Do you ever feel like it’s getting more and more difficult to find ways to meaningfully connect with others in stimulating conversation?
Let me repeat that.
Do you ever feel like it’s getting harder to meaningfully connect? I do mean meaningfully, not trivially
Was this easier in the past? (Or is that just an idea in my head? Like so many things, it’s easy to start to become nostalgic about ‘the way things were, before.’ But what are the bright spots of now?)
What are the modern, day-to-day items that give our life meaning, items we didn’t have before, but are important to us now? Let’s converse. Let’s meet and discover new ways of thinking, new perspectives, and new people. And old ones, too. Let’s talk about ‘Then & Now.’
In this series, you’ll have a chance to join a conversation salon that is designed to make it easy to talk deeply and connect with strangers in a very short space of time.
Hosted by Design Kompany, ‘Then & Now’ invites you to consider questions about where we are at this moment in time, where we’ve come from, and what we can imagine for our futures. Come with an open mind to hear expert speakers, make new friends, experience a ‘conversation salon’, play with improvisational theatre, and enjoy delicious food and drinks.
DK’s hosted salons since 2006 in Seattle, London, Malmö, and Copenhagen.
This conversation salon is part of the programme Atelier S P A C E.
A MATHEMATICS PROFESSOR in Helsinki and DK got into a conversation about four dimensional space. That’s the basis of the short zine, S P A C E || Helsinki. In which myriad moments of surprise and discovery pop up out of the sheer aether, the offline moment of running into what DK calls ‘you don’t even know yet what’s going to happen, but then, it does’ moments. (A dry sequence of conversations at an event for tech startups left DK wondering what the point of trying to write about serendipitous encounters would be if you only met greedy, self-important venture capitalists running around in jets pretending to be more important than the lowly citizen, etc.) So DK left. And wandered the city. Drifting. Into whatever spaces and places would become curious… DK wandered into the more geometric, wider field of the city centre. There, we found one of the city of Helsinki’s smallish, unpretentious cafes, and, upon entering, chanced upon an unusual and sort of unbelievable, lengthy conversation about math, geometry, four dimensions, mapping, and, generally, things S P A C E.
‘But is time reversible?’
‘I know nothing about physics.’
The mathematician’s conversation about things he did know about, however, are at the heart of this zine.
With a special focus on photography, the Helsinki issue of S P A C E will feature images of some of the unique facades that one finds wandering through the town, perhaps off the more conventional paths, and off, towards the alleys.
I JUST LISTENED to Zeynep Tufekci‘s talk about AI on TED, ‘We’re building a dystopia just to make people click on ads.’ It’s about the specific ways companies like google and facebook and amazon are just selling our data… the way we do these things now, ‘communicating,’ I mean, where is it getting us? It is kinda sad, isn’t it? Fragmented and disconnected, more and more.
ISOLATION. We’re going into this crazy world of isolation, for what reason? Just so people can sell us stuff. Everything is so weird. No, I’m going to slow down, here in Finland. While also hosting Atelier S P A C E on International Zine Day (21 July), and bumping into the chance encounters here and there (and in, I think, Oulu). Let’s see what happens.
SLOW MOMENT. Next up, our online salon and real-life photography project, ‘Slow Moment.’ This is going to happen both here on the blog, in online forums in S P A C E. (Warm welcomes to those just joining today–look for my email at 7AM USEST in your inbox.) More about the project, in case you’re not familiar with Design Kompany’s interactive online magazine S P A C E and its associated programmes, can be found here.
HELSINKI, Oulu, and Kärsämäki. New and different others. Conversations in S P A C E, intermingling with our online ones in these protected pages. Discovering and connecting people whose paths might not have otherwise crossed, that’s what we are up to, here at DK. Sounds like a big project, doesn’t it? I used to think so. But the more I go, the more I see that people are really interested in connecting, like for real, and that they truly do value genuine conversations, and the kind of space that lets those things just naturally happen.
Hard to find authenticity in the era of superficial social media, which is about bragging and facades and feeling bad, and stuff like that. I am ambivalent about it. I have an instagram account but don’t know what to use it for, or how. I don’t care to write about myself, not really, just the opportunities we are sharing for people who are curious to come out and check out the online and offline spaces. Why? Because it’s easier to discover more about one another when we actually take a chance and show up for a thing… this ‘hands-off’ thing that is the nature of our modern communications, in which replies come and go in sporadic fashion and people are available (or not) through so many multiple layers of channels of texting… It befuddles me. I’m an emailer. I have the occasional phone call. I converse with those guests who join DK in S P A C E. It’s working. We’re talking. Like for real, and I like it like this. On my way soon to find the next suite of guests for, I hope, ’16N.’ In which 16 strangers meet in one moment of conversation. Might it happen? We did this in London, Hanoi, Bangkok, and Phnom Penh. Could happen. Helsinki has an ‘N’ in it. The theme for ‘N’ Helsinki is NEW. Meantime, we’re also interweaving S P A C E the forum with the real life atelier in Kärsämäki: check out ‘Slow Moment’ to see how you can take part, it’s listed at our upcomings page. Here’s to the journeys, the new and the next.
ATELIER S P A C E || FINLAND. Atelier S P A C E happens in Kärsämäki on 21 July, which is International Zine Day. We’ll make a photozine this time. It’ll take place again in Helsinki, at the end of May and then again at the end of August. Somewhere in the middle of the summer when the festivals are on, we’ll also host an Atelier S P A C E session in Oulu. Check out the upcomings to see what’s what.
A LOT of learning on our last trip to Malaysia! Three months of getting to know the place and people, a little, in Penang, Cameron, Melaka, KL, and Ipoh, pretty neat. We discovered a lot of smart, creative women and young people, especially, who are ready, we think, for a challenge, artistically, philosophically, and intellectually. So we are back to host some new events in S P A C E to invite a few of these good people to mix it up a bit, and connect with others also interested in the same.
In KL at the end of May, DK will gather new and different others in remarkable S P A C E. Designing for connexion. That’s our goal. Perhaps this sounds like a big project, but to us, it just means hanging out and talking and letting things flow. At ateliers like the one ahead, we can also cocreate… let’s make something together, in this instance, an 8-page zine. Learn more about Atelier S P A C E || Kuala Lumpur.
DK ARE INVITING a handful of new guests to participate in our online forum-workshop, The Mirror. Just six spots, details are here. (Note: a new eligibility requirement applies, please apply only if you’re new to DK in 2018.) New. That’s what we like, around here. Keeps it interesting. Airy. Fresh.
‘I know! It’s wonderful. I have space and time to write anything. Anything at all. And it feels good, getting better.’
‘Yes. Also, without the pressure of having to produce something for the market.’
‘The market drives things.’
‘But the market doesn’t know what a good thing is. It just knows what a thing that people want is.’
‘And a thing that people want is made up by the stories and illusions that marketers make so that people talk themselves into wanting those things. Look at sillybands!, is that what that craze was called? Look at diamond rings! Did you see that spoof of the diamond thing, on YouTube? That was so hilarious.’
‘I saw that! Ohmygod. That was so funny.’
‘What about though, the fact that we’re just so damn distarcted now. We can’t even deal with something that’s more than 200 characters long to read. It makes us tired. Overwhelmed. What about that?’
‘You want people to pay attention. To think.’
‘Well, that’s hard.’
‘You want people to notice each other. And to be able to pay attention to the beauty in the space around, and within. Right? That’s what you said? Something about gems and beauty and aura?’
‘That’s what I said, all right.’
‘And you’re in a sort of despair. Because of that stupid novel.’
‘That stupid novel! I couldn’t believe it! I opened it to study about how to you know, look at characters, set up dialogues, setting, stuff like that, see how other people do it, the bestsellers, and my gosh, it’s just pure shite. I’m gonna stick to classics, now. But you know, I was really disappointed because… It was an Irish author, so I had better expectations from the things that I got, but what I saw was a piece of crap. Made for the market. Made for people who simply want to escape from the monotony of their day to day lives.’
‘Isn’t that what novels are for? Aren’t you being overly critical of someone else’s art?’
‘No! Novels and books, short stories, poems, music of all kinds… the kind that I love is the kind that shakes it up. Makes you think about things in a new way. And you know what? It wasn’t art. It really, really wasn’t. Not according to my definition: which is where, you know, it’s more about the universal truths and relating to that which is all of ours, not just some casual throwaway cheap thrillers about suburban love trysts. Fucking boring.’
‘You want stuff that changes people’s thinking, a little. I think that’s what you’re saying. You want stuff that makes… well… Says… “look at that.”’
‘Yes! And I keep running into people who challenge me to do that, too. To look at things in new ways, around and around, from varying perspectives. This is the fun of it, the discovering and the journey.’
‘You’re talking a lot about moving around and seeing things and shaking it up. But what about practically? How do you pay for all this?’
‘That’s a good f’ing question, mate.’
‘But how do you?’
‘No, seriously. I need to know.’
‘Pay attention to the things I am saying, and I’ll start paying attention to your questions. Until you become part of my circle, I don’t know you. The invitations are there. All the time. But if you just can’t be bothered participating, what am I supposed to do? Follow up on everything? Hope that you’ll come on board? I finally shortlisted my list of contacts. I found myself realizing I simply don’t care about most of the old ones. Just don’t. Just can’t. Too many people! I can’t keep up. Do I want to keep up? No. I can’t do that, without compromising. And I don’t want to compromise. That’s why I’m not writing porn for the masses, or sci fi for the geeks, or ‘be like me’ crap for the life coach-y. I hate that stuff. I want to make art, mate. Art! Not art for the sake of art, for me, or whatever, and by the way, did you see the film Posthumous?, that, and yeah, not art for self-expression in a ditch of a hut off to the side of the woods forever or anything like that, but art because… the conversation is the art. The noticing of one another. The being-here-now. I am learning all the time, of course, but it’s time to start practicing, sharing, making S P A C E for more than just me. I can’t do this thing alone. Someone told me yesterday…’
‘You told me. That “artists are supposed to be starving.”’
‘I told you? Yeah. What a load of bollix.’
‘But didn’t you meet that marketing person who said he wanted to be a publicist for you?’
‘Oh, him. I can’t even tell you what a bunch of irritating movements I had to suppress during that short, awkward talk. I wanted to run. I didn’t want to talk about making myself into a spectacle for the internet to feel like they could relate to. My gosh. If there’s anything that I care about, it’s making spaces for real life and real conversations that are real. That means awkward, too, that means just… showing up, to see what happens, because you don’t know. And that’s okay. The point is not to be perfect! I don’t even care! You can just try, that’s what it’s about, right? Staying home and watching Netflix. That’s the biggest competition I have when it comes to S P A C E-making, that is to say, events and hosting them, for sheer learning and practice, but it’s… okay. If people want to stay home, fine! I don’t need to be cool or persuasive. I just want to find the people who are interested in being found, invited, and brought to the spaces where we can really talk. About stuff. Real stuff. I keep saying this! Why is it so hard, now? Why is real life so intense? Why is it hard to make an appointment? Why does it take six months to meet again? Why does it have to be that calling someone requires 52 emails? Why do people cancel? Why does this happen? I can’t deal. I just shut down, really. But I also know that this is a way of avoiding everything; the same exact issue I’m trying to attack. We can’t get so bored and distracted, so lonely and unhappy that we forget about the very miracle of being here. Simply just being! Think about it. All that… stuff of 50 billion years of evolution? Did you read what Einstein said about that? I could quote it here. I could! I could make something like a ‘80 ways Einstein gave us Pause to Reflect’ post and try to get clicks and stuff, but whatever. I don’t care. I don’t think clicks matter. I think people matter. People. Matter. Why is this so hard to get across, now?’
‘Hm. You’re bringing up some hard questions, now. Why do you think people don’t like you making your art?’
‘I dont care about them~!’
‘But… Don’t you think that the system wants you to starve?’
‘I think some people in the system, the ones who are joining me in S P A C E, for example, well, they recognize that if artists starve, then we all suffer, ‘cause we lose the light.’
‘You’re a poet.’
‘So what are you working on now?’
‘Editing Briefly in Sheffield for my good friend, Karin Malhotra.’
‘I know. Not famous. Writes from the heart. Not popular.’
‘How’s it all going? Isn’t editing hard??’
‘Yeah, but for goodness’ sake. I’ve been editing since the eighties. So yeah. Practice. And it’s going super. I’m really excited about keeping things short, and sweet, and a zine is a way to do that. There are three sections to it. Three… acts, kind of. So you get to discover the 1998 story in England, plus the more recent, 2016 update. It’s pretty neat, I think.’
‘Is publishing fun?’
‘Yes! Skipping over all the mainstream market and starting this S P A C E the Z I N E series has been really good, so far. Some people are truly supportive and I’m getting great feedback from S P A C E || Battambang’s story, Here Comes the Dance. Which is about the Age of Anxiety. Good to talk about. In fact, brilliant.’
‘Tell me more.’
‘Well, I’ve got some really great people helping me with getting the dialect right, for Yorkshire, and understanding the landscape of the city of Sheffield, which some of us went to visit and suss out in person in 2016, just so this would be more… real. More honest. You can’t write about something if you don’t go and see it. This is why I can’t get excited about most travel stories, they’re just concocted from bits and pieces gleaned from internet research. And we all now the internet is not the place to trust stuff. It used to be cool and fun, to connect with others, far away, about things you care about. Now it’s just… hard. But you asked about the new zine? ‘Briefly?’ I did a Q&A with Karin, it’s here.’
Is it April 30? Happy International Jazz Day. Many thanks to Herbie Hancock and the United Nations for making IJD. Thanks to this year’s organizers for including DK’s first Kuala Lumpur event, STAMMTISCH, in the International Jazz Day global events listings. To celebrate, we made you a kind of mix tape. A visual mix tape, out of the jazzy images we’ve made over the years here at Design Kompany.
S P A C E
J A Z Z
A G A L L E R Y
Music? Music can save us. We’re not musicians, but we love music, and I, personally, love the improvisational music that is J A Z Z. Sometimes I like to make word-poems, like ‘The Good Stuff,’ with my team (listen on SoundCloud), but I’m mostly an appreciator. I like to go to shows and draw jazz with pens, some of those pictures are below, and sometimes, I just like to cut-and-paste while the music is playing. Live. It’s neat. It’s fun. It’s a good conversation. And it’s getting even better. Every year we meet new people, new artists, and we grow to learn more about the ‘how’ and ‘howcome’ of making Art and also making S P A C E. For now, here we are.
And here you go. May I present…
The gallery, ‘J A Z Z.’
The A side
ART x THE JAM. It’s funny. I just went to a jazz club and met some pianists who played ‘free jazz’ and ‘bebop’ and that was exactly what I wanted to hear. It is hard to come by this kind of thing, here in Asia, and in the middle of a streak of long, beautiful, meandering conversation jams I found myself boarding a bus away from KL to process everything and just kinda thinking, ‘Huh. It’s all right, then. Do the thing you want to do. Make it happen for you.’ Advice I’ve been given before, in the 1990s. By, none other than someone who introduced me to the late-late night sets of live jazz, wouldyoubelieve. More about that to come, later, in S P A C E for the members who have been part of these internet and interconnective conversations for the last four years. (Thank you).
The B side
At No Black Tie Wednesday night in KL, I met Aya Setine and Don Gomes. Talked art. Design. Writing. Engineering. Chatted away with for a long series of minutes about everything, including the good Loston Harris, whose work I really love and wish more people knew about. (Check out his cover of ‘Shall we Dance?’)
At the show, I came over with my usual supplies for the ‘Book of Songs’ series, which is an impromptu set compiled from whatever falls to hand in the moments-just-before. This time, I had my pens, paper, indexcards, and a knife. For no reason, really. But a knife for paper-cutting. Just in case. Ball point pens, in this moment. And yeah. No clipboard this time. The ball point pen worked all right. (It didn’t leak. I have been in situations where it leaks, all over, embarrassing, but kinda fun, too, because yeah, like paint to canvas, pen to paper. Flying around. Getting into it. This is the jam.)
The whole thing.
POETRY. Quickly, a shout-out. Next day, after the jazz show, there was more conversation about /the art of art/ and related tangents and suchmuch. Continuing the jamming, as there was, for me, a feeling of ‘anything is possible.’ And a conversation on Thursday. That came organically and easily, and in real life, the blind date that DK had with the poet Saarah Choudhury; wow. Look her up, ladies and gentlemen and watch this space: @eastwest_nomad, on insta. So good to meet her. And we are going to do a Q&A soon, so watch out for that, in S P A C E. (Join us, see link below for how to become a member). All of these threads got me singing in the shower again. And also, they sent me straight back to the very beginnings of this creative-life story, and the early 1990s, a time when I started writing, drawing, making it up. It’s really funny: most of the things I do are not for commercial use now. I used to do that. Day job in newspapers; illustration art (not a lot. I never managed to be any good at commission-getting with that). Not a problem, though. I let it evolve, because I needed to see where it would go. Big warm hugs to Patti Rieser, too, who taught me the ‘jazz step’ to dance to, a little bit of a square, but nothing at all squarish.
JAZZ DAY. DK are excited today to participate in a world event that brings people together to improvise, and play. Celebrating jazz, and for DK, listening out for new jazz in Southeast Asia, specifically. We’re looking forward to seeing more new voices coming out strong from this part of the world, and hoping to also make more stages (formal and informal) for all of us to get out of our regular confined melodies and play a little more !*…. What is ‘!*’? It is this. A very particular quality of space, one in which everyone is participant.
A jazz violinist, MT, got us started on this, talking about gravity and stars and constellations, so vacuous and expansive.
And a pianist, TE, inspired more, and over the years, DK happened to stumble into clubs where I found trumpet players ES (with whom we conversed with in a short Q&A here) and HG, and others, and there have even been conversations resumed from decades-old threads that started in those United States, a place called Brooklyn. Thanks, photographer Yamini Nayar, and architect IK. More recently, I am jamming on these art esoterica notes with musicians MD and GL. Talking. At length. About why we make, why we make art, and why we make space for making. These are big topics! I can expand, another time, in S P A C E.
MEET US IN S P A C E. Two last notes! For how to be part of DK’s programmes, workshops, salons amd othet things we are making, sharing, doing, delivering, conversing about, and generally designing more and better S P A C E for. The jam. (There are a whole bunch of people to mention, as I think about the life and all the jazz I’ve gotten to know, bit by bit, over the years. Bebop. Free. Let me know where that’s going on, and I’m so there. With my pens, clipboard, and a bunch of paper.) See you in the up.
REPORTING TODAY from a secret location in Malaysia. For a bit of space, to reflect and connect, with some whose paths I’ve crossed very recently, and with those who are still engaged with DK through our mailings in [S P A C E 2018].
‘New starts’, part LXII
I love starting over. I really do. It’s like when you open a new sketchbook and you’re just like, ‘Wow. Here we go. Where, though? Let’s go find out.’ I told some people in recent days I was in art school for like 10 minutes. It was way too early to be there, or really, it was way too wrong, for me, even then, even then I had a gut feeling about it… that style of making is just like production-oriented other schooling (commercial arts), and while I’ve no problem whatsoever with artmaking for a client (heck, that’s how I’ve lived these last 10+ years), I don’t think we should mess around with the ‘art of art.’ I will love to talk more about that in S P A C E when I get to interview someone whom I am sure you will adore meeting. I certainly have.
Anyway! This kind of quick-and-dirty art-for-the-sake-of-fame is just… not what I feel like real art is about. Real art is about experience, to me. About life, and about connexion-making. Not just you know, the usual kinds (love, work, blah blah), but about unusual and remarkable connexion. People whose paths might not have crossed, intersecting in fascinating new ways.
You know what most people say when I talk about this? ‘But, why, DK? Whatever is the point?’ These are the people who will never believe that I haven’t held a day job since 2005. The beginning half of the conversation with this set of people tires me. I stopped. I only talk now in S P A C E and with people I think would get into S P A C E aesthetically. It’s really weird. But anyway. Really, I should answer.
Why? Because quality. A pursuit of beauty that means we are noticing each other, for real. Not just superficially, gosh. Really? Come on, like how many of your ‘friends’ are going to show up for you when you ask them to come around to your show, or meet for a beer because someone just died, or something? Come on, be real about it. Ask yourself. Is all that stuff where you want to be spending your time? Not me.
Someone asked me for my facebook yesterday. I said I don’t have one. I don’t think he believed me. Then he asked for my number. I don’t have one of those, either.
Just being honest about it… about how I really… don’t collect people. I share, and interconnect, I hope, when it’s working that’s what happens, when we are all showing up for that kind of thing. It’s not arbitrary and it’s certainly not for everyone. The reason you have to get tickets for stuff we are hosting is because I want to filter out the people who are just bored and looking for something to fill their time. I want people to show up who want to show up for this kind of jam. New. New and different. New and different others, seeking meaning in a distracted world. Shall I add, an indifferent world? Because certainly this work we are up to at S P A C E and DK in general is morphing away, and very quickly, from simply being bored with boring (which is how it started, as a design studio), and catapulting headlong towards being intentional about noticing people who are not like you. Does this make it political? Possibly. I don’t know how this happens; wherever I go, I get involved somehow in things related to ideologies that move towards human connexion that builds, together, something interesting. Self-governance or maybe just art.
I’m not sure. Is it the same? Does one necessarily fertilize the other? What precludes these things? Is where we are going as a global society something to talk about, more? I wonder. (I’m just riffing here. Let’s talk, if you want to: there’s a form at this page.)
(Side story: ‘I studied the philosophy of art. A guy named __.’ ‘Oh yeah! What did he say??’ ‘It was a long time ago. I can’t remember.’ ‘…’ ‘…’ ‘…’ ‘Are you bored?’ ‘YES.’ <—- This is why I don’t go out, often, to the ‘normal’ places where it’s socially encouraged to mingle. And the exact reason I made S P A C E.)
I’m bored, of course, (of course? Is it a given, really?) with the status quo. Always have been. Always will be. The status quo is where stuff gets sucked into the pockets of mediocirty, the whole ‘We’ve already run that kind of a story,’ thinking or, ‘This is just how it has always been, DK, can we just go back to the way we’ve always done it?’ Me: Please, no. Please, let’s try something new. Can we? No? You don’t want to? Well, okay. Goodbye. How many times have I been stuck? 61. I counted. And now, let’s move forwards. Let’s go to Malaysia. Let’s go see who’s around, and what we can experience, together. Ready, set.
WHEN I WORKED a day job, in architecture, I found out about ‘The Great Good Place,’ a book and idea of Ray Oldenburg‘s, who called one’s “first place” the home and the “second place” the workplace. Wikipedia says his ‘third places,’ ‘are “anchors” of community life and facilitate and foster broader, more creative interaction.’
(‘Does this have anything to do with me,’ you ask? Well, if you are feeling like there ought to be more to life than home and work, then yeah. It does.) A third place, the article goes on to spell out, welcomes you, is comfy, and is highly accessible.
Old and new people are there. There’s no agenda (social, legal political, etc), and you can come and go as you like. ‘Third places put no importance on an individual’s status in a society. Someone’s economic or social status do not matter in a third place, allowing for a sense of commonality.’ No prerequisites, no obligations. And my favorite part is this: ‘Conversation is main activity. Happy conversation is the main focus of activity in third places… The tone of conversation is usually light… and humorous; wit and good natured playfulness are valued… Regulars to third places attract newcomers, and are there to help someone new to the space feel welcome and accommodated.’ Guess what?
DK started hosting STAMMTISCH, a German concept of Third Place, in real life on six Mondays while in Phnom Penh. Let’s try it here, in KL. Let’s start a Third Place. It brings us together. To talk. Can you dig it? Let’s converse. ‘Occupants of third places often have the same feelings of warmth, possession, and belonging as they would in their own homes. They feel a piece of themselves is rooted in the space, and gain spiritual regeneration by spending time there.’ Yes?
AVAILABLE in both print and soft copy, this issue of S P A C E is a 2-volume, limited edition zine. It was released on June 1, 2018.
It’s set in Kuala Lumpur in December, 2017, when DK and others were gathered there for Atelier S P A C E to look for the hyperlocal story and make a zine. It relates the honest dialogue between two women (‘both middle-aged, single, and tough with men’). In the story, two main characters, both brassy in very different ways, open their innermost vaults of secrets to one another, swapping candid stories about ‘the way it is,’ in their respective opinions, when it comes to love, admiration, power, and sexuality.
Sweet dreams are made of this/ Travel the world and the seven seas/ Everybody’s looking for something… —Eurythmics
THE HEROINE of this piece is a woman whose real-life story left DK so speechless, that we completely overhauled the story originally published last winter. Since then, the team collaborating on the zine continued shaping the story, to refine the so that it is much more a portrait of one particular strain of a life, a style, and a philosophy.
In this work of creative nonfiction, ‘Kaunter Tiket,’ corporate exec Ritu Raj meets a remarkable and unexpected chance encounter, and sees in an insightful instant it will reframe her perceptions of material, and personal, success.
Worlds apart, but joined in their experience of a series of life experiences with common denominators, two women enter an all-night dialogue that will touch on all angles they can manage to delve into on the subject of love relationships.
Look forward in this short, packed zine to discovering an unexpected intrigue, witnessing closehand a superior poise, cutting up mainstream media’s images of female beauty, and being allowed to witness a bright, passionate resilience.
Set in the smoky billow of neither heartbreak nor apathy, but reality, the story starts somewhere behind Jalan Sultan Ismail.
New recountings of age-old narratives invite you to rethink painted facades and false illusion, to re-examine your own storages of untested so-called certainties that may just disintegrate when challenged arduously, (as was the real life experience that inspired this story), by someone who simply knows a thing, by living it, a thing very basic and primal, and yet, a thing that many of us will never be able to access. DK insist that true connexion starts with showing up, that means paying attention, noticing and being there when someone begins to let the floodgates open. In this case, an honest beginning of just such a kind of personal connexion led DK and the team at Atelier S P A C E to revise theories about ‘status’ and ‘motive,’ and to note with alacrity thanks to one woman’s wisdom, how nothing and no one are as they may at first seem.
Set in England, November 1998 and May 2016. Creative nonfiction based on real life encounters, S P A C E tells stories in third-person narrative. ‘Briefly in Sheffield’ is part of the larger series, S P A C E, a set of interwoven stories spanning the past, present and near future.
‘Briefly’ is one of DK’s first zine releases, and to help us all understand more about it, I recently interviewed the author, Karin Malhotra.
AS: You’ve been working on this a while, right?
KM: Twenty years. Jeez. That is a long time.
AS: And you’re finished? Why now?
KM: Timing. Chance. Discovering the thread in a moment that felt just right, and that tied up the loose ends into a work that is cohesive, to me, aesthetically. Also it was finished over Khmer New Year, and I was in Phnom Penh, pretty much not able to do anything else but write, since not a lot was open, people were away, and the atmosphere was quiet enough to focus and work. Not on the thing I imagined I would write (an assignment) with the time I had, but this just sort of flowed. I am glad about it. It has been meaning to be written, but I just… couldn’t… figure out the form… and other stories got made in the meantime, based on recency, interviewing people, wrapping quickly.
AS: Any examples?
KM: Sure. We collaborated to make S P A C E || Penang, which leads with ‘4/4 Measure,’ or S P A C E || Cameron, ‘Highlands.’ Fast is Design Kompany’s usual style; one of our team was at a daily, in 2004-5, so the tempo is real fast. Got used to quick wraps, now with the early zine prototyping at DK in 2016, practicing for this series. Ironic that ‘Briefly’ took two decades.
AS: Did you not just participate in Atelier S P A C E in Phnom Penh?
KM: Well… yes. But we couldn’t get inspired, not yet, to make a zine for Phnom Penh. I guess it is too soon. We did get the cover shot, though. A window, a wall.
AS: So we will see it in 2038?
KM: *laughs* Um.
AS: So what about Sheffield?
KM: I went there in 2016.
AS: Because of Z.
KM: Inspired by. Not because of. Different. I remember writing a version of the first scene of this in like, 1999. But it was too soon. Plus I knew I really needed to get there, to Sheffield, I mean, if I wanted to get the story right. With proper details. I’ve always really wanted to write about my favorite people and places… Z. is based on someone I had met very briefly, but who challenged me to articulate ideas I couldn’t find words for, not yet, not then. It took ages years to get there, both the city and the necklace of the storyline, but when I did, I could finally respond to some of the big questions we had tussled with.
AS: Such as?
KM: Usual ones, for kids like us.
About life, work, and duty.
About culture, family, and social responsibility.
AS: ‘Kids like us?’ What do you mean?
KM: Oh. Being second-generation. Non-white, in countries like America and England.
AS: I know that this is an important subject for you, and I would like to hear more about it. Can you elaborate?
KM: Honestly, I’d rather not intellectualize this. If you want to really understand the feelings, the feelings are written into the story. I think art’s job is to get us to see things for ourselves, right? Too many times, I feel, authors and publicity people want to put words into nice, tight paragraphs that sound good, and goad you into buying stuff. That’s just not what matters to me. What matters to me is telling the story, telling it well, and showing the personality of Z., whom this is about, really. The earnest, soft, kind youth of a world apart from mine; our parents lineages’ clash, you see, India, Pakistan… that about sums it, right? But yeah. Second-generation. He was so different from me, and yet… awake and curious to learning the how and why of a new angle on life, and philosophy, even at that young age that we both were, at the time. Long story but I’ve put it down in a short form… Zines are handy, that way.
AS: A zine. What is that?
KM: Azine is a short, DIY-published piece, usually photocopied in limited edition and distributed by hand. But in this case, it’s a soft copy. An eZine.
AS: Okay. Let me understand this. It took you 20 years to write this. And it’s a work of creative nonfiction. The story, ‘Briefly in Sheffield,’ is set in England in 1998 and 2016. Why publish it now? Why Sheffield?
KM: Fair questions. Okay, so, the zine, S P A C E || Sheffield, is part of a larger collection, S P A C E, that interweaves people and place, and hits square on underasked questions about: origin, cultural identity, and self. Isn’t now a good time to bring up these topics, given the world situation? I thought so. That’s why.
AS: Where can I get it?
KM: Scroll down.
AS: But okay. Twenty years??
KM: Working out the ideas and getting to a stance on things… that took a while! But I’m glad I waited. I’m glad I let things percolate, so that when I wrote the last chapter of this, it would mean something. It would have come from a place of substantial rumination, of query and argument, discussion, revisiting, reboots and regenerations. So much is packed in this.
AS: What happened when you finally got to Sheffield?
KM: You’ll have to read the story!… Many thanks to Golden Harvest and Mugen Tea House in Sheffield for the excellent conversations. And ZM, for whom this zine is written. *Chuffed*
STAMMTISCH is MONDAY. Guest artist Mike Dynamo will talk with us about music and writing. More below. Ticket registration page is here.
Salons: What are they?
Design Kompany hosts conversation salons. This is what it looks like. Pictured, from left: ‘The State of Publishing’ in Durham NC with Mercury Studio, MAKE at Fishmongers Durham NC, ‘Modern Sikkim’ in Gangtok India, ‘Breakfast in Cambodia’ at TINI in Phnom Penh, flyer for Designers Korner standing date at Stumbling Monk, which looked like the last image. Good fun. These happened 2011 through today, in (most of the time) very small circles.
Meet new people. Discover S P A C E. At Monday’s meetup in Phnom Penh, STAMMTISCH. What is it? A place that’s not home, that’s not work. For conversations with a center, and not sides. No agenda, not religious, just let’s meet and talk. But briefly. Let’s play?
Monday, 16 April’s programme: ‘Welcome to the Creative Process’
Phnom Penh-based musician and writer Mike Dynamo will be joining us at STAMMTISCH.
His blog post, ‘Has the Artist Been Killed and Replaced by the Entrepreneur?’, inspires this week’s session.
Meetpoint: Java 2F 4-6:30. At one of the outside tables.
Here’s a light agenda…
5PM Artrepreneurship II
5:30PM Short Salon: ‘MAKE: What is the creative process?’
About Mike Dynamo
Mike Dynamo is a Phnom Penh-based musician, writer, and thinker. He knows a little bit about a wide mashup of topics—culture, film, video games—and can converse at length about anything with remarkable energy. Substantially, not trivially. (Though he does host a weekly trivia night at Lucky Gecko). His piece, ‘Has the Artist been replaced by the Artrepreneur?’ starts like this:
There was an interesting piece in the Atlantic from two years ago that was about the relationship between art and commerce throughout the ages – what it means and where it is heading. The writer, William Deresiewicz, delved into the paradigm shift between the “hard-working artisan, solitary genius, credentialed professional,” and the birth of the creative entrepreneur. I could barely wrap my head around it because it’s so difficult to understand what exactly I’m trying to create while still clinging to the old ideas that art isn’t meant to be a pursuit of massive attention as much as a divine gift from beyond to be used for its own sake. Read the full story >
About Dipika Kohli
Dipika Kohli is an author, artist, and designer. Her studio, Design Kompany, was founded in 2006 in Seattle WA USA, and has been exclusively freelance since. While in the US, she orgnanized a salon, MAKE: ‘What is the creative process, who uses it, and what changes as a result?’. This gathered more than 70 creatives and scientists around Research Triangle Park (aka ‘The Triangle) in NC to talk about these questions, together. Out-takes are at this writeup on Processed Identity. Ahead of the event MAKE, DK had asked the Ottawa-based graphic designer who runs it, Steve Zelle, to share a guest post with DK. That post, ‘A sprinkle of magic dust,’ is really great. And it’s here.
Are there ID or minimum age requirements to enter the event?
Can I come for just a portion of it?
Sure. But as we have very limited seats, be sure to register to confirm your attendance.
Can I pay on the day?
You can, but we do have limited seating. If you’d rather show up on the day, bring exact change to help us out. The tickets are: $15 + 1000 riel, so as to cover handling fees.
NEXT up, in our interactive magazine S P A C E, is ‘A Nomadic Existence.’ Our 12-week programme lets you drop into the ‘rooms’ where we are hosting deeper conversations on topics popping up each week. What’s been talked about, and what’s being talked about now, are in the protected-pages posts at this blog.
Looking for the kinds of places where you can go in the world and just hang out, write, or work, from the comfort of your desk-that-goes-where-you-do?
DESIGN KOMPANY is offering a short course that’s completely online from [update] 7 October called ‘The Cojournal Project: A Nomadic Existence.’ In this, we will be communicating once a week with you about the kinds of topics that are popping up as people who are moving away from traditional 9-5 lifestyles and finding themselves in cafes all over Southeast Asia, where we are, are starting to talk about the way of life that, for a lot of us, is weird and curious but also… freeing.
This programme is hosted by DK’s own Dipika Kohli, who was a staff editor at daily in Seattle and a bi-weekly in southwest Ireland (2002-2005) before turning to interactive magazines and spacemaking for conversations that get us out of boxes. In 2014, she won a Ted Howard Scripps fellowship for environmental journalism, flying to Colorado to get to know more about the field of writing for the sake of not just infotainment but actually depth and substance. She got talking with fellow editors around the United States then, and afterwards through continued correspondence, about how to make better space for conversations that actually move. That, for example, develop, progress, and teach us something interesting.
WRITING TO LEARN SOMETHING. Instead of talking about writing for the sake of publishing, what if we talked about writing for the sake of getting to know what we were even thinking. Like, writing towards a kind of clarity on who it is you really are, and what it is you really care about. A lot of people seem to go traveling to ‘get lost and find center,’ at least, that’s what I noticed from half o the people I’ve met on my travels in the 1990s (Ireland, India, Japan, USA), and more recently, in Southeast Asia (Malaysia, Cambodia, Thailand, Viet Nam, Nepal). Getting out of your space and seeing what else is in the world is a way of finding out a) what you want, and b) what you don’t want. But often we don’t have a chance to process what we are discovering because we are talking to the people we already know, instead of the people who are also on the same kinds of journeys.
A nomadic existence is a choice; it’s not for everyone, but it works for some of us. Knowing why and how, and being able to pinpoint those things for each of us, is a matter of simply delving into the questions and letting the answers come as they might. You know, you don’t have to have it all figured out at the start. You don’t even have to have it figured out in the middle, or at the end; the point is to know that you are searching and seeking with an intention that involves really caring about the journey. You have to care if you want it to become anything interesting.
What work you do, where you choose to ‘settle,’ if you choose to settle at all, whom you decide to partner with, if that’s something you want to do, and all the big questions of our lives that are related to these things that those of us finding ourselves in certain positions of privilege and capacity to move around the world and talk to people on the internet and somehow make some cash through that work is, well, a kind of curious set of things. If you are interested in writing towards some sense of self-awareness, and doing that with a small circle of others who are also ‘on’ for this kind of a challenge, consider applying for the Cojournal Project 2018.
We started this out in 2014, quietly, and it led to a short eBook anthology, The Mirror. In January of this year we opened The Mirror up as a separate workshop—100% online—that became a conversation space with forums, passwords and weekly prompts. I think that the interconnectivity of it is what made it truly great. Engaging with others who are very different from yourself: at least on the surface—is a way to start to get a perspective that is hard to find in everyday life.
‘Rereading Edward de Bono‘s book Teaching Your Children How To Think in recent days, I was reminded of the importance of sharing the variation of perspectives with young people,’ writes Dipika Kohli. ‘Of making it a priority to show them that there isomer than one way to look at a thing. That ‘rightness’ is a problem. That the argumentative stance that people like to take in Western societies, in which you get to feel good by putting someone else down, or by more eloquently arguing your way towards a position (even if it’s completely garbage, like showing through math that 2+2 = 5 (HT F), well, you see where I’m going wit this, right?)’
Make a space and find the muse
TAKE THE TIME to write with others. Journal your way towards clarity. Find the muse when you make the space. Not a lot, don’t worry. Each week’s prompt is designed to take just 20 minutes to complete. People say they like this because it holds them accountable to themselves, knowing that there will be a new prompt dropping into the inbox on Monday. Every week, 7AM USEST.
What’s different about this programme from the other online journaling projects we’ve seen online is that it happens in S P A C E, that is, it’s interactive. What you write influences what prompts follow.
This is not an algorithm or AI, this is a real person, Design Kompany’s creative director Dipika Kohli, for this project, will be customizing the next week’s prompts based on what you are writing in, as a small group. listening, sharing, empathizing: it’s all int here, but it takes showing up to get the best out of it. Take the 20 minutes of your week available to connect and to re-connect, first with yourself, then with others.
Design Kompany’s work is to make space for people to notice one another, and themselves. To pay attention. To notice the moment. That will dissolve before we know it. Ephemera, relational aesthetics, conversation space design… these are our beats. Ask us anything. Talk to us. Connect through the form at our ‘About’ page, and if this all sounds curious, try it out. We’re doing this for 12 weeks, [update] starting 7 October.
Application required. Open invitation. Apply here.