THIS WEEK IN S P A C E, some sharing.
Of how we got to ‘N’…
- 1997. ‘Let’s start a design studio. I’ll set up a hotmail.’
- 1999. ‘You what? You want to hire us? Oh… Sure, yeah. I’ll do that. I have Freehand.’
- 2000. ‘Let’s move. You can work at __.’
- 2004. ‘Let’s move. I’ll work at __.’
- 2006. ‘Let’s do that design studio thing we talked about. Should we get an office? Official! Shall we get an $800 color laser printer? Yes!’
- 2007. ‘What the? People think design is Photoshop. Like, it’s the tools that matter, or something. Why? It’s not! Design isn’t about the pixels. It’s about the conversation. How good the conversation is will be a direct influencer in how strong the concept will be. Because it has to come from the person who wants to… It’s about… getting there… together, learning about the story of them, and listening… Isn’t that… obvious? No? Well, hm.’
- 2008. ‘Let’s host some conversation parties.’
- 2009. ‘This is. Interesting. But why is it so intense? Why is real life conversation so hard? Should we do this more? Should we make them into workshoppy things?’
- 2013. ‘Argh. I prefer just mini-conversations to workshoppy things. People have too many… expectations. Half the fun is exploring! Let’s forget workshops. Let’s forget design in general. Let’s focus on conversations. Of quality. Yes! Conversations of quality are getting really tough to make happen. Outside of my couple of standing dates with __ and __, I just don’t feel like things are progressing. So, hm. What should we do? Maybe go on the road. That’ll shake things up.’
- 2014. ‘I like this place. Phnom Penh. Can we stop here for a bit? I love this architecture.’
- 2015. ‘This is fun. I’m going to do this thing. ’16N’. On NORMALITY. You know, I think I’ll give it a whirl…’
- 2016. ‘Wow. That was fun. How about taking it on the road?’
- 2017. ‘How about making ‘N’ in Hanoi?…’
HELLO, there, Hanoi…
Shall we play 16N?
THE THING IS, you just have no idea. When you go and say, ‘I’m here for a thing. A salon, sort of, but not really. It’s not a performance, well, wait, it IS, kind of. It’s an improvised play. together, the 16 of us, together is the important bit. Because who cares about ‘the arts’ or stuff on the walls these days in snooty galleries, who cares about what’s in our phones, who cares about the old books by dead people that line the halls of libraries in parts of the world where those books might have been interesting and important at one time, because, well, now, lookit. That way of schooling us just didn’t get us places. Did it? [Aside: I’m not a political theorist, or a sociologist, a psychiatrist, or an expert in cultural theory, science, et cetera. No. But I am an artist; and that means, I feel. I feel terrible about the way that the things that They Told Us Would Be Good For Us turned out to fragment and isolate us, turn on our fears and anxieties, and generally keep us from discovering our ‘edge,’ and most importantly, seeing what we are each capable of achieving as individuals with unique, one-uva-kind flair. I’m talking about us noticing ourselves, being who we really are, mirthful and fulfilled. Money and power and the chase, the hierarchies… that stuff… was someone else’s dream for something else. A time that died, that got dusty, but which we couldn’t let ourselves be pulled away from. The future happened, already. I met someone the other day at my second-favorite Indian restaurant in Hanoi. Who knows who he is. (Dude. If you are reading this, you need to really fill out the form about the conversation salon ‘N’, because those things where you actually show up are where the real learning happens, not these blogs that are written by people behind screens at all hours of the night on the other sides of your screens, because writing is a medium that is tired, so tired, sad as it is to admit this because it is my favorite medium (and yours, maybe?), but podcasting is where it’s at now.) And I don’t do that. So I am going to be quietly left behind the curve of Innovation and Evolution and Forwardness because I am too tired and probably too old to go out and buy some equipment to record myself and try to Get Famous. No, thanks. I’ll just write and blog and tie my shoes the old-fashioned way; one at a time. Here we go.]
INVITEES. Anyway, the lady who was with the person who I met was one of the two or three I think would be into ‘N’. And the new person. The one I met… yesterday? At the cool new cafe with the nice latte art? The too-cool, I think, cafe. A slightly-too-cool to be a place to host an ‘N’, but definitely isn’t a bad place for people watching. I love Hanoi for this one aspect, it might just be my favorite sport. Or maybe trying to make an ‘N’ is? That’s not a sport though is it. That’s just an impossible challenge. Well, mostly impossible. But not quite. And that sliver of almost-maybe is where ‘N’ lives. It is trying to be the thing that no one things can happen: 16 strangers saying ‘yes’ to showing up at an agreed-upon date, place, and time. For a salon. This one, this time, is on NARRATIVE. Are you ready, Hanoi? Are you there? Is anyone listening? See because that is the major part of it; you don’t know if your things that you talk about on the blogs actually have resonance in the real world. And the real world is where life happens. So I’ve been coming out of hiding a bit more and more, showing up at things, going out of my box. Saying hello to people who don’t say hello to me first. Saying nothing when they ignore me at the goodbye. Discovering it’s not personal, it never was, this online weirdness, this strange way of conversing the that nothing at all to do with the fact that some of us like to write and even at one point made a living from it, and others just like emojis. I hate emojis, but I think you know that, if you know me, personally, or if you see that I never use them, here or in the emails, or texts. Texts are rare. I hardly text. I text, though. I do. I sometimes text. Why am I telling you this?
BECAUSE ‘N’. ‘N’ is the kind of thing that brings up all sorts of things. You wonder, you think out loud, you wander. You go where you don’t think you should go (a bridge, yesterday) and you look out for people who seem like they might be the kind who would return your ‘hello’ instead of flee to their phones and glare into the glowing rectangles into the middle of the night. I am trying not to be cynical. I am typing into a glowing screen myself. Just, with a keyboard. That doesn’t make it any better, though, does it? I am still trying to find people who are interested in connecting. Just not through the usual ‘normal’ ways now. I do not do Tinder. I don’t care much for Meetup. I am not a fan of LinkedIn. I am, however, interested in chance, serendipity, looking around and walking about and running into it. The third person that I think would be a good fit for ‘N’? A lad. A youth. Let me tell you…
Is someone who I think would really get a lot out of it, on account of it being New and Different, and knowing what I know about being young and angry with the world, feeling like it’s all bad and everything, until, this one thing happens, this kind of bright light shines for a second on a spot that you didn’t see before. You see it for that one glimpse of a moment, and then, poof, it’s gone. Keeping it forever isn’t the point. NOTICING it, that is the place where we go from living to something more than just taking in sustenance… we go to places that connect us to things beyond just our day-to-day, our routines that might not involve little side conversations or the smile and hello that you would have seen if you had not grown up in a way that involves texting more than real phone calls. Real phone calls are so intense now, aren’t they? Well. ‘N’ is even more real life than that. And that is why I care so much about it. To the journeys, then. Pressing on. I made some real invitations, on email. And twitter. Good people are there, saying ‘tell me more,’ which makes me happy. Must not quit this. Must keep showing up. Must not let it bother me that the world is ‘too busy!’ and ‘thanks but next time’ and you know what? There is no next time. Onceness, noticing it, the shiny thing that’s there now!, that’s the entire point. The good news is there is still some time. My visa is good for another couple of weeks. WEEKS. I remember discovering four people in Bangkok on the four days ahead of ‘N’ there, and in London… SEVEN. So the odds are good. People here are a bit more open, too. I like this. I like it very, very much. To the journeys, then! To the next. —AS