GATHER WITH DK and a handful of guests in the conversation salon, ‘Excerpts of Note’ in Singapore on 1 November. You’ll get a chance to explore, offline, with others some of the less often-shared quotes, stories, and inspirations that we’ll invite each of you to bring to share. This is a self-selecting group, and a co-creation, made on the spot with the materials that come to hand. But we’ll bring prompts and activity-starters, too. This is a chance for you to try something new, in a Surrealist-inspired way. For example, we’ll share our nonlinear game, ‘Excerpts of Note’, and the art book (pictured below) that goes with it.
Your ticket comes with a PDF, ‘Excerpts of Note,’ from Design Kompany’s archive of our eZine S P A C E. This selection contains six interviews with creative people on their approaches to the process of making, doing, and sharing. Designers, developers, and artists share their stories in Q&A interviews like these. Read six exclusively-shared such ones from this special curation from the archives of our eZine S P A C E.
Also explore the ‘Excerpts of Note’ art book, pictured below. We’ll bring this collection along to the 1 November’s conversation salon. Guests at our London salon ‘Excerpts of Note’ had added parts to this. You’ll be invited to interact with it, too.
A three-day weekend popup zinemaking atelier. Once and that’s it, for Singapore. Don’t miss the chance to discover new themes within your own creative work, while also making an 8-page zine in a truly collaborative atelier. Hosted by Design Kompany’s A. Spaice and Dipika Kohli, you’ll have a mix of evening conversation salons to gather ideas and daytime workshops in which to flesh them out. Try something new, and be part of a global conversation that will span 20 cities in the next two years. Singapore follows Battambang. Penang is next.
Join DK and jazzy guests at this conversation salon. Our theme is ‘The Prospect of Beauty’. Discover the parlor games ‘Art of Not Knowing’ and ‘Excerpts of Note,’ as shared in similar small scale salons in clubs in Tokyo, London, New York and Hanoi. RSVP requested. Tickets just $10p at the door, inclusive of materials, and exclusive of drinks. A concert follows, which is arranged separately by the venue. Advance bookings only. Book here.
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.
MAKE A ZINE. Something quick, but lasting, with world-traveling, genre-bending, art-design-literary conversationalists. In just three days, you will collaboratively make an 8-page zine out of what we share with each other, and thin air. Make the time to sit in a small group, reflect on your life, and hit on a cool new idea together. The emphasis here is on ‘new’ and ‘now.’ No creative person can do anything intriguing without others to connect with and ‘throw around ideas to see what’s interesting.’ The zine S P A C E || Singapore, to be launched at the end of the weekend, will become part of a global conversation over the next two years, 20 cities worldwide. (What is a zine? See Wikipedia page about zines.)
Atelier S P A C E is an invitation to try something different. It’s about discovery.
Read the full programme of our Atelier S P A C E *zinemaking* weekend at this page.
It was November 2014. I snapped this pic in a public space in #Singapore, thinking, ‘I wish someone would meet me here and look out at this view with me, not a friend but a random architecture-design-art-writer acquaintance-for-this-hour.’ Not too intense, but interested in the new things, still curious, as yet unjaded. Was taking 5 from a slate of panel discussions that were, for me, too stuffy. I wandered, and bumped into a poet, who pointed out very articulately that sometimes what’s cool is not knowing who’s going to turn up, what’s going to happen, or how it will play out. The letting go started here, at this table, where I sat and wrote a page to myself in response. That note inspired all of what is coming, next month, 3-12 Nov at pre-events, salons and finally, Atelier S P A C E.
See ‘upcomings’ in the footer of this website.
Learn more about our 10-12 Atelier S P A C E || Singapore programme, including how to register, here.
Editor’s Note: Design Kompany spent most of October so far exploring the idea of going to Singapore for a popup zinemaking atelier. A new concept came into shape after more than 40 conversations. But A. Spaice tells the story from behind-the-scenes, of just how hard it is to co-create (and why making space for it is that much more important.)
I FORGET that so many people want to be sold to, not think. And certainly not to think with you. I forget that, when I make the initial overtures of, ‘What do you think? Want to explore something we could create, together?’ But lately, in the overture-making to possible co-hosts for Atelier S P A C E, I have re-learned this. It feels like I’m back at my old job. And that’s not a good thing. Openness is more interesting, to me.
Open Space. Which of course, is the whole idea behind Atelier S P A C E. When we meet together, just 8 of us next month, we’ll come up with ‘a thing that it is’ together. But only after conversations. Lots of them.
AFTER MORE THAN 40 conversations in recent weeks with people in Singapore about ‘what it is’, the unifying concept for Atelier S P A C E || Singapore has taken shape. (Will spell it out for you, in a moment). Finding it, though, had a lot to do (edit, had everything to do) with learning what it is people told me they thought it might be, or how it could be interesting for them. Of course. This, in design, is called ‘user testing.’ Which sounds weird. It’s just like saying, ‘Hey. I’m making ice cream. This is the sample. Do you like the sample? No? Why? What about this sample? Better? No? Why? Tell me why, or. You have a better idea? Great! I want to hear it. No, no. Tell me, really. Do.’
AN EMERGENT IDEA. While I was on the virtual journey towards this set of designs, selection of venues, and ideas for programming, a lot of things happened.
One: I found out I really prefer real life. (If you know me, this one is ‘duh.’) I forgot that I’m much more happy to talk to people in synchronized, real life conversations than online. Then again, it is easier online. You can send links and instagrams.
So there’s that.
But I also found out that I don’t have to do this. If no one whatsoever had played with the ideas with me, I would have skipped right over this and headed straight to the next stop. Already started putting out a call of interest for co-hosting venues, people, collaborators, design houses, scruffy cafes, slick clubs, cocktail places, all that. At the start, you have a wide, open field. Later, you close in on a concept, and once you have that, you do not veer. Which is why it takes so long. I don’t veer, so I need to know it’s this one, not that other thing that I thought of ten years go, or the thing you just said, just now. No. I need to know. This one. And for Singapore, I have this one. Meet in public spaces. Popup style. Off the cuff, off the official programme. See what happens. Make magic, because the real art isn’t what’s on the walls or in the vaults of institutions. the real art is us, showing up, right here and now. How magical! For this moment. Together. Shazam!
Many people left the early conversations. Or didn’t reply. The early conversations are the toughest ones, though they are also the most important. Because the early conversations are the ones that we use to design this thing. Talking. Talking with us. Helps. Maybe in the early conversations it’s clear that DK doesn’t seem like it’s going somewhere. Or, in a few instances, people just came back to us with an unwelcome hard sell. That was odd, and unfortunate. Like, are you gonna buy from us, or what? And we don’t do that. I mean, it’s not like we don’t buy anything, but until I get there and we start talking, then I can’t see you or know you. Maybe that’s how they feel about me? But co-hosting isn’t buying something, is it? Maybe people are worried to lend their name to something that’s unproven. A risk. But nothing cool comes without risk. Every single one of DK’s clients, 1995-present, knows this.
The weird part was when people wanted to sell me their products, or advertorials.
No. Definitely no, no no.
I’m just not into that. That’s okay.
New people have emerged, ‘getting it’, I imagine, or maybe it’s just better communicated and that massive question, ‘What IS it?’ has found a compelling ring of what seems to be a well-articulated answer. Which is what the early conversationalists who left were looking for. Tell me what it IS. At a time when I just couldn’t. But now, thanks to the early folks and their stated or implied ideas about this, I, myself, now know, personally, what this IS, why I’m doing it and why the people who I’m looking for should care.
Like on every other design journey, so far, the thing it is has emerged.
The earliest folks are gone.
Meantime, new ones are knocking and saying ‘hi.’ This good. This is how it happens.
THE CONCEPT. The overarching feedback was that the people in Singapore are looking for an experience, a nightlife kind of a jam. Not too much like a scruffy coffee shop jam session, mind you, which would be totally fun for me (and probably will put that together in Seattle or San Francisco, when the atelier moves to those places). But Singaporeans, we found through our conversations, are more interested in something that has style, elegance, poise, and gravitas. Does it connect to something prestigious? Does it have weightiness? Will it lead to something more interesting, i.e. new people, new connections? If yes, then it’s more interesting. That is what we heard.
So we’re gonna do that. We’re gonna do the nightlife thing, in unofficial popup style. Take the stages of public spaces, go where people are convening. Here is the kicker. Notice that the real art isn’t what’s on the walls, but what’s there, in the ambient interstitial space, the S P A C E that we will make, in real life, *together*.
DK’s first zine in print, S P A C E || Battambang, drops today.
This was created from the first-ever of our new roving conversation salon-cum-zinemaking popups, Atelier S P A C E. That took place on 26 September, over P’chum Ben in Battambang, Cambodia. We are focusing on the zine idea because it’s simple, tangible, do-able, light, accessible, and easy to put together relatively quickly.
Here is what Atelier SP A C E is.
Ateliers made on the road, on the fly, based solely on chance encounters and the self-selecting guests, collaborators, and co-hosts who, together with us: help design the content, select the themes through the activities we provide to make that easier than it sounds, and make venue spaces available to DK for these programmes. DK go to a new place. See who’s around, talk in real life. That’s just how it always has been. But what’s new is the making something part, now. Of course we design, we write, we get people talking, so why not bring these skills to social spaces, engage us beyond the simple smalltalk and shallow conversations that become, very quickly, a bore? That’s the concept. Of making S P A C E.
PLAY. For a while now, we have been practicing this. What, exactly? How to design space to really get people talking, about you wouldn’t believe what kinds of things, and doing this together with total strangers. (Ask any of us about how). What’s fun for us is the shaping of this space, a kind of timebound and physical geometry. As designers we love to frame the thing, and let the play that happens just happen. Not overdirecting, letting things flow. This is how people hit on their magic moments, of ‘a-ha!’, which, really, can be hugely valuable if you are feeling stuck, bored, siloed, or otherwise disengaged from people right around you. Look up, now, see them, there? Also online, reading, checking. Like me and you. What if, though, we could be reading the same invitation, to show up, to meet, in Atelier S P A C E? See what emerges. See what develops. Themes, philosophies, sharing, and, in the case of BTB’s edition, confessions. What? Yeah.
Today the digital version of the zine S P A C E || Battambangposts in our weekly eZine, S P A C E.
THIS WEEK AT DK WORLD HQ in Phnom Penh, we printed a zine. S P A C E, the first one that’s not digital. Just one copy. To look at it, to see how it feels. Stick it on the fridge, ‘live with it.’ And you know what?
A total flop.
OK. Now, perhaps, you’re thinking, What? They’re writing about their terrible flop?
The answer is yes.
The answer! Is yes.
Let me get a little bit nerdy here, now. About design. About quickly mocking something up and flying it by a few people and seeing if there is something there. Magic, that’s what I’m looking for in this kind of experiment. Does it have the magic in it? Is it really going to do something *cool*? You know the experimenters who design science [experiments] and stuff, they have hypotheses and that’s great, and they use these methods to discover things like The Uncertainty Principle and the Copenhagen Interpretation, which is marvelous. Because science matters, and the approaches it takes towards discovery are *awesome*. But! We are not scientists. We are designers. And our approaches are different. Our approaches start with throwing something together quickly and testing it, FAST. Fail fast, they say. The innovation people. The design thinking ladies and gentlemen. The ones talking about ‘Human Centered Design,’ which, let’s be honest, is just Good Design.
Isn’t that obvious?
No. It’s not. People aren’t used to testing things quickly, they don’t want to run it by someone and look stupid. They don’t want people to say, ‘Hey, you know, you spelled that wrong, dude.’ Because why? Because people take things so personally! You know, you gotta lose that if you wanna invent something cool. You have to just go, ‘What do you think of this crazy little prototype thing that I just printed, and I thought it was great, when I was laying it out, on InDesign, but you know, once I printed it, ooooh. It’s just sooooo off the mark. OMG. But that’s okay. That’s just my personal response. What do you think? What does this thingy do for you? Does it move you, in some way?’
So of course I took it along last night to my first social outing since 2001. Okay, I’m kidding, but you know. Going out for a drink, seeing what’s going on. Making smalltalk, my least favorite thing to do. And enjoying it, somehow. But also, sharing this little printout. Does it move you, in some way? There were a few people that seemed to be interested, to be intrigued. Watching how they responded, that was cool. I learned something. The things to note, I noted. Put them in my heart, let them sit for a night, see how it feels the next day, when I start all over, with a new file, and totally rewrite the damn thing.
Prototypes and improvisations
BEBOP JAZZ artists and improvisational theater people are probably the ones who get this idea, the most, when I start to go there, in that direction of… well, whaddyou think? I dunno. Because we are jamming. You have to have some creative confidence around this, sure, I get that. And it’s like this, a chicken and egg thing, because how do you get confident about a thing if you never actually get in front of anyone to talk about the thing that you are making? Jeez! Again!
And so, this prototype is a fail. It’s okay. I’m cool with that. I’m just redesigning, like mad, today. I’m happy. It’s gonna be better, as a result. Whatever is the point of printing anything if you never test it first? I see the ego in the vanity publishing industry and I feel sad that so much paper is getting wasted. People give me the books that they have written, and this normally would have seemed like, you know, a thing that would make me go, ‘Wow. You published something.’ But you know what? I didn’t read their books. I quietly left them behind, wherever I was. I gave them away. I wondered if those people I forwarded the books onto have read them. Bad writing? Maybe. That’s some of it. Ego? Sure. I hate the idea of self-publishing, mostly because it means you never collaborate with anyone, you just sort of do it anyway, all your way. [Uh, like blogging here.] No offense to our team members here who are self-publishing just about everything. But not printing it, mind you. They’re not printing because the life of the story is still in prototype phase… people are still reading, and sharing their thoughts. There is no final final yet, to anything we are making here, not yet. We’re not that old yet. We can take our time. This is fine. Go slow. Enjoy the journey of discovering your way towards something that is better, even better, than what you have just printed.
Yesterday, this printout.
Tomorrow, the world.
(Or, at least, a more thoughtful, more human-centered, better-received printout. Yes?)
Next in S P A C E
LET ME PUT some links here someday. Things like ‘innovation,’ ‘design,’ ‘chance encounters,’ ‘ideation,’ ‘systems thinking,’ ‘validate your ideas,’ ‘get to 50 ideas first, please, before you go and do the second one, by Akira Morita‘, et cetera. I need to finish writing my checklist-book, ‘The Quality of Space,’ and make it more of a how-to because the doing is what makes design interesting and good, there should be design doing seminars not just design talking or design thinking, but the budgets are for people to make design thinking seminars and not zine ateliers (which are really just mini moments of experiencing the design process, you see? By hand, in real life, in person, with HUMANS). Oi.
But you know what? First I have to get back to this S P A C E zine. I have to print it. I have to get it looking and feeling right, before I take it to Singapore, and hand out 8 copies to the 8 people who will together, with me, make the next S P A C E. Some of you reading this online in other parts of the world might also be curious about becoming part of our S P A C E programmes. Check out our calendar, if yes. Prototyping a few other kinds of things, there. Exciting stuff.
Now, that doesn’t seem so strange, does it? Except, this:
I had no idea that I could be in America again, the year after leaving for ‘the practice of the known, the uncertain, and the different…’ it wasn’t a tour, it was an experience, made on the fly in south and southeast Asia with neither income, savings, nor a plan. Could it work? Yes. But I didn’t know that. How could I? Fretting, fussing, moving around because of visas coming to an end, et cetera, we found ourselves as a studio in the emerging city of Phnom Penh. Which had a kind of magic to it, an anything-can-happen sensation. Things are built, things are taken down. Stuff goes up again, wham. Fast. This is different from what I’m used to. It’s intriguing, it’s new. But… California? That wasn’t… part of the plan. Or was the plan not having a plan? And that’s how we landed in S P A C E. Okay, wait. Bangkok, Hanoi, Vientiane, Gangtok, Delhi, Amritsar, and somehow, Phnom Penh. Where we are still, almost four years later. If it was March, already, it would be 4 years. Four years in Cambodia? What?? A long story. Let me break it up with subheds.
A tree I found in California
HERE WE GO. Right before I go to California, I’m in Phnom Penh, and I don’t know a soul. What do I do? Go on twitter, of course. Put together a quick call for interest for a tweetup, #pptweetup, through which I meet VJ and GB, and soon, EC. Along with a handful of new and different others, and we are in the swing of it. Talking in real life, showing up. The magic of this moment, however, isn’t clear to me, yet. (Back then, it’s still about ‘networking.’ It’s about ‘finding gigs.’ Oddly, a gig did happen, through this, but that was just a footnote, it turned out.) Another twitter contact led to a person far away, YZ, in California, who asks me to come and join a 9-week programme to get people talking together in new ways, reflecting on their purpose. Sounds lofty, but great. I say yes. The brief is vague, but I have an open hand. So I do the thing I can’t help but do. Like the tweetup, but different. An unconference. I get us talking together. In circles. At places like this:
ON THE LAST DAY, one of the participants wrote a very sweet, colorful card, in which she said:
‘My favorite part was the tree place.’
‘The tree place’ became a place. You name a thing, and it has value. By noticing it, you give it something different. That was the beauty of this whole thing. Not the setting nor the discussions, but the noticing of the tree, that she had noticed it, and that was cool. I know this is already getting kinda… whooo, but you know? You know what I mean? Here is where the bright note of conscious awakening slammed its feathery light upon us, and said, ‘Spacemaking is not about a *place*, it’s about a *feeling*.’ When you feel like you’re in a space, it’s space.
So, yeah. We did the whole thing in Palo Alto as an unconference. Let’s name it. Let’s call it S P A C E.
SUMMER, nice weather. I’m meeting people from the deep past. People I haven’t seen for five, nine and 20 years. It’s neat, it’s remarkable, and what do I do? I invite them, of course, to walks, concerts, and to S P A C E. Be part of it.See what happens. BO’K comes, magically appearing out of the aether after 20 years of not seeing one another. I follow her to the cafe where her friend, a landscape architect who’s come along just to see what this is all about, and I sit and listen to music for two hours, talking about the price of real estate and things that four and six-year-olds like to do. It’s simple, it’s life. It’s where we are at. But the noticing… did we notice it? Yes. YES. We did. I go to her house after things are done with my programme, catch brunch. I meet some more people. They give me their cards. They ask me what I do. I have no idea, really. My house and life is in Phnom Penh (did I say that, to them, out loud? Huh…) and, uh, this is a side tour from a side tour, and yet…
I say something.
For the first time, it sounds super cohesive, it strikes a note, for me, the high note.
I don’t say, ‘I’m a journalist’ or ‘I’m a writer’ or ‘I have a design studio.’
None of this is relevant to me, all of it is just the past, and incomplete, each idea. So I say this.
I say, ‘I’m a spacemaker.’
And it sticks.
Discovering the Art of Not Knowing
I GET BACK FROM PALO ALTO totally jazzed and then I design a mini-tour. To Bangkok to make SELF. To Singapore to see what the Singapore Writers Festival is doing, to see EC off before he goes to Los Angeles or somewhere and does some computer work far away from us in Cambodia. In Singapore, I get a press pass and pop around to Paul Muldoon‘s ‘Art of Not Knowing’ workshop, in which we are playing the game Exquisite Corpses. Then I notice it. We are in a circle. Like the tree place.
I meet people at my left elbow, my right elbow. It’s like school, but much funner. This is like the lawn, outside, in the picture above? See it? Of course I made the unconference stuff happen outside. Why wouldn’t you? Air and light, breeze. The story to emerge, outdoors. Outside the box of stuffy academia. Man.
The sharing and the circle and the unexpected in the Art of Not Knowing reminds me of the summer, just gone. I think about the music I heard, the people I met, the space that we made, together. We go into the interstitial, and it gets dreamy and wide and vast. It’s intimate but it’s not… too much, too soon, too fast. You don’t have to be anything. You just show up, and you automatically belong. In the AONK workshop, I make a quick note about a Grecian urn, because I remember that from English Lit, even though I wish that it had had more Asian Lit in it, and not gratuitous if you know what I mean. Somehow, someone later mentions Keats. This is dialogue. This is sharing. Someone right up front suddenly falls asleep: is it narcolepsy? We don’t know. It’s kinda fun, funny, light, and relaxing. This is how I like it, too. Same vibe. As what we did in Calif., with S P A C E.
I get back to Phnom Penh and the winter passes, but it’s sunny, so I hardly realize it’s already turned 2015. What will I do in 2015? I will finish Kanishka. It will be published in a serial format in English, for the magazine that hosted me for the residency program while we were ‘out there’, on the road. Days and months and people who show up when you most are in need of encouragement, a warm bed, a hot meal: these are the people whom you will never forget, and whom you will list on every acknowledgements page you write for the next five years.
In Phnom Penh, I will go to the same cafe pretty much every day and order the same thing, I still go there and they just nod and I get the same thing, and this routine makes me write Breakfast in Cambodia in the meantime while I’m trying to ‘figure it all out.’ What am I doing in Asia, anyway? What the hell is next? Where and how will we manage to pay for all this? Meantime, DK is starting to get a little known. AM is networking, this time. Used to be me, now I’m a hermit. But so? Weirdly, it doesn’t even matter about me being in hibernation. Gigs are coming, anyway. People are asking us to do things. Think about how to think about a thing: a project, a design, a story. It’s magic, again. It’s spacemaking. I’m not sure where things are going to go, but they go to: London, Copenhagen, and Battambang. They go to Kampot, Bangkok, and Kuala Lumpur. They go around and around in circles and I’m there, I”m listing to the ambient note, that is playing, playing very softly, but is resonant. Something is there. In the aether. Like BO’K coming out of the internet and meeting me in real life, eye to eye, smiling and laughing and talking like we’re kids again in Kyoto, and wow, it’s there. All of it. The journey is not the journey. The work is not the piece. The here, right now, is the whole of it. The infinite vastness, the big black empty, the deep and mysterious magic of just being here. How did that happen?
A new physics of space
I’M GOING HOME. I’m going home. Which is what? Which is where? Phnom Penh. Home is now a little apartment. Now it’s flat. Now we’re moving to Toul Kork. No, no. Not it. For two months, I explore Hanoi. I get to know the places. I draw, write, think. Make poems. I meet SY, she is a poet, too. We are lost in the ‘out there,’ together. In Battambang I meet Y. He is on the verge of tears. I try not to get too involved, because, to get involved is to end the journey of noticing the *magic* of *simply being*. I go esoteric again, write a website about relational aesthetics. I share essays with a very small circle of people who read what I say and respond, in something called S P A C E. Of course it’s called that. What else would it be called?
Later, much later, and nearer to now (yesterday), I will email VJ and say that business, for the writing, is slow. I’m quitting. I don’t want to quit, but I can’t do it, now. The writing into the void, without feedback, is killing me. I don’t want to do it. I much prefer the forums. I say some of this, but incoherently, because I’m just not a line-by-line, develop the story kind of a person. I know that this is how you communicate, though, and so, I’m trying to learn it. It’s slow. I’m fine with going slow. Meantime I’ve become a very different person from the one I was when I was frustrated that ‘no one understands this!’ because, hey, you have to know a thing intimately yourself, first, if you want anyone to give a damn about it.
So yeah. I accept it. Writing what I want to write in the way I want to write it isn’t going to foot the bills. But AM, my partner at DK since the 90s, reminds me not to worry about that, to push the thing, to make it better. Make what better? Make it better: solve the problem that you are designing a solution for. He sounds different. The time apart, working separately, has evolved us in different ways. He is prototyping. I am playing. We move along the diverting paths of the fork. It’s good. It’s healthy. I finish writing Breakfast in Cambodia. I do Q&As with people who talk with me about ‘starting to start’, people I meet online, or how bitcoin works, or their own take on explorations of venturing into the unfamiliar, and how we trust the process. That stuff.
Figuring out there’s nothing to figure out
EVERY ONCE IN A WHILE, I take a mini-vacation. Solo. I put all these thoughts away and sometimes take some small pages, and put them in my back pocket, and consider them, alone, for a week. Offline. Deviceless. Then I come home. Once, I redesigned this entire website. Now it’s Atelier S P A C E. Lately, I’ve recruit people to help me share about it, spread the word, since I’m so… esoteric. Noted. Sure, I tend to get lost in the corners, go into the philosophical, stop and not think about how does this communicate? Because you know why? People want a ‘topic sentence’ and a ‘developing paragraph.’ But the world of physics that I love and adore (quantum, fuzzy logic), is not concerned with linearity. Or proving something. There is the uncertainty principle, of course. staring at us. Why don’t people respect it? Why do they insist on boxing the answer, proving it until death, submitting to academic journals ad nauseous, making us think that yes, this is a thing the we need to swallow, wholesale. But I don’t believe it just because you typed it. There are 10 dimensions, right? Or 11? What’s the latest research on that?
The next journey
LOTS HAS CHANGED since 2014. I’m no longer writing for the people who have the gigs to give me, because I don’t want the gigs. I want the stories, the collaborations, eye contact, the in-the-box conversations that go places, that move an intrigue. I want real life. I want a shared experience of beauty: that which we see, when we are in person, noticing one another. Together. Am going to make Atelier S P A C E because zines! Zines are light, fun, simple, tangible. You cans ee them. You can hold them. You can know where a thing is going. It’s a kind of container: what goes in it, how that happens, where we discover that which we’ll share is all an open question, but the box is there. That is the space. We already have the form. The work is in the going and discovering, now. I have to go and do that. I have to. It’s just not going to be okay to stay in one place and keep on writing into the void, in private page posts for myself, no matter how romantic the life of a recluse might appear to some (Y, I’m talking to you… remember that thing I said: find out what turns you on! Then go and offer that to people!), no matter how much I want dot hide in this box forever, I’m ready now to stop it. To get out of Phnom Penh, and make stuff, with others. Out there.
In the world. Can you dig it? Let’s do this, then. Let’s make something. In real life, together.
NEXT STOP, Singapore. Talking with people in design, publishing, writing, photography, illustration, networking as much as I can right now (online) before I get there (early November) to *make it happen*. I’m really looking forward to making a go of this, it’s been a long time in the works trying to discover how to get people connected, engaged, and talking together. In London, I stayed at this place where a young lad came up to me and said, ‘I heard you were going around the world meeting people.’ I was like, ‘Ummm.’ But that’s it. I am. But it’s not just about the ‘going around the world’ part that’ interesting, or the ‘meeting people’ part. It’s about connecting and inviting and discovering and most importantly, inter-relating people in new and remarkable ways. Where is the joy, otherwise, if we’re not really looking at each other? Who cares about e-lationships? I want real life.
I realize that a very short deadline, tight-run, and succinct programme would be a fun way to try something, in real life, together.
What do you think of this programme? Suggestions for making it smoother to read, and understand are welcome. Anyone who is a member of S P A C E is more than welcome to join me at this, for free. If you are thinking about being in S P A C E and aren’t sure about what the benefits are, here’s the thing. No one knows. Just like ‘N‘ and other things, it’s about *showing up*. I find that the magic moments happen when we make the choice to do that, and see who else has made the same commitment. Is it weird? Is it working? Is it overly ambitious? I am writing and wondering, out loud, as I do.
I’m only sharing this quietly, today. I want to stay connected and in conversations, so just add your comment, critique, or sideline soliloquy in the form below? I would use comments but if I do they start getting all spammy and it gets totally out of hand. Mostly, what we are all interested here at DK is designing space for us to really collaborate. If we’re not working together well, we’re not doing anything interesting. Did you notice? Look up. See all those people in their computers and phones? Me, included. We are losing the magic of real life, by showing up together, and noticing one another. Eye to eye. All very esoteric, this kind of talk, but you know what I’m talking about, right? You know.
Let’s converse? It’s all open space. And I’m listening.
Here’s a form. This could lead to all kinds of cool conversations in real life. It has, and does.
WHEN DESIGN KOMPANY landed in Phnom Penh in March 2014, something incredibly magical took hold of me. I still remember the photo: I’m on a tuk-tuk, looking out at what was the Independence Monument, though I didn’t know it at the time. We’re rounding the circle, I’m staring. I’ve got one hand clutching the open-air tuk-tuk’s column, it’s like a movie, or a dream. After trying to put the experience of being here into words (my best shot, in Breakfast in Cambodia), I want to share with you the pictures and drawings of the aesthetic that moved me so much, in that first week, that I pressed for our team to stay here for a while. A flat to let. That turned into one year, then two, then three. It’s now almost been four years, and it’s time for me to look for the next place.
But before I go, this is the last dance. ‘Phnom Penh || S P A C E’ is the chapbook, a visual summary of some my finds when exploring the aesthetic of Cambodia. I didn’t train fully in art and design, I was an engineering major, and I spent my time abroad in Kyoto. But coming to Cambodia made me question this. Why wasn’t Phnom Penh an option when it came to where to study art, design, the ornament, ritual, symmetry, these kinds of things? When we were students, it was all about Florence. New York. London, Tokyo. But now, you can go anywhere. You can study anything. This was my self-designed independent study. I had no idea it would last more than three years.
What is Beauty? Who gets to decide? Here, in this place, it’s quite miraculous; never taught to us in art schools, but of a quality and temperament that only by being here, in situ, for a time, and absorbing, can you really feel. It’s not easy to articulate, but the pictures, I hope, and the drawings, will tell this story to the world, from the perspective of Atelier S P A C E. Can you dig it?
Free digital copy for those who join S P A C E in September.
IN RECENT MONTHS, parts of DK have been regrouping on the road, while some of us are in Phnom Penh. We are trying to sketch out the ‘why’ of DK. The purpose, the whole thing. I know we’ve been ‘at it’ since 1994, in various ways and shapes, but now, it’s for real. Why? One reason.
The world needs artists.
Okay, maybe not ‘the world.’ Maybe… humanity. We need artists. Artists see. They see, and they interpret. They share the form of the essence of something, and when it’s good, it’s because that form is something that we can all resonate with; there is resonance because there is some kind of universal… hm. Not ‘truth,’ but… something. Something that we go, ‘Yeah,’ when we see it, and when we see it, we see it with more than just our eyes, we feel it.
Here’s an example. Music. Music does this brilliantly. In Wholeness and the Implicate Order, David Bohm (a physicist I learned about because of his dialogues with J. Krishnamurthi, just google it) talked about music and the universal. I had shared about these conversations in the 2016 series of our online webzine, S P A C E. Proceeds from subscriptions of S P A C E, and our other programmes, make it possible to maintain this blog. (And keep designing, on the road, one step and one designful conversation at a time. Next in the 2017-2018 sequence here in S P A C E, this is the plan: Discovering and including and shining a light on voices that for some reason the mainstream media just ignores. Fortunately, we have a rolodex this time, and a good batch of past programmes that we’ve prototyped, too.)
It’s been wonderful being in Asia for these four years and learning just how very vacant Big Media is, truly, in its overlooking and excluding of so many fantastic voices. I think that is a vision that is coming forth now more strongly in our new programmes and the designs ahead; we want to be more clear about this, more intentional: we want to discover new people and new stories, not just pander to what’s already popular. Because what’s popular isn’t really what’s… well. It’s personal taste, right? But… to me, it’s not interesting. What’s interesting is what we can learn from one another, in real life, when we meet and connect. Which takes showing up, but also curiosity. I believe we still have this… curiosity. About one another.
Synthesis is a kind of art: and this comes from engaging, connecting, and learning from various input sources. That’s the kind of resource-collecting we just have to have more of, now. It takes… work. Going out of the boxes, making it uncomfortable for ourselves because we have to go where we don’t know where we are. Otherwise, stagnation. Boredom. Ennui. Bad art.
We need thinking. We need it to happen when people connect with those whose paths wouldn’t have crossed. So that we can… do things better. More… collaboratively. For dialogue, for sharing. For collaboration. So we have to do something. We have to change it up. This is how.