Writing ‘Koivu’

TODAY I WILL OUTLINE, in a short but detailed note, the creative process that happens when one is writing a book. A book, not a blog. A book, not some clickbait links that someone is going to pay you a lot of money for because you work as a copywriter at a fancy ad agency. A book, because books are where we have a moment to really get deep and moody, and write, not because the writing is for a purpose (to sell something, for ex, which is most often the goal it seems with a capitalistic system ruling everything nowadays), but because the writing conveys something stronger: emotion. I could talk a little here about the mourning that happens when one realizes how cheap things have become, and how transactional (as F. has just pointed out in a recent comment on this post, ‘Trust the Process.’)

But I will refrain from editorializing.

I know that writing in first-person is mostly just editorial, okay, fine. Admitted. But still.

Suomela // DK 2018

There are times when certain pitfalls are there, and I have this weakness for falling into them. Pitfalls that, for example, are really just one’s own projections on things that one feels importantly committed to. Things like how X or Y is just so unfair, and how Z and T ought to be installed, instead. But you know what? That’s just more dogma. And dogma is getting us in trouble, in this world. Righteousness and an insistence on sticking to a thing and not budging, not a bit, no matter how educated you are or what you have built—staying unwilling to open to new ways of thinking and new points of view is going to be the thing that, in the end, makes it hard for you. (Yeah, editorializing and saying it ‘like it is.’ Must find a way to suggest my thought in a less black-and-white insistent way, but that is what we are trained to do, isn’t it, those of us who grow up on Western eduaction systems that love to be abolute and ‘right’ about what they think? Mmm-hmmm. Oi.)

FLASHBACK. Thinking specifically about a conversation in Durham, NC, with an old friend of mine; a conversation that became a sort of philosophical sparring. I put the best chunks of it, from memory, into Breakfast in Cambodia (Kismuth Books // 2016). Because that insisting that I recall, an insisting that insisted that her way was better than my way, for whatever reasons, reasons undisclosed, but there it sat, the whole thing: the righteousness and dogma, that one way supersedes by default another, that did it. That sent me packing. I was on the road not many months after that, uprooting the American Dream or whatever and setting foot out into the unknown. Well, Hanoi. The traffic, my gosh. That was then. That was 2013. Now, I’m used to Asia and its ways of moving around vehicularly. I just got to the place I’m typing you from by crossing illegally maybe four crosswalks, including one that was rather huge—a four-lane freeway cut in the middle by the thing that ran above it, the monorail. I’m in Kuala Lumpur. The city is saying ‘hello’ after a long summer away, writing and photographing for the book. Oh, right. I was going to talk about that, wasn’t I? The way it starts. The way you get started on a thing. Or at least, how I have managed to get started and in so doing, completed a series of books, so far. None of them are ever as good as the one that’s current, though, when you’re writing a lot. And so I’m going to put all my chips in on Koivu, probably my best one, of them all. Of course I would say that. I’m still writing it, so you know. I get to say that.

 

The creative process of writing a book

Koivu, forthcoming from DK 2018

THREE FOUR STEPS, for me.

Part 1. Material.

Part 2. The thread. The thread is important. Because it’s the thread that makes the necklace. Finding it can take a lot of looking through things, but also, letting things go. Pieces of paper, unwritten bits, written things that don’t fit the story. Not talking about the arc or the narrative. I know some people have more of a system that is linear, like that. Go with the outline, build each piece. Sequentially, maybe even. Not me. I’m a bricolage artist. So I go with what’s in front of me. What falls to hand. If someone right next to me starts to talk to me about a thing, guess what? That thing almost always informs where I go creatively that day. Today, I’m thinking about righteousness. (Can you tell, based on the above?) This morning someone told me that X was X, and not otherwise, and not listening, not a bit, to any falsifying evidence to the contrary. He was stubborn, and wouldn’t budge. Insisting. That’s why I brought up the story about my old friend and I arguing in the tea shop. She was really mad about things. I was less mad than stunned. I still remember the feeling, dry-mouthed and almost gaping. I had had, until then, quite a lot f respect for her. After all, she is well-schooled (more degrees than me, or most people I know), but… there was no scope for play. For improvising. For making it up as you go. For listening out for a new kind of angle. That, to me, was deafening. How could I stay put in a country where what’s valued is the insistence on being right, instead of the openness to dreaming outwardly and openly towards whatever might make itself apparent, and emerge? No wonder I loved the N. Bohr Institute, in Copenhagen. Guess what? I just walked in, the front door, just followed a PhD student inside, followed her to Auditorium A, I think it was, the famous one, listened to WS and GJB and others talk about dark matter and gluons. And then, to write about those things, of course, in that story that I was compiling in those days, at that time. Of course. Because part 2 of the process of writing a book is to find, and follow, the thread. Don’t second-guess yourself, when you seem to sense that you’ve got it. When you’ve got the thread, you’re mostly done.

Part 3. Framing and sequence. Now is when you add things to the thread. The details, the scenes, the story makes itself to you. It’s easy to start with a bunch of notes and feel like you’ve done your work already, and that’s where I am today. But you know what? I left all of them at home. I’m out into the space where I can start to remember things, instead of report them. I want to remember things as they come to mind so I can thread the necklace. Because this cookie is going to be good, I can tell, and I want to let it come forward naturally and organically, not in a too-formal way. If I was too insistent on making it into ‘a piece,’ with too much of too much, I think it would punch through the soft underbelly of this thing. It is delicate and unformed, as yet. I’m happy to be in this spot, writing and thinking and going through the photo archives from June, July, and August, as I work out the stuff of Koivu. Which means, ‘Birch,’ in Finnish. Did I tell you? I’m learning Finnish? Yeah, well. Kind of.

Details // DK 2018

Part 4. Sharing. This part is where I think most people see what I’m up to. I’m all about ‘Hey! Lookit!’ but I forget to share the process, as in, steps 1-3 above. The process is where, though, the working-it-out happens. Sure, it’s really personal stuff, too. Writing about it even in this third-party style is a little strange, to me, in some way. But I’m changing these days. I’m going to share more about where things go, how they get to those places. Travel is like the creative process. You go out into the world looking for whatever might emerge, and that’s one way to travel. And that’s my way. And not most people’s, sure, but so? There are still a handful of us who are curious and seeking and going to the edges, like I talk about a lot here on this blog, and in real life, a lot. I mean, a lot. But I’m not interested in knowing all of what’s to come ahead of time—I remember this couple in Seattle who had downloaded the menus of the restaurants they were going to go to in Paris before they took their trip there. And they did this months ahead of time. They also had been to those restaurants before. They had these things in a clear sleeve folder. I think that was my first inkling that, well, DK and our style of making and doing and traveling and going around discovering was very much against the grain from what mainstream America thinks is kosher. Having a plan. Knowing what you’re doing. Knowing where you’re going. Knowing, instead of feeling.

And here we are, back to the start.

Emotion.

Writing with feeling.

Writing with heart.

Not for everyone, of course. But for the people who are seeking and curious, like some of us here in these online circles behind-the-scenes, well. For us, it’s all that matters. For us, this being open and curious and wandering around and seeing what might happen is, honestly, the whole thing. Is all there really is.

S P A C E || Rovaniemi, ‘Blank Sky’. Discover more about S P A C E the zine.

Mariska’s Itserakkausjuttu

JUST FOUND this by happening to be in the right bus, at the right hour, in the right place, to happen to hear it. This is the very stuff of S P A C E. Chance encounters, serendipity: veer. You go where you don’t know what might happen, and you happen to run into something magical. I call this the ‘magic moment,’ when it happens. I was on the bus. There was a young woman in the row in front of me. The bus was pulling in, but this song. This song! What was it? It was in Finnish, but having been here for three months now, I could pick out the words that stunned me. The refrain (catchy, poppy) sounded exactly like the title of our new zine. How does that happen? It just… does. You go to a place and you look for the art, the things that people are trying to express, or that you feel they are sharing with you, and you make a piece. In the case of DK, a zine. That spells out our explorations into what people shared with us about ‘summer,’ and ‘love,’ and the ‘love story.’ In the case of Mariska, it was a song. ‘It’s like a love story.’

‘Exit Vantaa’ mix >

Love connections

Pre-order >

Ours is called Kesärakkausjuttu—A Summer Love Story.

Hers is Itserakkausjuttu—[Update: A Self-Love Story] It’s like a Love Story. (Listen to it on our ‘Exit Vantaa’ playlist at Spotify, here.)

Mmm-hmm.

There it is.

The chance encounter with… someone else feeling and expressing similar things to us. So even though it was a song over the radio, that didn’t mean it wasn’t important or connecting. It mattered. Mattering. There’s more to say about that, but not here, not yet. Saving it for the book, Kesärakkausjuttu. Editing this week. Almost done. Friday is my deadline. Whew. Almost there. But meantime, pausing to appreciate that another artist in the same country, in the same summer, also hit on this exact idea—our media of expression are different, but conceptually and aesthetically, our pieces are exactly aligned. Isn’t that what we call ‘good chemistry?’ It’s amazing when it happens—rare, beautiful, impossible to believe, at times, and almost always, the kind of sharp and pungent hit of dopamine that might be exactly what you need, in a particular place, time, and space. When you get the sharp high, everything moves from ‘this,’ to ‘adventure.’ And it’s adventure where DK loves to explore at the edge; that’s the ever-emerging shape of S P A C E.

ROAD TO ROVANIEMI. I heard it on the bus, yeah. I was in Rovaniemi, or just-about-to-be. It was kinda cold out, me and ‘d gotten rained on, and I was like, ‘Let’s just get back and get warm and eat something.’ But then, um. The song. It struck a chord with me in a way that hasn’t in a very long time. Um. This! Wow. This? This. Yes. It was going to mean staying on the bus a bit longer. All the way to the train station. But I had to. To find out. Who was it by? How was I going to find out? Well. There is a young woman in the row in front. Let me just… ask her. Then there were phones, typing, googling, youtube, and the name of the artist… Mariska. ‘The title is Itserakkausjuttu,’ she said, almost as delighted as me for having helped me find out something that seemed important to me. I showed her this page of our website, and we were talking. Talking, talking, talking… all the way to the train station. Lengthenting the trip for J, but um. The song. I now had it. Which was exactly the nut I needed, in order to secure an important kind of bolt. Let me elaborate, to try to clarify what I mean. Hm, how shall I put it. Okay, here it goes…

All summer I’d been wondering what to write to take away from Finland, what to post, what to blog, what to publish, what to eZine, what to put into the whole set of printed pieces that will be sent by post this weekend. And then, with the song, something important happened. The pieces were there, the collection was ready, the channel of the bolt was carved, the bolt had been placed. Everything was loosely there, but the last bit was missing. The nut. The nut that tightened it all; the song was that nut. The aesthetics of this book and this song were importantly aligned. (That was my gut feeling; and as you know, if you read this blog, you know it’s from the gut that I move.)

But yeah.

A collection begins

THE BOOK, the summer, the story, the collection S P A C E || Finland. With this new little piece of a happened-upon sound clip, the aesthetics of Kesärakkausjuttu and accompanying pieces were now set.

A Summer Love Story is the name of our piece.

Hers is called Itserakkausjuttu, which translates by my bus companion in front who helped me find it as ‘A kind of love story.’

Summer.

Love.

Flowers.

Midsummer.

The nature. The calming.

These things: all of these things were swimming about in the brain, and then we wrote some stories with Alexis Jokela, and then we printed a few of those and shared them in Oulu and here in Kärsämäki at a short series of conversation parties called Hei Kesä. Testing things. Why not talk about summer and happy things, we were challenged, instead of melancholic depressing ones?

 

Emergence

TALKING TOGETHER, working out the story, sharing in small snippets, testing, translating some of these, sharing those, limited editions, hidden chapters, Rated R things, stuff like that. All of it is part of the summer of Atelier S P A C E, writing, deigning, exploring, conversing, connecting, and discovery. It’s always that, but this was the first time we had expanded it to three full months, and not interwoven Atelier S P A C E with any other DK project. So that meant, focus. And concentration. And hopefully, a work of…. Art.

CUTUP. Those who know DK know that a big part of the zines made here are from the cutting-up of magazines, especially womens’ magazines. Why? I hate that these magazines try to tell us a story about what women ought to be into or how we ought to look. So when I google translated the song that I’m talking about and found a few lines about exactly that, I knew for sure I had hit on the right piece to listen to while editing the whole collection these next few days before leaving Finland. These are the lines, and the full Finnish lyrics are below. Thanks, Mariska!

 

Let’s see the women’s magazines again
How bad and bad I am
Although not true at all
I wondered, “what’s wrong …”

I like my life
I enjoy my skin…

***

Update: Listen to it on our ‘Exit Vantaa’ playlist at Spotify, here.

Mariska’s Itserakkausjuttu

Olen vihdoinkin käsittänyt sen
Mä oon fiksu ja kivannäköinen
Kaiken hyvän todellakin ansaitsen
Mitä tielleni sattuu
Helppo muista on kyllä välittää
Mut itteänikin mun täytyy silittää
Lupaan täst edes aina yrittää
Itserakkausjuttuu
Itserakkausjuttuu
Itserakkausjuttuu

Voi heittaajat sanoo mitä tahansa
Ei se mua liikuta, pitäkööt vihansa
Mut se mist aiheutuu vahinkoo on
Jos mä en itelleni frendi oo
Jo kiistatta oon paras minä
Ja muihin mä en vertaa mua enää ikinä, hä!
Tää on luultavasti sullekin tuttuu
Sitä itserakkausjuttuu
Itserakkausjuttuu
Itserakkausjuttuu

Naistenlehdistä lukea taas saan
Miten väärin ja huono olenkaan
Vaikkei totta se ole ollenkaan
Mietin vaan “mitä vittuu…”
Mikä mussa on muka nurinpäin
Vaikka pärjäilen hyvin juuri näin?
Suosittelen sinullekin ystäväin
Itserakkausjuttuu
Itserakkausjuttuu
Itserakkausjuttuu

Tykkään itestäni
Viihdyn mun nahois
Mä väsyn jumittamaan
Fiiliksis pahois
En dissaa vaan kehun ja kiitän
Kyl kelpaan jos tälleen mä riitän
Oon kritisoinut mua jo aivan tarpeeks
Teen sovinnon ja annan itelleni anteeks
Onni alkaa siit mihin ankaruus loppuu
Kaikki tarvii itserakkausjuttuu
Itserakkausjuttuu
Itserakkausjuttuu…

 

‘Exit Vantaa’ mix >
More songs I like >

Making the book ‘A Summer Love Story’

IN NOT TOO MANY DAYS, this thing will be finished.

This thing that is the summer residency in Finland.

This thing that is the A4 zine, ‘Slow Moment,’ whose lead story is going to be ‘A Summer Love Story’ by Alexis Jokela.

This thing that is the smaller zine series, the set of stories created and co-created in the time since DK got here, early June… so many things have happened. Hard to think it all out. But I wanted to show the process a little, today. The conversations lead to things, they don’t just stay there, they lead to the making of things that are, in fact, solid and concrete. And if I’m lucky, have a particular unity to them. They have a meaning that will resonate, I hope, with people who read or view them.

 

Making a story, discovering the meaning

THE ART things are this way, are they not? If they’re good, they land somewhere–someone’s heart. I’ve seen people reading the short stories of Alexis’s now, and there are tears. Honest. There are. Talking with lots of people around us to gather the mood and feeling of one story to share in an 8-page A4 zine has taken all these weeks, so far 10?, and there are two to go. Wrapping up time. There are translations into Finnish, you see, so that means it’s easier to get into them. And so many people have told DK and our team at Atelier S P A C E here what they are feeling about summer.

The whole idea of making the show ‘Hei Kesä’ in Oulu next week, in collaboration with the team at Ouluntaiteidenyö, was born, in fact, of real life and contemporary, in the moment and right here and now conversations. How could it be otherwise? To learn about a place you have to go and see it, in real life, with your person. In Denmark I learned an expression, about how if you want to know a place you have to ‘go there and then put your finger in the ground.’ So that means you sit with it, you don’t just document things for five minutes and fly away to the next town. When people travel around and do that and say they ‘did Cambodia because I went to Angkor Wat,’ for ex., I have to stop myself from getting into it. But you can’t ‘do’ a place by ‘hitting’ a couple of things. In Ireland people would ‘hit’ the Blarney Stone and so on, and say they ‘did Ireland.’ I still remember that. Three and a half years in Ireland. Here, three months. Sure, I don’t know that much, but that’s where interviewing comes in. Learning to make the stories and the pieces that tell the stories that people are telling me. That’s why it was so amazing to run into Alexis. And learn. And share. I did a lot of photos for the new A4 zine, ‘Slow Moment.’ I’m going through them now:

Drafting the zine, ‘Slow Moment’

ALEXIS JOKELA wrote the story, ‘A Summer Love Story.’ We’re trying to decide today if it will be in Finnish in the final print, or in English. Maybe both? I can’t decide. I’ll ask him, later, when he gets here. We’re going to go through this thing with a fine-toothed comb and make some important decisions. That’s the part of the creative process we are in, now. The concept is there. The story is mostly written. A lot of photos are already done, but maybe new ones will need to be taken, to tell the story better. To make the art unified, like I said, and with a particular cohesiveness. You have to know how to do that and it makes the whole thing ‘sing’. So we’re going to sit with this thing and tell it.

Look for it to launch on 1 Sept., in S P A C E. But also, in real life, at Hei Kesä in Oulu on 16 Aug.

To the journeys!

Atelier S P A C E || Finland gathers new people for new conversations to co-create an 8-page zine. This project made possible by supporters in S P A C E. DK wish to thank those of you who pre-ordered, and made this production possible. Thanks for supporting this style and approach to making art–art that doesn’t live in the walls of galleries, art that doesn’t get ‘picked up and promoted,’ art that just is what it is. Frank, honest, and contemporary nonfiction pieces made together, on the spot, in real life.

 

 

S P A C E || Kesä rakkaustarina

ALKU ON VAIKEIN osa kirjoittaa. Aloittaminen, alku. Tunne, ettei tiedä, mistä asiat alkavat. Jos vain, jos vain. Kyllä kyllä. Kesä. Näen nyt. Yritän saada tunteita järjestäytyneeksi. Ei ole helppoa. Minulla ei ole aavistustakaan, mitä teen. (Mutta … ei ole näin, miten se alkaa, olen tuntenut hänet alle kymmenen päivää, onko se näin, se on, miten tällainen asia alkaa.) Onko kesä rakkaustarina. Minä en tiedä. Katsotaan.

Tervetuloa viettämään aikaa, juttelemaan, valmistamaan oma uniikki zine

TERVETULOA viettämään aikaa, juttelemaan, valmistamaan oma uniikki zine. Aikuiset ja yli 6v. Hinta 10€, lapset ilmaiseksi. Sis materiaalit, kahvin ja leivoksen. Facebook: Hei Kesä.

CAFE ONNI and Design Kompany jointly host ‘Hei Kesä’ on Saturday, 21 July. Celebrating International Zine Day as well as time talking together in real life, this is an occasion not to be missed. It combines food, friends, family, and fun.

Relaxing at Cafe Onni, and making zines.
DK fell in love with Cafe Onni’s colorful atmosphere.
On display: zines by Design Kompany inspired by the colorful summer in Finland.

Discover the ‘zine,’ color with us, or just enjoy the time socializing. We’ll have pastries. Coffee and tea. And a demonstration of how to make your very own 8-page ‘zine.’ For creative people of all skill levels, this event is for anyone ages 6 and up. Tickets are €10, which includes something to eat and drink, and the event is free for children 12 and under. Find the event on Facebook, here.

FESTIVAL OF THE ZINE. This event is part of a daylong celebration, a mini ‘Festival of the Zine.’ Read the full programme here.

Zining in Finland II

CONTINUING. To make. Zines, mostly, in June. July looks different. July has a different feeling to it. The flowers are changing. The fragrances, too. I feel like I’m a teenager again: staying up really late, talking to people about everything, joking, cutting up paper and sending little notes out into the world, writing letters, sharing the time with friends, and generally being curious about ‘what’s going to happen today.’ Slow moment. Slowing. Noticing. Making things is a way to do that, of course. You put something together with your time, focus, and your craft. You make a thing that, after some time, begins to take shape.

New S P A C E zines by DK, inspired by conversations and places we are discovering in Finland // Photo by DK 2018

This zine (pictured) was one of the first ones I made here, when I got to the residency and started obsessing about ‘producing stuff.’ It was a limited edition of just 3. Two of them went out into the world to new people I’ve met. One is left. It’s the favorite of the ones that people peruse, when they examine the three dozen or so little books that I’ve made since I’ve been here. I’m in a conversation with someone who is going to maybe help me put together a little exhibition, at the end of July, so we can share them in a giant popup style installation with the general public. It would be very DK. Come as you are, have a read if you want, put something back, take a look, enjoy the books, talk to each other, ask me anything. More and more, I’m realizing the books and art pieces are just conversation-starting prompts. They invite some query, sure, introspection, even. But like everything I make and do, it’s the conversation I care about most. The giving and receiving, the interconnection, the sharing of S P A C E, and of course, time. Art, at its best, is a conversation. Something I find myself saying over and over again, including yesterday evening upon parting with my new possible collaborator in the making of installation art here in, um, Kärsämäki. Finland, like. Who knew.

Friends and new acquaintances. Guests in ‘Slow Moment.’ Members of S P A C E. All of you are always welcome, to meet me in the aether, the forums, the real life spaces, the public squares of our lives and disconnect from the internet world, where there are only facades and cropped pictures of the things that are really real. But go to a lake or down by a river, look at a rainbow or find the moon and the sun together in a bright white sky, and there is no way to capture or record that feeling. The smell, the people, the ambient nature of it—you cannot put that into a square photograph and expect it to be received the way you’re receiving it. The scene, I mean. And that means… here it is, the crux of it, the thing I wanted to say, that means, when you just document for the sake of it without paying attention to where you are and who you’re with and the things that are being said with words and gesture and the blank space that convey far more than either, then you’re not really there. You’re not sending something cool and interesting into the world if you’re just shooting a quick pic and blogging it or microblogging it somewhere. You’re just… looking for attention or validation. Let’s admit this. Social media is about validation-seeking. Isn’t it? And you know what? That means–you’re not fully there when you’re presenting something to someone. What you send is vague and tattered, what’s received is even more so. That said, I’m concluding that this is probably the major reason I don’t have a mobile phone or trade texts with anyone or even use most social media these days. Why? It’s not a great conversation. And if conversation and dialogue is what I care about most–and it is, making great space for remarkable connexion and interconnection—then I better find the channels and media that work best to do just that.

Real life, for example.

Real life is best.

DK hosts ateliers in S P A C E in real life. Next up: Atelier S P A C E: Kärsämäki on 21 July. 

DK’s new relational aesthetics

OOO. I LOVE THIS STUFF. Relational aesthetics. Will tell you in a second how I came to know about this term, ‘relational aesthetics.’ I am jazzed about it. Why? Because other people have also been interested in a thing that interests me.

Even if these are academic people, art critics, or, gaw, the Art World, (sets whom, normally, I would avoid conversing with because I never thought that what I’m into would be what they would see as artistic), even if then. I’m listening. Why? Because I’ve been wrong. There are others who have already been on this path. Which means there are signposts, if only I know where to look. In other words, the feeling is like this: Wow. It’s not that they thought it’s not artsy. They actually think it IS artsy. They’ve even named it. That means, it’s a thing.

‘Relational art.’

Nerdy, this.

I like that.

DISCOVERY. Because I studied math, physics, and applied math and physics, I didn’t even know about this stuff. No one starts in on making anything by following a prescription, though–it’s not like I said, in the 1990s, ‘I’m going to make relational art.’ That would be stupid. I just sort of bumbled my way towards something that a lot of other people also stumbled upon, and that means, there is more than just one of us. That means, we are something. dada. Surreal. You can call it something like that. Or… you could just enjoy knowing there are now whole volumes of things to learn about, things that those before you (who you can feel some resonance with) have done, seen, thought, written, drawn, painted, created, installed, and more.

 

Relationships matter

Above and below: reception at DK’s ‘Today I Love You’ Sharpie art show, 2012 // Photos by OMNI

AT DK, AND OUTSIDE of it, what I make is relational art. Read this post about interstitial space that might give you a feeling of what that feels like, in writing. This is newish, I’m gathering, from my limited conversations with new people who study art and so on. New is hard for people to get into. And mostly, sadly, I’ve noticed, many people are afraid of the new. There’s even a word for it. Fear of the new. ‘Misoneism.’ But this really gets in the way of innovation.

INVITING THE NEW. I care about new things. New input. New people. Part of DK’s goal with our new relational approach is to get in the face of that fear, and introduce people to others who are
(seemingly, but not really that) different, and meet up, in real life, and just connect.

It’s invigorating and feels great to see that there exists a philosophy of this kind of art, which means I can amplify the effort to move the dial in the direction that I feel is the best one for us. It’s been written about. People nod. That foundation has been lain. So much of the work has already been done.

So, DK are morphing from a design consulting studio into something more… arty. I didn’t mean for this to happen. But it has. Just looking back on things and reflecting, I see the pattern. If you check out DK’s projects in S P A C E that have been going on since 2014, you’ll see what I mean. Before S P A C E started, we were a design boutique. Straight up, clean lines, modern aesthetic, quality workflow, nothing got out of hand and we had a lot of happy clients. But now it’s… kinda different. Now we’re into stuff like conversation spacemaking. Salons. Ateliers. Gatherings. Workshops that get us all out of our boxes, mixing, discovering, and meeting others whose paths we might not have crossed, like, ‘16N‘ and similar. Oh, yeah. Speaking of that. ‘N’, and describing it to people, and sharing about what our studio was trying to do with it, that story I shared casually and randomly with two art students at a table next to me in Aarhus in a wintry streetlit cafe. They taught me.

Context and relevance: ‘What you guys are doing is relational art’

Tickets for 16N in Bangkok // DK 2015

RELATIONAL AESTHETICS. The subject came up for me for the first time when some art school students in Denmark said, ‘You’re getting strangers together for salons to talk about themed topics? Around the world? That sounds like relational aesthetics.’

‘What?’

‘Just go to Wikipedia.’

Which says, roughly:

‘Relational art or relational aesthetics is a mode or tendency art practice originally highlighted by French art critic Nicolas Bourriaud. According to Bourriaud, relational art encompasses “a set of artistic practices which take as their theoretical and practical point of departure the whole of human relations and their social context, rather than an independent and private space.” The artist can be more accurately viewed as the “catalyst” in relational art, rather than being at the centre… The artwork creates a social environment in which people come together to participate in a shared activity. Bourriaud claims “the role of artworks is no longer to form imaginary and utopian realities, but to actually be ways of living and models of action within the existing real, whatever scale chosen by the artist.”… In relational art, the audience is envisaged as a community. Rather than the artwork being an encounter between a viewer and an object, relational art produces encounters between people. Through these encounters, meaning is elaborated collectively, rather than in the space of individual consumption.’

Designing space to share real life with new and different others

AM and BW at ‘Today I Love You’ reception in Durham NC 2012 // Photo by OMNI Studiophotos
Zines debut at TILU reception // Photo by OMNI Studiophotos

Well! So there are others, too, who want it to be about the party and not the artist!

The inkling of this being more interesting came to me for the first time when I was hosting the opening reception for the show, ‘Today I Love You.’ It was a solo show and happened in Durham NC USA in 2012 over the Valentine’s Day weekend. Why not? I got into it and made more than 100 pieces, all brand new. But those weren’t as interesting as the people who came: the chocolates and the champagnes, the conversations, the interplay between the people I never met and the ones I’d known for half my life. North Carolina, after all, is one of my homes. JL surprised me by showing up which was brilliant, as he was an early mentor. Then there was KEF. And pictures by the talented JD. And a visit from the younger RK. There was AM and BW, pictured, too.

Others, including SR, a videographer I had only met recently but who has a fantastic energy and whose tireless enthusiasm and collaborative bent really inspire me. I remember being super happy, seeing all these wonderful people together in one place. Kind of like other shows, in Seattle, or the conversation spaces, in other places in the world. I’m thinking of ‘BEAUTY’ in Phnom Penh. Of ‘Hello August’ in that same town.

Of so many, many moments where new and different others could find remarkable connexion.

That is after all what DK now exists to do. DK design that particular kind of S P A C E. Remarkable.

I love the space that gets made when people are connecting, interacting. Interconnecting. With the zines or art books, or reading something I’ve written, or looking at a piece, but what’s more interesting is the conversations that open as a result. So the pieces are just prompts, now.

They’re not the pieces of Art, to me. The people are; not just as individuals but in the collection of being there, together.

Sharing a moment. Making a space.

(And by the way!, you can experience it. Here’s how…)

The shape of S P A C E

SHARED MOMENT. A once-only experience.

In case you were wondering, this relational approach and the interest in finding the beauty of interconnectivity, and interplay between new and different others whose paths might not have otherwise have crossed, is why I am helping design our studio’s 2018 suite of ateliers. If you have been in touch with DK, or want to try something new with us this year, this is a good time to give it a go. Something new. Something fresh. And then towards the fall we’ll turn away from the online salons and get back to making what we make best: zines.

Meet us in S P A C E? See what’s on tap, including the new journaling x photography salon, ‘Slow Moment, at this page with all our upcomings.

 

How our zines evolved into art books

‘I THINK YOU should sew them.’

‘Why? They’re fine.’

‘No, no. If you sew them, it’ll be more, what’s the word… Substantial.’

‘Substantial zines?’

‘Come on. These are more than just zines. You know that. The world of zines is full of stuff that looks like most of the stuff that’s also in the rest of the world of zines. What you’re making is different. It’s new. It’s kind of refreshing, actually. What is it, though?’

‘Are you asking me to talk about it? Like, put words on it?’

‘Yes.’

‘That is so!’

‘You have to. You have to be able to speak about your work intelligently.’

‘You sound like some art critic who would buy some bollix that someone typed up at the artist statement generator site 500letters.org. Which, by the way, is ridiculously funny. I tried to get in touch by email with the creator of that, to do a Q&A with us here in S P A C E, but nothing came back. Maybe too much fan mail comes in about that. It’s so on the nose, you know? It just points it out so clearly and with that really amazing tool that lets you click around and then it spits out your artist statement, since, of course, artists don’t write they do art, and whatever. Man. The whole art world is so stuck up its own ass.’

Art world? When did you start caring about the art world?’

‘Ever since people came over and talked to me about what I’m doing here at this artist residency thing. And asked me what my art is about. And what art I like. And stuff.’

‘You do, though. Like art. And make it, too.’

‘I know! But the last time I felt this way was in New York. Also surrounded by art makers, and people who appreciate art. Or say they do. My opinion then was that they just need something to be all snooty about, and so, you know, they start in on art, and turn into the Art World bollix that gets in the way.’

‘Of?’

‘Of actually seeing! Of seeing the beauty! And artists want to frame the beauty!’

‘You know, not all artists—‘

‘Okay! Fine! Not all artists. But I’m not talking about hobbyists or people who are just trying to have a creative outlet, or people who are making art because they think it’s going to land them in front of some famous pot of people and they’ll be all validated and stuff. Because that’s not what art is!’

‘You think you know, then, what art is?’

‘I know what it is to me!’

‘What?’

‘That’s not a thing to share in public! Because if you start sharing around about the things that most matter to you, those things get… sloppier. I don’t know. They get… messed up. They lose the spark of that thing I love the most: freshness, surprise. The unexpected.”

‘Waffly. You have to show your work sometime!’

I do.’

‘That’s not what I mean. Show the process.’

‘Why? So you can feel like it’s cool and you’re getting a piece of the story? So that I make lifestyle blog pictures? No. I tried that and I don’t like the way that felt. I prefer just making the pieces. And then, sharing those. Even if it’s just like, my mom who downloads them.’

‘I think more people than your mom download your books and stuff, DK.’

‘Well, a few more.’

‘But you want… to be more… known.’

*exasperated* ‘You don’t understand. Art gets better… oh, no. I’m going to talk about art? Okay, fine, well, you got me started. Here it is. Art gets better when you share it in parts, and you see how people respond to it, and it is not user testing that I am talking about, it’s sharing the experience of watching a thing coming into the world. Like standing by when a baby’s being born, maybe, a little bit like that, and witnessing something cool happening. Seeds germinating. Remember in science classes when you put seeds into the wet paper and they started sprouting, just like that? Wasn’t that like, the coolest thing, ever? I thought so. Potentiality is often depicted as a seed, but there’s way more to the seed than the thing itself. The feelings, the people, the environment, the arrangements of things, the music that’s playing when you’re making stuff, there’s so, so much. I’m playing jazz. I always play jazz when I’m in the throes of it. I’m in a good spot, today. Making photographs, for ‘Slow Moment.’ Today four came into crisp shape. You have to spend some time with a place to get to know it before you can take pictures of it. I’ve been here three weeks and the pictures finally look great. You know why? You have to get to know your subject, first, you have to… fall in love with it.’

‘…’

‘You do!’

‘I always talk about this and people who know, know. Photographers. Artists. All right, fine, not all artists are bullshitting. Some of them are really amazing. The reason is because they care. And they want their work to be better, and they’re working to improve the quality of the pieces and not getting carried away doing these silly things for the sake of resume-building. Am I making my point, clearly?’

‘Yes. But can we get back to the story, DK?’

‘What was the question, again?’

‘Do you want to be more… known?’

‘I don’t know. It’s not like people buy these things. Even if they do, are they my people? I like it when I can share my works with people directly because, then, you know, we’re having a conversation, and that’s the part I love. You get to see how people play with the magazines, the mini-books, that are like, more developed now than just the plain ol’ books or writings, that I used to do. I mean, typesetting them beautifully and printing them up and sharing them is nice, and all, but it’s really neat to see how people play with them, the secret pockets and hideaway stuff, and so on, and interactivity, which I love, and it’s neat to see them engage with these little books so that I can tweak them a little. Design, after all. I did that for so long I can’t help but want to continue it along in the new stuff, too. Making things better. A little less confusing. I guess writing and communicating are part of that journey. And all that. Watching, learning, changing, growing… evolving. Working with newspapers, in the newsroom, then designing things for people, layout, typography, paper. I love all this stuff. Playing with it. Rearrangements, bricolage. And shaping things in new ways based on how the environment and the people in places I go respond. Which is how, well, okay. You know, I think you might be right.’

‘Of course. I’m always right.’ *laughs*. ‘About what, though?’

‘Sewing them.’

On International Zine Day (21 July), DK are posting by mail a limited edition of hand-sewn zines from our hyperlocal creative nonfiction series, S P A C E. The A4 photozine is called ‘Slow Moment.’ A very limited edition piece, this one. Learn more here.

 

The writing process

‘SHOW, don’t tell.’

That’s the advice writers get when we are starting to write.

I think that’s pretty marvelous advice, except, um. We’re writing. So how do you ‘show?’

Well, it’s a good thing I brought the new camera. I’m borrowing it. From BOSS. It has a bunch of cool lenses and I’m enjoying the depth of field play, for the first time in many years. I don’t have an iPhone, so I don’t take camera pics. I don’t carry the old digital camera (the one you can put in your pocket) around because that means having to bring the battery charger and remember all the parts and figure out how to load up things to the computer. Of course I don’t bring around my old Minolta X-375, because… film. And where is it, anyway? I hope it’s in some box safely tucked away in one of the many, many attics and behind-the-staircase closets of friends and relatives on another continent, where I remember seeing it last. But this new camera. Is reminding me of the old one. Except, you don’t have to advance the film. And, it doesn’t make that oh-so-satisfying shutter click sound. But there are pros. I never have to worry about running out of film. I’m not the kind of person who constantly checks the picture to see how it looks, either, so I do really stay with the subjects when I’m with them. That’s just how I am. I feel pretty strongly about paying attention to the things you photograph, which might be why I’m always complaining about people talking selfies indiscriminately here and there and everywhere, or meeting someone for two seconds and wanting to grab a picture with them. Howcome? What is the emotion there? There isn’t any. It’s not going to make an artful picture. So what is the point of making it? 

STRONG OPINIONS. If you meet me in real life, you will know that I talk about this a lot. About the lack of attentiveness to relationship-building. It has to start slow. Slow and steady. I feel. For it to last. Maybe not everyone wants a thing to last. But I don’t like this insta-pic culture, and I don’t like throwaway relationships, either. I like quality. I think I’ve been blogging those three words quite a lot in public and password-protected pages, here. I do. I want that. And for quality to happen, you have to build the space so that it is welcoming, inviting, comfortable. THEN you can get intimate. You know, I feel this way about the subjects I photograph, too. It’s not always portraits of people: sometimes it’s my zines. Or art books. Sometimes it’s butterflies, and lately, it’s birch trees. Koivu.

Some news…

  • There’s a two-page spread coming together for the zine, about Koivu. I’ll be sure to write about that in today’s issue of S P A C E. But that’s for the inner circles, people who are members of this community, and whose monthly subscriptions make doing this work even possible. (Thank you.)
  • This week I’m writing S P A C E | Karsamaki. In July, I’ll interweave the real-time writing process with the online salon, ‘Slow Moment.’ See if you want to write with 8 of us, when you check out that link, and apply.
  • I took some photos to mock things up, rapid prototyping being my favorite thing in the word. How is it going to look and feel? I need to sketch it out, quickly, to see if it’s actually worth doing. I think this one is. There were a lot of mini-tests in my first two weeks her win Finland, and I have a bunch of time before the International Zine Day event that will be the date I launch this new photozine. So I’m going to lay low, write some more, see if I can get a poem or two translated into Finnish.

This is my process. Thinking and jamming with people who are resonant with the things that are beginning to emerge. Letting go when the rapid testing shows, ‘Hey. This is a dead end.’ Getting over it. Being okay with it when your expectations fall short of the reality of a thing. Learning to enjoy the unexpected highs, like five-star cooking that appears every so often when you couldn’t possibly have imagined it, and it’s good, and what’s better, it’s warm. Friends, company. Learning, sharing. Making new kinds of books. Exploring needle and thread and improvising on bookbinding. Gathering more materials. Looking around. Walking outside. Talking to trees. Winston Churchill did that, I read once. It’s not crazy. Philosophy isn’t irrelevant, either. In fact, it’s the only thing that will get us out of this weird loop we’re in, of navel-gazing and anxiety-making, and othering, and line-drawing, boundary-making, political ensnarements, and the all around slap of ‘Really? This is the best we could do, as humanity, after all this time?’ But then I remember MB’s advice and conversations with him about this topic. Yes, this is the best it’s gotten. And it’s not all rotten. Remembering the slow moments. That’s the work, for now.

UPDATE. This is what the zine is looking like, so far. Not bad, huh? Now. Let’s get to writing. –DK

Pienoislehtityöpaja

PIENOISLEHTIEN TEKEMINEN on Suomessa vielä harvinainen harrastus. Työpajajassa tutustut lehtien tekemisen mahdollisuuksiin ja opit taittelemanan ja tekemään uniikkeja tai monistettavia vihkosia. Sisältö voi olla kuvia, tekstiä tai ehkäpä pieni tarina.

PIENOISLEHTIEN TEKEMINEN on Suomessa vielä harvinainen harrastus. Työpajajassa tutustut lehtien tekemisen mahdollisuuksiin ja opit taittelemanan ja tekemään uniikkeja tai monistettavia vihkosia. Sisältö voi olla kuvia, tekstiä tai ehkäpä pieni tarina. Millaisen lehden sinä voisit tehdä? Pajaan osallistuminen ei vaadi aiempaa kokemusta tai valmista ideaa. Ohjaajina taiteilijat Dipika Kohli, Design Kompany (US). Ohjaus suomesksi ja englanniksi.  €10

S P A C E || Kärsämäki, DK 2018

 

 

MAKING ZINES. At this hands-on workshop, you can explore the possibilities of making a ‘zine,’ short for ‘magazine’. Learn how to craft unique, or limited-edition booklets. Content may be images, text or perhaps a small story. What kind of magazine could you do? Participation does not require any previous experience or a complete idea. This workshop will be hosted by artist Dipika Kohli of Design Kompany (US). It will be in Finnish and English. €10

Atelier S P A C E | Chiang Mai Thailand, DK 2014

 

Atelier S P A C E || Singapore, DK 2017

 

Atelier S P A C E | Singapore, DK 2017

 

‘Today I Love You’ art installation reception & zine reading | Durham NC, DK 2012

 

Zines as tickets for 16N | Hanoi Vietnam, DK 2017

 

S P A C E | Phnom Penh, DK 2016

Hei Kesä: ‘Zine’ festivaali in Kärsämäki

Update: The 21 July event schedule is here.

 

IN A MONTH, it’s International Zine Day.

DK’s roving, popup zinemaking atelier S P A C E will be sharing ‘Slow Moment,’ a new photozine, on that day, in real life.

In Finland.

FINNISH SUMMER. What we are doing zining in Finland is a different story, but what’s ahead for July is this. DK is in sketching phase with possible co-creators to make: a set of three mini-workshops to bring the zine experience to the public spaces in this small town. ‘This is a zine,’ DK are saying to people we are meeting. ‘Let’s try making one?’ DK’s Dipika Kohli–a former journalist, a graphic designer, and all around improviser–is hosting. After arriving and getting a sense of this place and what we want to do here, DK are in good conversation streams with: Kärsämäki retailers, its local library, and an artist co-operative where we are being hosted this summer. (Zinemaking: like we were doing in Singapore, but way, way lower key. You learn from the past things, right?)

Top: Ahead is the Atelier S P A C E | Kärsämäki project. Bottom sequence: In the past, DK have hosted zine popups and shows in Singapore, Durham NC USA, and Chiang Mai. Photos by DK and OMNI Studiophotos.

CONTENT. How to make a zine, how to rediscover real life, how to enjoy new conversations with people you haven’t met before (or have, but haven’t seen in a while, or have seen but have never spoken to–adjusting this for small-town life), how to enjoy the process of being offline and cutting, pasting, folding, drawing, and how to experience a new media form are all part of the unfolding series. We are jazzed about this jam. A zine. Is new. To a lot of people, where we go. But a zine. Is simple. To make.

The ‘Slow Moment’ story is a photozine, made summer 2018 in northern Finland.

‘HELLO SUMMER.’ The summer series, ‘Hei Kesä,’ will gather, we hope, both younger people and young-at-heart people and interconnect the community in a new way. It’s going to be different, for sure, from our past ateliers, and that’s exactly why we’re excited. A full month to prepare. Zines to make, every day, in the meantime. Articles to post to the people who have already pre-ordered the photozine we will create from this town, S P A C E | Kärsämäki. (Read more and support this project, when you pre-order S P A C E | Kärsämäki here.)

EXPRESSIONS. Developing new voices has been our work until this point in time at DK. Now we are exploring our own. Designing space for new and different others to find remarkable connexion. But how? Practicing our way towards the answers. Or… the questions. What are yours? Comments are open, for now.

1 October | ‘Julia set’

Pre-order here >

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.

How to order ‘Julia Set’…

Pre-order here.

1 June | Atelier S P A C E moves to Finland

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.

 

25 May | KL ‘Kaunter Tiket’ zine launch party

*Happening.* Free with registration.

Register at: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/arts-letters-society-tickets-44788701211

Open invite, +1s welcome. *Secret location* to be shared with registered guests only.

‘Kaunter Tiket’

S P A C E || Kuala Lumpur

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

These are the print version. Get one by postal mail, just click that option at the order page.

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.

How to order a copy of ‘Kaunter Tiket’…

Order here.

 

Exploring for the S P A C E || UK story

TAKING NOTES, visually, walking the cities was curious about.

Is how a thing got researched.

A thing that led to a draft, which was downloaded on a laptop, which got stolen, which there was no backup of, which was a kind of freedom, which led to forgetting the whole thing, which led to starting anew. But only when the right set of circumstances landed in front of me. Coming into shape, setting the new stage. Clearer, simpler.

More focused.

Next up, from the S P A C E collection, is S P A C E || Sheffield. Which leads with ‘Briefly in Sheffield,’ and dips to London for a chat with a very old book by Johannes Kepler, pictured. Special thanks to Sokol Books.

‘Briefly in Sheffield’

S P A C E || Sheffield

Order here.

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.

Sheffield. ‘Everyone always asks… Why?’
Peak District side tour

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.

Mugen Tea House, Sheffield
City Centre

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: A zine 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*

 

How to order ‘Briefly in Sheffield’…

Order here.

 

 

Atelier S P A C E || Kuala Lumpur

JOIN DK in KL this May for a short, popup zinemaking atelier. Atelier S P A C E is an international series in which people meet to work on an 8-page zine, together. Be a part of the international conversations unfolding in real life, online forums, and at these workshops. Make a space and join Atelier S P A C E for just RM 60 per session. Four sessions. Discover more here.