DK’s new relational aesthetics

OOO. I LOVE THIS STUFF. Relational aesthetics. Will tell you in a second how I came to know about this term, ‘relational aesthetics.’ I am jazzed about it. Why? Because other people have also been interested in a thing that interests me.

Even if these are academic people, art critics, or, gaw, the Art World, (sets whom, normally, I would avoid conversing with because I never thought that what I’m into would be what they would see as artistic), even if then. I’m listening. Why? Because I’ve been wrong. There are others who have already been on this path. Which means there are signposts, if only I know where to look. In other words, the feeling is like this: Wow. It’s not that they thought it’s not artsy. They actually think it IS artsy. They’ve even named it. That means, it’s a thing.

‘Relational art.’

Nerdy, this.

I like that.

DISCOVERY. Because I studied math, physics, and applied math and physics, I didn’t even know about this stuff. No one starts in on making anything by following a prescription, though–it’s not like I said, in the 1990s, ‘I’m going to make relational art.’ That would be stupid. I just sort of bumbled my way towards something that a lot of other people also stumbled upon, and that means, there is more than just one of us. That means, we are something. dada. Surreal. You can call it something like that. Or… you could just enjoy knowing there are now whole volumes of things to learn about, things that those before you (who you can feel some resonance with) have done, seen, thought, written, drawn, painted, created, installed, and more.

 

Relationships matter

Above and below: reception at DK’s ‘Today I Love You’ Sharpie art show, 2012 // Photos by OMNI

AT DK, AND OUTSIDE of it, what I make is relational art. Read this post about interstitial space that might give you a feeling of what that feels like, in writing. This is newish, I’m gathering, from my limited conversations with new people who study art and so on. New is hard for people to get into. And mostly, sadly, I’ve noticed, many people are afraid of the new. There’s even a word for it. Fear of the new. ‘Misoneism.’ But this really gets in the way of innovation.

INVITING THE NEW. I care about new things. New input. New people. Part of DK’s goal with our new relational approach is to get in the face of that fear, and introduce people to others who are
(seemingly, but not really that) different, and meet up, in real life, and just connect.

It’s invigorating and feels great to see that there exists a philosophy of this kind of art, which means I can amplify the effort to move the dial in the direction that I feel is the best one for us. It’s been written about. People nod. That foundation has been lain. So much of the work has already been done.

So, DK are morphing from a design consulting studio into something more… arty. I didn’t mean for this to happen. But it has. Just looking back on things and reflecting, I see the pattern. If you check out DK’s projects in S P A C E that have been going on since 2014, you’ll see what I mean. Before S P A C E started, we were a design boutique. Straight up, clean lines, modern aesthetic, quality workflow, nothing got out of hand and we had a lot of happy clients. But now it’s… kinda different. Now we’re into stuff like conversation spacemaking. Salons. Ateliers. Gatherings. Workshops that get us all out of our boxes, mixing, discovering, and meeting others whose paths we might not have crossed, like, ‘16N‘ and similar. Oh, yeah. Speaking of that. ‘N’, and describing it to people, and sharing about what our studio was trying to do with it, that story I shared casually and randomly with two art students at a table next to me in Aarhus in a wintry streetlit cafe. They taught me.

Context and relevance: ‘What you guys are doing is relational art’

Tickets for 16N in Bangkok // DK 2015

RELATIONAL AESTHETICS. The subject came up for me for the first time when some art school students in Denmark said, ‘You’re getting strangers together for salons to talk about themed topics? Around the world? That sounds like relational aesthetics.’

‘What?’

‘Just go to Wikipedia.’

Which says, roughly:

‘Relational art or relational aesthetics is a mode or tendency art practice originally highlighted by French art critic Nicolas Bourriaud. According to Bourriaud, relational art encompasses “a set of artistic practices which take as their theoretical and practical point of departure the whole of human relations and their social context, rather than an independent and private space.” The artist can be more accurately viewed as the “catalyst” in relational art, rather than being at the centre… The artwork creates a social environment in which people come together to participate in a shared activity. Bourriaud claims “the role of artworks is no longer to form imaginary and utopian realities, but to actually be ways of living and models of action within the existing real, whatever scale chosen by the artist.”… In relational art, the audience is envisaged as a community. Rather than the artwork being an encounter between a viewer and an object, relational art produces encounters between people. Through these encounters, meaning is elaborated collectively, rather than in the space of individual consumption.’

Designing space to share real life with new and different others

AM and BW at ‘Today I Love You’ reception in Durham NC 2012 // Photo by OMNI Studiophotos
Zines debut at TILU reception // Photo by OMNI Studiophotos

Well! So there are others, too, who want it to be about the party and not the artist!

The inkling of this being more interesting came to me for the first time when I was hosting the opening reception for the show, ‘Today I Love You.’ It was a solo show and happened in Durham NC USA in 2012 over the Valentine’s Day weekend. Why not? I got into it and made more than 100 pieces, all brand new. But those weren’t as interesting as the people who came: the chocolates and the champagnes, the conversations, the interplay between the people I never met and the ones I’d known for half my life. North Carolina, after all, is one of my homes. JL surprised me by showing up which was brilliant, as he was an early mentor. Then there was KEF. And pictures by the talented JD. And a visit from the younger RK. There was AM and BW, pictured, too.

Others, including SR, a videographer I had only met recently but who has a fantastic energy and whose tireless enthusiasm and collaborative bent really inspire me. I remember being super happy, seeing all these wonderful people together in one place. Kind of like other shows, in Seattle, or the conversation spaces, in other places in the world. I’m thinking of ‘BEAUTY’ in Phnom Penh. Of ‘Hello August’ in that same town.

Of so many, many moments where new and different others could find remarkable connexion.

That is after all what DK now exists to do. DK design that particular kind of S P A C E. Remarkable.

I love the space that gets made when people are connecting, interacting. Interconnecting. With the zines or art books, or reading something I’ve written, or looking at a piece, but what’s more interesting is the conversations that open as a result. So the pieces are just prompts, now.

They’re not the pieces of Art, to me. The people are; not just as individuals but in the collection of being there, together.

Sharing a moment. Making a space.

(And by the way!, you can experience it. Here’s how…)

The shape of S P A C E

SHARED MOMENT. A once-only experience.

In case you were wondering, this relational approach and the interest in finding the beauty of interconnectivity, and interplay between new and different others whose paths might not have otherwise have crossed, is why I am helping design our studio’s 2018 suite of ateliers. If you have been in touch with DK, or want to try something new with us this year, this is a good time to give it a go. Something new. Something fresh. And then towards the fall we’ll turn away from the online salons and get back to making what we make best: zines.

Meet us in S P A C E? See what’s on tap, including the new journaling x photography salon, ‘Slow Moment, at this page with all our upcomings.

 

Let’s talk travel, photography, and wanderlust

TODAY AND TOMORROW, we are in Cameron Highlands hosting a popup salon-workshop. The theme this time is photography, and travel in general. Never thought that I would start writing and blogging and conversing about #travel, you know, with the hashtags and everything. It seems so overdone, these days. It seems like people all over the place want to write about all their places they go and all the people they meet and collect them up on social media and pretend like everything is supersaturated, perfect-perfect posty-posty. You know what I’m talking about, right? Anyway, I got inspired to host this when I found this place, and stuck around long enough to have gotten a feel for it. It is authentic. That’s why we’re doing the popup here. Let’s talk travel, wanderlust, showing up, real life, and authentically gathering and sharing stories. We will do this together in a very small circle, with those who opt-in to join me for Atelier S P A C E || Cameron. In Cameron Highlands? Discover more about this popup atelier, when you click ‘upcomings’ and the details are all there. To the journeys! The new, and the next.

S P A C E || Battambang digital, print zine drops today

HERE WE GO.

DK’s first zine in print, S P A C E || Battambang, drops today.

This was created from the first-ever of our new roving conversation salon-cum-zinemaking popups, Atelier S P A C E. That took place on 26 September, over P’chum Ben in Battambang, Cambodia. We are focusing on the zine idea because it’s simple, tangible, do-able, light, accessible, and easy to put together relatively quickly.

Here is what Atelier SP A C E is.

Ateliers made on the road, on the fly, based solely on chance encounters and the self-selecting guests, collaborators, and co-hosts who, together with us: help design the content, select the themes through the activities we provide to make that easier than it sounds, and make venue spaces available to DK for these programmes. DK go to a new place. See who’s around, talk in real life. That’s just how it always has been. But what’s new is the making something part, now. Of course we design, we write, we get people talking, so why not bring these skills to social spaces, engage us beyond the simple smalltalk and shallow conversations that become, very quickly, a bore? That’s the concept. Of making S P A C E.

PLAY. For a while now, we have been practicing this. What, exactly? How to design space to really get people talking, about you wouldn’t believe what kinds of things, and doing this together with total strangers. (Ask any of us about how). What’s fun for us is the shaping of this space, a kind of timebound and physical geometry. As designers we love to frame the thing, and let the play that happens just happen. Not overdirecting, letting things flow. This is how people hit on their magic moments, of ‘a-ha!’, which, really, can be hugely valuable if you are feeling stuck, bored, siloed, or otherwise disengaged from people right around you. Look up, now, see them, there? Also online, reading, checking. Like me and you. What if, though, we could be reading the same invitation, to show up, to meet, in Atelier S P A C E? See what emerges. See what develops. Themes, philosophies, sharing, and, in the case of BTB’s edition, confessions. What? Yeah.

Today the digital version of the zine S P A C E || Battambang posts in our weekly eZine, S P A C E. 

We are making S P A C E to connect new and different others in real life and online conversations in remarkable, authentic moments. Try our online eZine S P A C E, for free.

This is just the beginning.

Phnom Penh || S P A C E


WHEN DESIGN KOMPANY landed in Phnom Penh in March 2014, something incredibly magical took hold of me. I still remember the photo: I’m on a tuk-tuk, looking out at what was the Independence Monument, though I didn’t know it at the time. We’re rounding the circle, I’m staring. I’ve got one hand clutching the open-air tuk-tuk’s column, it’s like a movie, or a dream. After trying to put the experience of being here into words (my best shot, in Breakfast in Cambodia), I want to share with you the pictures and drawings of the aesthetic that moved me so much, in that first week, that I pressed for our team to stay here for a while. A flat to let. That turned into one year, then two, then three. It’s now almost been four years, and it’s time for me to look for the next place.

But before I go, this is the last dance.  ‘Phnom Penh || S P A C E’ is the chapbook, a visual summary of some my finds when exploring the aesthetic of Cambodia. I didn’t train fully in art and design, I was an engineering major, and I spent my time abroad in Kyoto. But coming to Cambodia made me question this. Why wasn’t Phnom Penh an option when it came to where to study art, design, the ornament, ritual, symmetry, these kinds of things? When we were students, it was all about Florence. New York. London, Tokyo. But now, you can go anywhere. You can study anything. This was my self-designed independent study. I had no idea it would last more than three years.

What is Beauty? Who gets to decide? Here, in this place, it’s quite miraculous; never taught to us in art schools, but of a quality and temperament that only by being here, in situ, for a time, and absorbing, can you really feel. It’s not easy to articulate, but the pictures, I hope, and the drawings, will tell this story to the world, from the perspective of Atelier S P A C E. Can you dig it?

Free digital copy for those who join S P A C E in September.

Subscribe here.

Wherever you go, there you are

A NOMADIC EXISTENCE has begun.

AS: What is it about?

DK: ‘A Nomadic Existence?’ asked one of my longest-term mentors. ‘What is it about, exactly? Can you name that? Can you paint a picture of what it IS? In other words, what is the content of your forum?’ Let me answer that. What IS it about. It’s about lots. It’s about the things that happen, magically, when we simply make *time* and *space* to converse, together.

AS: How does it work?

DK: I post on Mondays. We have a week to write a response. Then, on Sundays at 7PM ICT, I respond and craft the next day’s post. It’s emergent, one step at a time. It’s N+1. All of this is behind protected-page posts on this blog. Those who are taking part in the online forums are participant, see, and I truly mean are participating in the making of the content, as we go. We don’t have to know each other for a lifetime, heck we don’t even have to know one another for one hour. Or ever have met in real life. But… we show up together, and there’s a pattern of how this works, and what we can do with it, and you know? It’s a kind of community, without all the weird things that some communities turn into… I believe that this is a conversation space, and it’s also an exploration. I don’t know why I’m going into this much detail. Because I care so much? Because I lack editing skills? That’s where you come in, A. Thank you.

AS: Why is it interesting? What makes it different?

DK: We are looking for the a-ha. It comes, at times. I believe there is a way to design space for meaningful, magic moments. Connexion. Real connexion. I believe it has to be designed for, this kind of quality of truly well-collaborated, well-made space. There is design, but design is useless if it’s not inclusive and inviting and welcoming and made-by-the-collection of those who are there.

Continue reading “Wherever you go, there you are”

Transformational change starts with space

Fig I. Reading about change. Transformational change, in fact.

***

 

 

WHY DO WE INSIST on ‘making space for uncertainty?’ here at DK? Because it’s important to give room for things to emerge… things like *transformational* change.

SN, whom we met a few years ago in Phnom Penh, said this of innovation: ‘Innovation is designing solutions to the right problems, solutions that users love to use.’

Then DM, whom we’ve gotten to know remotely over the last five years ’cause of our shared interest in design for innovation, filled us in on his observations from experience that tons of people in the upper echelons of management love to *talk* about innovation but don’t actually know how to implement ways to create space that lets it happen in a _real_ way. Or see the value.

But there is value.

Of course there is.

But what? How to articulate it?

This might help illuminate the ‘why’ of making space.

Just came across a 2014 article (link below), by two folks whose titles tell us they study and think a lot about management and innovation. They say: ‘The challenge lies in shifting the role of the executive from *change agent in chief* to *change enabler in chief*.’ (emphasis mine)… Leaders need to give more attention, they say, to ‘the creation of an environment where deep, proactive change can happen anywhere—and at any time.’

What if?

Could it work?

IF PEOPLE HAD LOTS of room to simply converse, confer, and discover their way towards some kind of ‘a-ha!’ What problems might be given voice to, then given potential ideas to help alleviate, if we could just listen more to one another? Make a space. Who was it, of our old strategy mentors, who called this ‘hallway wisdom?’ Or maybe it was our own AM. Yes, probably.

The coolest things can bubble up when you’re just giving yourself time and space to reflect, to not-think, but feel-think your way towards some kind of… a-ha. In personal leadership, as well as business decision-making, too.

Let me leave you with the link to the article that I found. Helps us all see that more time and space for things to *be let to emerge* would be a good way for *transformational* change, not just ‘let’s do this and force everyone to do it’ push agenda that makes everyone roll their eyes, or throw up, or quit. Your thoughts? Curious. Listening. Meet DK on facebook, to discuss…

The link: http://www.mckinsey.com/…/build-a-change-platform-not-a-cha…

 

A day to write

A DAY. A full day. All to myself. To write. No meetings, no fast internet connection to distract and take me away into the wide cyberspatial wonders. I am happy about this time. Making the time. Showing up for myself, to finish something that, hey, it’s been a long time in the works (everything important is, isn’t it?), but I’m really excited about the way it’s been developing, changing shape as it’s come around from being ‘a book’ to something else. An ‘experience.’ I am writing today.

This upcoming one is my first work that is… science fiction. It’s set in two of my favorite cities for peoplewatching and cafe culture: Copenhagen and Hanoi. Like the magazine we publish each week here in S P A C E, the book wants to connect and interconnect, to juxtapose people and places. But it’s all based on real life conversations, characters are drawn from those inspiring people I met on my journeys over six weeks in Scandinavia and more recently, eight in Hanoi.

Gathered my notes from random conversations, chance encounters. Telling the stories. Sharing them, but in probably one of the most unusual ways I have ever done so, to date. This is going to be a… set… of, um. Downloadable PDF pages. That go into a nonlinear set. Must be nonlinear! Of. Ready for this? Of… Zines. Writing, writing, shaping this thing. Making it work, fitting it into the bounded boxes. A collection. Really jazzed, on 1 September I’ll launch it. This one. It’s pre-orderable (USD $15). Checkit: Nostalgia Cà Phê.