‘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.

 

 

Arts & Letters Society | Kuala Lumpur

Two dates. April 25, and May 25. Follow the instructions on this page to find out what is going on, the agenda, and meet point for this twice-off event in Kuala Lumpur. (Friends of Design Kompany will have a pretty good idea of it if you’ve heard us talk about ‘N’.)

1 April | Launch of S P A C E Vol. III 2017 collection, ‘Circumference’

ON APRIL 1, a new collection, ‘Circumference,, will launch here at DK. It is a set of writing, imagery drawn and photographs made throughout 2017 in S P A C E. Our ‘Year of the Circle’ conversations in virtual and offline spaces led to dialogues that moved and shifted. In the end, we could see the gist of the thread: what makes for softness in our approaches to life, and work? Roundness, not squareness, that invites listening, seeing, empathy, and compassion. Which we need more of in this world, right? (Else we shall see more of the same: mansplaining, for example, and related irritations.) So DK examined those questions.

A new collection, highlights from Vol. III S P A C E 2016, ‘Year of the Circle’

We read from Inward Revolution (J. Krishnamurthi), and Lady Chatterly’s Lover (D. H. Lawrence), the latter of which was originally titled ‘Tenderness.’ Marketing can so spoil a thing can it not? The original intention for the title, though, is… Important. When the author wrote this book, he had already figured out what we are just waking up to: toxic masculinity, the pursuit of power, the conflation of money for prestige, and the lack of care (and respect) towards women is a giant problem, for all of us. The inattentiveness to what tenderness can bring us, and I mean tenderness, for real, is as Holden Canfield would call it a big black eye. The sheer obliviousness is crippling society from feeling well. Belonging, wholesomeness. Morality, culture. So much sharing on this topic informed the writings born here. (The back and forth nature of ‘call and response’ is how DK design and host space. So the meander, softness, intrigue, discovery and comfort that come with a rolling circle, bumping into walls and falling into holes (HT Shel Silverstein), makes this collection whole.)

We studied Non-Violent Communication, Cognitive Behavior Therapy, and Authentically Relating for this work of researching and corresponding with those members of S P A C E who opted to participate. This is how we grew, together, towards a new understanding. This is a co-created work, edited by A. Spaice.The S P A C E || Vol. III 2017 ‘Circumference’ collection includes the zine-stories S P A C E || Battambang (‘Here comes the Dance‘), S P A C E || Singapore (‘Dunlop & Perak’), and S P A C E || Ipoh (‘Highlands‘). Plus essays, Q&A pieces, features, and photo collections from Phnom Penh, Ubud, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, and Penang.

We are sharing it for free with our members, on 1 April.

In S P A C E.

Join here.

Seeking collaborators, cohosts in KL, Riga, Oulu, and Helsinki

HERE ARE SOME of the programmes where we are seeking collaborators, applicants, and partners.

 

Atelier S P A C E || Kärsämäki

 

MAKING OUR WAY TO N. EUROPE in the coming weeks to host Atelier S P A C E around and about in Finland. This means starting the process of following up on all the general notes we had shared towards that part of the world in 2017. DK are seeking:

  • writers
  • illustrators
  • photographers
  • translators
  • designers
  • assistant staff
  • layout artists
  • design studio partners
  • art book publishing partners
  • zine afficinados
  • jazz club owners
  • cafe owners
  • library coordinators
  • self-initiating others to do _____

for a popup, traveling zinemaking atelier series, Atelier S P A C E.

CURIOUS? This page outlines how we are making proposals for partnering with people for an installation in Phnom Penh. Open to your suggestions on how to:

  • discover and engage with new people in creative, and other fields
  • so that we can design
  • occasions, experiences, ateliers and salons that
  • get us all out of our boxes and usual routines
  • to discover the world, to listen to each other, and to play
  • in truly remarkable ways
  • one conversation at a time.

Yes? Ask me for the PDF that outlines our offer, and the ethos and method of Atelier S P A C E, in detail. Use this form to reach me:

 

A song for Jean Rhys, a letter from Rilke

FIVE OF US. Wrote a poem together.

And I’m going to send it to just the five of us, and that’s it.

It’s called A Song for Jean Rhys.

Jean Rhys inspired the work, in a big way, of hosting The Mirror.

Writing needn’t be about mass producing, or selling, or convincing, or debunking. Sometimes, writing can just be about sharing. Making a quiet space, and letting that be enough. Enough. Letting things slow and experiencing this here, this now, is enough… What if that could be a philosophy?

Asia for five years now. You let go a little bit of the old programmes. I know I’ve written that somewhere before, but it isn’t a bad thing to underscore it. Letting go of the programmes. To see, finally, when we can make space, to be together for a time, to listen and to share, that’s neat. That’s being here, being here now. Some people who have mentored me have shown me the ways to try to include the quiet spaces in my everyday, and indeed, to let them take the center stage. Stillness. Quieting. I’m living next to temples. I’m learning to stay the journeys now, without abruptly quitting a person, time, or place. But… Selectively. The small poem is ‘A Song for Jean Rhys.’ It isn’t for sharing here, but there, in our closed circle, where things have gone from small and simple maybe things to wow, this is good, this is right things. Is this intimacy?… is this beauty? Is this the whole thing of Art?

SOME DISTANT DAY. Big questions, but we don’t have to resolve anything. Rilke said, to the young poet, don’t ask so many questions, but let yourself live your way toward the answers… Of course he said it better, but it’s past midnight and the scrap of paper I had written it on is, oh, no, wait! I typed it! In Cameron Highlands! Here… Indexed, searched…  found:

Be patient toward all that is unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves… Do not… seek the answers, which cannot be given to you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.’ —Rilke’s letters to a young poet

Readings from S P A C E

A POPUP CONVERSATION salon, with snippets from our 2014-2017 highlights from the ezine, S P A C E. We will be hosting this in real life at a venue in Penang to be shared with registered guests only. Free with RSVP. To RSVP, contact DK through the form here.

Atelier S P A C E || Cameron Highlands

LIVING IN or traveling through Malaysia? Join Design Kompany for a weekend getaway in Cameron Highlands. You’ll be part of an international traveling atelier to make zines in different cities and locations around the world. We will be in Cameron Highlands to make S P A C E || Cameron in late December, 2017. What’s involved, who will come, and how it will play out will be determined based on the people who show up. Google ‘open space technologies’ to see how open space unconferencing works. Learn more and ask us anything when you apply through the form, below. A short-course zinemaking popup. Max: 8.

Apply through this form:

 

The why of S P A C E

WHAT IS S P A C E about? Starting in Battambang in Cambodia in Sept. 2017, we are moving in Asia to discover people who are curious, creative, and ready for something new. Our cocreated Battambang issue was on the topic, Ennui. In Singapore (10-12 Nov) our zine was on the theme The Third Place. In Penang (6-11 Dec) we took a different focus, Growth. The launch party for S P A C E {}| Penang is on Monday, 11 December, at the Bricklin Cafe at Hin Bus Depot. DK are looking forward to sharing the journeys from 2014-2017 around to different cities of the world to discover people and hyperlocal narratives, and pack them into short zines.

How did we find these themes?

Each is based on what conversations emerge when we meet new people in real life in those places, and simply take time to talk. Then we work on a piece that is cohesive, and is hyperlocal to the place and the contemporary narratives. These pop up from real life when we converse offline with new and different others. It brings storyfinding back to person to person contact, while ‘journalism’ becomes increasingly less human-centered. Who will we tell our real selves to? Each other, in real life, offline, away from package-making for others and towards more listening for common threads and similar experiences. In so doing, we feel more connected, DK have found, and inspired to improve, too.

What is Atelier S P A C E trying to do?

Consider possibilities. Try new things. Stay open. In a nutshell, it’s about helping people find ways to get out of their box. Comfort zones can be places where it seems cozy, but actually, lulls us into a creatively deadening complacency.

Our atelier is about designing a custom framework in each place that will set the stage for really interesting thinking and human connexion to actually *happen*, and DK select very carefully the venues, times of day, and themes so that guests of Atelier S P A C E can experience a relaxed, intellectually stimulating, space for dialogue. Dialogue of the kind with a center, and not sides.

It isn’t for everyone, this style of looking for the new and making zines in-situ, on the spot, with those we are inviting to play in S P A C E, but it works for people seeking a personal challenge to try new things and grow. Especially useful for people who have done a lot, careerwise, and seen firsthand that there are massive limits to what anyone can do on her own, yet few ways to invite truly engaging collaboration.

So we created Atelier S P A C E for this set of us. It is best for those who are interested in developing a creative voice, and making what is artful. DK has been practicing this since 2008 in Seattle, Durham NC, and Phnom Penh in workshops for a wide mix of people, and is sharing now through these popup ateliers tools, tips, and anecdotes that equip guests to become more confident creatively. Atelier S P A C E is a self-funded project.

Read about what’s coming up in 2018 at our calendar, here.

Tonight in Singapore! A 3-day zinemaking popup atelier begins

LAST CALL to register for Atelier S P A C E in Singapore.

Tickets for the 3-day atelier are SGD $180. Register here.

We are ready, and we are set. Look forward to meeting our registered guests tonight at the *secret meetpoint* at the National Gallery.

S P A C E. Meantime, if you are not in Singapore, but are wondering about how all this will play, do consider subscribing to our online magazine, S P A C E. It’s a weekly. Going since 2014. See what we will be writing, sharing, and co-creating. Find out more at this page.

Battambang vis-a-vis Singapore

JUST LANDED. It’s been quite a shift for sure, from Cambodia, and we have a hefty notebookful of things to say that we will hold off on saying until we meet in real life, for Authorities might not like us making Off the Cuff Statements (and we should also refrain from Generalizations and/or Snap Judgments).

I had thought that the Atelier S P A C E event next weekend would be widely welcomed (nope). I am learning that it is the practical and pragmatic, as J. told me yesterday, that will usually win out over the merely intriguing. 

It’s okay.

We are zinemaking today anyway, to get into the mood. Who will be joining us, how it will happen, what we will make together is an open question, but here at DK we are all about the open-ended query. The shape of space that emerges, when just-because-some-said-why-not showed up, and made a thing *happen.* Battambang was a good one, we made this zine from the stories that came together for the instance of P’chum Ben 2017. ONCENESS is part of it. The urgency of now. Fun to think in a week we will start on the Singapore issue of S P A C E. Here’s to the journeys, the new and the next.

Printed Matters || Atelier S P A C E pre-event

PRINTED MATTERS is a conversation. About printed matters. And about matters of printing. Playfulness is a prerequisite but this is for word-nerds, print-nerds, design-and-arts-and-crafts-nerds.

Atelier S P A C E is a zine-makery on-the-move, a global conversation about local voices, local stories. People getting together, sharing things, and creating something special, to them, for them, and by them. In a curated open circle.

Intrigued? Come join this pre-event, where we explore printed media and other high-octane cultural mumbo-jumbo in A Spaice’s hallmark playful, casual space-setting.

Register here.

A designers’ guide to 25 of Singapore’s day-work cafes, art stores, and ‘third places’

 

 

AFTER MUCH SEARCHING ONLINE, and even more not-finding, I have given myself a writing commission. Go to Singapore. Walk around. Look at stuff. See who’s doing something interesting. Discover them, drifting towards whomever or wherever intrigues, without too much noise, or fanfare. Talk to people. And see where the cool stuff is going on. The good stuff. Not just what people say is interesting, or pay to promote, or whatever. No advertorials here. No sponsored posts. That is just not what we are into, here. No thank you. We are interested in real, genuine, and authentic conversations, with people who actually mean it when they say things, and who show up, and who are, like us, intrigued by the possible, the new, the near, the now and the next. When I go around town with my marked-up map, checking out some of the cafes to see if they really are the kind of places I would go to and work out of if I were, say, a designer or a writer with a laptop looking for somewhere to lay low and focus, or a place to walk into and get inspired, or a place that just has the kind of vibe you really want to have if you are looking for ‘your people,’ in a city that feels, from what I remember, on my brief past visits, to be… let’s say… distancing? Maybe the world is just like that now, it’s hard to find space for real life. True conversation, connection, connexion. Why do I care about this so much? Relational aesthetics, et al. So many reasons. Sure I can write and write and blog and blog and who cares? If I don’t meet you, in real life and eye to eye, then whatever is the point of it? Really. I’m serious. So I’m going to outline for a few people the 25 places that I will discover. I’m gonna shortlist stuff, and post about things, but not here, not in public space. In forums,like ‘Strange Geometries.’ New mini-guide to Singapore, writ for the discerning and authenticity-seeking who are coming from out of town. No maps or pocket guidebook stuff. Just, a list, and essays, and pics. First release will be to members of our eZine, S P A C E. Join us there if you want to read it. S P A C E posts weekly, it’s USD $7/week.

 

‘Curious and intrigued’, a note from Singapore

NEXT MONTH IN SINGAPORE, DK are going to be hosting a popup, weekend zinemaking salon, Atelier S P A C E || Singapore. It’s not quite what, I think, fits into the usual programme of ‘writer event, go to the library,’ and ‘design event, go to a conference,’ and ‘open space, that’s some kind of tech thing, isn’t it?’ But rather, a combination.

Only eight seats for this, and it’s open-invitation, this time, but the idea is to gather quite a variety of perspectives so that the thing we make when we meet to do a zine together (S P A C E Singapore), will necessarily be inclusive and curiously unusual.

It’s going to be 10-12 November. Starts on the Friday night at 7PM at the National Gallery. (That’s the meet point on the first day, when we’ll kick things off in a light, fun, easygoing conversation salon. I’m looking forward to this so very much.)

Based on the notes coming back from the internet, so far, I’m seeing at least a few Singaporeans are ready for this kind of thing. [Update Very nice to read ‘curious and intrigued,’ when I opened one of the responses. But truly, I hope so. The real creative process which I think is missing quite a lot, not just in Asia but the world in general, is one that involves tons of room to invite lots of new and different perspectives (for input, for exploration, for hitting on something novel). How can you ever hit on something different if you always approach the same people, discuss the same things, never leave the boxes? That’s the thing. The silos are where the dullness, mediocrity and complacency set in, we feel. And innovation suffers, and we’re all left with just boring stuff, all around us. Boring because it was a sole person’s ‘idea!’, good for them, but what about the whole, the collaboration, the gestures that can be made when we go where we’ve never been? Outside the comfort zone. Mmm-hm.]

At DK, we’re a little zany, sure, but we are totally serious about our work. Quality matters. It’s important to me. There will be some interesting conversations ahead, for sure, as there always are in our programmes. Conversations! Zines! How fun the two of these things together can be.

GET INVOLVED. I’m excited, ready, and… busy. Skype calls all next week with potential partners. Curious how to get involved? Check out our new page to find out what we’re looking for. Reach out through the form there for the fastest response.

Launch of a new chapbook, Phnom Penh || S P A C E

MEET DESIGN KOMPANY this week to get a copy of our new chapbook, Phnom Penh ||  S P A C E. It contains some of the highlights from our 2014-2017 series of images. It gathers select short, quiet moments in a new collection, which has not been shared elsewhere outside of our online community, S P A C E. Many of these will be unexpected images: this isn’t what the ordinary passerby will make a note of, we are certain of that. Only by staying still in one place for a time can you really start to finally see it. Which means, of course, recognizing that you can never see a thing fully, no matter how long you look or how much you investigate, unless you see it clearly, with your heart.

‘How arrogant it would be for me to write about Cambodia,’ I said to VS yesterday, an earnest young man who, after working in international development, is freelancing as a translator of English to Khmer, his native language. He tells me I should write a story about __. I say, ‘No. __ is not mine. __ is yours. These are not my stories to write: these are yours. What I can do is show you the viewpoint I have, as a person who sees space in a very particular way. This story, this visual communication, without too many words that can clutter meaning, this is what the Phnom Penh || S P A C E chapbook is about.’ Curious? Get it when you join S P A C E this month.

Phnom Penh || S P A C E