books, or write essays that philosophize about these big questions. But we can also go into the quiet space. The in-betweens—where, I’m finding, at least for me, things like ‘good’ and ‘quality’ and ‘beauty’ and, yes, I’ll say it, ‘magic,’ exist and co-exist. Here in the edge-finding rooms where we go, now, me and the people I write and talk deeply with, at length, in conversation salons or put-together-in-this-now gatherings that may be impromptu, spontaneous, planned or unplanned, well, here is where we are headed. The magic moment. I know, I know. You want me to spell things out. ‘Make it clear, DK, what this is and why it will make my life better.’ Well, truth is, I can’t do that. I can only show you what I feel when I feel the magic moment happening to begin. It’s really… um. It’s… well. It’s personal. I can’t share that kind of thing in the public blog space, which is why I resort to protected-page forums.
In which there is… well. Sharing. Conversation. Connection and interconnection. One designful moment at a time. I can’t really begin to describe all the magical things that happened when people connected across S P A C E here and there, like in The Mirror in the early part of the year, and currently, we’re going to be finishing something soon called Slow Moment. I’m humbled and grateful for the chance connections that have led to new thinking, new input, new… feelings. It’s where the world of imagination and heart can take us: it’s where we can begin to slow down, let go of our inhibitions, disclose things that might feel very hard to open up about, and, in this way, build new shoots and germinate anew.
On the bus on the way from Helsinki city center to Vantaa for the airport, I met someone from my part of the world. With my very accent. My style of speech. My idioms, my cultural references, my diction, my slang. But: we did not relate. I couldn’t. There wasn’t the same quality of space there that there had been elsewhere. Just because we share the same passport doesn’t make us familiar. What makes us familiar is the intricate and curious longing to go somewhere else, to seek, to quest, to discover. And not make it into a big deal: to just go.
The magic of now
LATELY, I’ve revised my thoughts about what ‘art’ is. Dislcaimer: I spent like ten minutes in art school, this was in Brooklyn, this was a zillion years ago, and I’ve been pushing around in the world, ever since, I think, trying to feel it instead of think about it. In moments, it arrives: that feeling. The one that says, ‘This. This is art.’ I’ll tell you more about that in a second. But first, what is not. (To me. Everything is relative, after all.)
It’s not a book or a novel or a painting or a YouTube video. It’s not a song or a worked-over collage that no one will ever see. It’s not the words in the diaries that someone who wrote them wonders if their great-grandchildren will read and somehow recall them, or at least, know a hint of a whisper of their having-been. No. Art is closer to us than any of those things. Art happens, to me, in the quiet stillness, in the noticing of: being here now.
Which happens at a specific kind of moment.
The moment of something that has turned, somehow, into a kind of novelty. A real life meeting, eye to eye.
These days, to me, the making of art isn’t the accruing of ‘stuff.’
ZINES. Conversation. Real life. In an age where the internet can confuse and lie to us, ‘zines’ (xeroxed short publications we make ourselves and give our friends) give us a tangible grip on the *here and now*, and remind us that at the end of the day, *we* get to create and write our own stories: the stories of our lives, the stories that remind us who we are. Make. Eat. Drink, and relax with us to put together your own 8-page zine. We’ll show you how.
*** UPDATE: Be sure to grab a special discount when you apply the code ‘DKlovesyou’ at the event page (where it says ‘Enter promotional code.’) ***
SATURDAY AFTERNOON we hosted Arts & Letters Society at the cafe of the National Museum here in Kuala Lumpur.
Have moved over to Southeast Asia for the autumn tour to make more zines, meet more people, find new stories, and co-create works of creative nonfiction. (If that sounds like a tall order, well, maybe it is. But we’re on for the challenge.)
Why host popup salons?
I HAD GROWN tired of the usual meet ups around the places where I was living in the past. Seattle for tech events. Durham NC for the feelgood community spaces where, you know if I’m really honest, I never felt like I could be part of because me being me, I had one foot always ready to jump out the door and exit the country. See things. Go places. Meet people. Discover. Why? Because… the new. Searching and drifting, looking and listening. Managing to do this, somehow, in a wobbly way at first (2013 was difficult), but then, with growing confidence, and practice, and, hey, people who were interested in the same, and co-creating, and then, amplifying our work together because we’re moving in the same vein. Let’s do this, I’d say. Let’s play.
An art of the moment
HAVING BEEN AT IT making Atelier S P A C E for a year now (pics on instagram, zines in our store), we’re getting more practice at the ‘how’ of designing the spaces in which new and different others can find remarkable moments of connection. It’s very airy, I guess, to say it that way, but what it really looks and feels like is a cozy, fun, light and casual conversation party, and, when it’s good, you’ll see ridiculously deep moments of insightful breakthrough that occurs when we are talking together. This happens between, and this bit is important, because this is what makes it S P A C E and not a general meet up, it’s between people who haven’t ever met.
Shifting and growing.. Moving and changing. The art of noticing. The art of paying attention. Less talking. More ambient being-together. Not over-intellectualizing. Calming down. These are the shifts, of late. This fall there will be more of them, I’m convinced. But what, exactly, and how, are still open to discover. If there’s anything I learned from Finland, it’s this: we are where we are, right now, at the moment.
Everything ahead ‘depends.’ Katsotaan, ‘let’s see.’ You don’t have to know everything up front and have it all pre-defined, agendas outlined, bullet-point lists typed up to distribute.
The old style of DK (‘let’s get to the point, and make it snappy’) is morphing a little into a mellower, kinder new one (‘let’s play’). Why? We were always more about the play side of things, I think. Somewhere along the way we lost sight of that because DK turned into ‘a business,’ or ‘work,’ or ‘a consulting boutique,’ or, um.
What would you call it… ‘A job.’ A job? A job? WTF. DK is never a job. DK is DK because it’s a space for play, exploring, experimentation, discovery, co-creation, shifts, drifts, meanders, and the rest. I don’t want DK to look or feel like a job. So I’m writing this blog again, first-person, directly.
I hope you can enjoy with me the new stuff. Which, honestly, has been about stripping all the facades and getting back to exactly where I started, in 2005, right here. Blogging every day, from DK World HQ in Capitol Hill, Seattle. Telling whomever might find it interesting what my personal opinions were, back then. Embarrassing, really, when I think about it. But if it wasn’t for the blog I never would have found people like Seattle-based CE, or Durham NC’s JM, whose mentorship and patronage gave DK the boost it needed in those days to continue to evolve, to develop new programmes, and to test out some of the things that we had no idea about. I’m writing this as if it’s a big moment of reflection or some kind of wild milestone, or something, and it’s just… not that, but it… feels really good to go back to the original DK. Where we just played. A lot. Almost every day.
In real life with people we liked, going to the parlors and bars and cafes and parks and museums and theaters and otherwise ‘third places’ and designing S P A C E. Who remembers the party ‘Dazzle?’ Or ‘Sugar?’ Or ‘Pop?’ I still remember when one of our guests said she’d driven past the house, then circle back when she saw a giant plastic floor lamp, a kind of round thing that looked like a big fat flower, blaring light from the doorway. ‘I knew when I saw it that had to be the place.’ It was. It still is. Now our lamp is blaring in a different kind of way: conceptually. I know, I’m getting esoteric here again. Sorry about that. It’s really not that hard, or intellectual, or anything. We’re kind of um, just. Um. Always. I guess this makes it really not-work. But I’ll say it. We’re just having a really good time. Like a party.
JUST FOUND this by happening to be in the right bus, at the right hour, in the right place, to happen to hear it. This is the very stuff of S P A C E. Chance encounters, serendipity: veer. You go where you don’t know what might happen, and you happen to run into something magical. I call this the ‘magic moment,’ when it happens. I was on the bus. There was a young woman in the row in front of me. The bus was pulling in, but this song. This song! What was it? It was in Finnish, but having been here for three months now, I could pick out the words that stunned me. The refrain (catchy, poppy) sounded exactly like the title of our new zine. How does that happen? It just… does. You go to a place and you look for the art, the things that people are trying to express, or that you feel they are sharing with you, and you make a piece. In the case of DK, a zine. That spells out our explorations into what people shared with us about ‘summer,’ and ‘love,’ and the ‘love story.’ In the case of Mariska, it was a song. ‘It’s like a love story.’
Hers is Itserakkausjuttu—[Update: A Self-Love Story] It’s like a Love Story. (Listen to it on our ‘Exit Vantaa’ playlist at Spotify, here.)
There it is.
The chance encounter with… someone else feeling and expressing similar things to us. So even though it was a song over the radio, that didn’t mean it wasn’t important or connecting. It mattered. Mattering. There’s more to say about that, but not here, not yet. Saving it for the book, Kesärakkausjuttu. Editing this week. Almost done. Friday is my deadline. Whew. Almost there. But meantime, pausing to appreciate that another artist in the same country, in the same summer, also hit on this exact idea—our media of expression are different, but conceptually and aesthetically, our pieces are exactly aligned. Isn’t that what we call ‘good chemistry?’ It’s amazing when it happens—rare, beautiful, impossible to believe, at times, and almost always, the kind of sharp and pungent hit of dopamine that might be exactly what you need, in a particular place, time, and space. When you get the sharp high, everything moves from ‘this,’ to ‘adventure.’ And it’s adventure where DK loves to explore at the edge; that’s the ever-emerging shape of S P A C E.
ROAD TO ROVANIEMI. I heard it on the bus, yeah. I was in Rovaniemi, or just-about-to-be. It was kinda cold out, me and JŽ‘d gotten rained on, and I was like, ‘Let’s just get back and get warm and eat something.’ But then, um. The song. It struck a chord with me in a way that hasn’t in a very long time. Um. This! Wow. This? This. Yes. It was going to mean staying on the bus a bit longer. All the way to the train station. But I had to. To find out. Who was it by? How was I going to find out? Well. There is a young woman in the row in front. Let me just… ask her. Then there were phones, typing, googling, youtube, and the name of the artist… Mariska. ‘The title is Itserakkausjuttu,’ she said, almost as delighted as me for having helped me find out something that seemed important to me. I showed her this page of our website, and we were talking. Talking, talking, talking… all the way to the train station. Lengthenting the trip for J, but um. The song. I now had it. Which was exactly the nut I needed, in order to secure an important kind of bolt. Let me elaborate, to try to clarify what I mean. Hm, how shall I put it. Okay, here it goes…
All summer I’d been wondering what to write to take away from Finland, what to post, what to blog, what to publish, what to eZine, what to put into the whole set of printed pieces that will be sent by post this weekend. And then, with the song, something important happened. The pieces were there, the collection was ready, the channel of the bolt was carved, the bolt had been placed. Everything was loosely there, but the last bit was missing. The nut. The nut that tightened it all; the song was that nut. The aesthetics of this book and this song were importantly aligned. (That was my gut feeling; and as you know, if you read this blog, you know it’s from the gut that I move.)
A collection begins
THE BOOK, the summer, the story, the collection S P A C E || Finland. With this new little piece of a happened-upon sound clip, the aesthetics of Kesärakkausjuttu and accompanying pieces were now set.
A Summer Love Story is the name of our piece.
Hers is called Itserakkausjuttu, which translates by my bus companion in front who helped me find it as ‘A kind of love story.’
The nature. The calming.
These things: all of these things were swimming about in the brain, and then we wrote some stories with Alexis Jokela, and then we printed a few of those and shared them in Oulu and here in Kärsämäki at a short series of conversation parties called Hei Kesä. Testing things. Why not talk about summer and happy things, we were challenged, instead of melancholic depressing ones?
TALKING TOGETHER, working out the story, sharing in small snippets, testing, translating some of these, sharing those, limited editions, hidden chapters, Rated R things, stuff like that. All of it is part of the summer of Atelier S P A C E, writing, deigning, exploring, conversing, connecting, and discovery. It’s always that, but this was the first time we had expanded it to three full months, and not interwoven Atelier S P A C E with any other DK project. So that meant, focus. And concentration. And hopefully, a work of…. Art.
CUTUP. Those who know DK know that a big part of the zines made here are from the cutting-up of magazines, especially womens’ magazines. Why? I hate that these magazines try to tell us a story about what women ought to be into or how we ought to look. So when I google translated the song that I’m talking about and found a few lines about exactly that, I knew for sure I had hit on the right piece to listen to while editing the whole collection these next few days before leaving Finland. These are the lines, and the full Finnish lyrics are below. Thanks, Mariska!
Let’s see the women’s magazines again How bad and bad I am Although not true at all I wondered, “what’s wrong …” … I like my life I enjoy my skin…
Olen vihdoinkin käsittänyt sen Mä oon fiksu ja kivannäköinen Kaiken hyvän todellakin ansaitsen Mitä tielleni sattuu Helppo muista on kyllä välittää Mut itteänikin mun täytyy silittää Lupaan täst edes aina yrittää Itserakkausjuttuu Itserakkausjuttuu Itserakkausjuttuu
Voi heittaajat sanoo mitä tahansa Ei se mua liikuta, pitäkööt vihansa Mut se mist aiheutuu vahinkoo on Jos mä en itelleni frendi oo Jo kiistatta oon paras minä Ja muihin mä en vertaa mua enää ikinä, hä! Tää on luultavasti sullekin tuttuu Sitä itserakkausjuttuu Itserakkausjuttuu Itserakkausjuttuu
Naistenlehdistä lukea taas saan Miten väärin ja huono olenkaan Vaikkei totta se ole ollenkaan Mietin vaan “mitä vittuu…” Mikä mussa on muka nurinpäin Vaikka pärjäilen hyvin juuri näin? Suosittelen sinullekin ystäväin Itserakkausjuttuu Itserakkausjuttuu Itserakkausjuttuu
Tykkään itestäni Viihdyn mun nahois Mä väsyn jumittamaan Fiiliksis pahois En dissaa vaan kehun ja kiitän Kyl kelpaan jos tälleen mä riitän Oon kritisoinut mua jo aivan tarpeeks Teen sovinnon ja annan itelleni anteeks Onni alkaa siit mihin ankaruus loppuu Kaikki tarvii itserakkausjuttuu Itserakkausjuttuu Itserakkausjuttuu…
IN NOT TOO MANY DAYS, this thing will be finished.
This thing that is the summer residency in Finland.
This thing that is the A4 zine, ‘Slow Moment,’ whose lead story is going to be ‘A Summer Love Story’ by Alexis Jokela.
This thing that is the smaller zine series, the set of stories created and co-created in the time since DK got here, early June… so many things have happened. Hard to think it all out. But I wanted to show the process a little, today. The conversations lead to things, they don’t just stay there, they lead to the making of things that are, in fact, solid and concrete. And if I’m lucky, have a particular unity to them. They have a meaning that will resonate, I hope, with people who read or view them.
Making a story, discovering the meaning
THE ART things are this way, are they not? If they’re good, they land somewhere–someone’s heart. I’ve seen people reading the short stories of Alexis’s now, and there are tears. Honest. There are. Talking with lots of people around us to gather the mood and feeling of one story to share in an 8-page A4 zine has taken all these weeks, so far 10?, and there are two to go. Wrapping up time. There are translations into Finnish, you see, so that means it’s easier to get into them. And so many people have told DK and our team at Atelier S P A C E here what they are feeling about summer.
The whole idea of making the show ‘Hei Kesä’ in Oulu next week, in collaboration with the team at Ouluntaiteidenyö, was born, in fact, of real life and contemporary, in the moment and right here and now conversations. How could it be otherwise? To learn about a place you have to go and see it, in real life, with your person. In Denmark I learned an expression, about how if you want to know a place you have to ‘go there and then put your finger in the ground.’ So that means you sit with it, you don’t just document things for five minutes and fly away to the next town. When people travel around and do that and say they ‘did Cambodia because I went to Angkor Wat,’ for ex., I have to stop myself from getting into it. But you can’t ‘do’ a place by ‘hitting’ a couple of things. In Ireland people would ‘hit’ the Blarney Stone and so on, and say they ‘did Ireland.’ I still remember that. Three and a half years in Ireland. Here, three months. Sure, I don’t know that much, but that’s where interviewing comes in. Learning to make the stories and the pieces that tell the stories that people are telling me. That’s why it was so amazing to run into Alexis. And learn. And share. I did a lot of photos for the new A4 zine, ‘Slow Moment.’ I’m going through them now:
ALEXIS JOKELA wrote the story, ‘A Summer Love Story.’ We’re trying to decide today if it will be in Finnish in the final print, or in English. Maybe both? I can’t decide. I’ll ask him, later, when he gets here. We’re going to go through this thing with a fine-toothed comb and make some important decisions. That’s the part of the creative process we are in, now. The concept is there. The story is mostly written. A lot of photos are already done, but maybe new ones will need to be taken, to tell the story better. To make the art unified, like I said, and with a particular cohesiveness. You have to know how to do that and it makes the whole thing ‘sing’. So we’re going to sit with this thing and tell it.
Atelier S P A C E || Finland gathers new people for new conversations to co-create an 8-page zine. This project made possible by supporters in S P A C E. DK wish to thank those of you who pre-ordered, and made this production possible. Thanks for supporting this style and approach to making art–art that doesn’t live in the walls of galleries, art that doesn’t get ‘picked up and promoted,’ art that just is what it is. Frank, honest, and contemporary nonfiction pieces made together, on the spot, in real life.
I REMEMBER going to the Cork Jazz Festival in the 2000s and being irritated that it was sponsored by a beer company. That wasn’t the worst part, though. It was the way people acted. Maybe they just didn’t like jazz. Okay, okay. I know it’s a niche thing, sort of. Fine. But… what was it with the whole ‘being seen’ thing? I still remember. A weekend up in the city, away from the quieter days in West Cork. A city break, yeah. That was it. And a festival of jazz. Amazing, right? In theory, yes. In practice, it was a zoo.
The overwhelming loudness of the people drowning out the music with boozy jokemaking was the start of a series of disappointments: more and more large-scale events in the years I would attend them since would seem to be less about the art, and more about ‘going there with my friends,’ ie, people ‘looking cool’ together instead of actually listening to the music, or having a good conversation. What about the craic, like?
Ireland, though, for what its worth, was where exactly I learned how to begin to design S P A C E. Space for remarkable connection. Space for really sharing, deeply. For poetry and art and music happen in that country, or used to, I don’t know what’s going on now. I went to my first writing circle there, at the West Cork Arts Centre. I went to the West Cork Literary Arts Festival, and met the people at Fish Publishing who helped me understand that writing isn’t about trying to sound like a writer, it’s about telling a damn good story. Or improvising one. I still remember that week of opening up, trying things, sharing, and lots of pints. Rounds, as they say. It was what you call ‘a formative experience.’ What some people who are interested in vocabulary words would maybe see as a chapter in: bildungsroman.
Writing to learn, learning to write
Later, I wrote The Elopement (listen to the interview on NPR), but I forgot to put in all the things about Ireland that helped me become the designer of S P A C E that I am, today. I make space the way Irish people taught me: hosting, welcoming, inviting, sharing. I make space the way, too, I learned how from the philosophy circles at my high school summer in Laurinburg, NC, at a place called Governor’s School East. Where I met four people I am still to this day in touch with and whose stories I have followed closely, so much so, in fact, that I still feel like if it weren’t for that summer, and it was only six weeks, I wouldn’t have been tuned in to the kinds of things that say, ‘You know what? Grades don’t matter. Heck, we’re not even going to have them, this summer. And you know what I want to do? Let you lead this conversation. Let’s sit in a circle. Let’s have a dialogue. The kind with a center and not sides.’ GSE, as we called it, was an even earlier formative step. In this narrative of S P A C E.
TODAY I AM GOING THROUGH lists and memories and archives. I am searching out the people who most inspired me, all these years. I don’t mean that they became financial success; that would be dull. Anyone who has the right connections, privilege, and gets to go to the right places at the right times because of those things, can make it with their wallets. But art. Art is different. Art requires tenacity and grit and sticking with it and saying ‘fuck you’ when you have to because someone tries to discourage you from going where you are going. It takes being okay with publishing drivel and knowing that it’ll be time, and only time, and practice, and only practice, that will make you get better. And you will be your only audience. At the end of the day, you have to make stuff that you like. This is the overwhelming refrain when I ask highly creative people near and far (or ask them to be a guest editor) what they are doing and how they are doing it and more than all of that, why. They want do stuff they want to do. Period.
DO WHAT YOU LIKE.That’s what I’ve learned, too, from conversations in S P A C E with some very talented and far people. We are inspiring each other and co-creating a tapestry together, int eh comment threads of protected pages. It’s not just ‘cool’ or ‘nice’ or ‘something to do to be seen at’. It’s because we care about our practice. Of showing up, making something, and doing the work. To. Get. Better.
Self-improvement is something I learned not from Ireland, though. I learned that drive for constantly challenging myself and seeking new opportunities from someone specific. I just talked to him, the other day. It had been about six months. It was nice to tell him, ‘The most creative person I’ve known now, all my life, is you. And I’ve traveled around quite a bit you know, well, that was inspired by you, too.’ The person was delighted, I think. His wife said, ‘He’s getting emotional.’ That woman was my mother. Because the coolest and most creative person I know in this whole wide world and all its seas and continents, is RK.
‘Art is in the moment’
SOMETIMES YOU FIND the red ribbon that threads the narrative of your life story. I think that for me, it’ about these ‘magic moments.’ Not just of self-awareness, but of simply being together. Noticing that. Sharing that time, and being truly present. Not in a ‘cool’ or ‘trendy’ or ‘yoga retreat’ way, but, like, for real. That’s what I experienced with S P A C E events and also ‘N’ ones, like in Hanoi. Wow. We did that. But it’s not just… me. It’s… us. All of us who are attendant. Who are making S P A C E. Quality, not quantity. Making it. Together.
Were this Ireland, someone would now say, ‘Ah, g’wan. Give us a song, like.’
And I would. (Since I’m not a singer, I’ll share something I had taped when I was working for the Skibbereen Day Care Centre kind of on a part-time basis as a help for teaching ‘internet,’ would you believe. But yeah. One day there were this kids with their musical instruments. Now, the contrast between that Cork Jazz Festival and its buzzy thing and the shared moment of intimacy and quiet and connection that I got to experience with this moment, well, wow. You can see for yourself, what it was like. I found the old video. Here it is…)
HT to all the members of ‘Slow Moment’ and S P A C E. And RK. Here it is.
ATELIERS ARE A WAY to bring some of this to the contemporary space of real life and now, wherever I go in the world. Hosting events is a way for me to bring to other parts of the world the good days of Irish pub life, when it’s early evening and you’re with your mates and things are cozy, and fine. It’s not hard to have a good time when you’re with people who are so clearly skilled at bringing conversation to the fore. Now I’m starting to get misty-eyed.
I didn’t know that we would get together with the small group that we did for our event, but wow. We did. People had warned me: ‘Don’t expect too much; it’s a small town.’ I never expect anything, these days. I mean, with the conversation salons that I host that have such esoteric titling as ‘Rooftop Philosophy,’ for example, or ‘Beauty: what is it, who gets to decide?’ or, hey, this really happened, ‘The Book of Time,’ I never expect anyone
to come. But they do. Occasionally, they do.
And when they do, when they self-select to become part of ‘the experience’ as I think of S P A C E now, when I talk about it to my close associates and friends and mentors and when I begin to form budding partnerships with people who are also in the same line of work as me (making space for remarkable connexion), then yeah. It happens… we talk about what brought us out of our daily lives and into the shape of space that lets us slow for a moment, take the time out from the usual, and discover something about ourselves—together. It’s nice.
It really has been a pleasurable day of conversations and slow moments. Even with the new rain. A respite from the heat wave (?) that we were having here in Finland. (Did I say ‘we?’ Hm. How easily I adapt to wherever I am.)
By invitation only.
From here on, rather than hosting something and asking lots of people to come, and wondering if they will, the new angle will be much more personal. I guess it’s always been more ‘us’ that way, really. The parties in the nineties in Raleigh, for example. Or after that, in West Cork, then Seattle, then Durham NC. The salons in Phnom Penh, Bangkok, and a smidge of stuff to begin, perhaps, in Kuala Lumpur. And of course smatterings of things in Scandinavia–where I find myself returning (Sweden, Denmark, now Finland. Norway is next, isn’t it.)
Personal connection, though. Is what we’re into. And we used to do that more. Calling. Writing letters, even. Remember? All of that stuff we used to do before it got social media-y and less ‘call me and I’ll be there’-ish.
Now, returning to the past.
Of reaching out to just a handful of people, one person at a time, and inviting them to just exactly the kinds of things that DK’s Akira Morita and Dipika Kohli together feel would make sense. For them. In very small circles we can get more deep and more conversational, more quickly. I prefer small scales, really. Small is lovely. You have a good time. You’re making something, together, on the spot, and you’re getting to participate more when there are fewer people. As a host, I like it this way. Super opt-in. Relaxed. Low-key.
Taking the concepts, learning, gatherings, and growth and creating more moments for others to connect in remarkable ways. The shape of which we call S P A C E. Installations like today remind us not to quit. Not yet.
Because there is still learning.
And the learning is good.
Special thanks to Cafe Onni and guests today at Hei Kesä.
‘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.