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 making meaning
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 never budge? 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.
So I changed it up. And now I’m making these.
So that’s how it evolved.
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?
Oh! It’s getting dark!
The dark dip… Right now. Good morning, Midnight!
This post is for all members of S P A C E–thank you for your support these last four years. Couldn’t have come this far without you. And now, it’s about to get good.
‘SO YOU’VE TRAVELED the world.’
‘You’ve been everywhere, DK. You lived in… Japan, in Cambodia… where you wrote Breakfast in Cambodia, am I correct?, yes, I thought you had said that, and of course the places where you grew up, too. You have seen and done a lot. Now you have to make something out of that. For all of us to experience it, through your eyes.’
‘That’s a tall order!’
‘It is. But you can do it, DK. Show us. Show us the world.’
‘Art, right? Art can show us new perspectives? Isn’t that what you like to say, all the time? How it can make you stop, and think, in new ways?’
‘Um. This conversation isn’t going to be easy.’
‘I never said it would be easy.’
‘The world is right in front of us, but we just have to let ourselves see it.’
‘How do you do that?’
‘Slow down. Notice. Show up. Make time. Keep it real. Do no harm. All that.’
‘Like last night?
‘The tea party? Yeah! I didn’t know it was going to be such a warm, cozy affair. It was, though. We had just three, in the end. I had invited some people here and there around town, halfheartedly, admittedly, because I’m not one of those people who likes to throw a raging party, rather, I like small, quiet circles. Very small circles. Kind of like with the online projects: just a few of us, talking together. Quality, in depth. No superficial mumbo-jumbo and muscle-flexing and peacocking and so on. I hate that. You go out into the usual spaces where people mix and honestly, it’s a zoo. Why we get caught up in this dance of displaying something… facade-making… I have no idea about. I think it’s because people are incredibly bored.’
‘Which reminds me. I’m working on a new comic book. About Finnish, um, black humor.’
This is part of a series, 100 conversations. Made with the support of members of S P A C E.
THE LONG DAY is reminding me about old conversations, in many places, about time. Philosophical, you could say. That’s part of who DK is. It took a while to admit to it, but then, didn’t we do a TEDx talk about how there’s not that much time left? We did. Six years ago. Seems like a lifetime: I’ve been on the road for a year in Asia, then parked for four years in Cambodia, now I’m on the road again–in Scandinavia. Well, kind of on the road. Because I’ve learned that bouncing around from point to point is not as intriguing as sitting still in one spot and absorbing it more fully, I’m here for three solid months in the middle of northern Finland. Lapland is over yonder, there is talk of reindeer meat, or reindeer hitting your windshield, and how nice it is to see the sun. Lots of talk on the talk radio about summer. Festivities and the cheery feeling of it; the sun not going away, the lakes reflecting all of it, with a mesmerizing shade of light grey twinged with blue. Chillin’. I noticed it’s a quiet day, today, here. I saw some people getting their cameras out and taking pictures of the river. I saw some others getting gas and going in for a bite to eat–the hamburger place, the pizzeria, the cafe where I’ll be co-hosting a zine popup this month. Buncha stuff. There are people who come through this town because it’s a stop on the motorway from Oulu to Helsinki, a major throughline, though the road is only two lanes and looks like it’s any countryside road, to me anyway, in the smaller counties of North Carolina. One of my many homes. That’s another thing, though. That’s drift. Today, time.
Slow down to see now
SLOWING. That’s the topic, these days, here. Slowing down to sense. Slowing down to see. Slowing down to feel. Letting things catch up… feeling the ambient awarenesses that have been percolating for years, but haven’t had time to precipitate out into the here and right-in-front-of-you, because… time. ‘The way we live our days is, of course, how we live our lives,’ it has been said, and many times, and I am thinking about my friends who will say, ‘Yes, I wanted to, but I didn’t have time.’ I’m thinking of DB in Seattle, who, in his drawing class for freshman and sophomores, would make a comment about how texting and drawing nude models just isn’t a good idea, that you don’t need to multitask here, that, ‘we all have the same amount of time.’ Priorities are the thing to focus on, instead of how to make more time. How to do the right things, instead of just doing things. How to… well, wait. I’m turning into one of those productivity blogs. I don’t meant to do that. But I do agree with PT who said, ‘Relentlessly prune bullshit.’ You just have to, if if you want to move the ball further down the playing field, towards the end zones that you decide are worth pursuing. You can’t just… wait for things to happen, nor can you… wish for more time. All of these thoughts are trickling in and out of the S P A C E of spaces where I’m conversing with some of you, some new people here in Finland, too. And learning. Always, always curious. Wanting to know more. Where does the time go? What did we do with it? Is it important to plan? What are the benefits of not-planning? And: what will I do with my days, while I live? This is the question, ultimately, that the TEDx talk landed up, asking about. What will be your legacy?
Don’t get me wrong. It’s not like I was aiming to go up there and make a long philosophical statement about how people are being busied into being busy and forgetting how to slow down, notice now, and be present and aware of what it is they actually want their lives to be about. What is the story your life will spell? (DK always asked this of our clients, and then, added to it, with: How can you design for that?) Not that popular a topic. Thinking about the life you want to live and what you can do to make it happen? That’s big-picture stuff. That takes overarching grand views on things and letting some time go by so as to reflect. But who has time for that? The day to day details of getting things done are at hand. And that’s why, really, honestly, the pervasiveness of the ‘to-do’-ers and their insistence that making time is more important than making artful connexion and meaningful moments of their time is probably why I decided to come here to focus on ‘Slow Moment.’ It’s a long story. It’s going to have to be shortened, though, because ‘Slow Moment’ will be an 8-page zine. That’s later, though. Now, I’m thinking about a time I sat on a terrace and talked with someone I hadn’t seen for more than a decade, about what we did with our lives, in the interim.
‘The time,’ he said. ‘The time does not come back.’
I wonder if he remembers it as clearly as I do.
YES, IT WAS DIRECT, and sort of out of nowhere. ‘The time does not come back,’ he said. Did I detect regret? Resentment?
I remember looking out over the plates and chairs and people who were talking together in groups of two or four, drinking their wine and beers and partaking of desserts and salads, and the sun was setting, and it set, and we were still talking, and I remember this clearly, about that line, ‘The time does not come back.’ Of course, I’d wanted to say, and then add something about reversible time and physics and multiverses and some theory–but it wasn’t that kind of a party.
Time. Not reversing. But that’s why we have to notice it, right? Be here now. All that stuff. Notice it and do the things that feel good, make the work that matters–to us. It’s relative, after all. Why follow someone else’s prescription for ‘what counts’ and ‘what matters?’ A job is really you just selling your time. What is the work that matters to you? Are you doing that? What is the legacy you want to leave?
I’d wanted to ask such questions, of course. I always do. Was there something you had wanted to do with it that you didn’t? (This is mostly what I had wanted to ask, but couldn’t, of course. Acquaintanceship is different from friendship, after all.)
We parted. The year ended. The next one came. This is life. This is the cycle. This is how things go. Probably won’t ever see one another again, either. Something about feeling… a sense of distance. At not knowing why the action and initiative weren’t there. I felt he had regrets, but they weren’t faced on, not looked at, not examined, or questioned. Self-awareness of this was missing, too. There was some weird sense that there was a lacks somehow. A lack that could not be felt, or seen, until another day, and time, which, I got the feeling, would not come.
Because making the time and space to reflect isn’t for everyone. Those who do come out, I think, with a purpose to their life that goes beyond ticking boxes of filling in lines or paying bills. Those who are able to assess themselves clearly can do… living. Yes. Do living. Do it. Without trying so hard to conform to someone else’s pictures of ‘success’. Without avoiding looking in the mirror, and asking the hard questions, ‘Is this for me? Am I living the life I want? Am I being true to myself?’ So many people skip this. Well, of course. It’s hard.
But I think about these things a lot. I look for others who do, too. I count those people amongst my friendship circles. I listen for the curious, the ones who are saying, ‘There’s got to be more. Help me think about this.’
‘Did you see Waiting for Godot?’ I’ll ask them. ‘Or read the play?’
‘Beckett. Read it. Then let’s talk more.’
Philosophically, these kinds of existential queries—what is the point of it? what are we doing with our time? where is the meaning?–are the ones that we thinky-thinky types like to dwell on. (Sometimes too much. Acknowledged.)
When we slow down to look, what might we see? How do we make time to discover the new and different?
SLOW MOMENT. SLOWING DOWN SEEMS to be a theme coming up a lot in our S P A C E conversations in breakout spaces. So let’s talk more about that. Let’s set the stage for our ideal place and time to relax into ONE moment. Not a million, not five, but ONE. Says host of this programme, DK’s A. Spaice, ‘To commit to it, I feel, you need it to be just one thing. I think part of slowing down for me is eliminating the excess. That way I don’t get so overwhelmed. How does it work for you though, I’m curious? Slowing, I mean. Let’s talk ‘Slow Moment’ this summer in S P A C E… How do you find it? Where does it start? When does it end? What are the qualities of it that make it great? Can you set it up to *make it happen*?’
For this programme, DK will weave in real life conversations happening in Finland through June, July and August with these online forums; we’ll discover through the medium of photography how slowing into a moment can happen when we look for the quiet spaces through the viewfinder. Slowing. Stilling. For the awareness and the art to seep into the frames. Just 8 spots. Questions? Send us an email.
Participation in ‘Slow Moment’ begins with an application. Apply here.
‘I THINK YOU should sew them.’
‘Why? They’re fine.’
‘No, no. If you sew them, it’ll be more, what’s the word… Substantial.’
‘Come on. These are more than just zines. You know that. The world of zines is full of stuff that looks like most of the stuff that’s also in the rest of the world of zines. What you’re making is different. It’s new. It’s kind of refreshing, actually. What is it, though?’
‘Are you asking me to talk about it? Like, put words on it?’
‘That is so!’
‘You have to. You have to be able to speak about your work intelligently.’
‘You sound like some art critic who would buy some bollix that someone typed up at the artist statement generator site 500letters.org. Which, by the way, is ridiculously funny. I tried to get in touch by email with the creator of that, to do a Q&A with us here in S P A C E, but nothing came back. Maybe too much fan mail comes in about that. It’s so on the nose, you know? It just points it out so clearly and with that really amazing tool that lets you click around and then it spits out your artist statement, since, of course, artists don’t write they do art, and whatever. Man. The whole art world is so stuck up its own ass.’
‘Art world? When did you start caring about the art world?’
‘Ever since people came over and talked to me about what I’m doing here at this artist residency thing. And asked me what my art is about. And what art I like. And stuff.’
‘You do, though. Like art. And make it, too.’
‘I know! But the last time I felt this way was in New York. Also surrounded by art makers, and people who appreciate art. Or say they do. My opinion then was that they just need something to be all snooty about, and so, you know, they start in on art, and turn into the Art World bollix that gets in the way.’
‘Of actually seeing! Of seeing the beauty! And artists want to frame the beauty!’
‘You know, not all artists—‘
‘Okay! Fine! Not all artists. But I’m not talking about hobbyists or people who are just trying to have a creative outlet, or people who are making art because they think it’s going to land them in front of some famous pot of people and they’ll be all validated and stuff. Because that’s not what art is!’
‘You think you know, then, what art is?’
‘I know what it is to me!’
‘That’s not a thing to share in public! Because if you start sharing around about the things that most matter to you, those things get… sloppier. I don’t know. They get… messed up. They lose the spark of that thing I love the most: freshness, surprise. The unexpected.”
‘Waffly. You have to show your work sometime!’
‘That’s not what I mean. Show the process.’
‘Why? So you can feel like it’s cool and you’re getting a piece of the story? So that I make lifestyle blog pictures? No. I tried that and I don’t like the way that felt. I prefer just making the pieces. And then, sharing those. Even if it’s just like, my mom who downloads them.’
‘I think more people than your mom download your books and stuff, DK.’
‘Well, a few more.’
‘But you want… to be more… known.’
*exasperated* ‘You don’t understand. Art gets better… oh, no. I’m going to talk about art? Okay, fine, well, you got me started. Here it is. Art gets better when you share it in parts, and you see how people respond to it, and it is not user testing that I am talking about, it’s sharing the experience of watching a thing coming into the world. Like standing by when a baby’s being born, maybe, a little bit like that, and witnessing something cool happening. Seeds germinating. Remember in science classes when you put seeds into the wet paper and they started sprouting, just like that? Wasn’t that like, the coolest thing, ever? I thought so. Potentiality is often depicted as a seed, but there’s way more to the seed than the thing itself. The feelings, the people, the environment, the arrangements of things, the music that’s playing when you’re making stuff, there’s so, so much. I’m playing jazz. I always play jazz when I’m in the throes of it. I’m in a good spot, today. Making photographs, for ‘Slow Moment.’ Today four came into crisp shape. You have to spend some time with a place to get to know it before you can take pictures of it. I’ve been here three weeks and the pictures finally look great. You know why? You have to get to know your subject, first, you have to… fall in love with it.’
‘I always talk about this and people who know, know. Photographers. Artists. All right, fine, not all artists are bullshitting. Some of them are really amazing. The reason is because they care. And they want their work to be better, and they’re working to improve the quality of the pieces and not getting carried away doing these silly things for the sake of resume-building. Am I making my point, clearly?’
‘Yes. But can we get back to the story, DK?’
‘What was the question, again?’
‘Do you want to be more… known?’
‘I don’t know. It’s not like people buy these things. Even if they do, are they my people? I like it when I can share my works with people directly because, then, you know, we’re having a conversation, and that’s the part I love. You get to see how people play with the magazines, the mini-books, that are like, more developed now than just the plain ol’ books or writings, that I used to do. I mean, typesetting them beautifully and printing them up and sharing them is nice, and all, but it’s really neat to see how people play with them, the secret pockets and hideaway stuff, and so on, and interactivity, which I love, and it’s neat to see them engage with these little books so that I can tweak them a little. Design, after all. I did that for so long I can’t help but want to continue it along in the new stuff, too. Making things better. A little less confusing. I guess writing and communicating are part of that journey. And all that. Watching, learning, changing, growing… evolving. Working with newspapers, in the newsroom, then designing things for people, layout, typography, paper. I love all this stuff. Playing with it. Rearrangements, bricolage. And shaping things in new ways based on how the environment and the people in places I go respond. Which is how, well, okay. You know, I think you might be right.’
‘Of course. I’m always right.’ *laughs*. ‘About what, though?’
On International Zine Day (21 July), DK are posting by mail a limited edition of hand-sewn zines from our hyperlocal creative nonfiction series, S P A C E. The A4 photozine is called ‘Slow Moment.’ A very limited edition piece, this one. Learn more here.
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.
To confirm your spot, RSVP through this form:
Photo courtesy Kattilakoski Culture Cooperative
‘SHOW, don’t tell.’
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. (Thank you.)
- This week I’m writing S P A C E | Karsamaki. In July, I’ll interweave the real-time writing process with the online salon, ‘Slow Moment.’ See if you want to write with 8 of us, when you check out that link, and apply.
- 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.
Now. Next. All set for the 2 July start of ‘Slow Moment.’
Designing more and better S P A C E
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.
Slowing into the moment. Seeing it. In S P A C E. Read more about S P A C E projects.
BE A PART of this. We’re taking applications currently, and we’ll select just 8. See you on the other side. –DK
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
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.
Photo: Helsinki Design Week
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.
WRITERS, designers, artists, business execs, marketing coordinators, communications consultants, and digital agency directors are all invited to talk in this new and different conversation salon. Arts & Letters Society is an open circle that will meet just two times. You are invited to connect with Design Kompany at two A&LS meetups in Kuala Lumpur (25th of April, and the 25th of May).
Join in the conversations about art, design, the work of making, and the way we each engage with the creative process. Last seen in KL to host Atelier S P A C E, DK welcome a chance to invite the new, the different, and the serendipitous to see what magic we might make, together. Free for anyone who connects with DK through our new [S P A C E] 2018 announcements list. Find the link to that at our homepage, for Design Kompany. Hosted by A. Spaice. (Special VIP guests to be announced, will share the agenda and meetpoint by email.) Men, women, and other, are all welcome to this inclusive, yet small in scale, conversation salon. Arts & Letters Society looks forward to meeting you.
*Happening.* Free with registration.
Open invite, +1s welcome. *Secret location* to be shared with registered guests only.
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.
Apply to be a part of it. Use this form:
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.
‘How do people get in touch with you, then, DK?’
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.