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.
‘I know! It’s wonderful. I have space and time to write anything. Anything at all. And it feels good, getting better.’
‘Yes. Also, without the pressure of having to produce something for the market.’
‘The market drives things.’
‘But the market doesn’t know what a good thing is. It just knows what a thing that people want is.’
‘And a thing that people want is made up by the stories and illusions that marketers make so that people talk themselves into wanting those things. Look at sillybands!, is that what that craze was called? Look at diamond rings! Did you see that spoof of the diamond thing, on YouTube? That was so hilarious.’
‘I saw that! Ohmygod. That was so funny.’
‘What about though, the fact that we’re just so damn distarcted now. We can’t even deal with something that’s more than 200 characters long to read. It makes us tired. Overwhelmed. What about that?’
‘You want people to pay attention. To think.’
‘Well, that’s hard.’
‘You want people to notice each other. And to be able to pay attention to the beauty in the space around, and within. Right? That’s what you said? Something about gems and beauty and aura?’
‘That’s what I said, all right.’
‘And you’re in a sort of despair. Because of that stupid novel.’
‘That stupid novel! I couldn’t believe it! I opened it to study about how to you know, look at characters, set up dialogues, setting, stuff like that, see how other people do it, the bestsellers, and my gosh, it’s just pure shite. I’m gonna stick to classics, now. But you know, I was really disappointed because… It was an Irish author, so I had better expectations from the things that I got, but what I saw was a piece of crap. Made for the market. Made for people who simply want to escape from the monotony of their day to day lives.’
‘Isn’t that what novels are for? Aren’t you being overly critical of someone else’s art?’
‘No! Novels and books, short stories, poems, music of all kinds… the kind that I love is the kind that shakes it up. Makes you think about things in a new way. And you know what? It wasn’t art. It really, really wasn’t. Not according to my definition: which is where, you know, it’s more about the universal truths and relating to that which is all of ours, not just some casual throwaway cheap thrillers about suburban love trysts. Fucking boring.’
‘You want stuff that changes people’s thinking, a little. I think that’s what you’re saying. You want stuff that makes… well… Says… “look at that.”’
‘Yes! And I keep running into people who challenge me to do that, too. To look at things in new ways, around and around, from varying perspectives. This is the fun of it, the discovering and the journey.’
‘You’re talking a lot about moving around and seeing things and shaking it up. But what about practically? How do you pay for all this?’
‘That’s a good f’ing question, mate.’
‘But how do you?’
‘No, seriously. I need to know.’
‘Pay attention to the things I am saying, and I’ll start paying attention to your questions. Until you become part of my circle, I don’t know you. The invitations are there. All the time. But if you just can’t be bothered participating, what am I supposed to do? Follow up on everything? Hope that you’ll come on board? I finally shortlisted my list of contacts. I found myself realizing I simply don’t care about most of the old ones. Just don’t. Just can’t. Too many people! I can’t keep up. Do I want to keep up? No. I can’t do that, without compromising. And I don’t want to compromise. That’s why I’m not writing porn for the masses, or sci fi for the geeks, or ‘be like me’ crap for the life coach-y. I hate that stuff. I want to make art, mate. Art! Not art for the sake of art, for me, or whatever, and by the way, did you see the film Posthumous?, that, and yeah, not art for self-expression in a ditch of a hut off to the side of the woods forever or anything like that, but art because… the conversation is the art. The noticing of one another. The being-here-now. I am learning all the time, of course, but it’s time to start practicing, sharing, making S P A C E for more than just me. I can’t do this thing alone. Someone told me yesterday…’
‘You told me. That “artists are supposed to be starving.”’
‘I told you? Yeah. What a load of bollix.’
‘But didn’t you meet that marketing person who said he wanted to be a publicist for you?’
‘Oh, him. I can’t even tell you what a bunch of irritating movements I had to suppress during that short, awkward talk. I wanted to run. I didn’t want to talk about making myself into a spectacle for the internet to feel like they could relate to. My gosh. If there’s anything that I care about, it’s making spaces for real life and real conversations that are real. That means awkward, too, that means just… showing up, to see what happens, because you don’t know. And that’s okay. The point is not to be perfect! I don’t even care! You can just try, that’s what it’s about, right? Staying home and watching Netflix. That’s the biggest competition I have when it comes to S P A C E-making, that is to say, events and hosting them, for sheer learning and practice, but it’s… okay. If people want to stay home, fine! I don’t need to be cool or persuasive. I just want to find the people who are interested in being found, invited, and brought to the spaces where we can really talk. About stuff. Real stuff. I keep saying this! Why is it so hard, now? Why is real life so intense? Why is it hard to make an appointment? Why does it take six months to meet again? Why does it have to be that calling someone requires 52 emails? Why do people cancel? Why does this happen? I can’t deal. I just shut down, really. But I also know that this is a way of avoiding everything; the same exact issue I’m trying to attack. We can’t get so bored and distracted, so lonely and unhappy that we forget about the very miracle of being here. Simply just being! Think about it. All that… stuff of 50 billion years of evolution? Did you read what Einstein said about that? I could quote it here. I could! I could make something like a ‘80 ways Einstein gave us Pause to Reflect’ post and try to get clicks and stuff, but whatever. I don’t care. I don’t think clicks matter. I think people matter. People. Matter. Why is this so hard to get across, now?’
‘Hm. You’re bringing up some hard questions, now. Why do you think people don’t like you making your art?’
‘I dont care about them~!’
‘But… Don’t you think that the system wants you to starve?’
‘I think some people in the system, the ones who are joining me in S P A C E, for example, well, they recognize that if artists starve, then we all suffer, ‘cause we lose the light.’
‘You’re a poet.’
‘So what are you working on now?’
‘Editing Briefly in Sheffield for my good friend, Karin Malhotra.’
‘I know. Not famous. Writes from the heart. Not popular.’
‘How’s it all going? Isn’t editing hard??’
‘Yeah, but for goodness’ sake. I’ve been editing since the eighties. So yeah. Practice. And it’s going super. I’m really excited about keeping things short, and sweet, and a zine is a way to do that. There are three sections to it. Three… acts, kind of. So you get to discover the 1998 story in England, plus the more recent, 2016 update. It’s pretty neat, I think.’
‘Is publishing fun?’
‘Yes! Skipping over all the mainstream market and starting this S P A C E the Z I N E series has been really good, so far. Some people are truly supportive and I’m getting great feedback from S P A C E || Battambang’s story, Here Comes the Dance. Which is about the Age of Anxiety. Good to talk about. In fact, brilliant.’
‘Tell me more.’
‘Well, I’ve got some really great people helping me with getting the dialect right, for Yorkshire, and understanding the landscape of the city of Sheffield, which some of us went to visit and suss out in person in 2016, just so this would be more… real. More honest. You can’t write about something if you don’t go and see it. This is why I can’t get excited about most travel stories, they’re just concocted from bits and pieces gleaned from internet research. And we all now the internet is not the place to trust stuff. It used to be cool and fun, to connect with others, far away, about things you care about. Now it’s just… hard. But you asked about the new zine? ‘Briefly?’ I did a Q&A with Karin, it’s here.’
WHEN I WORKED a day job, in architecture, I found out about ‘The Great Good Place,’ a book and idea of Ray Oldenburg‘s, who called one’s “first place” the home and the “second place” the workplace. Wikipedia says his ‘third places,’ ‘are “anchors” of community life and facilitate and foster broader, more creative interaction.’
(‘Does this have anything to do with me,’ you ask? Well, if you are feeling like there ought to be more to life than home and work, then yeah. It does.) A third place, the article goes on to spell out, welcomes you, is comfy, and is highly accessible.
Old and new people are there. There’s no agenda (social, legal political, etc), and you can come and go as you like. ‘Third places put no importance on an individual’s status in a society. Someone’s economic or social status do not matter in a third place, allowing for a sense of commonality.’ No prerequisites, no obligations. And my favorite part is this: ‘Conversation is main activity. Happy conversation is the main focus of activity in third places… The tone of conversation is usually light… and humorous; wit and good natured playfulness are valued… Regulars to third places attract newcomers, and are there to help someone new to the space feel welcome and accommodated.’ Guess what?
DK started hosting STAMMTISCH, a German concept of Third Place, in real life on six Mondays while in Phnom Penh. Let’s try it here, in KL. Let’s start a Third Place. It brings us together. To talk. Can you dig it? Let’s converse. ‘Occupants of third places often have the same feelings of warmth, possession, and belonging as they would in their own homes. They feel a piece of themselves is rooted in the space, and gain spiritual regeneration by spending time there.’ Yes?
Set in England, November 1998 and May 2016. Creative nonfiction based on real life encounters, S P A C E tells stories in third-person narrative. ‘Briefly in Sheffield’ is part of the larger series, S P A C E, a set of interwoven stories spanning the past, present and near future.
‘Briefly’ is one of DK’s first zine releases, and to help us all understand more about it, I recently interviewed the author, Karin Malhotra.
AS: You’ve been working on this a while, right?
KM: Twenty years. Jeez. That is a long time.
AS: And you’re finished? Why now?
KM: Timing. Chance. Discovering the thread in a moment that felt just right, and that tied up the loose ends into a work that is cohesive, to me, aesthetically. Also it was finished over Khmer New Year, and I was in Phnom Penh, pretty much not able to do anything else but write, since not a lot was open, people were away, and the atmosphere was quiet enough to focus and work. Not on the thing I imagined I would write (an assignment) with the time I had, but this just sort of flowed. I am glad about it. It has been meaning to be written, but I just… couldn’t… figure out the form… and other stories got made in the meantime, based on recency, interviewing people, wrapping quickly.
AS: Any examples?
KM: Sure. We collaborated to make S P A C E || Penang, which leads with ‘4/4 Measure,’ or S P A C E || Cameron, ‘Highlands.’ Fast is Design Kompany’s usual style; one of our team was at a daily, in 2004-5, so the tempo is real fast. Got used to quick wraps, now with the early zine prototyping at DK in 2016, practicing for this series. Ironic that ‘Briefly’ took two decades.
AS: Did you not just participate in Atelier S P A C E in Phnom Penh?
KM: Well… yes. But we couldn’t get inspired, not yet, to make a zine for Phnom Penh. I guess it is too soon. We did get the cover shot, though. A window, a wall.
AS: So we will see it in 2038?
KM: *laughs* Um.
AS: So what about Sheffield?
KM: I went there in 2016.
AS: Because of Z.
KM: Inspired by. Not because of. Different. I remember writing a version of the first scene of this in like, 1999. But it was too soon. Plus I knew I really needed to get there, to Sheffield, I mean, if I wanted to get the story right. With proper details. I’ve always really wanted to write about my favorite people and places… Z. is based on someone I had met very briefly, but who challenged me to articulate ideas I couldn’t find words for, not yet, not then. It took ages years to get there, both the city and the necklace of the storyline, but when I did, I could finally respond to some of the big questions we had tussled with.
AS: Such as?
KM: Usual ones, for kids like us.
About life, work, and duty.
About culture, family, and social responsibility.
AS: ‘Kids like us?’ What do you mean?
KM: Oh. Being second-generation. Non-white, in countries like America and England.
AS: I know that this is an important subject for you, and I would like to hear more about it. Can you elaborate?
KM: Honestly, I’d rather not intellectualize this. If you want to really understand the feelings, the feelings are written into the story. I think art’s job is to get us to see things for ourselves, right? Too many times, I feel, authors and publicity people want to put words into nice, tight paragraphs that sound good, and goad you into buying stuff. That’s just not what matters to me. What matters to me is telling the story, telling it well, and showing the personality of Z., whom this is about, really. The earnest, soft, kind youth of a world apart from mine; our parents lineages’ clash, you see, India, Pakistan… that about sums it, right? But yeah. Second-generation. He was so different from me, and yet… awake and curious to learning the how and why of a new angle on life, and philosophy, even at that young age that we both were, at the time. Long story but I’ve put it down in a short form… Zines are handy, that way.
AS: A zine. What is that?
KM: Azine is a short, DIY-published piece, usually photocopied in limited edition and distributed by hand. But in this case, it’s a soft copy. An eZine.
AS: Okay. Let me understand this. It took you 20 years to write this. And it’s a work of creative nonfiction. The story, ‘Briefly in Sheffield,’ is set in England in 1998 and 2016. Why publish it now? Why Sheffield?
KM: Fair questions. Okay, so, the zine, S P A C E || Sheffield, is part of a larger collection, S P A C E, that interweaves people and place, and hits square on underasked questions about: origin, cultural identity, and self. Isn’t now a good time to bring up these topics, given the world situation? I thought so. That’s why.
AS: Where can I get it?
KM: Scroll down.
AS: But okay. Twenty years??
KM: Working out the ideas and getting to a stance on things… that took a while! But I’m glad I waited. I’m glad I let things percolate, so that when I wrote the last chapter of this, it would mean something. It would have come from a place of substantial rumination, of query and argument, discussion, revisiting, reboots and regenerations. So much is packed in this.
AS: What happened when you finally got to Sheffield?
KM: You’ll have to read the story!… Many thanks to Golden Harvest and Mugen Tea House in Sheffield for the excellent conversations. And ZM, for whom this zine is written. *Chuffed*
NEXT up, in our interactive magazine S P A C E, is ‘A Nomadic Existence.’ Our 12-week programme lets you drop into the ‘rooms’ where we are hosting deeper conversations on topics popping up each week. What’s been talked about, and what’s being talked about now, are in the protected-pages posts at this blog.
‘Well, you know I can’t really judge. I’ve been doing the same thing all day.’
‘I mean, if it was ten years ago, and MA and I were hanging out having our meetups on Tuesdays like we used to, all those many lovely weeks, I think… we would have turned it into something similar. Co-worky and everything. I’m sure of it, actually, now that I think about it. But we didn’t because we didn’t have that technology. Instead we talked. A lot, really. And those were memories I treasure from those days.’
‘You guys did that regularly. Every..’
‘Tuesday at ten. At Vicky T’s. I really got to know her over those chats. Something about showing up, regularly, over time. All those weeks, those doodling sessions, conversations, just letting things come up as they wanted to. Not forcing it.. .making the time for one another. Just us, that was nice. It’s actually the only thing I miss about Seattle. And JB, of course. JB, for sure.”
‘And yeah, now that I think about it… it IS weird. Co-worky office-y over dinner with laptops, phones, and wine, and food, and phones, and phones and laptops and texts…’
‘Sometimes I’m just glad I was born when I was. But then again, like I said, I did do the whole computing thing all day. So I can’t judge.’
ON APRIL 1, a new collection, ‘Circumference,, will launch here at DK. It is a set of writing, imagery drawn and photographs made throughout 2017 in S P A C E. Our ‘Year of the Circle’ conversations in virtual and offline spaces led to dialogues that moved and shifted. In the end, we could see the gist of the thread: what makes for softness in our approaches to life, and work? Roundness, not squareness, that invites listening, seeing, empathy, and compassion. Which we need more of in this world, right? (Else we shall see more of the same: mansplaining, for example, and related irritations.) So DK examined those questions.
We read from Inward Revolution (J. Krishnamurthi), and Lady Chatterly’s Lover (D. H. Lawrence), the latter of which was originally titled ‘Tenderness.’ Marketing can so spoil a thing can it not? The original intention for the title, though, is… Important. When the author wrote this book, he had already figured out what we are just waking up to: toxic masculinity, the pursuit of power, the conflation of money for prestige, and the lack of care (and respect) towards women is a giant problem, for all of us. The inattentiveness to what tenderness can bring us, and I mean tenderness, for real, is as Holden Canfield would call it a big black eye. The sheer obliviousness is crippling society from feeling well. Belonging, wholesomeness. Morality, culture. So much sharing on this topic informed the writings born here. (The back and forth nature of ‘call and response’ is how DK design and host space. So the meander, softness, intrigue, discovery and comfort that come with a rolling circle, bumping into walls and falling into holes (HT Shel Silverstein), makes this collection whole.)
We studied Non-Violent Communication, Cognitive Behavior Therapy, and Authentically Relating for this work of researching and corresponding with those members of S P A C E who opted to participate. This is how we grew, together, towards a new understanding. This is a co-created work, edited by A. Spaice.The S P A C E || Vol. III 2017 ‘Circumference’ collection includes the zine-stories S P A C E || Battambang (‘Here comes the Dance‘), S P A C E || Singapore (‘Dunlop & Perak’), and S P A C E || Ipoh (‘Highlands‘). Plus essays, Q&A pieces, features, and photo collections from Phnom Penh, Ubud, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, and Penang.
We are sharing it for free with our members, on 1 April.
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.
MAKING OUR WAY TO N. EUROPE in the coming weeks to host Atelier S P A C E around and about in Finland. This means starting the process of following up on all the general notes we had shared towards that part of the world in 2017. DK are seeking:
design studio partners
art book publishing partners
jazz club owners
self-initiating others to do _____
for a popup, traveling zinemaking atelier series, Atelier S P A C E.
CURIOUS? This page outlines how we are making proposals for partnering with people for an installation in Phnom Penh. Open to your suggestions on how to:
discover and engage with new people in creative, and other fields
so that we can design
occasions, experiences, ateliers and salons that
get us all out of our boxes and usual routines
to discover the world, to listen to each other, and to play
in truly remarkable ways
one conversation at a time.
Yes? Ask me for the PDF that outlines our offer, and the ethos and method of Atelier S P A C E, in detail. Use this form to reach me:
On Saturday I’ll be here hosting the #8 edition of ‘Rooftop Philosophy in Phnom Penh.’ Where time has literally stopped. Expect the unexpected, and come see. More info at our website, see ‘Upcomings’. This time I’ll kick things off with what the bright physicist HL told me, about holography, time and space being one thing, and the three levels of intelligence in civilizations. Wish she could join us but good thing I took notes. ✨🗒
It has been four years since we began publishing our eZine, S P A C E. Which runs the gamut of topics relating to creating new, and better space, mostly the kinds that foster interpersonal dialogues that progress in a meaningful way. That doesn’t have to mean lifetime friendship, or anything. Just… It has to be real. Space for new thinking. New perspectives. New journeys, collaborations and friendships. New, though. New matters. New is where we push the edge, try new things, and grow. Meet me in S P A C E? Let’s play.
Atelier S P A C E is DK’s popup, zinemaking on-the-spot workshop. The idea is to gather a handful of people to meet and cocreate a short publication. A zine.
So far, DK has hosted Atelier S P A C E in: Battambang, Singapore, Penang, KL, and a few smaller cities in Malaysia. Zines from Atelier S P A C E have appeared at writers festivals in Singapore and Georgetown Penang, so far, and more appearances are set for a Finland tour in the summer.
Be a part of the international conversation.
For the full five-day programme in Bangkok, it is THB 8000.
Register by 5 March to confirm your spot. Get tickets here. ✨
‘It’s good that we can still talk. A good conversation!’
‘It is. It was.’
‘About so many kinds of things! It keeps it new. I like that.’
‘I do, too.’
‘I think… I think that what’s really interesting is when you can have the old things and the new things, together.’
‘I was talking about this the other day, when I was telling you I had such a great conversation jam? That was really fun, and you know, there are more things to talk about, all the time, as we go, because the talking towards some kind of discovery, even with the limitation of language as that is there, you know Niels Bohr said—‘
‘Who you love to quote.’
‘Who I love to quote! Who I love!, and yeah, he said, “We are suspended in words.”‘
‘I think that S P A C E and writing like this is about suspension.’
‘Everybody thinks they want stuff to be grounded, you know. Clear. Crazy clear and understandable, the bullet-point list. The one-pager. But… We also like to curiously float off sometimes, too. No one admits this out loud! I mean you can’t. It’s crazy talk.’
‘But what you said, earlier, and last night, and everything. That was good. That was helpful. Informative.’
‘That was! Thanks.’
‘So we’re not fighting now.’
‘I like that we could skip over all the stuff we used to do, like sit around and process all the line-by-line stuff. I think I was just tired. And sick. I’ve been so sick. And all these papers, everywhere. And yeah. I’ve got to make a whole batch of zines, S P A C E || Malaysia has Ipoh, Cameron, Melaka, Penang, and Kuala Lumpur… And I’m only two-fifths done… And…’
‘Productivity isn’t the point.’
‘The journey is.’
‘Yes. But that is so… Philosophical and everything. But it is. The journey.’
‘So, where’s next?’
Join us in S P A C E for more conversations. This month, we are giving away to new subscribers a PDF copy of Dipika Kohli’s book, Breakfast in Cambodia (Kismuth Books // 2016). It’s also available here.