New photography by Dipika Kohli, in mostly black and white. All from the Atelier S P A C E series in Finland, and inspired by the amazing guests in DK’s concurrent online programme, ‘Slow Moment.’
That twelve-week sequence designed for people to connect and converge in S P A C E was about: slowing down to ‘see’, journal, note, and ‘be.’ Says DK: ‘How do you do that? Just start.’ Cover photo styled by artist Kathelijne Adriaensen. // DK 2018
PHOTOGRAPHY. DK’s creative director Dipika Kohli began her freelance career in 1998 with a gig for the then Raleigh newspaper, Spectator Magazine. The conversation with editor Stephen Wissink on that first popping in led to a yearlong photography assignment to capture restauranteurs’ best arrangements of plates of salad, desserts, light entrees, and fancy drinks. From there, Dipika continued to take photographs, but began to focus more and more on architectures, and cities. The urban landscape was always her favorite. Two grants from the Japan Foundation had led, in the 1990s, to a 500-picture series, ‘Japanese Lines’. Curating large collections of snippets of 3″x3″ prints, she exhibited these at the N. C. Japan Center. She co-founded DK in 2006 in Seattle, after working as a staff editor and sometime-photographer for the Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce. Special thanks: Kathelijne Adriaensen for artistic inspiration and Benjamin Nwaneampeh for the fun interview we got to do with him for ‘Don’t Just Document, Make Art’, the S P A C E podcast conversation about photography..
SHORT STOP IN Phnom Penh for unexpected popping-up gigs. Still curious about this place. Still asking questions. Still engaged with all the things that got me excited about Cambodia when I first arrived in Phnom Penh in March 2014. Stayed, mostly writing through the end of 2017, at which time I hatched Atelier S P A C E and tested it out in Battambang. So good was that one, that I decided, ‘Why not?,’ and took Atelier S P A C E to Singapore, Penang, Kuala Lumpur, and Oulu. (Wait, what? No, really. Finland, yeah. I just really, really like that part of the world.)
It’s been a weird, curious and exciting moment of transition and change, for me personally, but I wanted to spring up another popup, Atelier S P A C E | Phnom Penh, before I hit the road again. Atelier S P A C E is a 2-year project, which had begun last P’chum Ben, and will continue for just another year. Before it sunsets, I want to be sure to get to places that most intrigue: the Eastern European countries, for example. And maybe circle back to the Pacific Northwest in the United States, which was where, for six years DK did its biggest and most important work: building a small network of people who are interested in ‘trusting the process’ and designing space for us to play. Recent conversations with JB in Seattle, RS in the Bay Area, and PC and OB (both of whom were guests at ‘N’ Phnom Penh, and that was in 2014, wasn’t tit?, and that was the whole start of all the new thinking… *too much thinking*. I got sorted out, though. In Finland. Quiet. Space. People. Sky.
And yeah. They are here. Still with me, till reading, still caring a little bit I think about this journey of ‘how to get people talking together in safe space that are well-facilitated.’ Do I want to go back to the States and have some kind of dialogue sessions so they can see what’s wrong with silo thinking? Or get them to really see each other, so that we don’t have all the division that we are seeing that’s, hey, always been there, but right now it’s more obvious? A lot of questions. I don’t know, are the answers to most of them. Is the US where I want to go? It depends. It depends on who is curious about having us there. I like to go where I know that things are gonna happen, not just go and see, though there are moments when that’s important, too. But when I want to just go and see, it has to be to a place that’s new. Because then: I’m doing my own process on mysel. Trusting that something will pop out from ‘the soup of not-knowing,’ but showing up for it anyway, and seeing what’s there. The spirit of travel, kind of, sure. But it’s also the way to find breakthroughs: in all sectors of work, in all sectors of personal life, in all dimensions, all 10 or whatever. I could get nerdy. I will save it for those interested in new portals, and only for those people. Selectivity and reduction of the number of channels of engaging with people has been a huge step, for me, in developing these things. These programmes, these salons, and these ideas. The depth of them is becoming more obvious to me when I clarify and check back with some of my oldest confidants. HT AM, who is probably my oldest friend now that I’ve lost touch with the rest. Again: choosing. It’s important. Drift happens. Let’s let it.
The next things
AHEAD ARE WHOLE NEW chapters, for me, and for DK, and for the members of our online communities which have been quietly been in the highest-priority spot for me in the last 12 months. Some people who have been there some of the time are aware, I think, of what it can do and be for them, and I appreciate that. Those who’ve been here longer, I think, are starting to develop more thinking around more things that have more importance to them. Knowing what’s important to you is a huge, huge thing. I think I got on a stage and talked about it for eighteen minutes in front of 500 people. No one knows thatI was pretty much ad-libbing the last 5. Ha ha. An improvisation. On a stage. A play. In real life. That’s it, though, for me. All of these sessions are the same. Just that the stages are smaller, and the invited guests are as much a part of the scripts as the ‘audience’. I dot like passive audiences; I like the engagement that comes from eye contact and back-and-forth and, sure, making it up, partly, as we go. And jazz is like that. And that’s why I like that. So many people I’ve met in the years who’ve shown me how to make jazz more jazzy. Free jazzy. I know, I know. It’s not everyone thing. But so? It’s fun. To me. Oh, yeah: and improv. Also making it up as you go, right? And that’s why I’m into that, too. Probably the whole reason I became friends with BB in a simple way, long time ago. Because: play. Let’s converse. Let’s play?
SHALL WE DO THIS? Have another go at Atelier S P A C E in PP? I think so. Let’s see, anyway. Let’s try this. Let’s begin with salon, about I N T E R N E T. Let’s go with that, see where it leads us, talk together, write and play a kind of conversational music. And then, co-create. This is my thing, where I come in. Make something out of what we learn. Put it into a zine. Share it with you. It’s not that hard, for DK, to do this. We have all the stuff you need if you are a boutique publisher. And now we’re an experiential publisher. So let’s do this? Let’s see. Here’s the details…
COMING AND GOING in Malaysia in 2018. A new thing is starting. A new small circle.
Zinemaking is part of it, but m ore than that, it’s ‘showing up.’ Big thanks to those of you who took part in our popups in KL in both the spring and just this past September, in the series Atelier S P A C E had hosted in an ad hoc style, more or less. But we’re getting less disorganized… if that’s a way to say it. I can’t say that we’re getting more organized. But it’s true we’re getting less disorganized. That I can say.
Many things to follow. (Were you in KL and didn’t get a chance to join us? It’s not that we’re going to do this indefinitely–S P A C E is moving around and changing all the time, and we’re going on the road again soon. But if there’s interest, we make a thing happen. Did you miss our previous stuff in KL? I’m putting things together in a roundup post, here. So that, you know, you can see that it happens. It’s a thing. Thanks to MM for the pics, and more to follow, there on that page, and in the active spaces of our S P A C E forums too.
You know who you are.
See you there.
MAKING ZINES. Writing them. Co-creating them. Publishing things, here and there. Quietly, in limited editions. One, three, and five. They may just look like pieces of paper, but enfolded within are a giant collection of stories. Our stories.
Not stories in books chosen by certain people about certain things they think we ought to see as ‘important’–ie ‘a curriculum.’ (And hey, by the way, who gets to decide what’s important to learn and know about? Asking that question, lately, behind the scenes here with a small circle of people we know well now, and can ask things to, and know that there is a history and we can confidently trust the connexion is strong. HT JŽ MOB SG & MR).
But yeah. Our stories. The conversations, the finds, the things that the sharing of special moments of showing up for being there together, in real life or even in S P A C E, can precipitate. SJA put it wonderfully, when she said to me that these zines aren’t just zines. Art is getting made. A different way, a different style, a superlative quality.We had spent a dozen weeks in one anothers’ company. Slowly, over time, progressively, with richness and complexity and the development of trust, she could say things and I could say things. And we could share. And I could show her the short book that I only show people in real life, in very select moments. These are the moments that, after all, are all we really have…
Showing up. True connection. An art of the moment. And zines.
CAN THE INTERNET bring us towards true connection? How do we get there? Listen to find out.
DK’s Dipika Kohli and Mae Rosukhon, a Sydney- and Bangkok-based member of our inner circle of S P A C E, are talking together about ‘the internet.’ Quality of life, health and relationships that are built on trust: these are the things. ‘It’s social isolation that really gets people down, especially in the later years of life,’ says Rosukhon, who has a background in government and health. Are the stream of constant notifications getting in our way of building real trust?
‘In this contemporary world and searching for the new, new experiences, new contacts… there’s an upside and a downside, right? [But] the trust between your friends, it’s that solid foundation that will always take you through and that’s got strong substance underneath.’ –Mae Rosukhon.
Read about Mae’s recent thoughts on life, meaning, and connection at this intriguing article she wrote, by hand, about death.
Images: from the series ‘Distracte’ by Dipika Kohli
Walter D. Mignolo (Argentina, decoloniality, modernity/coloniality, border thinking), as quoted by AlJoHoBro in in a reddit string asking, ‘Who are some thoughtful and interesting women or non white philosophers?’
The change of epoch is announced, in the sphere of knowledge, in the process of delinking from long lasting effects of epistemic colonial and imperial differences. According to this frame, Native Americans have wisdom and Anglo-Americans science; Africans have experience and Europeans philosophy; the Third World has culture and the First World social sciences, including anthropology who study the cultures of the Third World; Chinese and Indians have traditions, Europeans modernity; Islam dwells in religion, Europeans in secularism. Those beliefs in such hierarchies are gone among a growing number of non-European scholars, intellectuals, thinkers, activists.
See the quote in context along with lists of people to read who aren’t dead white men, if you’re interested.
Could we be on verge of a paradigm shift? In which someone who belongs to a particular geographic locale isn’t stereotyped into being the way that the old model would have pegged us to be? It’s exciting to think it’s possible to move forward from these outmoded, boring strongholds. Given the state of the world and the world order at the moment, something that despite all effort to focus on ‘being here now’ is impossible to turn a blind eye to, perhaps it’s just a matter of the natural evolution towards something else. Because what we have is just not working.
To what, though? And how? Let’s talk about that, in October, in S P A C E. Everything starts again, here.
THE COMPUTING today told me that what I did was ‘an unknown action.’ I wish I could spit this exact message out to some of the people in roles of leadership, say, or those who used to be important to me. Well, best to keep one’s eye on the ball, I suppose. Focus on friendship and philosophy, for ex. Or mix them, when I have that incredible chance.
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.
Next stop: Melbourne.
To the journeys!
YESTERDAY. S P A C E | Helsinki went out in the world.
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.
LIFE. STORIES. Multiple, divergent, intersecting, and contradicting pluralities of narratives: the things we are pursuing here are not so much about gathering outcomes and publishing stuff that sounds and looks interesting (but has no content); rather, we want to invite into our innermost circles, in S P A C E, the exact kinds of new and different others who will show us, together, as we get going, in our conversations in the protected-page posts that constitute, as a set, the thing we call S P A C E, well yeah. All of it. Is a thing now. There’s a bulk to this that I can’t deny; a gravitas and a resonance that stays with people. They tell me this. ‘I really enjoyed that exercise you did; it was super relevant at the time, do you remember, you put us in groups, ‘Past,’ ‘Present,’ and ‘Future?’ asked my friend MR, whom I’d met at one of my events in Bangkok and who went on to join DK again at something called ‘16N‘ in that same city, the next year.
(Honestly, we didn’t recall that exercise or think much about what it might have meant to everyone; at the time, we were just hosting, and hosting means you’re talking to people and making sure everyone feels included, that her or his voice counts, that she or he is invited to all the conversations circling about, moving, changing, diving into other spaces, letting that happen.
Of course the afterparty for ‘N’ there had to be at a jazz club: improvising in collage and collaborating with jazZ happens! there, that was also very fun. With both, it’s a jam session: making it up as we go, but also, playing off what we learn, together, from one another. Most importantly, there’s no hierarchy. It’s flat. We’re talking, together, in dialogue. Round tables. Let me tell you a bit more about this idea, of circles. (SN, watching Akira Morita in action one time hosting a meeting, had called it ‘circle time.’ We love circle time, here at DK. Why? Lots of reasons.’)
Dialogues that are really good are the kinds ‘with a center, and not sides,’ as William Isaacs, had put it in his book, Dialogue. How lucky I am to have been able to reach out directly to Isaacs, ahead of my conversation salon series, ‘Modern Sikkim: What does it mean to be Sikkimese?’ which had happened in Gangtok, Sikkim–a part of India that my relatives in Delhi aren’t too familiar with outside of an image of ‘the snowy mountains’. Well, wow. There is of course Kanchenjunga, but before I go marveling about the miracles of the Himalaya, and daydreaming about going back there in November (yes: mark it! Atelier S P A C E || Gangtok is in the works), well, yeah, so what was I saying? Oh! This: I’m lucky, very, I could ask William Isaacs directly, over email, in 2013, thinking hard about the design of Modern Sikkim and how to collaborate well and whom I should contact to make a go of it and what we would do in the spaces-to-become, well, yeah. How I could make such a conversation salon series work well was important to me. Researching that. Learning what to do in the instance that someone tried to be overbearing (this happens a lot, in societies where there are hierarchies established from social class, economic status, or hey, let’s be real, male and female gender roles), all that normal stuff you have to figure in, and be ready to take on, when it does hit you, all that. And I remember the email coming back. What a good feeling, to get a note from the internet to say, Just do what you’re doing and here’s some more stuff to think about, more or less. Well. What a nice thing to feel reassured that no one knows what’s on the way, not ever, not fully, but that allowing things to pop up by hosting a space that is inviting, safe, comfortable, relaxing, and readied for the things-that-might-happen, well, that’s the work. And the art. So it began. A journey into making more and better such space, or, as I call it now, S P A C E. I’m the architect of it; we follow a checklist, it has 7 points, to do this in a way that works, in DK’s style. Which is what? Well, you can read my personal artist statement thingy at this website, if you’re curious about what interests me about gathering people in these ways. ‘I want people to relax. To feel air, space, and comfort.’ Find it in context at dipikakohli.com.
But in the meantime, there’s this.
Philosophy of the moment
GETTING SET. For our first-ever online salon, ‘Philosophy of the Moment.’ In which we’re going to share all of the best learnings and gathered notes from our decades-long pursuit of the big questions, ‘What are we doing here? What does it mean? What is ‘good’? What makes it remarkable? What does a meaningful life look like? How can I make changes so that I can better enjoy the life I have? What does it mean to love? How does it feel to let go? Where are the important notes to carry forward? What kind of legacy do I want to leave? Who am I? Who am I, apart from you? What is my role in society? How am I doing, and where I am going, and does it mean much to consider these questions, and besides, what is ‘time?”‘ What’s this all about? Find out.
IT IS TIME.
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?
Can we talk about that? Let’s.
Multiverses and strings
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
PHNOM PENH, it’s nice to see you.
Blogging, writing, conversing, connecting, and sharing–but slowly, small steps, this time. Meet me in the conversation spaces of S P A C E. Looking through the photo archives since 2014, when DK first arrived in Siem Reap with no idea whatsoever that we’d be making Phnom Penh a base for the next four years. A long story. Writing, revising. Sharing, learning: but like I said, slowly, quietly, and in whispers, with very small circles. A new quiet space, a new, loose, light and less-public facing growth.
To be continued.
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’m here, and I’m listening.
‘Human contacts are dangerous [because] they matter so much, and no one knows how much they matter. Even the most trivial meeting makes a difference, slight or lasting, to one or both.
‘Intimate contacts make heaven and hell, they can heal and tear, kill and raise from the dead. These contacts are the fields in which we succeed or fail. I believe they matter far more than anything else in life.
‘What we are is written on the people whom we have met and known, touched, loved, hated and passed by. It is the lives of others that testify for or against us, not our own.’
–George Vickers, systems thinker, quoted in the academic text Systems Thinkers (Sprinter: Rampage, Shipp, London, 2009)
(HT EJ. Thanks for the book!)
FOR MY FRIENDS in North Carolina, a little note to you. I am hearing about it. From email. The flooding. Hurricane stuff, over there. Out this way in Southeast Asia, we have seasonal monsoons. Not the same thing. How are you doing? What’s going on, there? Floods. Tell me how it’s going, when you find a moment. Concerned.
Sorry, also, that I don’t have a phone or WhatsApp or facebook or anything like that to communicate in a way that’s normal. But I’m checking email. I always do. So do let me know how you’re faring? I’d so appreciate it. Cool. Yeah, so, um. A little awkward, email, but… it is what it is. So that I know it’ll get here, here’s a form… Just let me know. Are you okay?