‘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)
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Not sure why, but it sure seemed to come up a lot in conversations. And maybe that’s why the next word I learned was ‘maybe.’ Things are always, it seems, in a kind of flux. You just have no idea what’s going to happen. You live in a countryside town, and you’re a farmer, say, and the things that evolve in the day have nothing to do with what you might have imagined, at the start of it. Staying flexible and being open to things suddenly veering is part of the everyday mindset. It’s actually kind of beautiful: you let things happen, you don’t go in there with an agenda and a list of things ‘to do.’ Summer in Finland and these things became clearer and less intense; the idea that you have to ‘produce’ is somehow out the window. For better or worse. Some of the new people I had met told me how they feel like it’s a bit of a drag, sometimes, like not having ambition could be a way you perceive this lack of momentum or the lack of some kind of urge to ‘do something.’ Thinking about things sometimes substitutes for doing things, as I learned, on my last night, talking away to the last person of the series of many, many chance encounters that informed the conversations that led to the knitting together of a new narrative. I’ll tell you more about that, tomorrow.
Meantime, let me get the final edits done.
There are a lot of people I wish to acknowledge, people who contributed to the making of this series, and I had first mentioned them at this page. Doesn’t hurt to underscore my gratitude, I think, by sharing again. So here we go. Many warm thanks for the great conversations to: Eveliina Karsikas, Asta Sinerva, Sirpa Heikura, Simo-Sakari Niemelä, Fırat Taşdemir, Johan Engström, Maria Raasakka, Sanna Upola, Rastislav Somora, Seo Jin Ahn, Ana-Maria Ovadiuc, Charles Tirkey, Saarah Choudhury, Benjamin Nwaneampeh, Joanna Ohenoja, Paavo Heinonen, Reijo Valta, Eero Österberg, and Merja Vedenjuoksu.
The formation of the most perfected words, the most meaningful, the most philosophical, in the fullest sense of the world occurs unfailingly in periods of ignorance and simplicity. The onomathurgical talent is invariably disappearing as we descend towards the civilized and scientific eras. In all the writings that appear in our time on this most interesting subject, there is nothing but an invocation of a philosophical language, and without knowing indeed without suspecting, that the most philosophical language is that in which philosophy is least mingled. The latter lacks too little faculties to create words. Intelligence to invent them, and authority to have them adopted. Does philosophy see a new object? It will go and leaf through its dictionaries to find an ancient or foreign term, and always the enterprise comes to a bad end. Montgolfiere, for example, which is used throughout the country, is correct in at least one sense. And I prefer it to aero state, which is a scientific term but suggests nothing. You could just as well call a ship hydrostatic. Observe the invasion of new words borrowed from the Greek over the last 20 years, gradually, as crimes or madness demanded them. More or less of them are formed erroneously, they are self contradictory. Theophiloanthrophists, for example, is a term more foolish than the thing in itself, which is saying plenty. A simple English or German scholar would have been led to say on the contrary. Theanthpophile. You will reply that this world was invented by wretches in a wretched age, and yet the terminology of chemistry, which was surely created by invited men, begins precisely with the lowest sort of solecism.
When they should say, instead, oxygon.
I am not a chemist, but I have excellent teasons to believe that honest terminology is destined to vanish. The fact remains in all case that from a philosophical and grammatical point of view it would be the most unhappy imaginable if the prize for barbarism were not contested and wrested away by the metric vocabulary.
p. 138-140 from the chapter, ‘The Linguistics of Joseph De Maistre’, Serendipities, Umberto Eco
AT A CAFE. In between meetings. Next to me there are two people in good conversation, in English, but occasionally Japanese. This is my other language. I am resisting, it is hard, the urge to say something to them. I have this weird and occasionally surprising knack for chatting up strangers and somehow, making solid acquaintanceships in a very compact space of time. Why this is probably has everything to do with the charm of my father, which I think has a lot to do with finding the silliness in the everyday moment (at least, when my mother allows it). Rest of the time they are both pretty serious, or pretending to be. When I think back on the most extraordinary and fulfilling times with my folks, I always feel like we were in transit somewhere, far from the social programmes and mores of the places and communities in which we were rooted. Movement became the kind of thing that set the stage for engaging. Deeply. Curious and different others were somehow very attractive; sometimes my mother would hold back and let my father fly into his own world of talking away to people he didn’t know about topics ranging from thermodynamics and entropy to the kinds of things that one talks about in the middle of a trip from Away to Home, whatever those things were. I don’t know. I would just be hanging out playing cards or something with my little brother; the topics and their content were irrelevant. What mattered was the people who were there, smiling with my father, smiling away. Being in real life. Being in the throes of it. Being noticed. Noticing. For a moment, the shared space. Which nowadays I design for in my own world, making architecture of social spaces, and remarkable human connexion, in the thing that happens online and in real life in the project that since 2016 I’m calling S P A C E. It’s nerdy. I know. So? I like that. And the mentor for this was, of course, my dad. I still remember my father trading postal addresses in the 1980s with total strangers he’d chatted up at, say, Frankfurt Airport, on our way to and fro. My mother would kind of be like, ‘What the hell?’ But, I wish she could have just noticed it. My father likes the new and different. is curious. Is open to trying new things. That is the spirit of innovation, really, isn’t it? Going to the edge, and past it, and exploring to the next-to-now. It’s actually quite in-demand, now. This business of being open to the new. It’s called ‘innovation consulting.’ You go around the world a few times and you start to find ways to make your skills work for you in weird and curious ways. Be open. Say yes. Show up. Try new things. You just have no idea where the next gig is coming from. Just around the corner, you’ll find it, if you’re open to it. The gems. Staying put is boring, for the likes of people like me. (Dad, are you reading this? I think you should go on a trip sometime, maybe with me, maybe with Mom, but really. Trips are where we flourish.)
Starting all over
KEEPING THINGS IN CHECK, maybe, by not getting too carried away with being too joie de vivre-y. Sure. This is more normal, I suppose. I guess that is just a self-limiting thing. You have to do what you have to do in order to maintain a kind of decorum, ‘in the eyes of society,’ Words of the pragmatists, who used to be friends, who have been slowly but confidently let to drift on a long, loose line and not quite cut from my current life but, well, yeah, I guess more or less cut.
Here’s the thing. Caring about what society thinks… you think that you have to. But what if you don’t? What if you don’t have to worry about that? What if what other people thought about you, and what you say, and what you do, and how you do it, and even more importantly, what if you yourself stopped caring about your image, what your words are perceived to be (by you perceiving the predicted perception—you see how this is a little unwieldy?), what you do, and how you do it? What if, what I’m saying is this, now, what if who cares what the reaction is to your self-driven initiative to go out into the world and see what’s there?
What I’m saying is, ‘What if you could just be yourself, the real you, the honest you, the totally unedited version of you. The one you were when you were, like, 8.’ What if? Would you find it easier to chat up strangers? Or, would you come to the realization that it’s not even that important-–the most important thing is knowing what you care about.
You don’t have to pretend like you are some kind of a big deal just because you can get into a conversation with anyone. Even E., on a crosswalk yesterday, on her way from Sydney to England via everywhere that she wants to go in between. (Hi, E.! Yes, I was listening).
Making friends in the cafe.
Making friends on the bus.
Making friends in the…. crosswalk.
I love that.
Let’s keep it going. Let’s keep the conversations in flow.
Let’s chat up the strangers. But not now, not today. Today I’ve got to finish some books.
Here’s to the journeys, the new, the near, the now, and the next.
OMG. I couldn’t help it. Chatted. They are so nice!
THE CREATIVE PROCESS itself was the subject of two conversation salons in Durham, NC: MAKE and MAKE II. ‘What is the creative process? Who uses it? What changes as a result?’ We had a dozen guest speakers at those two events; and a crowd. I can’t believe it, still, thinking back, that when I first returned to the Raleigh-Durham region after a decade away to throw the ‘do that we called MAKE how almost 100 people drove in from far and near vertices of the Triangle to connect, converse, listen, and learn.
Was just marvelous, that time, so we hosted the same event a year on.
MAKE and MAKE II were occasions, to me, the kind that I wouldn’t forget. I had no idea at the time that relational art would become my kind of party, that the being-together was the whole show. That awareness came way later, probably the night I read from the chapter ‘Blankslate’ at a cafe in Phnom Penh–the first chapter of Breakfast in Cambodia, to the group who had gathered that night–‘I know this street, I know that feeling, I know, because I”m here!’–that was the feedback.
And we were. Together, there.
In the moment, in the place that was written in the pages.
Diving in and out of S P A C E.
Yes. There’s a lot of philosophizing I could do here, but I’ll get back to the story of MAKE.
BEING THERE. I still remember JW, a sculptor and guest panelist at the first MAKE, talking about birds and the beautiful metaphor he gave us that day about how the creative process is like a flight. I can’t properly fit the whole feeling here… I couldn’t eloquently state it here; you simply had to be there, that’s what these salons are for, after all—the real life, real time experience. A co-created improvised play, which happens on the spot, and which ends in rather no time at all. Ephemera and the heightened moment of the urgent, sequestered ‘now.’ Oh, no. I’m getting philosophical. Well, let me save that sort of talk for another day. Perhaps this one, in Phnom Penh.
EVERY SO OFTEN, and this happened just last night, someone says something that reminds me of the existence this video that someone made, animating radio host Ira Glass‘ thoughts on the creative process. Of course any mention of IG makes me remember JK‘s story about picking the man up from the airport and getting starstruck–too funny. JK, what are you up to where you are? What are you making lately? Questions I would foist your way, if we were in good e-communciation. I’m still around to talk about these kinds of things, you know. Hopefully in a comment thread to come, over here. But yeah. The video.
Here it is:
FILE UNDER ‘RESOURCES.’ Personally, I just like to ‘do’ the creative process. Instead of just diving in and making something, which is my usual habit when I have this kind of focus time, today, I’m writing to people around the world whose work I think is curious, and whose perspective I’d love to hear when it comes to questions about the creative process, why we make anything, and what we’re doing this for. It’s a big question, of course. The point is not to get ‘popular,’ for me, anyway, or ‘rich.’ I just want to make good art. Did you see that video, ‘Make Good Art?’? SK had sent it to me, right before I left the States. I must say it was a contributing factor to the decision to get going on the road, indefinitely, without a fixed income, savings, or a plan. But yeah. I found a link. Here’s the YouTube video:
For further reading?
Anyone have further resources to add?
Please leave a comment with your link. Really would be great if you could point me to some people who aren’t white men, hey. I’ve been looking but it’s tough–women and people who aren’t white tend to just simply not get the spotlight as often. Imagine! But it’s true. That doesn’t mean that they aren’t there, with things to say. Help us find the important stories? Connect with me or just leave a comment below. I love the interactive part of writing this whole blog thing, because it’s not a flat space, we’re evolving it as we add to it. The geometry of a space is the set of all points within that space. And: S P A C E changes because you’re there. It’s kind of fun to think about physics and space, spacemaking and the fourth dimension. I can talk more about that, sometime. Let’s get to know each other, though, a bit first.
Thanks! Comments are open for a bit.
This post and other stories are made possible by support of members of S P A C E. Discover more here.
CHECKING IN. Catching up. Conversing. In real life, on voice, through the space that is the forum ‘Slow Moment,’ and, in this odd but one:many way, through the blog. It was 2006 when the blog began; I remember. I had been to Gnomedex, a bloggers’ conference (HT CP), and while everyone else was on laptops typing and talking on twitter, I think, (‘this is the backchannel conversation,’ someone informed me, educating me on this digital stuff like no one had at my newsroom), I was there with an old-fashioned reporter’s notebook and a pencil. The notebooks had been in the closet in the storeroom at work. Work was a newspaper. A daily. I went daily, to write things. But the things that we were writing had, I saw fully and clearly, no relevance or bearing on this other group of people. The people who were writing what was going on now. In new ways. Ways that I hadn’t been even remotely aware of. Those of you reading who are digital natives, be forgiving. I am ill-adapted to the modern modes of communication, sorry.
THE ONLY TIME I start to get philosophical about ‘home and away’ is when I’m at an international airport, train station, or bus station. Crossing borders. Time and again. This seems to be the story of my life: frazzled and diffident, scruffy suitcases in hand and popping-off handles, the bungle of disorganization that I’ve no one to blame anything on but myself, and the relief at arriving where I am: moments ago, I sat down, and here I am. About to get on the next leg of the next journey to the next place to the next things. Things to come are many and multi-faceted, perhaps ten-sided, like string theories and multi-verses and courageous, real, and upturned stones. We start where we are. We go when we are ready. The only one to decide what ‘the first step’ is will be us, each of us, as we think, or learn to not-think, and rather, go with the feeling. Or the flow, as the river by my summer residence showed by example. Wu-wei and the cosmos, the Dao, the whole thing. I’m reminded of Pirsig’s Lila, maybe a little late to the news that he died, and as I take this seat and sip the first water I’ve had all day, I’m letting it sink in. The person who wrote the book that inspired the 2013 ‘Year of Uncertainty’ project is no longer with us, in this realm. But maybe in the one between worlds, where we can psychically and dream-state dance within. Jung and the whole. Bohm and Krishnamurthi. Dialogues, rhythms, pent-up things dissipating. I had a giant philosophical conversation with two people today, in a quick succession, and I had promised myself I would not dally on my way to the airport. Last time I did that I missed my flight from Bangkok to Phnom Penh; a conversation got in the way, a woman with yellow feathery earrings and great green pants, from Rio, she said, and we had coffee in the sun for a little bit too long of a lingering-over conversation. This time, I was to get here early. I did not. Boarding now. Going to get on the plane. Here’s to new beginnings, the stories, and the next.
THANK YOU to those of you who have been connecting with me off-thread for these last few weeks; we’re really jazzed to share some of what all these various conversations have led up to. In short, new stuff! A collection of print zines: S P A C E || Finland. Just a handful–we like very limited editions, so there are no more than 5 of each of the short stories. The pieces are titled ‘Letting Go of Dead Things,’ ‘Michaela,’ ‘Hei Kesä’ (which is Finnish for ‘Hi, Summer’), and ‘Kesärakkausjuttu’ (‘Summer Love Story’).
People and place
I’D LIKE to acknowledge a few people with whom I spoke in depth and at length, over teas and coffees in cozy spaces in Oulu and Kärsämäki. A story isn’t a story if it isn’t based on real life sharing in such moments, right? That’s why I am feeling incredibly grateful. Many warm thanks for the great conversations to: Eveliina Karsikas, Asta Sinerva, Sirpa Heikura, Simo-Sakari Niemelä, Fırat Taşdemir, Johan Engström, Maria Raasakka, Sanna Upola, Rastislav Somora, Seo Jin Ahn, Ana-Maria Ovadiuc, Charles Tirkey, Saarah Choudhury, Benjamin Nwaneampeh, Joanna Ohenoja, Paavo Heinonen, Reijo Valta, Eero Österberg, and Merja Vedenjuoksu. (Additional thanks to Merja, too, for the gift. A knife to cut magazines. Well, wow. It’s fabulous.) None of the stories in the pages of S P A C E || Finland would have been possible to make without you all. I’m a little bit of a nerd about relational aesthetics, so of course it’s a lot of fun for me to share about our conversations here, in a paragraph in which all of your names (and with them, my associated memories of our shared time together) are included. It’s the parts that make the whole. And a composition is only what it is because the parts are each unique. At least, that’s my take.
I had promised myself a year ago that I would go on the road in search of new people in new places, and interconnect real, contemporary, hyperlocal stories through a set of international zines. Creative nonfiction, and stuff. This is the beginning of starting to really see the fruit of all this intent. A character from ‘Briefly in Sheffield’ comes to Helsinki in ‘Kesärakkausjuttu’, for example. Everything’s based on real life conversations, real places I’ve been personally to ask a lot of questions. People interest me. A lot. And people you don’t often get to hear about, when you are reading the news. I was a reporter for a while… two years at a weekly, two at a daily. Then something changed. I felt like writing first-person stories, or at least, stories I felt like were about us just hanging out, asking our big philosophical existential questions, in some instances, or just telling damn good jokes. The absurd and the esoteric are flip sides of the same coin, are they not? Let’s see. How did we get here? Er… from journalism to design to… uhm. S P A C E. Chance, serendipity, veering towards what’s interesting. The thinking goes like this: Well, let’s just do that. Let’s just go there. If it sounds weird, good. If it wasn’t weird, it wouldn’t be DK. More like this is ahead.
Comments are open, for the moment. Say hei?
NOW, on to the ‘how to order’ bit. Want some zines? Limited edition and one-of-a-kind. Order today or tomorrow and I’ll put them in the post to you before getting the bus to Helsinki. Yay! Snail mail from Finland. And soon. Order here.
SLOWING. Stilling. Finding the quiet space. Wrapping the stories. Getting set for the road that takes me home. Always love this part: the feeling that anything is possible, around the next bend. In search of meaning, in pursuit of beauty, framing the sensation of urgency in this, this very thing: the new, the near, the now, and the next. In the meantime, this gathering of current flowers. My way of showing you what’s ‘on’ right now on the sandy banks by the river I’ve gotten to know a little bit better, these twelve weeks in Finland, wondering how to sit still.
JUST FOUND this by happening to be in the right bus, at the right hour, in the right place, to happen to hear it. This is the very stuff of S P A C E. Chance encounters, serendipity: veer. You go where you don’t know what might happen, and you happen to run into something magical. I call this the ‘magic moment,’ when it happens. I was on the bus. There was a young woman in the row in front of me. The bus was pulling in, but this song. This song! What was it? It was in Finnish, but having been here for three months now, I could pick out the words that stunned me. The refrain (catchy, poppy) sounded exactly like the title of our new zine. How does that happen? It just… does. You go to a place and you look for the art, the things that people are trying to express, or that you feel they are sharing with you, and you make a piece. In the case of DK, a zine. That spells out our explorations into what people shared with us about ‘summer,’ and ‘love,’ and the ‘love story.’ In the case of Mariska, it was a song. ‘It’s like a love story.’
Hers is Itserakkausjuttu—[Update: A Self-Love Story] It’s like a Love Story. (Listen to it on our ‘Exit Vantaa’ playlist at Spotify, here.)
There it is.
The chance encounter with… someone else feeling and expressing similar things to us. So even though it was a song over the radio, that didn’t mean it wasn’t important or connecting. It mattered. Mattering. There’s more to say about that, but not here, not yet. Saving it for the book, Kesärakkausjuttu. Editing this week. Almost done. Friday is my deadline. Whew. Almost there. But meantime, pausing to appreciate that another artist in the same country, in the same summer, also hit on this exact idea—our media of expression are different, but conceptually and aesthetically, our pieces are exactly aligned. Isn’t that what we call ‘good chemistry?’ It’s amazing when it happens—rare, beautiful, impossible to believe, at times, and almost always, the kind of sharp and pungent hit of dopamine that might be exactly what you need, in a particular place, time, and space. When you get the sharp high, everything moves from ‘this,’ to ‘adventure.’ And it’s adventure where DK loves to explore at the edge; that’s the ever-emerging shape of S P A C E.
ROAD TO ROVANIEMI. I heard it on the bus, yeah. I was in Rovaniemi, or just-about-to-be. It was kinda cold out, me and JŽ‘d gotten rained on, and I was like, ‘Let’s just get back and get warm and eat something.’ But then, um. The song. It struck a chord with me in a way that hasn’t in a very long time. Um. This! Wow. This? This. Yes. It was going to mean staying on the bus a bit longer. All the way to the train station. But I had to. To find out. Who was it by? How was I going to find out? Well. There is a young woman in the row in front. Let me just… ask her. Then there were phones, typing, googling, youtube, and the name of the artist… Mariska. ‘The title is Itserakkausjuttu,’ she said, almost as delighted as me for having helped me find out something that seemed important to me. I showed her this page of our website, and we were talking. Talking, talking, talking… all the way to the train station. Lengthenting the trip for J, but um. The song. I now had it. Which was exactly the nut I needed, in order to secure an important kind of bolt. Let me elaborate, to try to clarify what I mean. Hm, how shall I put it. Okay, here it goes…
All summer I’d been wondering what to write to take away from Finland, what to post, what to blog, what to publish, what to eZine, what to put into the whole set of printed pieces that will be sent by post this weekend. And then, with the song, something important happened. The pieces were there, the collection was ready, the channel of the bolt was carved, the bolt had been placed. Everything was loosely there, but the last bit was missing. The nut. The nut that tightened it all; the song was that nut. The aesthetics of this book and this song were importantly aligned. (That was my gut feeling; and as you know, if you read this blog, you know it’s from the gut that I move.)
A collection begins
THE BOOK, the summer, the story, the collection S P A C E || Finland. With this new little piece of a happened-upon sound clip, the aesthetics of Kesärakkausjuttu and accompanying pieces were now set.
A Summer Love Story is the name of our piece.
Hers is called Itserakkausjuttu, which translates by my bus companion in front who helped me find it as ‘A kind of love story.’
The nature. The calming.
These things: all of these things were swimming about in the brain, and then we wrote some stories with Alexis Jokela, and then we printed a few of those and shared them in Oulu and here in Kärsämäki at a short series of conversation parties called Hei Kesä. Testing things. Why not talk about summer and happy things, we were challenged, instead of melancholic depressing ones?
TALKING TOGETHER, working out the story, sharing in small snippets, testing, translating some of these, sharing those, limited editions, hidden chapters, Rated R things, stuff like that. All of it is part of the summer of Atelier S P A C E, writing, deigning, exploring, conversing, connecting, and discovery. It’s always that, but this was the first time we had expanded it to three full months, and not interwoven Atelier S P A C E with any other DK project. So that meant, focus. And concentration. And hopefully, a work of…. Art.
CUTUP. Those who know DK know that a big part of the zines made here are from the cutting-up of magazines, especially womens’ magazines. Why? I hate that these magazines try to tell us a story about what women ought to be into or how we ought to look. So when I google translated the song that I’m talking about and found a few lines about exactly that, I knew for sure I had hit on the right piece to listen to while editing the whole collection these next few days before leaving Finland. These are the lines, and the full Finnish lyrics are below. Thanks, Mariska!
Let’s see the women’s magazines again How bad and bad I am Although not true at all I wondered, “what’s wrong …” … I like my life I enjoy my skin…
Olen vihdoinkin käsittänyt sen Mä oon fiksu ja kivannäköinen Kaiken hyvän todellakin ansaitsen Mitä tielleni sattuu Helppo muista on kyllä välittää Mut itteänikin mun täytyy silittää Lupaan täst edes aina yrittää Itserakkausjuttuu Itserakkausjuttuu Itserakkausjuttuu
Voi heittaajat sanoo mitä tahansa Ei se mua liikuta, pitäkööt vihansa Mut se mist aiheutuu vahinkoo on Jos mä en itelleni frendi oo Jo kiistatta oon paras minä Ja muihin mä en vertaa mua enää ikinä, hä! Tää on luultavasti sullekin tuttuu Sitä itserakkausjuttuu Itserakkausjuttuu Itserakkausjuttuu
Naistenlehdistä lukea taas saan Miten väärin ja huono olenkaan Vaikkei totta se ole ollenkaan Mietin vaan “mitä vittuu…” Mikä mussa on muka nurinpäin Vaikka pärjäilen hyvin juuri näin? Suosittelen sinullekin ystäväin Itserakkausjuttuu Itserakkausjuttuu Itserakkausjuttuu
Tykkään itestäni Viihdyn mun nahois Mä väsyn jumittamaan Fiiliksis pahois En dissaa vaan kehun ja kiitän Kyl kelpaan jos tälleen mä riitän Oon kritisoinut mua jo aivan tarpeeks Teen sovinnon ja annan itelleni anteeks Onni alkaa siit mihin ankaruus loppuu Kaikki tarvii itserakkausjuttuu Itserakkausjuttuu Itserakkausjuttuu…
IT HAS BEEN A SUMMER of learning. Reflection. Change.
Growing towards the next thing takes a little bit of lowering the expectations; discovering, through simply meandering but with an intention towards wanting to become better, the roads that show you how.
It is nature. It is natural.
The feeling of new beginnings begins to begin, again.
66°34′N 23°51′E. This is a different place, the Arctic Circle. Writing from Rovaniemi; taking in the clean air and hoping for a clear sky to catch a glimpse of northern lights. Focus, slowing down… remembering summer, but participating more fully, for the first time perhaps, in now. But yes. Rovaniemi. That is where I am. The coordinates are changing and evolving, constantly. Where we are is where we are. Where we are going is a question we might consider less, if we allow ourselves, and let go of the particular social programming that some of us have that says ‘this has to go to a place’ or ‘this has to become a thing.’ Intuition is probably the only thing to lean on in cases where you have no idea; in Finland, this summer, I am learning to come to rest. To ‘just be’. Putting the final touches on the zines, the short stories, the photographs, and the packing. On my way to Asia again, soon.
Another place and another moment–but always, always: here is we are.
GREAT CONVERSATIONS UNFOLDED as DK and friends made zines in Oulu with guests of Hei Kesä.
Hei Kesä was 16 August’s popup zinemaking workshop and mini-art exhibition.
Very special thanks to Anu Lakkapää of Kahvila Tuokio for co-hosting with us, what a great place, and to Paavo Heinonen of Ouluntaiteidenyö for the exceptional conversations.
It was cool and low-key to be part of the yearly Ouluntaiteidenyö, or Oulu Arts Night, a popup of art, literature, and music. Highly recommend putting this on your tour if you are an enthusiast of small -scale cities, nature, new places, new people, intriguing peoplewatching, and drift. Not that many people wander this far north, and here we are, finding a moment, at Tuokio, discovering the point of it all, I feel, the point of making art, anyway: discovering the beauty of now, here, where we are. In real life, together.
ZINEMAKING. Zines from the summer. Zines from the moment. Learning together about how to let go of the ‘this is what art making looks like’ ideas, in order to just play. Like, improvise. On the spot. Together. Co-creating poems in the dada style, choosing buttons from a bowl and sewing them into our books. Folding, cutting, drinking coffee, enjoying. Very special, very cozy (like our hygge experiences at small clubs in Copenhagn, and fika conversations in Malmö).
There are a lot of people who informed the design and content of this, and I’ll be talking more about that sometime, but meantime before battery runs out on this machine, and before I fall asleep again, I want to share one picture today of what it felt like to be there.
Next stops: Helsinki, Kuala Lumpur, and Phnom Penh for salons, workshops, and ateliers. See our upcomings here.
DK ARE GETTING READY to go to the post office. It’s been a little while since we’ve offered some of our work for sale, and this is the first time we are sharing in the post selections of our new S P A C E limited-edition printed zines. Get a four-pack of zines from our brand new series, S P A C E || Finland. Everything was made on the spot here in the middle of northern Finland, plus a few other spots like Helsinki, and built from real stories shared with us by people whose paths we happened to cross, in the project we have been doing since last Sept. that is called Atelier S P A C E.
Order before August 28 to be sure to get a hold of this one-time special offer.
(We can’t really guarantee postal service will work as well where we are going, next. But Scandinavia, yes. Order today and we’ll put aside a 4-pack with your name on it. If you want to send S P A C E as a gift to someone, just tell us whom to address our personalized letter when we put together the package. Order here.
THE SUMMER STARTED with just a simple question, ‘What are the threads?’
Telling the stories, sharing the narratives, making the necklace, and developing the voice. All of this happens in the space of conversations. Where you discover something new about, say, someone else, but also, in the process of simply opening up and seeing what you might say to someone you are beginning to get to know, what you find out, too, about yourself.
Art starts when you see it
We’ve been writing quite a lot and thinking even more, but finding out that at the end of these long journeys, sometimes, where you arrive, is where you started. And you are less tired, because along the way of hat along circle of sewing the new pieces, you have let go of dead things and discovered new space. Quality starts with wanting it.
Letting go, moving forward, picking up the new, and arriving at the next. That is where we are. That is what is newly beginning. A freshness, and a richness, and a complexity. Will share everything in the new zine, ‘A Summer Love Story.’
ONE OF THE FUNNEST things about being in the middle of Finland all summer is listening to Radio Nova. I’m not kidding. I really like it. I don’t know. I think it’s because of all these 1990s songs, hit songs, stuff I haven’t heard since… well… then. I don’t listen to the radio much except when I’m in places that are otherwise rather remote or quiet or just the sound of the new language is interesting to hear. Pieced between the many announcements, often about ‘summer,’ because I am beginning to pick up a few words (‘Friday,’ ‘good,’ ‘let’s see then, maybe,’ ‘thank you,’ and ‘mind peace’), there is stuff like A-Ha. I’m listening to’ Take On Me’ Great video–do you remember that? I remember that. I remember being very, very intrigued. Drawing and animation and this song. This song. I’m listening to it right now. I was going to link to the YouTube but you know what, they have these stupid ads now, and they have tracking, and it’s annoying–and—wow that’s a high note—and it’s been… really interesting to hear how people listen to songs like Roxette‘s Listen to Your Heart and Sinéad O’Connor‘s Nothing Compares 2 U. Plus that one that’s been playing all summer and is ‘oh, you don’t need to know the words, it’s like all the Finnish songs, about being sad and lonely and depressed and wanting to commit suicide…’
BLAST FROM THE PAST. Nineties music. Nice to hear it all. Zining while listening to this stuff reminds me of something else.
Mix tapes. Collaging. Curating. Sharing. Now you just queue things up on Soundcloud, in a playlist. Or?
Thinking about all that, all those things. Listening to the ‘Hot 9 at 9’ back home. One of the places that used be home, but isn’t now, I guess, would be more accurate. Talking about Home in one of our online forums. Talking about Arrivals. Talking about Slow Moments. Talking, talking, writing, writing. Listening to the radio and drinking coffee at 11:25PM and wondering where the sun went. It is the first time this summer that I’ve needed to turn on the lights.
Bicycling home last night from karaoke, too. First time I had cycled in the dark.
Next, I’m pretty sure, Radio Nova will play us some Michael Jackson. Annie are you okay…
DK AND FRIENDS TOGETHER co-host the zinemaking popup conversation salon and *happening* ‘Hei Kesä’ in Oulu. This is in collaboration with Kahvila Tuokio and Oulu Taiteiden Yö (Oulu Arts Night).
It was the delightful yellow bright interior of the cafe that got us thinking, ‘This would be a great place to host a zinemaking popup about summer, summer memories, summer stories, love, romance, all that kind of thing, and we’ll do it on 16 August to coincide with the citywide popup that is Oulu Arts Night.’
An idea. A chance encounter, or two, and voila. Special thanks to Paavo Heinonen for including DK’s event in the Oulu Arts Night programme and conversing with us about how to make it even better. A great collaboration like ‘let’s do this. Let’s make it really fun for people, and let’s talk about who would want to be there, and then, what we can do to design a magic moment.’
That’s what starts all this. Sparkly things like discovering people, places, and the brightness of a yellow interior that feels exactly like ‘Hi, Summer.’
Speaking of, big thanks to Anu Lakkapää at Kahvila Tuokio for offering
the space. DK loved meeting her and talking about her passion for making cakes. Plus, the espresso was really, really good. (A must for any venue DK chooses for our events, hah.)
A SERIES. Shout-out, too, to Eveliina Karsikas. Eveliina owns the cake and coffee place Cafe Onni in Kärsämäki, which is relatively new here. If I’m correct, it opened this very summer, and we happened to be in the same town, and found it. The colorful interior here drew our eye and that’s part of why we made a coloring-book to share along with our usual zines. Eveliina had kindly co-hosted this event, ‘Hei Kesä’, with us in that town earlier this summer, on International Zine Day. (See picture at left).
OULU. Now our team is looking forward to getting the popup installed, and opening up the new zine show on 16th. The first part of our programme is a workshop, and there are very limited seats. Tickets are €15, includes materials, plus coffee, for the zinemaking workshop. Here is our schedule for the day. We’ll have all of our new zines with us to showcase and share on the day, too. All were made in Finland this summer, the set we call our S P A C E || Finland collection. Here’s a picture:
16 A U G U S T
Zines. Coffee. Real life.
Oulu Arts Night
€15 (price includes materials, plus coffee) Ages 16+. Limited seats. Be sure to book in advance to confirm your spot: get tickets here.
IN NOT TOO MANY DAYS, this thing will be finished.
This thing that is the summer residency in Finland.
This thing that is the A4 zine, ‘Slow Moment,’ whose lead story is going to be ‘A Summer Love Story’ by Alexis Jokela.
This thing that is the smaller zine series, the set of stories created and co-created in the time since DK got here, early June… so many things have happened. Hard to think it all out. But I wanted to show the process a little, today. The conversations lead to things, they don’t just stay there, they lead to the making of things that are, in fact, solid and concrete. And if I’m lucky, have a particular unity to them. They have a meaning that will resonate, I hope, with people who read or view them.
Making a story, discovering the meaning
THE ART things are this way, are they not? If they’re good, they land somewhere–someone’s heart. I’ve seen people reading the short stories of Alexis’s now, and there are tears. Honest. There are. Talking with lots of people around us to gather the mood and feeling of one story to share in an 8-page A4 zine has taken all these weeks, so far 10?, and there are two to go. Wrapping up time. There are translations into Finnish, you see, so that means it’s easier to get into them. And so many people have told DK and our team at Atelier S P A C E here what they are feeling about summer.
The whole idea of making the show ‘Hei Kesä’ in Oulu next week, in collaboration with the team at Ouluntaiteidenyö, was born, in fact, of real life and contemporary, in the moment and right here and now conversations. How could it be otherwise? To learn about a place you have to go and see it, in real life, with your person. In Denmark I learned an expression, about how if you want to know a place you have to ‘go there and then put your finger in the ground.’ So that means you sit with it, you don’t just document things for five minutes and fly away to the next town. When people travel around and do that and say they ‘did Cambodia because I went to Angkor Wat,’ for ex., I have to stop myself from getting into it. But you can’t ‘do’ a place by ‘hitting’ a couple of things. In Ireland people would ‘hit’ the Blarney Stone and so on, and say they ‘did Ireland.’ I still remember that. Three and a half years in Ireland. Here, three months. Sure, I don’t know that much, but that’s where interviewing comes in. Learning to make the stories and the pieces that tell the stories that people are telling me. That’s why it was so amazing to run into Alexis. And learn. And share. I did a lot of photos for the new A4 zine, ‘Slow Moment.’ I’m going through them now:
ALEXIS JOKELA wrote the story, ‘A Summer Love Story.’ We’re trying to decide today if it will be in Finnish in the final print, or in English. Maybe both? I can’t decide. I’ll ask him, later, when he gets here. We’re going to go through this thing with a fine-toothed comb and make some important decisions. That’s the part of the creative process we are in, now. The concept is there. The story is mostly written. A lot of photos are already done, but maybe new ones will need to be taken, to tell the story better. To make the art unified, like I said, and with a particular cohesiveness. You have to know how to do that and it makes the whole thing ‘sing’. So we’re going to sit with this thing and tell it.
Atelier S P A C E || Finland gathers new people for new conversations to co-create an 8-page zine. This project made possible by supporters in S P A C E. DK wish to thank those of you who pre-ordered, and made this production possible. Thanks for supporting this style and approach to making art–art that doesn’t live in the walls of galleries, art that doesn’t get ‘picked up and promoted,’ art that just is what it is. Frank, honest, and contemporary nonfiction pieces made together, on the spot, in real life.