LIFE. STORIES. Multiple, divergent, intersecting, and contradicting pluralities of narratives: the things we are pursuing here are not so much about gathering outcomes and publishing stuff that sounds and looks interesting (but has no content); rather, we want to invite into our innermost circles, in S P A C E, the exact kinds of new and different others who will show us, together, as we get going, in our conversations in the protected-page posts that constitute, as a set, the thing we call S P A C E, well yeah. All of it. Is a thing now. There’s a bulk to this that I can’t deny; a gravitas and a resonance that stays with people. They tell me this. ‘I really enjoyed that exercise you did; it was super relevant at the time, do you remember, you put us in groups, ‘Past,’ ‘Present,’ and ‘Future?’ asked my friend MR, whom I’d met at one of my events in Bangkok and who went on to join DK again at something called ‘16N‘ in that same city, the next year.
(Honestly, we didn’t recall that exercise or think much about what it might have meant to everyone; at the time, we were just hosting, and hosting means you’re talking to people and making sure everyone feels included, that her or his voice counts, that she or he is invited to all the conversations circling about, moving, changing, diving into other spaces, letting that happen.
Of course the afterparty for ‘N’ there had to be at a jazz club: improvising in collage and collaborating with jazZ happens! there, that was also very fun. With both, it’s a jam session: making it up as we go, but also, playing off what we learn, together, from one another. Most importantly, there’s no hierarchy. It’s flat. We’re talking, together, in dialogue. Round tables. Let me tell you a bit more about this idea, of circles. (SN, watching Akira Morita in action one time hosting a meeting, had called it ‘circle time.’ We love circle time, here at DK. Why? Lots of reasons.’)
Dialogues that are really good are the kinds ‘with a center, and not sides,’ as William Isaacs, had put it in his book, Dialogue. How lucky I am to have been able to reach out directly to Isaacs, ahead of my conversation salon series, ‘Modern Sikkim: What does it mean to be Sikkimese?’ which had happened in Gangtok, Sikkim–a part of India that my relatives in Delhi aren’t too familiar with outside of an image of ‘the snowy mountains’. Well, wow. There is of course Kanchenjunga, but before I go marveling about the miracles of the Himalaya, and daydreaming about going back there in November (yes: mark it! Atelier S P A C E || Gangtok is in the works), well, yeah, so what was I saying? Oh! This: I’m lucky, very, I could ask William Isaacs directly, over email, in 2013, thinking hard about the design of Modern Sikkim and how to collaborate well and whom I should contact to make a go of it and what we would do in the spaces-to-become, well, yeah. How I could make such a conversation salon series work well was important to me. Researching that. Learning what to do in the instance that someone tried to be overbearing (this happens a lot, in societies where there are hierarchies established from social class, economic status, or hey, let’s be real, male and female gender roles), all that normal stuff you have to figure in, and be ready to take on, when it does hit you, all that. And I remember the email coming back. What a good feeling, to get a note from the internet to say, Just do what you’re doing and here’s some more stuff to think about, more or less. Well. What a nice thing to feel reassured that no one knows what’s on the way, not ever, not fully, but that allowing things to pop up by hosting a space that is inviting, safe, comfortable, relaxing, and readied for the things-that-might-happen, well, that’s the work. And the art. So it began. A journey into making more and better such space, or, as I call it now, S P A C E. I’m the architect of it; we follow a checklist, it has 7 points, to do this in a way that works, in DK’s style. Which is what? Well, you can read my personal artist statement thingy at this website, if you’re curious about what interests me about gathering people in these ways. ‘I want people to relax. To feel air, space, and comfort.’ Find it in context at dipikakohli.com.
But in the meantime, there’s this.
Philosophy of the moment
GETTING SET. For our first-ever online salon, ‘Philosophy of the Moment.’ In which we’re going to share all of the best learnings and gathered notes from our decades-long pursuit of the big questions, ‘What are we doing here? What does it mean? What is ‘good’? What makes it remarkable? What does a meaningful life look like? How can I make changes so that I can better enjoy the life I have? What does it mean to love? How does it feel to let go? Where are the important notes to carry forward? What kind of legacy do I want to leave? Who am I? Who am I, apart from you? What is my role in society? How am I doing, and where I am going, and does it mean much to consider these questions, and besides, what is ‘time?”‘ What’s this all about? Find out.
FOR THE FIRST TIME, probably in a long time, instead of a long ramble, I’m going to tell you a story. About the time I met L.
The reason I want to bring this up is manyfold, but begins and ends, I think, in Kuala Lumpur. Which is where I have just returned to, and where I keep popping in, it seems, for two- or three-month blocks. Looking for the story, is what I had said, before. But it’s more than that. It’s looking for the life.
‘It’s not that I want to make a living from these zines,’ I had said, at that tea place with many shelves of carefully arranged books on feminism, cooking, and LGBTQ features. ‘I want to make these zines live. And you need to have great stories for that to work. To really work, I mean.’ What was I talking about? The dream quality was there, that day. You know that one, right? When time slows, almost stops. You notice this kind of thing, especially when you are alone, on the road, waiting for tea, waiting for the rain. Looking at the bookshelves, but only kind of. Most jacket spines were writ in Chinese.
So in the end, I was reading nothing at all, for once, instead writing in my head, writing blank columns into the aetherspace of just-zoning-out. Same like the moment I chose to amble up those stairs (unmarked, curious, vaguely intriguing), and into the cafe-cum-bookshop’s front atelier. But I peeked over the edges of uncomfortable-looking but perfectly-colored red sofas. Of course I did. Was there a backroom?
It had a large window that looked out onto a balcony. Floor to ceiling windows. I love those. I followed the sightline.
That’s when I saw her. L.
Her things arranged meticulously around her, but I could tell, for a long time, she wasn’t paying attention to those bits. Paper, a laptop, some cords, some phone stuff, maybe a few more electronic things that I couldn’t identify, really, because I’m out of touch with that kind of thing. I stick to paper, still, believe it or not. Pencil, paper, scissors, glue.
She was elsewhere. In the just-beyond, in a way, at least, that’s how it seemed, to me, on that afternoon with a soft rain, not the monsoon, but the lighter kind, about to fall.
‘Ever since I met you,’ she would say in not that much time, ‘which was ten minutes ago, I feel like I could really… connect.’
Enter the heart of S P A C E.
AS IT IS WITH BEGINNINGS, it is, too, with the middles, I think, of the space that is shaped when we go around the bend, see what might be there, and begin to go quiet into the space of just-being. Maybe a couple of minutes passed, maybe a few hours. I can’t be sure. I’ll never be sure. She was there, and I was there, and we talked at length about many, many things related to, hey, feminism, and showing up, and real life, and circumstances, and how things change, and where we are, and, of course, uncertainty. My beat. I write about this, I talk about this, I calculate nothing really, anymore. The second law of thermodynamics was how it all began, in a summer classroom half a world away, sitting there, Mann Hall, N. C. State. Was that where? It was. A summer of learning how things flow, where turbulence arises, how entropy works (or how we think it does), what professors can do with a constricted schedule that blocks classes into longer hour-periods, instead of longer weekly semesters. Summer and then. But… I’m getting nostalgic for another time; that won’t do. That is a distraction. That takes away from here, hijacking the moment. This moment. Now. (Not to get distracted further, but um. The future. Ask me sometime about an upcoming salon, ‘Kandinsky’s Window,’ which is about the viewfinder of the street window, and the life that’s just beyond… ask me sometime about the book Point and Line to Plane, too. I’m always more than happy to talk non-Euclidean or multidimensional bric-a-brac in the forum-space, ‘Strange Geometries.’) But first, let me quickly recount the short, real conversation that happened when I met someone who reminded me in every way of the people I love discovering, on the road, in the moment, away from everything, because they have that expressiveness in the eye that says, ‘Well, hello, who are you?’ But she said—
And I said–
(Things start so simply, don’t they?)
Geometries and strangenesses, the ever-changing shape of space. Is L. in Kuala Lumpur? Will we meet again? I don’t know. I can’t know. Nothing is for sure. (Remember, uncertainty is my beat.)
‘There is so much bad art in the world.’
‘Yes. Yes there is.’
What’s good? What’s quality? Where can we go to find it? We can seek theories in books, or write essays that philosophize about these big questions. But we can also go into the quiet space. The in-betweens—where, I’m finding, at least for me, things like ‘good’ and ‘quality’ and ‘beauty’ and, yes, I’ll say it, ‘magic,’ exist and co-exist. Here in the edge-finding rooms where we go, now, me and the people I write and talk deeply with, at length, in conversation salons or put-together-in-this-now gatherings that may be impromptu, spontaneous, planned or unplanned, well, here is where we are headed. The magic moment. I know, I know. You want me to spell things out. ‘Make it clear, DK, what this is and why it will make my life better.’ Well, truth is, I can’t do that. I can only show you what I feel when I feel the magic moment happening to begin. It’s really… um. It’s… well. It’s personal. I can’t share that kind of thing in the public blog space, which is why I resort to protected-page forums.
In which there is… well. Sharing. Conversation. Connection and interconnection. One designful moment at a time. I can’t really begin to describe all the magical things that happened when people connected across S P A C E here and there, like in The Mirror in the early part of the year, and currently, we’re going to be finishing something soon called Slow Moment. I’m humbled and grateful for the chance connections that have led to new thinking, new input, new… feelings. It’s where the world of imagination and heart can take us: it’s where we can begin to slow down, let go of our inhibitions, disclose things that might feel very hard to open up about, and, in this way, build new shoots and germinate anew.
On the bus on the way from Helsinki city center to Vantaa for the airport, I met someone from my part of the world. With my very accent. My style of speech. My idioms, my cultural references, my diction, my slang. But: we did not relate. I couldn’t. There wasn’t the same quality of space there that there had been elsewhere. Just because we share the same passport doesn’t make us familiar. What makes us familiar is the intricate and curious longing to go somewhere else, to seek, to quest, to discover. And not make it into a big deal: to just go.
The magic of now
LATELY, I’ve revised my thoughts about what ‘art’ is. Dislcaimer: I spent like ten minutes in art school, this was in Brooklyn, this was a zillion years ago, and I’ve been pushing around in the world, ever since, I think, trying to feel it instead of think about it. In moments, it arrives: that feeling. The one that says, ‘This. This is art.’ I’ll tell you more about that in a second. But first, what is not. (To me. Everything is relative, after all.)
It’s not a book or a novel or a painting or a YouTube video. It’s not a song or a worked-over collage that no one will ever see. It’s not the words in the diaries that someone who wrote them wonders if their great-grandchildren will read and somehow recall them, or at least, know a hint of a whisper of their having-been. No. Art is closer to us than any of those things. Art happens, to me, in the quiet stillness, in the noticing of: being here now.
Which happens at a specific kind of moment.
The moment of something that has turned, somehow, into a kind of novelty. A real life meeting, eye to eye.
These days, to me, the making of art isn’t the accruing of ‘stuff.’
These days, to me, art is simpler.
Art is showing up.
The good stuff follows, thence.
This is a part of the series, ‘100 conversations,’ inspired by real encounters with real people, and is supported by members of S P A C E.
This post is for L.
I REMEMBER going to the Cork Jazz Festival in the 2000s and being irritated that it was sponsored by a beer company. That wasn’t the worst part, though. It was the way people acted. Maybe they just didn’t like jazz. Okay, okay. I know it’s a niche thing, sort of. Fine. But… what was it with the whole ‘being seen’ thing? I still remember. A weekend up in the city, away from the quieter days in West Cork. A city break, yeah. That was it. And a festival of jazz. Amazing, right? In theory, yes. In practice, it was a zoo.
The overwhelming loudness of the people drowning out the music with boozy jokemaking was the start of a series of disappointments: more and more large-scale events in the years I would attend them since would seem to be less about the art, and more about ‘going there with my friends,’ ie, people ‘looking cool’ together instead of actually listening to the music, or having a good conversation. What about the craic, like?
Ireland, though, for what its worth, was where exactly I learned how to begin to design S P A C E. Space for remarkable connection. Space for really sharing, deeply. For poetry and art and music happen in that country, or used to, I don’t know what’s going on now. I went to my first writing circle there, at the West Cork Arts Centre. I went to the West Cork Literary Arts Festival, and met the people at Fish Publishing who helped me understand that writing isn’t about trying to sound like a writer, it’s about telling a damn good story. Or improvising one. I still remember that week of opening up, trying things, sharing, and lots of pints. Rounds, as they say. It was what you call ‘a formative experience.’ What some people who are interested in vocabulary words would maybe see as a chapter in: bildungsroman.
Writing to learn, learning to write
Later, I wrote The Elopement (listen to the interview on NPR), but I forgot to put in all the things about Ireland that helped me become the designer of S P A C E that I am, today. I make space the way Irish people taught me: hosting, welcoming, inviting, sharing. I make space the way, too, I learned how from the philosophy circles at my high school summer in Laurinburg, NC, at a place called Governor’s School East. Where I met four people I am still to this day in touch with and whose stories I have followed closely, so much so, in fact, that I still feel like if it weren’t for that summer, and it was only six weeks, I wouldn’t have been tuned in to the kinds of things that say, ‘You know what? Grades don’t matter. Heck, we’re not even going to have them, this summer. And you know what I want to do? Let you lead this conversation. Let’s sit in a circle. Let’s have a dialogue. The kind with a center and not sides.’ GSE, as we called it, was an even earlier formative step. In this narrative of S P A C E.
TODAY I AM GOING THROUGH lists and memories and archives. I am searching out the people who most inspired me, all these years. I don’t mean that they became financial success; that would be dull. Anyone who has the right connections, privilege, and gets to go to the right places at the right times because of those things, can make it with their wallets. But art. Art is different. Art requires tenacity and grit and sticking with it and saying ‘fuck you’ when you have to because someone tries to discourage you from going where you are going. It takes being okay with publishing drivel and knowing that it’ll be time, and only time, and practice, and only practice, that will make you get better. And you will be your only audience. At the end of the day, you have to make stuff that you like. This is the overwhelming refrain when I ask highly creative people near and far (or ask them to be a guest editor) what they are doing and how they are doing it and more than all of that, why. They want do stuff they want to do. Period.
DO WHAT YOU LIKE.That’s what I’ve learned, too, from conversations in S P A C E with some very talented and far people. We are inspiring each other and co-creating a tapestry together, int eh comment threads of protected pages. It’s not just ‘cool’ or ‘nice’ or ‘something to do to be seen at’. It’s because we care about our practice. Of showing up, making something, and doing the work. To. Get. Better.
Self-improvement is something I learned not from Ireland, though. I learned that drive for constantly challenging myself and seeking new opportunities from someone specific. I just talked to him, the other day. It had been about six months. It was nice to tell him, ‘The most creative person I’ve known now, all my life, is you. And I’ve traveled around quite a bit you know, well, that was inspired by you, too.’ The person was delighted, I think. His wife said, ‘He’s getting emotional.’ That woman was my mother. Because the coolest and most creative person I know in this whole wide world and all its seas and continents, is RK.
‘Art is in the moment’
SOMETIMES YOU FIND the red ribbon that threads the narrative of your life story. I think that for me, it’ about these ‘magic moments.’ Not just of self-awareness, but of simply being together. Noticing that. Sharing that time, and being truly present. Not in a ‘cool’ or ‘trendy’ or ‘yoga retreat’ way, but, like, for real. That’s what I experienced with S P A C E events and also ‘N’ ones, like in Hanoi. Wow. We did that. But it’s not just… me. It’s… us. All of us who are attendant. Who are making S P A C E. Quality, not quantity. Making it. Together.
Were this Ireland, someone would now say, ‘Ah, g’wan. Give us a song, like.’
And I would. (Since I’m not a singer, I’ll share something I had taped when I was working for the Skibbereen Day Care Centre kind of on a part-time basis as a help for teaching ‘internet,’ would you believe. But yeah. One day there were this kids with their musical instruments. Now, the contrast between that Cork Jazz Festival and its buzzy thing and the shared moment of intimacy and quiet and connection that I got to experience with this moment, well, wow. You can see for yourself, what it was like. I found the old video. Here it is…)
HT to all the members of ‘Slow Moment’ and S P A C E. And RK. Here it is.
ATELIERS ARE A WAY to bring some of this to the contemporary space of real life and now, wherever I go in the world. Hosting events is a way for me to bring to other parts of the world the good days of Irish pub life, when it’s early evening and you’re with your mates and things are cozy, and fine. It’s not hard to have a good time when you’re with people who are so clearly skilled at bringing conversation to the fore. Now I’m starting to get misty-eyed.
Alright. Where’s my Christy Moore CD?
MAKE A ZINE with just eight people.
Meet new people. Make a publication. Short, sweet, and on the spot. Join us at Atelier S P A C E || Kärsämäki.
DESIGN KOMPANY are hosting a popup workshop, Atelier S P A C E, at Kärsämäki in Finland.
This is a zinemaking atelier.
It will kick off on 21 July, which is International Zine Day. This is a family friendly event.
A zine is a short collection of images and words usually photocopied, in small quantities, and distributed by hand.
Here is why it matters.
Zine culture is making a comeback, as more people distrust the usual news media channels and turn their attention to what people they know personally, and whom they feel they can trust are saying, making, and sharing. That’s why social proof and social media are important. But there is the old, more traditional way of relating to people: in person. So let’s make time and come out for a real-life conversation series that gets us all talking together, with those we might not have met, in an unusual way. Working and collaborating to put something new into the world: a zine. It doesn’t have to be a big task, nor does it have to be ego-driven. Everyone knows what a pain it is to work with artists!
Art can connect us, but the specific kind of space that does it well needs to be designed. That’s where Design Kompany steps in. ‘I thought it would be neat to use the zine format to do the work of bridging silos,’ says DK’s creative director, Dipika Kohli. ‘Anyone who has ever worked in publishing knows how important the first few meetings are, where you simply brainstorm ideas together. That’s the fun part… seeing what others want to know more about, learn and discover in the world right around us. I remember doing that when I was in southwest Ireland, working with an alt newspaper there, very new, very fun, very loose, and very exciting. Given the times we are in now, we can try to engage people in ways that get us all talking, get us offline again, in public and semi-public spaces, to just simply be. Not work. Not home. Not the internet. But a place where you can just relax and talk with people about things that are going on. Conversation is important. Let’s make more of it, and then, let’s find a theme, and work together to make a zine.’
Atelier S P A C E uses the zine form to gather people’s voices, and interconnect those whose paths might not have crossed. The big idea is to make something new, together. Systems thinkers say that gathering people for spontaneous spaces that might lead to new insights is one way to begin the road to innovation. Breaking new ground starts with trying new things. Leaders in their fields recognize that finding a new way to discover is a real need. Creating opportunities for people to practice how to do that is one of the goals for DK’s ateliers. But so is good fun, and making something new, with people in a creative way.
‘Art, at its best, is a conversation,’ says Kohli, an author and artist who practices and studies relational aesthetics in her more recent work. ‘Making more space, and more quality space, for us to learn about and discover new perspectives, from new people, is what our ateliers, salons, and magazines are all about.’ Here’s how it works. ‘DK go to a new place, meet people and co-create something in a short, on the spot workshop that’s also kind of a performance art installation at times (when it happens in public space!). I think you can get a sense of it from our Instagram, dkompany. Generally, the idea is we’d make a piece with new writing and other visual elements for an 8-page zine, S P A C E. And add it to our collection of zines made in the same way in different cities.’
ABOUT DK. Design Kompany LLC started as a brand identity design studio in Seattle in 2004. In 2013, DK went on the road to practice the unknown, uncertain and different, which led to new connections, with new people, in new places. This set the stage for 2017’s and 2018’s intent to create zines, in the short spaces of time, while on the road looking for the chance encounter…. And folding it into S P A C E. Atelier S P A C E is a traveling zinemaking popup Atelier, designed in response to a new realization. People aren’t used to trying new things. People need space and time to get back to exploring, in a playful way, towards new approaches, and even innovations. Starting the tour in Southeast Asia in Sept. 2017, DK have created zinemaking ateliers in: Battambang, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Phnom Penh, and Bangkok. ‘The idea is to explore ways we can co-create hyperlocal, interwoven stories with new and different others who participate in the atelier’s salons. Through conversations, we find a theme. Together. It’s a collaboration to make a unified piece, and each issue of S P A C E highlights the conversations, places, and people we each discovered in the bounded box of either one, two, or 4-week ateliers,’ says DK’s Kohli. See the journey of S P A C E so far, at http://instagram.com/dkompany.
Special thanks to Kahvila at the campus of Kattilakoski Culture Cooperative. ✨
REQUEST INFO. We have limited seats for this event. Request more info by email to find out more. Here is how to connect with us:
MAKE A ZINE. Up to 8 people will be selected to participate in this once-off, popup atelier that doubles as a conversation salon. You will find people who are interested in discovering the way conversations can help us find a central theme, and then, together with those guests, you will make an 8-page zine. A ‘zine’ is a mini magazine, often printed on a photocopier and distributed in limited editions by hand. This issue of the series S P A C E will be added to Design Kompany’s international collection of pieces made in small ateliers around the world, in this same way. For Helsinki, we’ll do everything in one sitting: meeting at the national library and together creating something, on the spot. Walk away with new friends, a wider international perspective (we’ll have the other zines on hand for you to read), and a piece that you helped publish. DK makes S P A C E for new and different others to find remarkable connexion. Keen on journalism, design, writing, illustration, photography, or something related? Most welcome to join us at Atelier S P A C E || Helsinki, before the atelier returns to Southeast Asia in Sept. 2018.
MAKE A ZINE, with just 8 others. In this popup atelier that gathers people who want to work together to make a short publication. Writers, designers, artists, illustrators, and other creatives are welcome to apply. Be a part of the international conversation.
Atelier S P A C E is creating zines in a limited edition in each of the cities where DK go.
Book your ticket(s) here.
NEW. Zines. Creative nonfiction pieces. Are now for sale here at Design Kompany’s site, exclusively. These were created at Atelier S P A C E, a popup, roving, zinemaking atelier that seeks to interconnect people in hyperlocal narratives. We write them, on the spot. With the people who take part. It’s pretty fun, light, conversational, and really all about seeing what emerges when we frame a space to ‘get lost, together.’ Improvisation, poetry, philosophy, breaking out of boxes: and yet, doing all this, within the confines of a specific time-bound and space-bound frame: that’s it. That’s the whole thing. That’s Atelier S P A C E. See the journey so far in pics at our instagram, or follow the posts here.
Currently available for immediate download and pre-order:
- S P A C E || Battambang
- S P A C E || Cameron Highlands
- S P A C E || Kuala Lumpur
- S P A C E || Sheffield
The collection, shown below, is set to be completed by December, 2018. The entire work will interweave narratives of people, place, and story. The first story is set in 1996, in Kyoto. The last store is set in 2018, in Phnom Penh.Each zine will be released to members of our S P A C E community. Join here.
S P A C E || Zines
Research. Reporting. Creative nonfiction. Digital publishing. Limited edition photocopied zine-making. Popup atelier hosting. Welcome to the S P A C E collection made at Atelier S P A C E. Started in Sept. 2017, and is moving to new places to discover people there, get us all talking together, and publish the stories of here, and now, in new editions of the zine, S P A C E.
‘The world is a beautiful book, but of little use to those who cannot read it.’
JOIN DK in KL this May for a short, popup zinemaking atelier. Atelier S P A C E is an international series in which people meet to work on an 8-page zine, together. Be a part of the international conversations unfolding in real life, online forums, and at these workshops. Make a space and join Atelier S P A C E for just RM 60 per session. Four sessions. Discover more here.
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’.)
Reposted from instagram. Follow #atelierspacesg
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.