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.
That’s the advice writers get when we are starting to write.
I think that’s pretty marvelous advice, except, um. We’re writing. So how do you ‘show?’
Well, it’s a good thing I brought the new camera. I’m borrowing it. From BOSS. It has a bunch of cool lenses and I’m enjoying the depth of field play, for the first time in many years. I don’t have an iPhone, so I don’t take camera pics. I don’t carry the old digital camera (the one you can put in your pocket) around because that means having to bring the battery charger and remember all the parts and figure out how to load up things to the computer. Of course I don’t bring around my old Minolta X-375, because… film. And where is it, anyway? I hope it’s in some box safely tucked away in one of the many, many attics and behind-the-staircase closets of friends and relatives on another continent, where I remember seeing it last. But this new camera. Is reminding me of the old one. Except, you don’t have to advance the film. And, it doesn’t make that oh-so-satisfying shutter click sound. But there are pros. I never have to worry about running out of film. I’m not the kind of person who constantly checks the picture to see how it looks, either, so I do really stay with the subjects when I’m with them. That’s just how I am. I feel pretty strongly about paying attention to the things you photograph, which might be why I’m always complaining about people talking selfies indiscriminately here and there and everywhere, or meeting someone for two seconds and wanting to grab a picture with them. Howcome? What is the emotion there? There isn’t any. It’s not going to make an artful picture. So what is the point of making it?
STRONG OPINIONS. If you meet me in real life, you will know that I talk about this a lot. About the lack of attentiveness to relationship-building. It has to start slow. Slow and steady. I feel. For it to last. Maybe not everyone wants a thing to last. But I don’t like this insta-pic culture, and I don’t like throwaway relationships, either. I like quality. I think I’ve been blogging those three words quite a lot in public and password-protected pages, here. I do. I want that. And for quality to happen, you have to build the space so that it is welcoming, inviting, comfortable. THEN you can get intimate. You know, I feel this way about the subjects I photograph, too. It’s not always portraits of people: sometimes it’s my zines. Or art books. Sometimes it’s butterflies, and lately, it’s birch trees. Koivu.
There’s a two-page spread coming together for the zine, about Koivu. I’ll be sure to write about that in today’s issue of S P A C E. But that’s for the inner circles, people who are members of this community, and whose monthly subscriptions make doing this work even possible. (Thankyou.)
I took some photos to mock things up, rapid prototyping being my favorite thing in the word. How is it going to look and feel? I need to sketch it out, quickly, to see if it’s actually worth doing. I think this one is. There were a lot of mini-tests in my first two weeks her win Finland, and I have a bunch of time before the International Zine Day event that will be the date I launch this new photozine. So I’m going to lay low, write some more, see if I can get a poem or two translated into Finnish.
This is my process. Thinking and jamming with people who are resonant with the things that are beginning to emerge. Letting go when the rapid testing shows, ‘Hey. This is a dead end.’ Getting over it. Being okay with it when your expectations fall short of the reality of a thing. Learning to enjoy the unexpected highs, like five-star cooking that appears every so often when you couldn’t possibly have imagined it, and it’s good, and what’s better, it’s warm. Friends, company. Learning, sharing. Making new kinds of books. Exploring needle and thread and improvising on bookbinding. Gathering more materials. Looking around. Walking outside. Talking to trees. Winston Churchill did that, I read once. It’s not crazy. Philosophy isn’t irrelevant, either. In fact, it’s the only thing that will get us out of this weird loop we’re in, of navel-gazing and anxiety-making, and othering, and line-drawing, boundary-making, political ensnarements, and the all around slap of ‘Really? This is the best we could do, as humanity, after all this time?’ But then I remember MB’s advice and conversations with him about this topic. Yes, this is the best it’s gotten. And it’s not all rotten. Remembering the slow moments. That’s the work, for now.
UPDATE. This is what the zine is looking like, so far. Not bad, huh? Now. Let’s get to writing. –DK
NEXT MONTH, we’re going to host an online conversation called ‘Slow Moment.’
It’s designed for writers, photographers and people who practice slowing in all its many, many forms. In this post, I’m going to tell you a little bit about how the online projects here at DK work, and also, why we’re doing the 12-week sequence on the theme, ‘Slow Moment.’ I’ll start with the latter.
The idea started when we hosted ‘The Mirror‘, in which one prompt was ‘Slow Moment,’ and the responses that came were so fantastic that it led me to dedicate an entire 12-week block to just this subject. We talked about family, the woods, walking. Hikes, oceans, and being on our own. We talked about wanting to go places, going there, and what happened when we did. Relationships. Journeys. Endings, and new starts.
OPEN SPACE. Popouts. Allowing people to spend more time talking together about the topics they are most interested in. That’s how Open Space works, and that’s how we’ve been conducting our four-years-and-counting online project, S P A C E. It’s a salon. It’s a workshop. It’s a community. (And it’s just celebrated its fourth birthday.)
For me, moving towards the focusing in 2018 on the conversations that have developed and progressed is a really cool, fun step. Maybe we’ll create an anthology, perhaps a photozine, to share sometime in the fall, based on where we take things now. You never know how things can flow, they can meander, they can fizzle, they can blossom, they can die. It’s not a big deal, really, what happens. It makes room for new things to grow. New input. Original thinking. Freshness, space… that sets the stage for innovation.
HERE’S THE THING. I could have continued doing design for the next hundred years, when the work was happening and I was getting into it, and clients were referring DK, and so on. But what did I do? Move to the other side of the country, start over. That’s how it changed into more of consulting work; but also, salons. Started doing weirder and funner things, like ‘Aether: Is the Medium Still the Message?’, a series in which we invited guests to talk with us about the old ideas and the new ones when it comes to making media. Took that from Durham NC up to Washington DC, then New York’s Bryant Park, then Boston. Came back and made even more, even weirder installations. (Like ‘I Went 2 the City (And There Was Nothing There’, and more. I can talk about them for pages and pages, but that’s not the purpose, here.)
I want to invite you to join us in S P A C E, if you are getting a link to this page from me personally, especially. When it comes to making this invitation, what I care about is the spacemaking. I show up. I have the thing designed. If people enter the box of S P A C E to play, and they do, they really do, sometimes, then I’m happy to host. That’s how it’s been and that’s what’s going to happen now. I’ve just received the first application for the 2 July start of ‘Slow Moment.’
IT’S A PLEASURE as always to read these applications. It feels like getting letters in the mailbox. It’s personal, it’s warm-hearted, it’s sharing. People write a lot of beautiful things. I can’t tell you what they are, because of confidentiality, but the whole thing makes me feel very humble. If writing for the sake of writing were all there was, we would keep our manuscripts in drawers and never show them to anyone. Of course, that happens, and it’s cool, if that’s your thing to just write and be a writer or photograph and be a photographer, and never share, then cool. That’s you. But it’s not me.
Sharing is a part of the experience, to me, of making art. And being ‘in’ on the process of how a thing is made is something, I’m just realizing as I write this, and as I make zines with people here in Finland, is a huge piece of my own approach to art. If you can’t see how it’s been made, what is the fun of seeing it in its final form? Especially now that we have this two-way medium of communicating (web!), why not enjoy the process of developing our works, as we are making them, with others to write with, share with, post pictures to, engage with. But I’m not talking about 1:N. I’m talking about very small circles. Like, four people in each. I’m inspired by my way back in the day fifth grade class, and the style we used to have there, in small groups. Four of us would have desks facing each other, and we had these little ‘pods.’ I’ve since learned about the ‘jigsaw‘ method of teaching, and realize what an impact it had on my own way of learning, approaching things, and asking peers for their ideas on what I want to know more about.
That’s probably why I’ve reached out, in recent months, to more than a dozen of my favorite photographers. People whose work I’ve seen in real life, or really admired and reached out to and subsequently met up with just to talk art-shop. People who are doing really cool things. Whom I wanted to ask, ‘What do you think about really seeing, really noticing, really going into the quiet spaces and enjoying them, and then, somehow, photographing or capturing them through written words? It’s a big question, for sure. But… what do you think?’
Some of their answers are already prepared for you, in the upcoming workshop… ahead.
But to give you a sneak peek, here’s some of what I learned.
SLOW MOMENTS let us remember what our story is. To ourselves, about ourselves, but also, who we are in relation to others. (And in an existential way, to the cosmos). In many ways, I think for many of us taking part in DK’s online salon-workshops, we’re just talking together in these online circles because it gives us a place to share.
I’ve been making S P A C E salons in real life for a while now, and the goal is to create a cozy space where people who don’t know one another can simply be together, and talk if they want, or not-talk if they feel inclined that way, and simply be who they want to be, which I hope, in S P A C E, is who they really are. So many other facades are out. So many guards are up. In the real world, I mean, and in the social media world, too. But who are we really? When I connect with people in S P A C E, I feel I’m talking directly to them, their real selves, without all the layers. That’s a privilege and a responsibility. But I think, I do really think, that I’m getting kinda good at this. That’s why I’m not quitting the salon-hosting online, not yet. I’m going to keep hosting as long as I get amazing applications. And I do. So I will.
S P A C E is where we write, talk, and comment; it’s asynchronous, and it’s international. I encourage pen names, too. It’s not about google-ability or sounding smart, or anything weird like social media commenting status quo goes. I don’t understand how social media got so out of hand. I really miss those days when twitter wasn’t algorithm-y, nor did it have promoted ads, and we could just say ‘hi!’ to @anyone, and it was chronological, and not driven by… agendas… Of all varieties.
PIENOISLEHTIEN TEKEMINEN on Suomessa vielä harvinainen harrastus. Työpajajassa tutustut lehtien tekemisen mahdollisuuksiin ja opit taittelemanan ja tekemään uniikkeja tai monistettavia vihkosia. Sisältö voi olla kuvia, tekstiä tai ehkäpä pieni tarina.
PIENOISLEHTIEN TEKEMINEN on Suomessa vielä harvinainen harrastus. Työpajajassa tutustut lehtien tekemisen mahdollisuuksiin ja opit taittelemanan ja tekemään uniikkeja tai monistettavia vihkosia. Sisältö voi olla kuvia, tekstiä tai ehkäpä pieni tarina. Millaisen lehden sinä voisit tehdä? Pajaan osallistuminen ei vaadi aiempaa kokemusta tai valmista ideaa. Ohjaajina taiteilijat Dipika Kohli, Design Kompany (US). Ohjaus suomesksi ja englanniksi. €10
MAKING ZINES. At this hands-on workshop, you can explore the possibilities of making a ‘zine,’ short for ‘magazine’. Learn how to craft unique, or limited-edition booklets. Content may be images, text or perhaps a small story. What kind of magazine could you do? Participation does not require any previous experience or a complete idea. This workshop will be hosted by artist Dipika Kohli of Design Kompany (US). It will be in Finnish and English. €10
‘Today I Love You’ art installation reception & zine reading | Durham NC, DK 2012
DK’s roving, popup zinemaking atelier S P A C E will be sharing ‘Slow Moment,’ a new photozine, on that day, in real life.
FINNISH SUMMER. What we are doing zining in Finland is a different story, but what’s ahead for July is this. DK is in sketching phase with possible co-creators to make: a set of three mini-workshops to bring the zine experience to the public spaces in this small town. ‘This is a zine,’ DK are saying to people we are meeting. ‘Let’s try making one?’ DK’s Dipika Kohli–a former journalist, a graphic designer, and all around improviser–is hosting. After arriving and getting a sense of this place and what we want to do here, DK are in good conversation streams with: Kärsämäki retailers, its local library, and an artist co-operative where we are being hosted this summer. (Zinemaking: like we were doing in Singapore, but way, way lower key. You learn from the past things, right?)
Top: Ahead is the Atelier S P A C E | Kärsämäki project. Bottom sequence: In the past, DK have hosted zine popups and shows in Singapore, Durham NC USA, and Chiang Mai. Photos by DK and OMNI Studiophotos.
CONTENT. How to make a zine, how to rediscover real life, how to enjoy new conversations with people you haven’t met before (or have, but haven’t seen in a while, or have seen but have never spoken to–adjusting this for small-town life), how to enjoy the process of being offline and cutting, pasting, folding, drawing, and how to experience a new media form are all part of the unfolding series. We are jazzed about this jam. A zine. Is new. To a lot of people, where we go. But a zine. Is simple. To make.
‘HELLO SUMMER.’ The summer series, ‘Hei Kesä,’ will gather, we hope, both younger people and young-at-heart people and interconnect the community in a new way. It’s going to be different, for sure, from our past ateliers, and that’s exactly why we’re excited. A full month to prepare. Zines to make, every day, in the meantime. Articles to post to the people who have already pre-ordered the photozine we will create from this town, S P A C E | Kärsämäki. (Read more and support this project, when you pre-order S P A C E | Kärsämäki here.)
Or be a part of it from a distance, when you pre-order a copy of the photozine. You’ll have access to the online forum S P A C E | ‘Slow Moment’ between now and the end of July, when you do.
EXPRESSIONS. Developing new voices has been our work until this point in time at DK. Now we are exploring our own. Designing space for new and different others to find remarkable connexion. But how? Practicing our way towards the answers. Or… the questions. What are yours? Comments are open, for now.
I’m in a small part of the middle of it, close-ish to Oulu, and about six hours north of Helsinki. It’s called Kärsämäki. Will be sharing this photozine later on this summer. The reason I’m here is to make it.
Making a zine
But before getting caught up in the production-mode, I’m laying low and getting my bearings. I like to take my time. Plus, the theme for the photozine is ‘Slow Moment,’ which means you should probably get accustomed to slowing down a little before you take photos angled at that idea. No? I feel this way. I’m also realizing that black and white is the way to go for this. And that fewer words are going to be in it than most of the zines I have been making at Atelier S P A C E moments in the past. (View the new collection at this page.)
ATELIER S P A C E. This work started in Sept. 2017 with the first of the popup zinemaking ateliers, Atelier S P A C E || Battambang. So wonderful was that offline experience that I went to other cities and made more things, some of the time with others, some of the time with just me. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, you know, showing up for you don’t even know what’s going to happen yet. But I swear, that’s the way I’ve lived my whole life, and that’s why I’ve lived in so many countries [Ireland, Japan, United States, Cambodia, for 3+ years each], and had so many kinds of jobs [architecture, journalism, design], and built so many opportunities for myself. Show up, and magic happens. It does. It really, really does.
Zines? Why this format? They are short. They are accessible. They are easy to produce, and distribute. They are often photocopied, and the best part is they’re not pretentious. You can have literature in the pages, but that’s not the point. The point is that a group of people connect in time, and space, and make something, on the spot, together. Creative nonfiction comes out of this. Sometimes drawings, sometimes poetry. Sometimes more. But it’s always about seeing what emerges, when you allow the space to take the shape it wants, instead of over direct or overprogramme. The problem for me with most stuff is that they want to have a specific outcome, and these are the ‘key takeaways’ or ‘learning goals,’ but what I love the most is a lab. Give me a place to play around with stuff, so I can find out what comes out, naturally, when you move towards the things that move you. Little kids play in this way: they gravitate to what interests them. Some people let them. That’s more my style.
‘You’re a genuine person, and more people should know about you,’ said one of the younger people I met on my travels in Malaysia earlier this year. I think he really wants to see DK and our whole team here get… well… famous, but. We. Just. Don’t. Care. What I said was that I’ve resisted this in many ways because I think that you should work on finding the thing that is your thing, and not get caught up in all the other stuff that seems, from the outside, to be a thing that an artist would want (external validation, for example, in all its many, many forms). But I liked hearing these words: you’re a genuine person.
Maybe that’s all the recognition I need.
FOR NOW, I’ve been getting acquainted with this new place; it’s a small campus, very small, of about three buildings. But the fields and the nature abound. You just have no clear idea of where you are the first moment, if Finland is new to you (and it was to me), but in a minute, it starts to become more obvious.
This irrigation ditch is where the blue wildflowers grow.
Those are the birch trees demarcating property lines.
These are the dirt roads for going into the thinner arteries of the roadwork. Here is where we dine.
Connect and disconnect
Genuine. Authenticity and transparency were things people said they liked about DK when we threw all those parties in Seattle in the 2000s. They liked this blog when it used to be bigger, and more writing like I’m writing now… I think I’ve forgotten to write directly and straight-up, this is what I’m doing. News-like. For example, ‘DK are in Finland to create a photozine with others who are interested in the story form as part of a collaboration with an artist-run co-operative.’
That’s really what’s going on. I should probably say yes to this invitation to go to Kärsämäki . I should disconnect for a while. That’s what I said. That’s why I came. That’s why, too, the theme is what it is. Slow. Moment.
No ads. In international development terms, that’s like having no donor. Or in tech startup terms, it’s like having no venture capitalist who looks like Mr. Burns from the Simpsons and who will own you and all you make before you even know what happened. Or in creative fields like moviemaking it’s like not having a studio sign you, or in music, a label, or in writing, a publishing company. Sure. Of course that means you’ll be way, way less known. But so? The canvas is completely yours. (Besides, what’s really funny now is when I meet someone and they say, ‘You’re a writer? Oh? Written anything I would know?’ I kinda have to laugh, because probably they haven’t even read Dickens, or other massive basics.) But what was I saying? Oh, right. Freedom. Creative freedom. I’ve engineered my whole life around this concept: it was the one thing I value the most. Freedom.
To do as you like.
To make what you want.
Which is huge, for me. Personally. (Sure took a lot of quiet reflection to figure that out. I’m glad I did, though. It changed everything.)
Lack of these variant models of ‘strings’ is exactly why, I think, we’re going to see some dramatic and beautiful moments, ahead, in S P A C E’s online and offline ateliers.
How to start anything
OH, SO I HAVE to tell you. There is this expression I learned when I was in Denmark three years ago (doing something similar, but less formally, that time I was writing the Book of Songs) that says, ‘You can’t just show up in a place and expect to be able to know anything about it. You have to put your finger in the ground for a while, first.’ Put your finger in the ground. I remember when I once took a trip to Portland from Seattle with BR, this was a road trip, and when I got to Portland my first day I just walked around–no pictures, no drawings, no writing–and only on my last day, when I met up with B. again to catch the lift back up north, only then did I get to the camera. It was that kind of way, for me, all my life, writing is not something you do until you have a thing you really feel like you can say. Unless you’re blogging of course. Blogging is about, for me, journaling my way towards something. Grappling with the curious and different, the space of not-knowing, and writing into it. Sometimes people read these, and maybe they feel something when they do, but for me, writing here is a way to share the journey. The journey is muddled with lack of conviction, and that first step towards making anything artful, I feel, is letting go of the idea that we, individually or even as a small group, have it ‘figured out.’ (Here is the reason I avoid groups, generally. They tend to lead, even if they are well-meaning, to one-toned echo chambers, what people call ‘thinking in silos’ and they also inadvertently cause that social ill of ‘othering’ and other stuff. One of the people I’ve had a little personality clash with in recent days is into something in a fashion one might call ‘zealous,’ and it has been trying every ounce of my patience. Fact. Recognizing that I have to do my own work of inviting new and different perspectives means dealing with it. Fact. Hard! But AM told me on the phone that it’s gong to help me grow. Growth is big around here at DK, so I need to practice this way towards it.)
Mm-hmm. Cultivating the ground for new ideas to pop out and to take shape means first leaving all your baggage at the airport, or wherever it is your point of departure from the ‘old and familiar’ into the ‘new and different’ begins. Not everyone is going to enjoy this esoteric tirade; certainly not some of the people I am here, with. Phew. I will refrain from diving into the details of bumping into some of them, but I’ll give you a clue, when you start your conversation with ‘Hello’ and the other person says, ‘I do not understand what you are doing with your life,’ it can get a little awkward. [Nothing has been as awkward, however, as showing up in Seattle with no idea that there is a culture of ‘the freeze,’ and doing this right after living in southwest Ireland for a spell, mind, where ’tis all grand altogether, like, and fierce interesting when a stranger comes to town. (Yes, Ireland, and Seattle. Yes, I like rain.)]
I LIKE WRITING loose, open style words and paragraphs. It’s more me. Less news, more story. More diary? More journaling. Wasn’t blogging, though, originally ‘web logging?’ When did everything turn into a mini-ad? I hate that. I stopped reading most of the articles I used to look for online because they tend to get chopped into a meatless, droning series of words that sound like a pitch and lead to nothing of value. I feel I have wasted my attention. That bothers me. I want quality. I want to focus. I want people to talk to with me in small circles who also care about these things. Slowing down, relaxing, discovering, sharing. But yeah.
Settling in (but not travelblogging)
FEELS KIND of like study abroad, except, we’re in charge of our independent courses and there are no classes, no professors, and no grades. There is no canteen, no cafeteria, no study hour. I have no classmates, nor do I need or want them. It’s a place to get away from ‘it all,’ I imagine, for those of us who choose to join this Kärsämäki artist residency programme here, and to be quiet and apart from the things that can distract us from accomplishing, because accomplishing to an artist looks very different than it does to, say, a businessman or entrepreneur. When I roam around in the cities connecting with and discovering people, I coast into the old habit of talking shop, talking about DK, talking about the past work in Seattle. I don’t go as far as handing out a business card (I don’t have these now), but I definitely have a tendency to talk more about DK than I do about S P A C E. That has changed, a little, in recent months, but it’s definitely been a work in progress. Moving more towards the art for the sake of art, or art because it feels good, or art because it’s a way to make better things that I imagine will lead to even better work when I do start client gigs again for DK when that happens. Et cetera. Now I’ve said that twice, see that? ‘Et cetera.’ Oh, thrice, then.
Writing for the sake of writing, writing for sharing, writing for connection, and writing to get better at writing are all part of the reasons, if people need them, of why I write. I’ve been writing my whole life, and what’s weird, is now I’m in a place where stilling and centering are part of the programme (more of this kind of slow moment is on the way, and we’re also going to be sharing the real life conversations and interweaving them with S P A C E’s online forums, by the way). What’s even weirder and more curious are things I will write down, every Friday, and post in the next issue of our online eZine, S P A C E. It takes time to get to know the things to write about, but I’ve been very mindful of whom I share these outcomes with; especially because a lot of times when you write from your heart, it can fall on deaf ears.
Not that this is such a tragedy. I have zero interest in most of the writing that’s ‘out there’ for people to read, freely. I’m much more interested in focusing on the few things I have been meaning to get to and especially getting to that when it relates to the projects at hand. I’ve got a couple of books with me, a poetry book that I found in Helsinki (a lovely size), and a volume I bought in Berkeley, Calif., about four years ago. These things are going to be important, I feel, to the work at hand to write the next things that I’ll share at this site. S P A C E zines, for example, but real live art books, too. I would like to see more of the handmade feel coming through in my upcoming pieces, so I’ve stopped doing things like social media for the time, to focus. To concentrate. To see where the next big thing is, artwise, and not otherwise.
ARTWISE & OTHERWISE. DK’s summer guest editor Michael Bridgett, Jr. wrote ‘Why I Art’ in recent days, and I often think back on the conversations we had in Phnom Penh at STAMMTISCH regular meet ups on Mondays. Real life. The best way to converse, I feel. But it’s harder and harder to make time and space for it, isn’t it? I’m phone less and uncontactable outside of email, and email is iffy, and google reads everything, and that makes it hard to feel like using the computer to talk, and I have zoom now, so that is way, way better than Skype for conversing, and so on, but it’s tough to make these phone appointments and keep them, and see if they go somewhere because we are all so busy and focused on our work. But for me, work is about learning about others, discovering their stories and uniqueness, and, occasionally, celebrating the moment of this kind of ‘I see you!’ by getting us together in real life in small circles. Sometimes it’s really great. Sometimes it’s disappointing, at first, but the work and the art of it is to move the direction of the flow so that it’s less disappointing and more great. You have to be open to these things changing, as we go. Rivers do. We do, too. Who stays the same after ten years? I don’t think that anyone I count among my friends does. Stagnation is boring. Staying in one place means missing out on the views from other ones. At least, that’s how I feel. That’s some of what we’re talking about in the conversation salon, ‘A nomadic existence,’ so maybe I’m biased because that is a set of people who are also moving around the world, all the time, not staying still, not putting down ‘a root,’ because we’re all about the ‘radicant growth’ that you can discover about if you google that term, and read more about ‘relational aesthetics.’
Let’s see where this party goes. Certainly it’s easy to stay up all night. It’s bright as hell, and I’m tired.
To support this project, pre-order the zine S P A C E || ‘Slow Moment’ here.
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.
I JUST LISTENED to Zeynep Tufekci‘s talk about AI on TED, ‘We’re building a dystopia just to make people click on ads.’ It’s about the specific ways companies like google and facebook and amazon are just selling our data… the way we do these things now, ‘communicating,’ I mean, where is it getting us? It is kinda sad, isn’t it? Fragmented and disconnected, more and more.
ISOLATION. We’re going into this crazy world of isolation, for what reason? Just so people can sell us stuff. Everything is so weird. No, I’m going to slow down, here in Finland. While also hosting Atelier S P A C E on International Zine Day (21 July), and bumping into the chance encounters here and there (and in, I think, Oulu). Let’s see what happens.
SLOW MOMENT. Next up, our online salon and real-life photography project, ‘Slow Moment.’ This is going to happen both here on the blog, in online forums in S P A C E. (Warm welcomes to those just joining today–look for my email at 7AM USEST in your inbox.) More about the project, in case you’re not familiar with Design Kompany’s interactive online magazine S P A C E and its associated programmes, can be found here.
DK ARE INVITING a handful of new guests to participate in our online forum-workshop, The Mirror. Just six spots, details are here. (Note: a new eligibility requirement applies, please apply only if you’re new to DK in 2018.) New. That’s what we like, around here. Keeps it interesting. Airy. Fresh.
THIS IS a conversation salon for people who are conscious about the state of the world and the implications of G R E E D. It’s a space for sharing and processing, together, with others whose paths we might not have crossed. The idea is to mix things up: social justice, activism, international development, sociology, political discourse… we are looking for people interested in these topics. As well as those in business, in positions of making policy, of tempering runaway G R E E D. Is this you? Let us know. A new prompt will post each Tuesday. You’ll have a week to reply in an asynchronous forum, hosted at this website, and we’ll move the dialogue to what emerges, the following week. This takes place on Tuesdays in May. Let’s talk about G R E E D. Let’s work some stuff out.
Is it April 30? Happy International Jazz Day. Many thanks to Herbie Hancock and the United Nations for making IJD. Thanks to this year’s organizers for including DK’s first Kuala Lumpur event, STAMMTISCH, in the International Jazz Day global events listings. To celebrate, we made you a kind of mix tape. A visual mix tape, out of the jazzy images we’ve made over the years here at Design Kompany.
S P A C E
J A Z Z
A G A L L E R Y
Music? Music can save us. We’re not musicians, but we love music, and I, personally, love the improvisational music that is J A Z Z. Sometimes I like to make word-poems, like ‘The Good Stuff,’ with my team (listen on SoundCloud), but I’m mostly an appreciator. I like to go to shows and draw jazz with pens, some of those pictures are below, and sometimes, I just like to cut-and-paste while the music is playing. Live. It’s neat. It’s fun. It’s a good conversation. And it’s getting even better. Every year we meet new people, new artists, and we grow to learn more about the ‘how’ and ‘howcome’ of making Art and also making S P A C E. For now, here we are.
And here you go. May I present…
The gallery, ‘J A Z Z.’
The A side
ART x THE JAM. It’s funny. I just went to a jazz club and met some pianists who played ‘free jazz’ and ‘bebop’ and that was exactly what I wanted to hear. It is hard to come by this kind of thing, here in Asia, and in the middle of a streak of long, beautiful, meandering conversation jams I found myself boarding a bus away from KL to process everything and just kinda thinking, ‘Huh. It’s all right, then. Do the thing you want to do. Make it happen for you.’ Advice I’ve been given before, in the 1990s. By, none other than someone who introduced me to the late-late night sets of live jazz, wouldyoubelieve. More about that to come, later, in S P A C E for the members who have been part of these internet and interconnective conversations for the last four years. (Thank you).
The B side
At No Black Tie Wednesday night in KL, I met Aya Setine and Don Gomes. Talked art. Design. Writing. Engineering. Chatted away with for a long series of minutes about everything, including the good Loston Harris, whose work I really love and wish more people knew about. (Check out his cover of ‘Shall we Dance?’)
At the show, I came over with my usual supplies for the ‘Book of Songs’ series, which is an impromptu set compiled from whatever falls to hand in the moments-just-before. This time, I had my pens, paper, indexcards, and a knife. For no reason, really. But a knife for paper-cutting. Just in case. Ball point pens, in this moment. And yeah. No clipboard this time. The ball point pen worked all right. (It didn’t leak. I have been in situations where it leaks, all over, embarrassing, but kinda fun, too, because yeah, like paint to canvas, pen to paper. Flying around. Getting into it. This is the jam.)
The whole thing.
POETRY. Quickly, a shout-out. Next day, after the jazz show, there was more conversation about /the art of art/ and related tangents and suchmuch. Continuing the jamming, as there was, for me, a feeling of ‘anything is possible.’ And a conversation on Thursday. That came organically and easily, and in real life, the blind date that DK had with the poet Saarah Choudhury; wow. Look her up, ladies and gentlemen and watch this space: @eastwest_nomad, on insta. So good to meet her. And we are going to do a Q&A soon, so watch out for that, in S P A C E. (Join us, see link below for how to become a member). All of these threads got me singing in the shower again. And also, they sent me straight back to the very beginnings of this creative-life story, and the early 1990s, a time when I started writing, drawing, making it up. It’s really funny: most of the things I do are not for commercial use now. I used to do that. Day job in newspapers; illustration art (not a lot. I never managed to be any good at commission-getting with that). Not a problem, though. I let it evolve, because I needed to see where it would go. Big warm hugs to Patti Rieser, too, who taught me the ‘jazz step’ to dance to, a little bit of a square, but nothing at all squarish.
JAZZ DAY. DK are excited today to participate in a world event that brings people together to improvise, and play. Celebrating jazz, and for DK, listening out for new jazz in Southeast Asia, specifically. We’re looking forward to seeing more new voices coming out strong from this part of the world, and hoping to also make more stages (formal and informal) for all of us to get out of our regular confined melodies and play a little more !*…. What is ‘!*’? It is this. A very particular quality of space, one in which everyone is participant.
A jazz violinist, MT, got us started on this, talking about gravity and stars and constellations, so vacuous and expansive.
And a pianist, TE, inspired more, and over the years, DK happened to stumble into clubs where I found trumpet players ES (with whom we conversed with in a short Q&A here) and HG, and others, and there have even been conversations resumed from decades-old threads that started in those United States, a place called Brooklyn. Thanks, photographer Yamini Nayar, and architect IK. More recently, I am jamming on these art esoterica notes with musicians MD and GL. Talking. At length. About why we make, why we make art, and why we make space for making. These are big topics! I can expand, another time, in S P A C E.
MEET US IN S P A C E. Two last notes! For how to be part of DK’s programmes, workshops, salons amd othet things we are making, sharing, doing, delivering, conversing about, and generally designing more and better S P A C E for. The jam. (There are a whole bunch of people to mention, as I think about the life and all the jazz I’ve gotten to know, bit by bit, over the years. Bebop. Free. Let me know where that’s going on, and I’m so there. With my pens, clipboard, and a bunch of paper.) See you in the up.
REPORTING TODAY from a secret location in Malaysia. For a bit of space, to reflect and connect, with some whose paths I’ve crossed very recently, and with those who are still engaged with DK through our mailings in [S P A C E 2018].
‘New starts’, part LXII
I love starting over. I really do. It’s like when you open a new sketchbook and you’re just like, ‘Wow. Here we go. Where, though? Let’s go find out.’ I told some people in recent days I was in art school for like 10 minutes. It was way too early to be there, or really, it was way too wrong, for me, even then, even then I had a gut feeling about it… that style of making is just like production-oriented other schooling (commercial arts), and while I’ve no problem whatsoever with artmaking for a client (heck, that’s how I’ve lived these last 10+ years), I don’t think we should mess around with the ‘art of art.’ I will love to talk more about that in S P A C E when I get to interview someone whom I am sure you will adore meeting. I certainly have.
Anyway! This kind of quick-and-dirty art-for-the-sake-of-fame is just… not what I feel like real art is about. Real art is about experience, to me. About life, and about connexion-making. Not just you know, the usual kinds (love, work, blah blah), but about unusual and remarkable connexion. People whose paths might not have crossed, intersecting in fascinating new ways.
You know what most people say when I talk about this? ‘But, why, DK? Whatever is the point?’ These are the people who will never believe that I haven’t held a day job since 2005. The beginning half of the conversation with this set of people tires me. I stopped. I only talk now in S P A C E and with people I think would get into S P A C E aesthetically. It’s really weird. But anyway. Really, I should answer.
Why? Because quality. A pursuit of beauty that means we are noticing each other, for real. Not just superficially, gosh. Really? Come on, like how many of your ‘friends’ are going to show up for you when you ask them to come around to your show, or meet for a beer because someone just died, or something? Come on, be real about it. Ask yourself. Is all that stuff where you want to be spending your time? Not me.
Someone asked me for my facebook yesterday. I said I don’t have one. I don’t think he believed me. Then he asked for my number. I don’t have one of those, either.
Just being honest about it… about how I really… don’t collect people. I share, and interconnect, I hope, when it’s working that’s what happens, when we are all showing up for that kind of thing. It’s not arbitrary and it’s certainly not for everyone. The reason you have to get tickets for stuff we are hosting is because I want to filter out the people who are just bored and looking for something to fill their time. I want people to show up who want to show up for this kind of jam. New. New and different. New and different others, seeking meaning in a distracted world. Shall I add, an indifferent world? Because certainly this work we are up to at S P A C E and DK in general is morphing away, and very quickly, from simply being bored with boring (which is how it started, as a design studio), and catapulting headlong towards being intentional about noticing people who are not like you. Does this make it political? Possibly. I don’t know how this happens; wherever I go, I get involved somehow in things related to ideologies that move towards human connexion that builds, together, something interesting. Self-governance or maybe just art.
I’m not sure. Is it the same? Does one necessarily fertilize the other? What precludes these things? Is where we are going as a global society something to talk about, more? I wonder. (I’m just riffing here. Let’s talk, if you want to: there’s a form at this page.)
(Side story: ‘I studied the philosophy of art. A guy named __.’ ‘Oh yeah! What did he say??’ ‘It was a long time ago. I can’t remember.’ ‘…’ ‘…’ ‘…’ ‘Are you bored?’ ‘YES.’ <—- This is why I don’t go out, often, to the ‘normal’ places where it’s socially encouraged to mingle. And the exact reason I made S P A C E.)
I’m bored, of course, (of course? Is it a given, really?) with the status quo. Always have been. Always will be. The status quo is where stuff gets sucked into the pockets of mediocirty, the whole ‘We’ve already run that kind of a story,’ thinking or, ‘This is just how it has always been, DK, can we just go back to the way we’ve always done it?’ Me: Please, no. Please, let’s try something new. Can we? No? You don’t want to? Well, okay. Goodbye. How many times have I been stuck? 61. I counted. And now, let’s move forwards. Let’s go to Malaysia. Let’s go see who’s around, and what we can experience, together. Ready, set.
STAMMTISCH is MONDAY. Guest artist Mike Dynamo will talk with us about music and writing. More below. Ticket registration page is here.
Salons: What are they?
Design Kompany hosts conversation salons. This is what it looks like. Pictured, from left: ‘The State of Publishing’ in Durham NC with Mercury Studio, MAKE at Fishmongers Durham NC, ‘Modern Sikkim’ in Gangtok India, ‘Breakfast in Cambodia’ at TINI in Phnom Penh, flyer for Designers Korner standing date at Stumbling Monk, which looked like the last image. Good fun. These happened 2011 through today, in (most of the time) very small circles.
Meet new people. Discover S P A C E. At Monday’s meetup in Phnom Penh, STAMMTISCH. What is it? A place that’s not home, that’s not work. For conversations with a center, and not sides. No agenda, not religious, just let’s meet and talk. But briefly. Let’s play?
Monday, 16 April’s programme: ‘Welcome to the Creative Process’
Phnom Penh-based musician and writer Mike Dynamo will be joining us at STAMMTISCH.
His blog post, ‘Has the Artist Been Killed and Replaced by the Entrepreneur?’, inspires this week’s session.
Meetpoint: Java 2F 4-6:30. At one of the outside tables.
Here’s a light agenda…
5PM Artrepreneurship II
5:30PM Short Salon: ‘MAKE: What is the creative process?’
About Mike Dynamo
Mike Dynamo is a Phnom Penh-based musician, writer, and thinker. He knows a little bit about a wide mashup of topics—culture, film, video games—and can converse at length about anything with remarkable energy. Substantially, not trivially. (Though he does host a weekly trivia night at Lucky Gecko). His piece, ‘Has the Artist been replaced by the Artrepreneur?’ starts like this:
There was an interesting piece in the Atlantic from two years ago that was about the relationship between art and commerce throughout the ages – what it means and where it is heading. The writer, William Deresiewicz, delved into the paradigm shift between the “hard-working artisan, solitary genius, credentialed professional,” and the birth of the creative entrepreneur. I could barely wrap my head around it because it’s so difficult to understand what exactly I’m trying to create while still clinging to the old ideas that art isn’t meant to be a pursuit of massive attention as much as a divine gift from beyond to be used for its own sake. Read the full story >
About Dipika Kohli
Dipika Kohli is an author, artist, and designer. Her studio, Design Kompany, was founded in 2006 in Seattle WA USA, and has been exclusively freelance since. While in the US, she orgnanized a salon, MAKE: ‘What is the creative process, who uses it, and what changes as a result?’. This gathered more than 70 creatives and scientists around Research Triangle Park (aka ‘The Triangle) in NC to talk about these questions, together. Out-takes are at this writeup on Processed Identity. Ahead of the event MAKE, DK had asked the Ottawa-based graphic designer who runs it, Steve Zelle, to share a guest post with DK. That post, ‘A sprinkle of magic dust,’ is really great. And it’s here.
Are there ID or minimum age requirements to enter the event?
Can I come for just a portion of it?
Sure. But as we have very limited seats, be sure to register to confirm your attendance.
Can I pay on the day?
You can, but we do have limited seating. If you’d rather show up on the day, bring exact change to help us out. The tickets are: $15 + 1000 riel, so as to cover handling fees.
Breakfast in Cambodia (Kismuth Books // 2016) is the story of finding orderliness and a firm sense of self in the midst of a whirl of mixed identities.
Author Dipika Kohli (NPR, TEDx) explores, with a meander and a style that doesn’t fit into a specific traditional genre, what it’s like to get lost… like, really lost, and discover through the journey a sense of who you really are.
‘Finding ritual, daily, in a routine to take myself out for breakfast every Saturday morning for 10 years, that was how I found my way to calmness, clarity, and a stronger sense of self,’ says Dipika. ‘Being in Phnom Penh or wherever the year on the road would take us, prior to settling in here, meant finding a ritual and a sense of calmness in the day to day disruption of uprooting, wherever it was, whenever it was, was always temporary. Even in Phnom Penh, so much changes, so fast, that it’s hard to get a root and feel at ease. But this helped, and I wrote it down, and talked about how I had to go sit far from everyone, on a boat in Sweden, for six weeks in Scandinavia to figure out what I already knew, deep down. The truth of how to slow and calm oneself in a sea of chaos, that’s the secret that we each have to arrive at individually, but in Breakfast, I have put it down, the things I felt, saw, and heard, and how I got to know that it’s this ritual that makes it work.’
THIS MONTH in S P A C E, DK are sharing the new collection, Circumference. It’s a selection of short articles DK had first shared in our eZine S P A C E. The pieces were written from January through December, 2016, the ‘Year of the Circle.’ During that time, DK explored big questions with our members in S P A C E, together delving into ideas about what it means to become part of ’round and not square relationships.’
What came out of that is what is inside these pages. You’ll get to enjoy a Q&A with a software designer in Leipzig who gave us the rundown on ‘How to start anything,’ plus ‘Remarks on Noteworthiness,’ a miniature report from behind-the-scenes of what it was like to create the space for ‘N’ London: NOTEWORTHINESS, which asked 16 strangers to convene at the National Theatre on a cold day on November 2016 to talk about ‘What’s remarkable? Why do we think so?’ Streams of consciousness from Kismuth Books. And a note about things found, and lost, in Phnom Penh. A medley, culminating with the new kind of writings to emerge in 2018: a transmission from the fourth dimension, ‘20804d.’
Generally, the series in ‘Year of the Circle’ pursues this line of query: What are some ways that we can do our work better, together?
HERE IS A QUICK outline of what’s happening in April and May, in case you feel like applying to join DK in one of our new writing streams. Things have evolved since the 2014 cojournal, with the new suite of stories unfolding at Design Kompany’s active spaces just for conversations in forums to evolve, progress, and develop. Some of what’s new for just-beginning with DK is outlined below. We are especially interested in hearing new voices, so if you are new to DK this year, we are interested in hearing from you. Scholarships are available for anything for the right candidates.
Three new tracks for April & May workshops
SELF. SELF IS AN online workshop: this time, we’re focusing on the ideas of composition and sketching out the ‘who do I want to become’ question. This track is inspired by the work of Kandinsky. Another section, focusing instead on ‘how am I feeling now?’ questions, is inspired by Nin. Both are just underway so you can join us this week to be included in the new cohort for the 12-week programme. I’ll send you the orientation pack. The first prompt goes out Monday. SELF is USD $160. The artist’s way, the creative process, exploring the composition: that’s what we’ll be doing this time in both tracks. It’s for people who are in transition, who are curious about a new way of taking a good look at personal values and clarifying next steps. Built from a past career as brand designers, at Design Kompany, and working on, uh, a bunch of memoirs, hey! We are going to share more about that with anyone who decides to apply this week; learn more about SELF and how to apply at this page.
MIRROR SECTION Z is also happening, starting 23 April, by application. If you missed it in January, this is your chance to get ‘in’ on some of what people have been calling ‘astonishing,’ and ‘an opportunity.’. THE MIRROR Z is USD $160-200. Find out more here
COJOURNAL18. Next Cojournal is also coming into play, from 7 May. It’s 8 weeks or 12 weeks of writing to prompts designed to get us creatively engaged, and accountable, with and to one another. Limited seats. Application required. USD $120-$160. More here.
New ways of connecting, in S P A C E
Making the best use of the interactive form that is the blog, we are now:
Conversing with people in the S P A C E community through weekly prompts and new forums, which have passwords and stuff to keep things intimate.