ZINES. Real life. Conversations. Making space for the stories of us, where we are, with the people whose paths we might not have otherwise crossed, right where we are. New learning, new thinking, new perspectives, and a. creative kick from the atelier that is Atelier S P A C E. Making ‘rooms’ for dialogue and perspective-making insight since 1994, more or less, but officially as a zinemaking atelier since 2017 in Battambang, Singapore, Penang, Kuala Lumpur, Helsinki, Oulu, and Phnom Penh. This event is part of a series, Atelier S P A C E | Lithuania. Free for members of S P A C E. We’ll choose the date, time, and place on a Doodle poll. To start, request details through the form below. More from there.
READING, today, stories about #deletefacebook, and find myself nodding every time someone talks about how the social fabric is getting ripped apart because people are addicted to pings and hits and likes.
For example, I found these quotes in one of the first articles you get to on google if you search ‘delete facebook’… They are:
And that means that we need to sort of give you a little dopamine hit every once in a while, because someone liked or commented on a photo or a post or whatever. It’s a social-validation feedback loop … exactly the kind of thing that a hacker like myself would come up with, because you’re exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology. The inventors, creators — it’s me, it’s Mark [Zuckerberg], it’s Kevin Systrom on Instagram, it’s all of these people — understood this consciously. And we did it anyway. Sean Parker — Former Facebook President
I feel tremendous guilt. It literally is [at] a point now, where we have created tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works. That is literally where we are. The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops that we have created are destroying how society works. No civil discourse. No cooperation. Misinformation. Mistruth. And it’s not an American problem. It’s not about Russian ads. This is a global problem. ChamathPalihapitiya— Former Facebook VP of User Growth
Of course we can argue about the good things and the not-so-good things about technology. But don’t think you have to have it if you want to live a meaningful, connected, or creative life: you don’t. I don’t have Facebook, not a personal one anymore, and though I’m on the fence about what to do with instagram. But okay, it’s fine. I don’t have WhatsApp, or even a mobile phone.
I should repeat that last one.
I don’t have a mobile phone. Or even a non-mobile phone. Today I’m borrowing one of the latter, though, to meet up with some people in Phnom Penh who might be wondering what the hell I’ve been doing on the northern side of Finland all summer, and something about Malaysia, and yeah.
HONEST. I used to have one, in the mid 2000s, when I was living in Seattle and had ‘a business,’ which of course was DK in its first iteration—solid brick and mortar shop, complete with $800 laser printer, fax machine, cool phones that I still kinda miss because of their button design, giant computers, a reception area, a conference room, swivel office chairs: the works. But what I didn’t know then that I know now is that none of it was that important. Social media presence? Not a big deal, because DK sold itself through one-on-one interpersonal interactions in real life. We got gigs in Seattle. More, later, elsewhere, too. But not because of the online stuff, or the appearances of something big. By being good. Really. That’s how it works. But being good is only part of it. You also have to be easy to work with. Not that easy to work with and not that good? Forget it. (Unless, of course, you’re cheap, and fast. But who wants to work with people who are just trying to penny-pinch and don’t care that much about the quality of the output?)
More thinking. More reading. More turning the clock back to think about where we’ve been and what we were doing. I am glad to say that it’s through the building of relationships that we are here, where we are, and continue to develop. Not that I’m the greatest at this, in fact, I’m pretty shite at it. It’s DK’s Akira Morita, who took the time to build the networks and keep in touch with the people here where I am writing from (Phnom Penh) in order to begin that lattice-formation that has come to be one of the most important things we’ve ever had in our orbit. Social orbits are big: I was writing and thinking about these things quite a lot in recent days, conversing in S P A C E forums and real life and on voice calls. Less email. Less writing short. And the next podcast (!) will be about the internet—about the love-hate relationship with this thing that connects us (and keeps us from truly connecting, at the same time).
True connection starts, I’ve found, with showing up. Commitment to a person, idea, or project, or a job, well, commitment is what leads to trust. Trust is huge. You have trust, and you have all you could possibly ask for in a relationship. Trust the process, sure, but trust other people. Sure. It’s hard. Of course it is. Relationships are work. Did you see that thing I put here about George Vickers? How about Moominpappa? I feel like here at DK, Akira is the former, and I’m the latter. We’re interested in relationships, but he’s better at that, and I”m interested in possibility, and exploring to the edges: scouting the new and the next. Together, we’re still at it, officelessly and houseless-ly. We’re moving around the world looking for people who are ready to try new things, be they NGO-sector officials, small businesses, innovation-minded larger groups, individuals, or colleagues, or co-creators, or even friends. Are you ready to try to get to the next, whatever, or whatever, it turns out to be? Then that’s it. Talk to DK. Let’s play.
Reclaiming space for real life
I’LL LEAVE YOU with this bit from the Guardian article, ‘Be a pioneer — delete Facebook’, by Jaron Lanier. And comments are open, if you’d like to say ‘hi.’
… these deleters are indispensable. They should be celebrated. We all benefit from them.
The primary value of a boycott in this case is not mere protest to damage Facebook, but to invent what life can be like today without the social network.
A deleter must reconsider how she holds her social life together. She will therefore rethink what a social life is.
Is having a publicly broadcast number of associates a good thing, or does it foster a meaningless sense of social competition? Does Facebook’s method, which combines user tracking with stimuli calculated to foster addiction and behaviour modification, really reveal the most beneficial options for her? Does an experiential feed constructed by algorithms serve her, or other people who are paying to modify her behaviour? Are the components of the Facebook experience severable or not? Can you have a modern social and professional life without the manipulation? Is it even conceivable? Who will ask? Who will find out? The deleters will!
And they already have. Making space for real life interfacing, for remarkable human connexion: that’s the whole thing, for some of us, writing, connecting, meeting, sharing, and, hey, living. Online is fine. I’m online to post this. Online is fine, but online isn’t the only place it’s at. Real life is out there. Let’s go get it.
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.
NEW THINGS. Starting again. In S P A C E. In very small circles. Trusting the process and enjoying the adventure, creating the design for hosting and engaging some of us, some of us who are still curious, still open to the possibility of being changed by what we hear, and still ready to learn, from any chance encounter: as did the people I met at the N. Bohr Institute in Copenhagen when on a visit there, or in the corners of philosophy classes after the teachers left and texts were closed in my high school summer at Governor’s School East in Laurinburg NC, or in the empty moments just being on the edges of the world, for all the edges are at the edge, are they not?, in Nagarkot, Manali, Kyoto, Berlin, wistful piazzas in Bologna, the drone and hum and boisterousness of the throng of the West Village in 1990s New York, and more, and, other, and, more recently, in S P A C E. Here’s to the journeys, the new, the near, and the next. Ready for the 8 Oct thing. Ready, set.
The opposite of a profound truth may be another profound truth. —N. Bohr
TODAY I WILL OUTLINE, in a short but detailed note, the creative process that happens when one is writing a book. A book, not a blog. A book, not some clickbait links that someone is going to pay you a lot of money for because you work as a copywriter at a fancy ad agency. A book, because books are where we have a moment to really get deep and moody, and write, not because the writing is for a purpose (to sell something, for ex, which is most often the goal it seems with a capitalistic system ruling everything nowadays), but because the writing conveys something stronger: emotion. I could talk a little here about the mourning that happens when one realizes how cheap things have become, and how transactional (as F. has just pointed out in a recent comment on this post, ‘Trust the Process.’)
But I will refrain from editorializing.
I know that writing in first-person is mostly just editorial, okay, fine. Admitted. But still.
There are times when certain pitfalls are there, and I have this weakness for falling into them. Pitfalls that, for example, are really just one’s own projections on things that one feels importantly committed to. Things like how X or Y is just so unfair, and how Z and T ought to be installed, instead. But you know what? That’s just more dogma. And dogma is getting us in trouble, in this world. Righteousness and an insistence on sticking to a thing and not budging, not a bit, no matter how educated you are or what you have built—staying unwilling to open to new ways of thinking and new points of view is going to be the thing that, in the end, makes it hard for you. (Yeah, editorializing and saying it ‘like it is.’ Must find a way to suggest my thought in a less black-and-white insistent way, but that is what we are trained to do, isn’t it, those of us who grow up on Western eduaction systems that love to be abolute and ‘right’ about what they think? Mmm-hmmm. Oi.)
FLASHBACK. Thinking specifically about a conversation in Durham, NC, with an old friend of mine; a conversation that became a sort of philosophical sparring. I put the best chunks of it, from memory, into Breakfast in Cambodia (Kismuth Books // 2016). Because that insisting that I recall, an insisting that insisted that her way was better than my way, for whatever reasons, reasons undisclosed, but there it sat, the whole thing: the righteousness and dogma, that one way supersedes by default another, that did it. That sent me packing. I was on the road not many months after that, uprooting the American Dream or whatever and setting foot out into the unknown. Well, Hanoi. The traffic, my gosh. That was then. That was 2013. Now, I’m used to Asia and its ways of moving around vehicularly. I just got to the place I’m typing you from by crossing illegally maybe four crosswalks, including one that was rather huge—a four-lane freeway cut in the middle by the thing that ran above it, the monorail. I’m in Kuala Lumpur. The city is saying ‘hello’ after a long summer away, writing and photographing for the book. Oh, right. I was going to talk about that, wasn’t I? The way it starts. The way you get started on a thing. Or at least, how I have managed to get started and in so doing, completed a series of books, so far. None of them are ever as good as the one that’s current, though, when you’re writing a lot. And so I’m going to put all my chips in on Koivu, probably my best one, of them all. Of course I would say that. I’m still writing it, so you know. I get to say that.
Part 2. The thread. The thread is important. Because it’s the thread that makes the necklace. Finding it can take a lot of looking through things, but also, letting things go. Pieces of paper, unwritten bits, written things that don’t fit the story. Not talking about the arc or the narrative. I know some people have more of a system that is linear, like that. Go with the outline, build each piece. Sequentially, maybe even. Not me. I’m a bricolage artist. So I go with what’s in front of me. What falls to hand. If someone right next to me starts to talk to me about a thing, guess what? That thing almost always informs where I go creatively that day. Today, I’m thinking about righteousness. (Can you tell, based on the above?) This morning someone told me that X was X, and not otherwise, and not listening, not a bit, to any falsifying evidence to the contrary. He was stubborn, and wouldn’t budge. Insisting. That’s why I brought up the story about my old friend and I arguing in the tea shop. She was really mad about things. I was less mad than stunned. I still remember the feeling, dry-mouthed and almost gaping. I had had, until then, quite a lot f respect for her. After all, she is well-schooled (more degrees than me, or most people I know), but… there was no scope for play. For improvising. For making it up as you go. For listening out for a new kind of angle. That, to me, was deafening. How could I stay put in a country where what’s valued is the insistence on being right, instead of the openness to dreaming outwardly and openly towards whatever might make itself apparent, and emerge? No wonder I loved the N. Bohr Institute, in Copenhagen. Guess what? I just walked in, the front door, just followed a PhD student inside, followed her to Auditorium A, I think it was, the famous one, listened to WS and GJB and others talk about dark matter and gluons. And then, to write about those things, of course, in that story that I was compiling in those days, at that time. Of course. Because part 2 of the process of writing a book is to find, and follow, the thread. Don’t second-guess yourself, when you seem to sense that you’ve got it. When you’ve got the thread, you’re mostly done.
Part 3. Framing and sequence. Now is when you add things to the thread. The details, the scenes, the story makes itself to you. It’s easy to start with a bunch of notes and feel like you’ve done your work already, and that’s where I am today. But you know what? I left all of them at home. I’m out into the space where I can start to remember things, instead of report them. I want to remember things as they come to mind so I can thread the necklace. Because this cookie is going to be good, I can tell, and I want to let it come forward naturally and organically, not in a too-formal way. If I was too insistent on making it into ‘a piece,’ with too much of too much, I think it would punch through the soft underbelly of this thing. It is delicate and unformed, as yet. I’m happy to be in this spot, writing and thinking and going through the photo archives from June, July, and August, as I work out the stuff of Koivu. Which means, ‘Birch,’ in Finnish. Did I tell you? I’m learning Finnish? Yeah, well. Kind of.
Part 4. Sharing. This part is where I think most people see what I’m up to. I’m all about ‘Hey! Lookit!’ but I forget to share the process, as in, steps 1-3 above. The process is where, though, the working-it-out happens. Sure, it’s really personal stuff, too. Writing about it even in this third-party style is a little strange, to me, in some way. But I’m changing these days. I’m going to share more about where things go, how they get to those places. Travel is like the creative process. You go out into the world looking for whatever might emerge, and that’s one way to travel. And that’s my way. And not most people’s, sure, but so? There are still a handful of us who are curious and seeking and going to the edges, like I talk about a lot here on this blog, and in real life, a lot. I mean, a lot. But I’m not interested in knowing all of what’s to come ahead of time—I remember this couple in Seattle who had downloaded the menus of the restaurants they were going to go to in Paris before they took their trip there. And they did this months ahead of time. They also had been to those restaurants before. They had these things in a clear sleeve folder. I think that was my first inkling that, well, DK and our style of making and doing and traveling and going around discovering was very much against the grain from what mainstream America thinks is kosher. Having a plan. Knowing what you’re doing. Knowing where you’re going. Knowing, instead of feeling.
And here we are, back to the start.
Writing with feeling.
Writing with heart.
Not for everyone, of course. But for the people who are seeking and curious, like some of us here in these online circles behind-the-scenes, well. For us, it’s all that matters. For us, this being open and curious and wandering around and seeing what might happen is, honestly, the whole thing. Is all there really is.
IN THIS POST, I will share with you some of the current thinking behind ‘At rest while in motion,’ but also, walk you through the actual in-the-moment journey of how one goes about trying to figure out the vague answer to the superlative question, ‘What am I doing?’
This last because it is a question that pops up a lot in the conversations I have with people in a very short space of time: ‘DK, tell me what to do now. You seem to have things figured out.’ Er. Hardly.
Those who know me personally know that I’m hardly well put-together; behind-the-scenes, I am a bundle of bits of paper, slips of notebooks that go in boxes, some of which I’ve lost track of, and all of which are existing in perhaps dusty, surely disquiet collections in patches, tucked away in the nooks and apartment closets, houses and spare rooms of very nice people (and sometimes relatives, wow), who take them in and hold them for me, indefinitely, until it is time to revisit with the old material and see how it fits with the new.
I guess I have something figured out, though, if I’m honest about it. Since 2013 I’ve been ‘on the road, indefinitely, with no fixed income, plans, or savings.’ And DK started in 1994, and then became an LLC in 2005, which was the last time I had a 9-6 day job. So, what does that mean? Well, when it comes to answering one question I think I have a thing or two to say. The question being, ‘How to take a step out, when you’ve no idea where you are going…’ Mmm-hmm. Story. Of my life.
But wait. I’m getting off on some random tangent. Let me talk about the creative process. Let me start with material.
MATERIAL IS THE FIRST thing that I am looking at, right now, when I am considering the first thing to do now that I am in one spot, for a time, with the bookings made through at least the end of the weekend, which, in our new state of ‘nomadic drift’, which isn’t new at all, really, but this time, there really are no flats or monthly rentals to contend with nor people who are there to say hello to every day, but rather, the flux. The flow. The movement. I like this, but I also have a lot of stuff with me. Stuff that moves in packs with me; the suitcases are not as heavy as they were in 2013 (left one in Delhi, left one in Bangkok), but they still are there. Taking up room. What to do with all this material? What to keep, what to let go? There are snippets from the deep past, somewhere in a box in Cambodia, there are things from even further back, well before that, art show leftovers in rolls in Raleigh-Durham. I always wondered what I would do with all that stuff. Stuff. So much of it. Might explain why somewhere along the way, I switched from doing print work to going digital only. This is coming around again to the world of somewhat limited edition and very custom, very one-of-a-kind printed stuff, but again, it’s stuff, and that means, ‘What do I do with this?’ It’s been neat sending some things off in the postal service, through the S P A C E || Finland page in our online store. It’s been nice to share things with people in real life, people I’ve just met, people who say, ‘Those are nice. Wait, are you selling them? Great. How much? Okay, that’s fair. I’ll take one of those.’ It’s like giving away kittens, I think. You have a lot of offspring and you don’t know where they’ll go; but you don’t want to just leave them around. You want to find them good homes. And that’s what’s happening. The rest?… the rest is with me. I’ve got an extra bag now. It’s got Moomintroll on it. After all, this was the summer of stuff I made in Finland. But it’s also… good material. For zining. On into the next. I like it when bits and pieces from the last place make their way into the current works. And so, now, I should talk a bit about the creative process.
‘Trust the process’
FOR THE FIRST TEN years of DK, I would always start with a few things with every new client. First, I’d ask for a book recommendation: ‘What book sums the story of you? I’ll go and read it.’ Then, I’d ask for them to have a look at this slideshare, because it’s really quite simple to read through and puts a lot of stuff in perspective. Lastly, I’d ask them to ‘trust the process.’ To trust me, really, to guide the way towards some kind of breakthrough.
That’s not an easy thing to sign up for, but sign up a handful of people did, each year from 2004 until now, which means that’s why DK is still here, existing, making space and now S P A C E (online magazine) and Atelier S P A C E to gather us for short-run weeklong or four-week-long stints of time so as to delve into the exact style of the foray into the creative process that DK had delivered to clients in Seattle, Raleigh-Durham NC, and more recently, in Phnom Penh.
Because I myself am in the midst of a design overhaul here at DK, not unusual because we like to reinvent quite a lot around here, well, I’m taking stock of the materials gathered and looking ahead to 2019. Where shall we take things with DK? Who wants to collaborate with us, who wants to connect in S P A C E? Does S P A C E want to become something different from what it is, right now? Or is it working, as it is? Even in very small circles (which is my personal preference), there are moments of real and true connexion, you can feel it, it’s not just me saying that, and then we get philosophical and talk life and meaning and sometimes about life plans but not in the usual terms, more in… the kinds of words that one allows oneself ot speak when she or he feels at ease. I remember this from a past life, a longago summer, this wild and crazy time of just being, just hanging out, with friends. Before the era of justifying your existence through the use of social media channels, there was just us being around each other talking late into the night maybe with some music going in the background or someone with a guitar, but always, always, always, there was that ease and comfort when you felt like you could just hang out, just chill, just be around people, just be. A long time ago, yes, that I felt that was the norm. Now, what happened? We are distracted and I forget to get back to the work of making S P A C E. At the Form/Space Atelier show I was invited to put together in Seattle (thanks again PP), I remember writing the artist statement and saying something about BTFL SIMPL. Which was: ‘I want people to relax. To feel air, space and comfort.’ That has not changed.
S P A C E for play. S P A C E for conversation. S P A C E for slowing down. S P A C E for the easygoing ‘third place.’ There is so much to talk about. That’s because… there’s so much material. The work now is to sift through all of this and see what makes sense to keep, what to let go. Editing is this. Editing is being aware of the thread that makes the necklace, and letting the string sing while the gems and pearls add to the vocals, rather than distract and detract. The vocals matter. The vocals. Erm. Ah. I sound like DK is some kind of a band. I talk a lot about jam sessions. I talk about jazz. Chords. I guess, in a way, I’m kind of the vocals around here. I’m looking for the baseline, the guitar, the horns, someone bring a triangle, and whatever else you’ve got. Come out and play with us, with the people who are here and ready. Jazzy, light. It’s okay. I don’t have to overthink this. I don’ have to intellectualize. Either you get it, and you want to try it, or you don’t.
It’s okay to say, ‘I don’t know.’ Just ask N. Bohr (you’ll have to go to Copenhagen and find his grave at Assistens). But for the moment, at the top of the journey of a parabola upon which a ball is tossed upward, there is a spot where the velocity is zero. That means, we’re at rest. That we’ve stopped moving. For that moment, you have the view. The vista, the zenith. Take it all in; look around. See what’s what. But don’t try to put meanings to things that you’re looking back on, and don’t investigate too deeply into what’s next. Because the moment is here, is now. And we are at zero velocity.
OUR TRAVELING series 16N is next stopping in Helsinki. It’s a big blind date for just 16 people. (Who will be there? That’s the whole magic of it. The thing is a giant *surprise*.) It’s by invitation. Ask us for an invite, when you follow the story, here: http://designkompany.com/16n
IN A FEW DAYS, I will be starting the salon in our protected-page space, ‘Slow Moment.’ It’s about slowing down. Recharging. Discovering yourself when you make time to show up… for you. No obligations, no ‘to-do’s, and scrapping the idea of ‘getting something accomplished,’ the idea of this particular programme is to let it flow. Flow. So important. I have been talking with people in online conversations for about four months now, setting things up for this special 12-week session. It’s our last online workshop, for the general public, as it just became obvious that for DK, making people be creative isn’t important. What’s important for DK is helping those who have already taken a step, of their own accord, towards some kind of transformative breakthrough. Of course you can’t have a linear path to breakthrough. Or transformative stuff of any kind. Of course it takes work, struggle, sloshing about, tackling vague ideas, throwing most of them away, and starting over, when you recognize that all the work so far has been ‘sketching.’ We call it P L A Y. Playing our way towards the new and the next is what we do around here.
Zining in Finland, Cambodia, et al.
ZINING HAS BEEN, for me personally, a way of slowing down. ZininginFinland, in particular. ‘This is Finland,’ said J., whom I met last night at the pub. ‘We just… be.’ Not bad. I really enjoyed our brief chat outside of the place; karaoke was on inside and it was a thin crowd. I cycled over there with my midnight ride in the pretty-bright-still-but-not-like-before light. Mist was out. Mist. This was what we talked about. Small town life. Passerby. Chance encounters. That’s the stuff of gathering the narratives that make S P A C E the zine; showing up to ask the questions and be prepared for anything is the jazzy jam that is Atelier S P A C E. (If I don’t show up for me, how can I ask others to show up for themselves? So I am living the practice. Go where you don’t know anyone. Find out stuff. Ask them things. Talk to people. Learn. Discover. Find a theme. Then, either with guests who are interested in joining in with you or without them, write a short 8-page zine that pulls together the best of that which you pick up, makes it contemporary, gives it a shape, and then, print some of them, and share them.)
Pubs are third places. They are where we convene. I know, I know. There is an objective, most of the time. Not me. I’m there for the conversations.
Here where I am about six hours north of Helsinki, things are quiet. Conversations are slow and easy. All around is nature—and it’s handy that you can cycle around to get the things you need. Foodstuffs. Provisions. Euros. It’s convenient, small, and just fine. I am not a stranger to small town life; and this stay has got me remembering all the things about Skibbereen and rural North Carolina that I used to really enjoy. End-to-end rainbows, for example. Which I talked about in the past, here on this blog, when ‘A Slow Moment begins’ got writ.
Poetry slams in S P A C E
WRITING MORE. Zining. Making poems with people around the world. ‘Whatever of philosophy is made into poetry is alone timeless.’ These words—I had quoted them in my TEDx talk, ‘There’s Not That Much Time Left.’ Something I haven’t admitted out loud anywhere on the public spaces of the blog is this: I was kind of winging that talk, there, at the end. You have to read your audience, right, and see where the feeling is going. You have to see what fits, what’s working, what’s not. It takes time to build up to that. It’s a long, simple crescendo. You get going and you start and you begin to get the feeling. Here is what’s the story. This is where we’re synching. It’s a jam session, to me—even me on the stage felt like that. I was laughing and enjoying myself with the people in the front rows who were laughing and enjoying themselves with me. (Afterwards, a ‘speechmaker’s consultant’ tried to pitch me, and said, ‘You really don’t want to laugh at your own jokes.’ But for me, for DK, for all he things that have become, since, S P A C E, if I don’t laugh, I’m not having fun, and if I’m not having fun, whatever the hell is the point?’ Of course I didn’t ask him to help me. In fact, that was the last time I got on stage, aside from one other time, in the same city on the same stage, in fact, for ‘Fuzzy Quantum Pop.’ Too fun.)
DG said it: ‘Throw away most of the stuff you write, because you know what? It’s bad. I did that. Do you do that? Throw away most of it?’ I nodded. He said, ‘Good.’ DG is a pianist. I get along with piano people, drummers. Maybe because they like to accompany… words. I am the vocals. I realize this now. Words are my thing. Pen is my medium. Whether lines in marker, or cut lines, or lines worked out somehow (it takes a long time sometimes, but other times comes in bursts, like now, unedited and uninterrupted—a story flows) into poems, or occasional ebooks, I make lines.
Slow moment? For me, bringing the lines into shape. Giving the scaffold in architecture blueprint to the ever-emerging shape of S P A C E. Something to say? Leave a comment, below. Comments are open, until the bots catch on.
DK is making S P A C E, a weekly interactive magazine and an online community for people who are highly engaged with the creative process.
‘TELL THEM in a relatable way, DK, why this is interesting, and how it will make their life better.’
‘You have to. If you want people to connect.’
‘I don’t know if… spelling it out… is really my thing.’
‘Well, if you want people to understand, then you have to. You’ve heard this before. It’s so esoteric. It’s inaccessible. You are like.. on cloud nine all the time. Far, far away. It’s like… you could be anywhere. Your imagination is… running around in a tornado. And we’re all like, ‘Where… where is DK?’
‘I’m right here. I’ve always been right here.’
‘But, I mean. Email? Who does email?’
‘Email is for work.’
‘Email is for me.’
‘Do you know how hard it is to compose an email? It’s like… it’s like… a task. A to-do.’
‘I remember meeting someone who talked to me about this before, telling me I need to have some social media thing or something. That I should have that, that he uses it, that he loves being able to message friends anywhere, anytime, and just go, “What’s up?” And I’m like… I don’t want people to message me anytime anywhere to just go, “What’s up?” And so I was like, but is that a conversation that actually goes somewhere? He said, if it’s getting to be like, a paragraph, or really serious or something… and I nearly jumped out of my chair! A paragraph is serious? OMG. I bet people all around the world are thinking I’m trying to get really serious with them. But I’m not. I’m just sending a feckin’ email.”
‘This was at a restaurant. In Malaysia. Their pick. We were eating dosas and they were terrible. I should have taken him and his friend to this other place I knew, that was way, way better, family run and some of the best roti I’ve ever eaten, serious, except for maybe Chandigarh and those alupanrantha nashta’s, wow, and out of the way from the tourist square. This was in Tanah Rata. This was in Cameron Highlands. This was one of my favorite little spots in the whole of Asia, but yeah, I loved meeting people every day and talking to them about Philosophy and Life and so on. Kooky stuff, at times, like the fourth dimension, but mostly, just a lot of talk about freelance life which people are fascinated by—my last day job was 2005—and I like to talk about the way I feel people should just do what they want and creatively could explore past the usual boxes if they were really interested in doing so—here is where their are hands raised and objections given like how do you do that when you need to be responsible and what society wants and your parents tell you and expectations and and oh but I have a family and la la la and I begin to grow exceedingly bored and so on, but occasionally they stay with me and keep asking, especially if they are in the age range of, say 22-27, because past that they are all about their option-hunting and don’t even care about actually producing something of value I feel but rather showing that they are attempting to make something of impact, whatever that means and it’s such hot air and leads to nothing concrete or useful, again my opinion, but yeah, the younger ones, they stay with you, they listen, I am thinking about that time I went to Kampot on my own and discovered this (lookin’ at you, AP), but yeah, that was the first time there was an inkling of a glimmer of a hope that we, We as in Society, are not all done for yet because the younger ones are there and inquisitive and alert and smart and curious and yeah, the best part, they care about quality, or at least, they know what it looks like when it falls into their laps—and they ask it questions, like, ‘What does this mean? And they don’t get distracted by bleeping things on the table, because their *!*& phones, wherever they are keeping them, are not on their minds or on the table thank goodness when they’re conversing with me. They listen. They really, do. They can hold eye contact. And yeah, when this happens and the stage is set for what I like to call S P A C E, then yeah, things are about to get really fun. Because then it gets weird and big and expansive and heady and that’s the stuff of the real heart of DK, what gave us our ‘this is who we are’ stuff when we were freelancing in Seattle, and what landed us in the new contracts and gigs and stuff on the road, even, for these five years. Weird, right? The road and freelancing, and better yet, consulting. I mean, this is really… fun. But yeah. This lifestyle choice and living it interests people; the ‘how’ of it, for some, which is really boring for me to relate, but the ‘why’ of it for others which is far, far more extraordinary. Of course, most people aren’t ready for that conversation—I fought with WH about it, once, weirdly–so we just dip in to basics: the writing process, the characters, the narratives, the interweaving, and so on. It’s all right. Fine. This is what it means to share yourself with others, isn’t it? You go into the smalltalk and you answer their questions. Et cetera. I’m not really a hermit, you know. That time I was telling you about. That was good, too. I think we talked for like 8 hours. I’m pretty sure I’ll never hear from either of them. Because this is why. At like 3AM or something, I said that if they want to reach me, there’s an ‘about’ page and a contact form on my website, which hey, let me just say it now and you can see if you can remember it, and that form, if you find it, and use it, that should do quite nicely. For continuing. If continuing is of interest. Which for me, well, it’s up to you. I’m cool with whatever–I meet people every single day, all the time, all over the place. Mostly in public spaces. Third places, just google it, or here is ‘third place’ on wikipedia, when I’m in the mood for them. Cafes. Libraries. Airplanes. But yeah. They were like, “A form? Email?” And then it was all this resistance about email! And I was like, ‘But if you actually do it, then I know you’re interested in conversing. And I’m only interested in conversations that go places, that take a little effort, you know? They have to mean something. I’m not interested in collecting you, or your friend here, or anyone. I don’t want a collection of people I never talk to for real about anything real. Know what I mean? So email me. Or don’t. I can see that you won’t. In which case, this is enough, right? This right here, right now, shared moment. Is. Enough. Good luck.’
‘But… it’s hard to use email now.’
‘It’s easier to use social media.’
‘I don’t care.’
‘You’re not easy to get to know.’
‘Of course I’m not.’
‘I like my friends that I already have. I like the people who I’m meeting and connecting with in S P A C E. I like the new friends I am making in the places where I go, in real life, on the ground. For example, here in Finland. So unlikely that I would make actual friends here, but wow, it happens. I mean, black humor, for example, meshes really well with my comics. I put the new ones, ‘Midsummer Magic,’ and ‘I’m So Lonely,’ into the new zine installation that’s on display right now and will be up through the weekend because Saturday is International Zine Day and everything, and yeah, it’s a lot of fun because they get it, the way I write it. People here, I mean. Have the same wry humor. And appreciate my comics. So I’m making more of them in August.’
‘About what, may I ask?’
‘Certainly. About mental disorders.’
‘You can ask me about it. Email me, maybe? Here’s a form.’
This is part of the series ‘100 Conversations’, sponsored by members of S P A C E.
IT IS 11.30PM and I am wide awake. In fact, the night is young, here in the north of Finland where it will not get dark for another two hours, then the light will dim a bit, then it will be almost dark enough to need to turn on the light, and then, voila!, the sun will pop back up out of just over there, about a twenty degree angle away from where it went down. Behind the trees. Beside the river. When the sky turns pink, you know it’s almost time. Then again it may be raining, in which case, wait a bit. It will be harder to spot, when the dark dip occurs.
In this post, I want to share a little bit about the design intent behind S P A C E, and how the architecture of it has come into form from the time it was first conceived, in a borrowed room in Delhi at the top of 2014. But I’ll start from yesterday.
My weekend has been packed with quiet moments. Slowing, stilling. Writing to the new guests who have just joined me in the online photo journaling conversation salon, ‘Slow Moment.’ It really is happening. That’s what’s awesome about design. You kind of start with a thing that you want to see in the world: you envision it. Then you backcalucate ways to make that happen.
Design is makingmeaning
WHAT IF I could block a full 12 weeks just to the exploration of a single question: ‘How can I slow down to see now?’ This was the start of how ‘Slow Moment’ got designed. Even better, what if I could invite some of the most talented photographers, writers, and friends I have met over the dozen or so years that we have been doing DK to be part of the emerging conversation? That’s what is going on, now. That’s what we are making. Together.
I am lucky to know these people, to have them be part of my circle of acquaintanceship and conversation partners in all things related to aesthetics, science, physics, life, poetry, the pursuit of beauty, the love of color, the search for meaning, politics and ideology, social justice, software design, engineering, architecture, and more.
You go around the world with your eyes and heart open, and magic happens.
People find you. They tell you things. You then learn to embed these things into your own fabric, weaving what sticks into the next. That’s collage and bricolage. That’s relational art. That’s… hell, that’s living. And I got the start of this design idea many times before: I wanted to have ‘mix it up’ parties, over and over again, from the time I was very young, to gather people and connect them, but not people of one stripe: people of many kinds of styles and accents, viewpoints, and experiences. That’s interesting, to me. That’s where we learn that we don’t have to agree on everything. So much variety: a vivid ecology of humanity.
‘Let’s talk jazz’
WHO WANTS TO BE BORING, I mean, really? Who wants to do the same thing with the same people all the time? Who wants to stay home and neverbudge? Who wants to insist on one way of thinking about things, and not be open to the possibility to be changed by what she or he might hear? If you’re happy with the status quo, this is as far as you should read. If you love improvisation and the interconnection and unexpectedness and surprise, let’s keep jamming. Because it’s about to get good.
In 2014, I tentatively made S P A C E. I cared about it. I still do.
I care about it a lot.
Not just because I’ve always wanted to run a magazine, but had a hunch that the kinds of topics I want to write and share about would never fly with mainstream audiences (the multiverse, anyone?… oh, wait. HL, hey! I see you there.)
S P A C E invites people from all kinds of places and walks of life–except the close-minded. It necessarily precipitates, by its very design, the kinds of individuals who are seeking and are curious, who want to discover, who are not yet so jaded they’ve checked out from life, who are ready for a different kind of jam. And it is a jam. If you know me, you know I love jazz in particular of all music genres because it invites improvisation and the jam.
That is why I am hoping to interview MA sometime soon. (M, if you are reading this, expect a call from me. Let’s talk Finland. Let’s talk jazz. Let’s talk about designing stages for magic moments, and how I can do that more artfully with a cultural awareness when it’s 21 July. Thanks for being in touch. I will follow up. I usually do, on the important things, and with the people whose thinking peppers new influences on my own. Paprika and mustard–speaking of flavors and accents–are kind of hitting the spot, lately, in the new cuisines I’m getting to sample. When I’m not just hanging out eating leaves and seeds and sprouts with rye bread, or muesli, or boiled eggs, and other things that are really about the simple basic ingredients and not a lot of flair.)
I GUESS that’s my style: use good quality materials, and make something out of them that has a personality to it all its own. ‘Your cooking style is like how you make the books,’ said YL, who was living in the house with us up until the end of June. I laughed when she observed it; she had really keen sensibilities and could see things clearly. But she was right. I make things out of what’s there. I collage with what’s at hand. I find people I really enjoy talking with, and I gather us, in the same spirit of collage, in instances, in S P A C E. The Mirror happened in this way. A Nomadic Existence. Those were online. The real life ones were too numerous to bring up here, but some highlights for me were: ‘Hello August’ in Phnom Penh, ‘Choices’ in Siem Reap, ‘Gather’ in Seattle, and ‘The State of Publishing’ in Durham NC.
All good mixes of people, all smatterings of happened-upon conversations that led to the conversation salons that got those of us who I imagined would enjoy connecting with one another into a space where they could then interconnect. Did you come to MAKE? Scale? The reception for ‘Today I Love You?’ Did you join us at Kornerhaus for ‘Flourish: What is the role of the artist?’ Or maybe one of the dessert parties–Sugar in Seattle, for example, or the same idea–bring yourself and a dessert–when we were in the southwest corner of Ireland? Those were the early days of beginning to understand that the drama is the conversation, that the eloquence is artful, that content is huge, but so, in many ways is something else: caring.
Every thing I learned about writing, I learned in County Cork
CARING ABOUT the subject. Caring about the audience. Caring about the people who will be there, say, in the pub with you if you are in County Cork waiting for the lads to arrive and the rounds to begin. Johnny Don’t Go to Ballincollig, Johnny Don’t Go to Carrigaline. Waiting is in and of itself a kind of drama. Waiting for Godot. Waiting for the moment. Waiting for the Book of Five Rings. Waiting for the slowing; stilling. The poetry. The artfulness of just being together, seeing the moment of now. I learned all of this from the people I bumped into, by chance or design, or luck, or work, in Co. Cork. That’s really where this all started. HT MO’B.
The West Cork Literary Festival, for example. Then, later, with others who were just hanging out with me in the intermissions of concerts, getting rounds. All kinds of good memories; it might be time to get back there again. Maybe next summer. Maybe with a group. Maybe to make Atelier S P A C E | West Cork. Let me try to pull that together. It always takes planning, of course.
But if you care about a thing, and you care damn hard, then yeah, people come around, they do, they come out and say hi and see what you are doing.
And take part. That’s important. Because I could throw all these salons and workshops and so on, but if no one came, there wouldn’t be a conversation. There wouldn’t be the possibility of being changed by what we hear. It would be… boring. It would be… staid. It would be, also, simply a vanity project. Too many of those, in these modern times. Too much self-published crap that gets passed off as ‘this is my book I wrote’ and not enough quality. Quality! And here we go. Back to where I started the Year of Uncertainty project in 2013, which led to the full-on leaving of one continent and going out into the big black yonder, to discover, who knew what, with whom, where, how, when, or for what aim: except, maybe… Quality. Reading ZAMM and practicing uncertainty. That really happened. It sure seems weird to think about, looking back.
No plan. No agenda. No income. No savings. No prospects. And plane tickets to nowhere in particular via RDU -> Hanoi, for a quest into the Unknown.
‘You wear your heart on your sleeve’
POSSIBLY BECAUSE OF THE ROOTLENSSNESS, I focused on ‘being a writer.’ So I wrote. Tons. Badly. Often. Mostly super long, long emails to practical strangers during that 2013-2014 timeframe when there really was nothing to report. Except, of course, for the feeling of swimming in a sea of doubt and aiming at nothing in particular. I guess that built something in me, though. Practicing how to write towards the thing that the sheafs of voluminous writings became: the short, hyperlocal series of zines popped out from that process. Instead of writing my own thoughts, what about creative nonfiction? Instead of just more philosophizing and intellectualizing, what if I just tapped my old skills as a reporter and did actual interviews to discover stories in situ? Ohhhh.
Yeah, I’m grimacing now, remembering sending all those emails. A little embarrassing, really. Emails that went to filters. Emails that went to junk. Emails that went into the void.
But some landed.
I mean, a few. They really did land. Square. Some of you told me. Some of you thanked me. Some of you bought my books, which was cool, and I appreciated that. Maybe there was resonance in simply showing up, was it weekly? Gosh. That was a lot of email. Sorry. But yeah. Trust and reliability come of showing up, don’t they? And sometimes, that hits the right note at the right time. In certain places, with certain readers. And those were the ones I kept in touch with, later, and whom I invited to my online circles, in S P A C E, in 2014, when the whole kernel of the gem of an idea started to burgeon: How can I gather people in quality conversations, in the way that we love to do in real life, using the two-way and indeed n:n stream that makes it possible to connect us in fascinating, high-quality ways?. Someone has to design for that. Design is making meaning. I’m used to this kind of work. I trained in engineering, after all. So that’s how it happened. How it came into shape: this, the architecture of S P A C E. Right. Enough nuts and bolts. Returning to poetry and philosophy, let me leave you with one of my favorite quotes from Rilke:
‘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
‘And the point is to live everything.’
(Question: But are you really living, or able to live the questions, if you don’t even see the now? And if you can’t find caring in your heart for the living of everything, then is it artful? I read somewhere that philosophy is a means of discovering our way towards living a more pleasurable life. That’s cool. And also, design is about making meaning. I asked my clients at DK, often, ‘What will be the legacy you want to leave? How will you find the way towards that?’ We know there’s not that much time left, so let’s get going.) Shall we?
Join Design Kompany and new friends in Kärsämäki for a once-off event, a Festival of The Zine. Celebrating International Zine Day, this will take place in various venues on Saturday, 21 July.
What are zines?
Zines are independently published periodicals. They are not fancy, nor are they mainstream. Rather, zines are part of the “indie, DIY (do-it-yourself) culture” that shares its spunky style with punk and other subcultures. With a zine you can express yourself freely, without the need for an editor. You can make as many or as few as you like, and you can decide who gets to read them, if anyone. Unlike social media and sharing of digital streams, zines are hands-on, and they’re shared in real life, with real people. You get to have a conversation. You get to see how people respond. It’s much more about the exchange and the quality of the connection, we feel, than it is about ‘producing’ for the sake of making ‘content’ for the masses. In an age where the internet can confuse and lie to us, zines give us a tangible grip on the here, and now, and remind us that at the end of the day, we get to create and write our own stories. The stories of our lives. The stories that remind us who we are.
CONTINUING. To make. Zines, mostly, in June. July looks different. July has a different feeling to it. The flowers are changing. The fragrances, too. I feel like I’m a teenager again: staying up really late, talking to people about everything, joking, cutting up paper and sending little notes out into the world, writing letters, sharing the time with friends, and generally being curious about ‘what’s going to happen today.’ Slow moment. Slowing. Noticing. Making things is a way to do that, of course. You put something together with your time, focus, and your craft. You make a thing that, after some time, begins to take shape.
This zine (pictured) was one of the first ones I made here, when I got to the residency and started obsessing about ‘producing stuff.’ It was a limited edition of just 3. Two of them went out into the world to new people I’ve met. One is left. It’s the favorite of the ones that people peruse, when they examine the three dozen or so little books that I’ve made since I’ve been here. I’m in a conversation with someone who is going to maybe help me put together a little exhibition, at the end of July, so we can share them in a giant popup style installation with the general public. It would be very DK. Come as you are, have a read if you want, put something back, take a look, enjoy the books, talk to each other, ask me anything. More and more, I’m realizing the books and art pieces are just conversation-starting prompts. They invite some query, sure, introspection, even. But like everything I make and do, it’s the conversation I care about most. The giving and receiving, the interconnection, the sharing of S P A C E, and of course, time. Art, at its best, is a conversation. Something I find myself saying over and over again, including yesterday evening upon parting with my new possible collaborator in the making of installation art here in, um, Kärsämäki. Finland, like. Who knew.
Friends and new acquaintances. Guests in ‘Slow Moment.’ Members of S P A C E. All of you are always welcome, to meet me in the aether, the forums, the real life spaces, the public squares of our lives and disconnect from the internet world, where there are only facades and cropped pictures of the things that are really real. But go to a lake or down by a river, look at a rainbow or find the moon and the sun together in a bright white sky, and there is no way to capture or record that feeling. The smell, the people, the ambient nature of it—you cannot put that into a square photograph and expect it to be received the way you’re receiving it. The scene, I mean. And that means… here it is, the crux of it, the thing I wanted to say, that means, when you just document for the sake of it without paying attention to where you are and who you’re with and the things that are being said with words and gesture and the blank space that convey far more than either, then you’re not really there. You’re not sending something cool and interesting into the world if you’re just shooting a quick pic and blogging it or microblogging it somewhere. You’re just… looking for attention or validation. Let’s admit this. Social media is about validation-seeking. Isn’t it? And you know what? That means–you’re not fully there when you’re presenting something to someone. What you send is vague and tattered, what’s received is even more so. That said, I’m concluding that this is probably the major reason I don’t have a mobile phone or trade texts with anyone or even use most social media these days. Why? It’s not a great conversation. And if conversation and dialogue is what I care about most–and it is, making great space for remarkable connexion and interconnection—then I better find the channels and media that work best to do just that.
DK and friends are together hosting a series of conversation salons in Kärsämäki, Finland, on the conversation topic, ‘Then & Now.’
Can we preserve an old way of life, or parts of it, as we move forward in time? How do we define ‘progress?’ What is important to keep, and how do we determine what’s okay to let go? What’s ‘culture?’ What is ‘preservation?’ What legacies do we want to leave for future generations, and what have we learned from past ones? Let’s meet. Let’s converse. When you arrive, you’ll get to know a few new and different others from this area. You’ll be able to participate in a new way of connecting that might be unlike anything else you’ve experienced. DK has been hosting conversation salons since 2006 in Seattle, bringing to the table a decade of experience in facilitating discussions that have a center, and not sides. Let’s meet, connect, and talk about ‘Then & Now.’
The venue will be Kahvila, a cafe just steps away from the local architectural gem, the Shingle Church (pictured), which as DK has learned was built in 2000 in response to the loss of an older church, using methods and materials respectful of a much earlier time. This is the beginning of a new series, ‘Hei Kesä,’ which will be held in coming weeks. These conversation salons are a hybrid of facilitation methods DK have adapted from Open Space hosting methods, years of design consulting work, and general curiosity about ways of gathering new and different perspectives.
Tickets inclusive of: 1 filled croissant + 1 tea or coffee, and 1 zine of your choice from DK’s June collection.
Do you ever feel like it’s getting more and more difficult to find ways to meaningfully connect with others in stimulating conversation?
Let me repeat that.
Do you ever feel like it’s getting harder to meaningfully connect? I do mean meaningfully, not trivially
Was this easier in the past? (Or is that just an idea in my head? Like so many things, it’s easy to start to become nostalgic about ‘the way things were, before.’ But what are the bright spots of now?)
What are the modern, day-to-day items that give our life meaning, items we didn’t have before, but are important to us now? Let’s converse. Let’s meet and discover new ways of thinking, new perspectives, and new people. And old ones, too. Let’s talk about ‘Then & Now.’
In this series, you’ll have a chance to join a conversation salon that is designed to make it easy to talk deeply and connect with strangers in a very short space of time.
Hosted by Design Kompany, ‘Then & Now’ invites you to consider questions about where we are at this moment in time, where we’ve come from, and what we can imagine for our futures. Come with an open mind to hear expert speakers, make new friends, experience a ‘conversation salon’, play with improvisational theatre, and enjoy delicious food and drinks.
DK’s hosted salons since 2006 in Seattle, London, Malmö, and Copenhagen.
This conversation salon is part of the programme Atelier S P A C E.
HELSINKI, Oulu, and Kärsämäki. New and different others. Conversations in S P A C E, intermingling with our online ones in these protected pages. Discovering and connecting people whose paths might not have otherwise crossed, that’s what we are up to, here at DK. Sounds like a big project, doesn’t it? I used to think so. But the more I go, the more I see that people are really interested in connecting, like for real, and that they truly do value genuine conversations, and the kind of space that lets those things just naturally happen.
Hard to find authenticity in the era of superficial social media, which is about bragging and facades and feeling bad, and stuff like that. I am ambivalent about it. I have an instagram account but don’t know what to use it for, or how. I don’t care to write about myself, not really, just the opportunities we are sharing for people who are curious to come out and check out the online and offline spaces. Why? Because it’s easier to discover more about one another when we actually take a chance and show up for a thing… this ‘hands-off’ thing that is the nature of our modern communications, in which replies come and go in sporadic fashion and people are available (or not) through so many multiple layers of channels of texting… It befuddles me. I’m an emailer. I have the occasional phone call. I converse with those guests who join DK in S P A C E. It’s working. We’re talking. Like for real, and I like it like this. On my way soon to find the next suite of guests for, I hope, ’16N.’ In which 16 strangers meet in one moment of conversation. Might it happen? We did this in London, Hanoi, Bangkok, and Phnom Penh. Could happen. Helsinki has an ‘N’ in it. The theme for ‘N’ Helsinki is NEW. Meantime, we’re also interweaving S P A C E the forum with the real life atelier in Kärsämäki: check out ‘Slow Moment’ to see how you can take part, it’s listed at our upcomings page. Here’s to the journeys, the new and the next.
ATELIER S P A C E || FINLAND. Atelier S P A C E happens in Kärsämäki on 21 July, which is International Zine Day. We’ll make a photozine this time. It’ll take place again in Helsinki, at the end of May and then again at the end of August. Somewhere in the middle of the summer when the festivals are on, we’ll also host an Atelier S P A C E session in Oulu. Check out the upcomings to see what’s what.
DK offer an 8-week online programme, JAZZ. It’s designed for jazz artists who want to be able to succinctly, genuinely, and meaningfully answer this question for new audiences.
First impressions count.
You only get 11 second to make that first impression, according to a friend in software sales.
And: ‘Oh. You like jazz? Jazz?… Jazz has a serious (design and) marketing problem.’
The problem with jazz today: ‘It’s hard to relate’
JAZZ MUSICIANS and jazz artists might have a great time making music, but when it comes to getting other people—fans—to see the value of it, that’s quite another skill set that takes more energy and work than many are prepared to do on their own. Hiring agents is one way, sure, but even then, you have to deal with them, and handle them, and that adds a layer of relationship management that is probably not ideal. Still, in a conversation salon with a gentleman who was in his 70s and worked in commercial photography all his life, we learned that if you don’t get an agent to market your work, for you, then you might as well give it up if you have aspirations to become ‘known.’
You do the work, make the art. Perhaps you’re aware of the commencement speech about this topic, ‘Make good art‘. But… is that enough? Artists and designers and musicians and architects and we smalltime business owners each struggle with this question. How much is enough? Where do I draw the line? Am I being true to the vision I set out to do?
But back to marketing. What if you could do it yourself, but do it in a way that really works?
That’s what we are investigating in the notes below. DK are searching the web and conversing with artists to get to know what works, what doesn’t work, and how to do this marketing stuff with real class in jazz, specifically. How do you keep it real?
What came back inspired this new 8-week only programme, JAZZ.
ART x DESIGN. Wherever we go and when we connect with our creative friends, we keep digging into this question, and others, like, ‘What do you do when you’re not sure what to do?’ Artists. Designers. Illustrators. Manga-ka. People who are doing and making, and sharing, and competing with the world of clickbait, short-form, and the elusive arena of quality, which is becoming very hard to define, very quickly, in light of the plethora of ‘lookatthisnow’ and ‘lookatme’ selfie-ism and related attention-seeking bits.
IN SEATTLE in the 2000s, DK were in the business of designing brand identity. Sharpening focus, and getting people to see what it was they truly wanted to communicate. That involved deep introspection, of course. Reflective questioning. In the end, most of our clients were those in the creative fields (architects, designers, and software developers). It got interesting. It started to be about the question, ‘Why do we even make stuff?’ and sometimes more obscure and existentialist than that, ‘What am I doing with my life?’
Now, I believe, personally, from those experiences, that a big part of the reason why it’s hard to get people to see you as an artist of a particular kind (successful? Is that the word?) is because it’s hard to clarify the ‘what I’m great at’ question to yourself. I mean, communicating that in a way that people can relate to and they can see how this is going to make their life better, in some way. If you’re an artist, have you honestly asked yourself this: ‘What am I great at?’ Have you clearly narrowed it down to just one thing? When we walked through our old brand identity design process for a friend who makes electronic jazz music, he told us that the process ‘really helps me break this down.’ That was a good indicator that sometimes just talking it out and getting feedback and clarity through the process (the design process, let’s say), can get you out of the old frameworks where everything is a possibility and niching doesn’t seem possible… yet. Talking. Clarifying. Niching. These are the words of marketers, aren’t they?
In his article, ‘Marketing Jazz and the Public Perception,’ at AllAboutJazz.com, Chuck Anderson writes, ‘I have some thoughts on the marketing of jazz musicians and audiences. Though it’s easy to blame the media (and they deserve some of the blame), I think the biggest problem lies squarely on the shoulders of jazz musicians and the jazz community… This community has never promoted or marketed its art and craft at the level or with the same intensity as other musical idioms… jazz… must be marketed with consistency and enthusiasm. It needs to recognize the role of fans in the success of any artist. The musicians have to do their part in promoting and marketing their art and craft… There is too often a distance and certain type of elitism that prevents audiences from getting “close.” This distance does not help spread the “good word” about jazz… The jazz musician and the jazz industry will, like any other business, have to invest in the services that are necessary to build a fan base and achieve worldwide exposure for their music, products and services. Read the article here.
Is jazz’ problem that people can’t connect?
Or something else?
What about ‘engaging with fans?’
This thread, started by jazz guitarist Henry Robinett, parses that query. Shows the difficulty in adjusting to the ways in which jazz musicians promote themselves and find new audiences. Is social media a great thing? Or is it a pain in the neck? What about the people who are ‘making it?’ What are they doing that’s so great, and are they really making it fiscally, or just in the eyes of their social media stats-watchers? I’m totally guilty of this myself; I met a pianist I thought was great and his big-deal promoter but when I went to twitter I saw he had not-that-many-as-I-thought fans. At the time I was on twitter a ton and was ‘growing my audience,’ but now, I’ve deleted it because… who cares? I’m interested in directly engaging, one conversation at a time… Maybe that’s slower… but I’m old school that way. I care about quality connection, that’s why I’m at DK. I care about art. Relationships are art. Music that’s great is great conversation, and that, too, is art. But I’m getting off topic, aren’t I? Check out that thread… it’s on a community forum about where the music is going and how to market it.
‘Hard to relate to.’
I’m sure you’ve heard some of these things, too, before? If yes, let’s keep talking, because I think we’re hitting on something.
What jazz has that’s interesting to business: Creativity, flexibility and innovation
Maybe we’re not the first ones, though. Check out this abstract from a researcher:
This paper applies the metaphor of jazz improvisation to strategic marketing planning, making specific reference to Piercy and Morgan’s (1994) marketing planning model. Jazz metaphors have become increasingly prevalent in management studies, but as yet there is no specific reference to their use in marketing planning literature. The aim is to fill this gap by showing how the techniques of improvisation around a structural core can be applied to marketing planning models. Current models are too structurally rigid, and we outline steps to a more flexible approach. We invoke two models – ‘jazzers’ and ‘readers’ – and aim to show that ‘jazzers’ will yield greater success through greater levels of creativity, flexibility and innovation; elements that are essential to the success of strategic marketing planning. After characterising the models of jazzers and readers, we will apply them directly to Piercy and Morgan’s model of strategic marketing planning. —‘Jazz and marketing planning.’ That’s the title. Kind of ironic, isn’t it? Anyway, it’s by Noel Dennis & Michael Macaulay Read the abstract
Gain clarity and fine-tune the message with DK’s online workshop, JAZZ.
Jazz inspires business. Cool.
But what can jazz learn from business?
How to set goals, be clear about identity, make a commitment to a strategy, outline a program for communicating that vision. And yeah. Making sales.
If you are struggling with communicating your music and your style visually, DK can help. We’ve done a couple of really fun projects in the jazz scene: a drawing for a CD that came straight out of the notebook of a live-drawing session at a show in Copenhagen, for example, and a collaboration, ‘Math + Jazz,’ just ahead of a show of one of the mathematician-cum-pianists, who co-hosted with DK a small salon in the Elephant Bar at Raffles Royale in Phnom Penh. That was cool. Some pics:
Curious what people have said about working with DK?
Check out what our (mostly brand identity design) clients have said, here.
SCHEDULE. This online workshop is 8 weeks.
WHAT HAPPENS. Here’s how it works. Each week you’ll get an email with a thought-provoking conversation-starter. You’ll dialogue with DK and work through some of the ‘why do I do this?’ and ‘who wants to know?’ questions that anyone in marketing will ask you to think about. But with an additional component: a visual sketch of a single, unifying concept. The foundation for your brand. What does it look like? How does it ‘sing?’ These are questions designers like to ask their clients in early conversations during what’s called ‘the creative brief questionnaire.’ We’re going to go about it in online format, over 8 weeks. What you’ll get is a 5-word focus on the things your music does for people, and what makes it yours, uniquely, too.
WHAT YOU GET. Walk away with a clear picture of the ‘who I am’ and ‘why this matters’ questions. You’ll go through DK’s ‘focus’ programme, and we’ll work with you through an interactive conversation over 8 weeks to write your ‘brand statement’. That’s the deliverable.
FEES. This online programme is a flat, onetime fee.. Note: this does not include design, only dialogues and exchanges that lead to the ‘brand statement.’ This is a special sample-size programme that we offer so you can succinctly and memorably answer the question, ‘What’s your music like?’
Request more info
Use the form below to connect with us, sharing a link to your websites. More to follow, from there.
Looking for the kinds of places where you can go in the world and just hang out, write, or work, from the comfort of your desk-that-goes-where-you-do?
DESIGN KOMPANY is offering a short course that’s completely online from [update] 7 October called ‘The Cojournal Project: A Nomadic Existence.’ In this, we will be communicating once a week with you about the kinds of topics that are popping up as people who are moving away from traditional 9-5 lifestyles and finding themselves in cafes all over Southeast Asia, where we are, are starting to talk about the way of life that, for a lot of us, is weird and curious but also… freeing.
This programme is hosted by DK’s own Dipika Kohli, who was a staff editor at daily in Seattle and a bi-weekly in southwest Ireland (2002-2005) before turning to interactive magazines and spacemaking for conversations that get us out of boxes. In 2014, she won a Ted Howard Scripps fellowship for environmental journalism, flying to Colorado to get to know more about the field of writing for the sake of not just infotainment but actually depth and substance. She got talking with fellow editors around the United States then, and afterwards through continued correspondence, about how to make better space for conversations that actually move. That, for example, develop, progress, and teach us something interesting.
WRITING TO LEARN SOMETHING. Instead of talking about writing for the sake of publishing, what if we talked about writing for the sake of getting to know what we were even thinking. Like, writing towards a kind of clarity on who it is you really are, and what it is you really care about. A lot of people seem to go traveling to ‘get lost and find center,’ at least, that’s what I noticed from half o the people I’ve met on my travels in the 1990s (Ireland, India, Japan, USA), and more recently, in Southeast Asia (Malaysia, Cambodia, Thailand, Viet Nam, Nepal). Getting out of your space and seeing what else is in the world is a way of finding out a) what you want, and b) what you don’t want. But often we don’t have a chance to process what we are discovering because we are talking to the people we already know, instead of the people who are also on the same kinds of journeys.
A nomadic existence is a choice; it’s not for everyone, but it works for some of us. Knowing why and how, and being able to pinpoint those things for each of us, is a matter of simply delving into the questions and letting the answers come as they might. You know, you don’t have to have it all figured out at the start. You don’t even have to have it figured out in the middle, or at the end; the point is to know that you are searching and seeking with an intention that involves really caring about the journey. You have to care if you want it to become anything interesting.
What work you do, where you choose to ‘settle,’ if you choose to settle at all, whom you decide to partner with, if that’s something you want to do, and all the big questions of our lives that are related to these things that those of us finding ourselves in certain positions of privilege and capacity to move around the world and talk to people on the internet and somehow make some cash through that work is, well, a kind of curious set of things. If you are interested in writing towards some sense of self-awareness, and doing that with a small circle of others who are also ‘on’ for this kind of a challenge, consider applying for the Cojournal Project 2018.
We started this out in 2014, quietly, and it led to a short eBook anthology, The Mirror. In January of this year we opened The Mirror up as a separate workshop—100% online—that became a conversation space with forums, passwords and weekly prompts. I think that the interconnectivity of it is what made it truly great. Engaging with others who are very different from yourself: at least on the surface—is a way to start to get a perspective that is hard to find in everyday life.
‘Rereading Edward de Bono‘s book Teaching Your Children How To Think in recent days, I was reminded of the importance of sharing the variation of perspectives with young people,’ writes Dipika Kohli. ‘Of making it a priority to show them that there isomer than one way to look at a thing. That ‘rightness’ is a problem. That the argumentative stance that people like to take in Western societies, in which you get to feel good by putting someone else down, or by more eloquently arguing your way towards a position (even if it’s completely garbage, like showing through math that 2+2 = 5 (HT F), well, you see where I’m going wit this, right?)’
Make a space and find the muse
TAKE THE TIME to write with others. Journal your way towards clarity. Find the muse when you make the space. Not a lot, don’t worry. Each week’s prompt is designed to take just 20 minutes to complete. People say they like this because it holds them accountable to themselves, knowing that there will be a new prompt dropping into the inbox on Monday. Every week, 7AM USEST.
What’s different about this programme from the other online journaling projects we’ve seen online is that it happens in S P A C E, that is, it’s interactive. What you write influences what prompts follow.
This is not an algorithm or AI, this is a real person, Design Kompany’s creative director Dipika Kohli, for this project, will be customizing the next week’s prompts based on what you are writing in, as a small group. listening, sharing, empathizing: it’s all int here, but it takes showing up to get the best out of it. Take the 20 minutes of your week available to connect and to re-connect, first with yourself, then with others.
Design Kompany’s work is to make space for people to notice one another, and themselves. To pay attention. To notice the moment. That will dissolve before we know it. Ephemera, relational aesthetics, conversation space design… these are our beats. Ask us anything. Talk to us. Connect through the form at our ‘About’ page, and if this all sounds curious, try it out. We’re doing this for 12 weeks, [update] starting 7 October.
Application required. Open invitation. Apply here.
Update: April 12. Very warm thank-you to those who helped me think carefully about the writing for the letter to ask for funds for the Finland programme. I am going to circle back to you individually, so hang on there for a bit, and I will give you the personal report on what’s going to happen next. Meantime, check out the updates on this project at this page.
Be sure to add your name to the mailing list there to be more closely connected, in the months to come.