A letter to guests of 3N

ALMOST THERE, now.

Once the date is set this sort of moves pretty quickly: finalising the guestlist, sharing the agenda, confirming that you can be there, making sure you know where we’re meeting. That kind of thing. Just like any great party, you have to do all the detail stuff way ahead of time, right? But also, like any great party, it’s about who comes more than anything else, at all.

So I’m very excited to meet some of you for the first time and reconnect with those I haven’t seen for quite a while. More than anything, I’m looking forward to the dialogue to come amongst you all as we gather for the first time and last time, most likely, in this ‘onceness’ experience of ’16N.’

Next I’ll share the details of the venue. An agenda. And the exact meetpoint.

NOTEWORTHINESS being our theme, I’ve been brainstorming quite a lot about this, also talking to people here about how to best host a conversation salon on this theme. Pretty excited about some of the playful conversation-starters that have come towards me from this wonderful group of people who are also making spaces to engage with new and different others. We all have our methods and styles and ways, but I think gatherings are just so great. So I’m looking forward to it.

More soon on email…

Seeking interesting people in Berlin and Hanoi

QUICKLY.

A short note.

About ‘onceness.’

And ’16N.’ I’m looking for interesting people to invite to a 16-way blind date. ‘Interesting’ has a lot of definitions, I’m aware. I guess for me, the kinds of people who would say yes and show up to something as wacky as an ‘N’ deems theme exceptionally intriguing. I can tell you now, why.

Making the magic moment *happen*

DESIGNING MOMENTS. Two years ago, I was sitting in a cafe in Phnom Penh wondering if I would ever meet Person A again. The conversation had gone so brilliantly, but it was just a passing thing. Wasn’t it? Yes. That was fine. Not everything has to be eternal friendship. But… what if it could’ve been a different kind of setup? As in, the stage-setting for the two hours or whatever it was, so that the actual time together was *better*? That is the work of designers, isn’t it? To make things *better.* So I started drawing on a napkin, thinking about nothing. I made an ‘N.’ It was weird. I put a vector sign over the top. Now it was ‘N’ vector. What the? Geometry?

And then, weirdly, it hit me.

What if 16 vectors crossed just ONCE?

What if 16, which is a nice number, people who’d never met were invited to join in on a once-off conversation salon? Of course the theme would start with an ‘N’. The place? A venue with an ‘N’. In a city with an ‘N.’ Just for symmetry or maybe poetry, 16N events in 16 cities. Yes. That. That is how ’16N’ got dreamed up.

Salons on topics like BEAUTY, ORIGIN, and ENNUI from 2004-2015 in Phnom Penh, Seattle, and Durham NC have been experiments to discover what works, what definitely doesn’t, and how to enjoy gathering people in bounded boxes of temporal, ephemeral space and time. Skilfully designed. For highly present guests.

The first ‘N’ events were in Phnom Penh and Bangkok. (NORMALITY and NOW). Next was London (NOTEWORTHINESS). Continuing. Making it happen. Improvising as we go.

Can you help me discover people? New and different others…

The kinds of people who’d be open to enjoy a short evening of playful conversation, some improvisation maybe, and ‘let’s just see how it goes.’

Know anyone like that? I hope yes.

Introductions are very welcome. All the instructions and updates are on this page: http://16n.strikingly.com

Discover more about 16N at this page.

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‘Whatever. I can’t just, well, I don’t want to just spell it out.’

Screenshot 2016-05-30 23.11.47


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‘TELL PEOPLE, in a relatable way, why they should care and why it will make their lives better. Your offering. Whichever one.’

‘What??’

‘Dude. You just have to think about it. The benefits. Not features.’

‘But, but! This is about… self-actualization. This isn’t the kind of thing you go around plastering up and about like it’s some kind of cheap detergent or a Pop Art thingy or something like… I mean… it’s about… Argh. I just can’t do this. I can’t go into description.’

‘But that’s what you have to do. You have to tell people in a relatable way—’

‘Yeah yeah. Why it’s important and why they should care.’

‘Yeah. And how it will make their life better.’

‘So which thing? I mean, there’s the thing about the conversations in real life, which aren’t really something that I need to tell people about en masse, you know, like I kinda actually like it that they are small and incognito, it’s like some kind of… I don’t know… thing. It feels great when it just pops up and magically happens, without too much noise and discomfort and fanfare and people-managing. I mean, sorry, that’s not cool to say, is it? People managing? But I mean. That’s what happens when it gets to be too… many. The value is diluted.’

‘Ooh. The value is diluted. Okay, so you’re creating intimate spaces for conversation? Is that it?’

‘I mean, it’s not just conversation. It’s really about making space for people to meet those whose paths they would’t have otherwise have crossed. This is very, very important!’

‘Um. I’m not really sure I get it.’

‘You don’ know how many people say that!’

‘Well, you might want to think about your messaging. And your target audience.’

*winces* ‘My audience is people who want to be better.’

‘Mmm…  um.’

‘No, wait. Hear me out. The thing is this. MOST PEOPLE are pretty content to do what they’re doing, the way things have always “been done,” and never question how they can personally evolve. I mean, you don’t have to do it in some kind of massive revolt-y way. Even when people have the means to do things the way that makes them actually grow, they often don’t. Why is this? Because did you know only 8% of the population in the United States is into ‘actualizing?’ I read that in a book or something and wrote it into a journal and re-read it today. Today, like. I mean, wow. Most people are achieving, or surviving, or other things, but there are very few who actually want to actualize. It’s at the top of the pyramid, you know? That Maslow thingy?’

‘Yeah, yeah. But what is the benefit? How will it make my life better? Say, if I were an actualizer, that is.’

‘You don’t believe me?!?!?’

‘Uh.’

‘I guess at this point usually I would just throw up my hands and say, FINE. You don’t get it. And walk away. Because I’ve… I’ve been too impatient. Yeah, that would be true.’ *pauses* ‘I guess for the last 20 years, um, I’ve—we’ve?—been lucky enough that there were subsets of that 8% of the population that happened to be in my world at the times that they were, and trusted me, uh, us, and commissioned DK, and you know what I mean, it doesn’t just happen the people go, Oh, sure, let me just hand you this massive project that means a lot to me and that I’ve been waiting for the right person to do for my whole professional career and… and… I just have a good gut feeling about you.’

‘So that’s it? That’s why they should care? And how it makes their life better?’

‘They should care because… because they care about themselves. They want to have time and space to actually do some really good work looking inward. And not in a dumb way, like some pay-me-for-listening-to-you kind of setup, I have this play I could show you that is all about that, and it’s weird how society likes to think that you can justify your angst if you can bottle it up and release it in slow dribs at these programmed sessions, you know, like weird, man, and they do it anyway, and I guess since I come from a whole line of this lot of people who prescribe drugs for medicating away basic stuff like ANGST and ENNUI and… wait. What was the question?’

‘Tell people, in a relatable way, why they should care and why it will make their lives better.’

‘What, the eCourse, you mean? The eWorkshop?’

‘Yeah. Sure. And the salons.’

‘The salons are just… I mean. They’re kinda for fun. So I should really talk about the online courses and workshops, huh. I mean, I should tell people what everyone says that these things give them, but that would be weird, because it’s so personal and confidential and I don’t want to parade people around like they’re, you know, sales tools. I hate that kind of thing. I also don’t want a LOT of people, like I said, the conversation spaces usually work best when they’re small. I love small groups. I can really be part of them when I’m able to see everyone at close quarters.’

‘Then why are you… hiding?’

‘Huh?’

‘People want to see the real you. So they know they can trust you.’

‘Dude. People who know me trust me.’

‘So you’re fine with it? Where you are?’

‘Not 100%, but pretty much. Yeah. I like the people who find me. I like finding people, too, for the other thing, the ‘N’ project, but it’s… different. It’s more of a playful thing. It’s less of a… work thing. But… maybe work and play are… kind of overlapping sometimes. And what I do is let it be fun for people to discover who they really are…’

‘… And you’re on to it, almost, I think! Keep going! That’s good…’

‘…’

‘…’

‘Well, it’s not a party, but it feels like one. It’s more of a jam session, but everyone’s serious, not just frivolous time wasting because nothing else was going on that was more interesting. Well, we all make time for this because it’s important to us, and we commit and don’t go all weird and maybeish about it because it’s a, you know, a commitment. And I want to show up and be solid and make a space that’s good working space, not just fluff, not just woo-woo shite, but you know, like… insight-making. And it works, when it happens. When it does, it really does. I know I should brag about all the stuff I’ve done and put the big logos of all the stuff that has featured everything on the site and whatever but I just don’t want to do it like everyone else. I want to let people find me because they really want to do something interesting, not just standard fare. It’s not ‘self-help’ and I’m not a coach. It’s more… it’s more about… growth. Who wants to grow? Who wants to be better? How do you do that, when it’s not like you can easily discover others who want to do that? I’m talking about that slim segment of the 8% of the population in the US, and even less elsewhere because I have this US style and it’s not like it works everywhere. you know?’

‘Yeah, dude. I know.’

‘Good. ‘Cause lately, I’ve been feeling pretty darn misunderstood.’

‘It’s just esoteric and inaccessible, that’s all.’

‘I know. That’s why for a while, I was doing the comics.’—JP

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Commitment and connection

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‘ENNUI.’

‘What is?’

‘Just. Nothing.’

‘No, tell me.’

‘I’m feeling this thing like, this idea that people want connection like, automatically.’

‘…’

‘Like, you know, you just do these one or two things with someone and bam!, they expect the universe. Marriage and commitment and kids and the whole shebang.’

‘…’

‘Business relationships, too. People think just one or two meetings and things have to happen straightaway. But really quality things take… time. They take… commitment. So I think what happens is you commit to a thing, and then, later, you find the quality. You find the connection. It doesn’t work the other way around.’

‘So what’s that got to do with ennui?’

‘Oh, I just thought that’s a good title for this picture I found. Like it?’

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Trust the creative process, find the art and magic

A CONVERSATION TODAY with North Carolina ceramics artist and a personal friend, Ronan Kyle Peterson. Here is what he had to say about our theme this month, amongst a few other things regarding work, cycles, and practice.

DK: I’ve seen your work evolve quite a bit in the last decade. What is it you are up to?

RKP: Essentially, I am dealing with effects of agents of growth and decay and how these agents shape and embellish the surfaces of stones and the skins of trees. Employing an earthy background palette stretched across textured but quieter surfaces, I wanted to upset that quiet earthiness with intense splashes of vibrant color, patterns, and glossy surfaces not commonly associated with tree bark or the rough surfaces of rocks amidst fallen leaves.

DK: Tell us your thoughts on ‘work’—what is it, who is it for, and why does it matter?

RKP: ‘Work’ noun-wise, would be the pots that I make to sell. Which references my ‘job’ or the verb ‘work’ that I do to make a living. The work for me is learning about color, how colors work together, how color and pattern changes perception of form, and how color pattern and texture can affect a person’s mood or perception of a pot.

The work that interests me, or the energizing part, is figuring out forms for functional purposes—cups and mugs for drinking, bowls for eating or serving from—and decorations or surface treatments that complement and complete the form.

DK: Why do you do what you do?

RKP: I make… because it makes me happy, fulfills a need, keeps me searching. I’m just infinitely blessed that others, customers, want to buy my pots and are interested for the most part in what, the work, that I am doing. It doesn’t matter in a larger context, but it does matter to me, because in the doing I am happy.

DK: Is that where the magic is? In the doing?

RKP: For me, the magic is in the making or the doing. Talking, wishing, and hoping do not get the job done. The magic is in the doing.

DK: A lot of people say they wish they had more time be an artist, make music, travel, write a book, and so on. What you would say to them?

RKP: I guess I would say, you just have to make it happen. And it will not just happen. A lot of times there has to be a sacrifice of something else: sleep, long meals, vegging out, tv, income, family time, socializing… Making time or sacrificing something else to make time seems to be hard for some people, because they are energized and content through socializing, etc. For me, working, making new work, exploring new forms, colors, combinations, that is what energizes me.

DK: What does rhythm mean to you?

RKP: Rhythm recently is not contained in one working cycle. Work is started, but not finished until later, spilling into the next cycle, and the next. It used to be frustrating, but I have found that through continued experimentation with form, color, and pattern, that ideas tend to belong aside one another: they are a continuation of thoughts I build on. I guess this speaks to an overall rhythm? I’m making a healthy offering of cups and mugs each cycle, but I have more larger pieces waiting to be finished. Now it is kind of nice to think more about the larger pieces, figure out different decorations and surface approaches that fit better, better than my original plan. I’ve started reglazing older pieces, [and] making different lids for jars. Revisiting sometimes resolves some deficiencies of the pieces. I have a general set of forms, but I’m trying out new things, mostly decoration-wise, every cycle.

Testing
PROTOTYPING. RKP’s instagram feed (and this image, in particular) caught DK’s eye for our sequence RHYTHM. ‘The image is from a kiln loading with a friend,’ he tells us. ‘Just showing how potters test glazes, not actual product or work, more process to figure out what glazes to use and how they will look in the firing.’

DK: Imagine two young people, maybe teens, who are thinking about artistic pursuits having a conversation, perhaps at a museum somewhere, and they know virtually nothing of the real experiences of people like you who have reached some sort of acceptance, it appears, in the methods you are using to make and do and share. What would you tell them?

RKP: I would say be patient. It takes a lot of time, and failing and observing, to figure things out. One thing that I try to keep in the forefront of my mind is how much help and support I have: I’ve worked for many potters with different styles and aesthetics, I have in-laws who let me use some of their space for a studio, I have galleries who work with me and for the most part allow me to bring them work that I choose to make. Growing that network, that support system, I think, is pretty crucial. And being patient, humble, and open to comment, advice and opportunities.

Discover more about RKP at his website.

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‘Light sticks:’ implements for generating sparks or flame

Guest post today: ‘OF COURSE THERE IS SUBJECTIVITY in all writing, even so-called factual writing, because writers choose which facts to include and thereby bend them to their purpose. So this implies that given a representative, well-sourced collection of facts and subjective observations, the reader is supplied with enough fuel to be intrigued, to read and form an opinion about the issue or the writing itself.’—Eric Chuk

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TODAY, A GUEST POST from Eric Chuk, who took me up on my challenge to write an answer to the question, ‘What is intrigue?’ 

This originally appeared in the final issue of the INTRIGUE sequence in our eZine, S. P. A. C. E.

Intrigue

Light sticks

A MATCHSTICK IS COMMONLY composed of a small piece of wood and an ignitable coating at one end. When struck against a suitable surface, heat generated by friction causes the coated end to catch afire.

This simple mechanism is actually the result of centuries of development, not counting the preceding usage of flint and steel or the later advent of portable lighters. These implements for generating sparks or flame make it easy to focus on the accomplishment — the activities that require a greater source of light or heat than a match. The substrate itself is often overlooked.

Yet ‘what is to give light must endure burning.’ If ignition can be a metaphor for all that inspire and impels, why not the kinds of things can be burned? Why praise the fire of creativity but not its fuel, intrigue?

By some considerations, artistic activity depends on creativity as the energy that sustains it, and intrigue is thought of more as the spark. But to define intrigue as a momentary thing, bright but so quickly expended, is to ignore the need to sustain attention even after the original impetus is gone.

What makes a story?

AS AN EDITOR and writer, I am especially intrigued by the following—one is a technique while the other is an open question about the nature of storytelling.

In writing, the technique of ‘showing,’ or describing using concrete facts, is known to be more effective than ‘telling,’ which is to rely heavily on adjectives and adverbs.

Of course there is subjectivity in all writing, even so-called factual writing, because writers choose which facts to include and thereby bend them to their purpose. So this implies that given a representative, well-sourced collection of facts and subjective observations, the reader is supplied with enough fuel to be intrigued, to read and form an opinion about the issue or the writing itself.

What makes a story? It is the difference between hearing that ‘the king died, and then the queen died’ versus ‘the king died, and then the queen died of grief,’ as explained by the novelist E.M. Forster. Although he calls the former a story (chronological sequence of events) and the latter a plot (causal, logical structure connecting events), the point remains–causality is intriguing, but more specifically, cases of human actions or occurrences causing a significant and relatable effect on some world-state.
I would say that grief, although a specific emotional implication in this example, can be generalized as the matchstick that begins to burn once we think about the relationship between the story characters and the people in our own lives who mirror them.

But regardless of whether matches or sparks deserve further contemplation, my hope is to have outlined intrigue in terms that might lead to an even more universal definition; it is a force that focuses imaginative attention, not only on whatever is at hand but also toward vistas we have never before reached, with distant campfires waiting to be lit. —Eric Chuk

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S. P. A. C. E: ‘A last long look, from the far harbor’

TODAY I AM WRITING FROM SWEDEN. Tomorrow I will go to Denmark. It feels very strange Writing these Words from a computer that has a keyboard setup for SV. There are some intriguing characters that come up, like ö and Ö and when you see them here, you are moved, because the unexpected rises and makes you say, äHuh.ä

TODAY I AM WRITING FROM SWEDEN. Snow and rain. Tomorrow I will go to Denmark. It feels very strange Writing these Words from a computer that has a keyboard setup for SV. There are some intriguing characters that come up, like ö and Ö and when you see them here, you are moved, because the unexpected rises and makes you say, äHuh.ä

In fact it is in search of the unexpected that most of this adventuring has been exactly for. I know that sounds weird, perhaps it is to most. But to some it will make perfect sense. There was that letter to Eric Kensington that T. E. Lawrence wrote, for example, something that I will be sharing about this Friday in Copenhagen at DRIFT & THE NOMAD.

Meanwhile there is really a lot to say about how we stop to look at what we are doing, when we are at moments between things, between spaces. The interstitial, the philosophical, the long last look before we pack and move to wherever it is… the Next Place.

From one hamn (Swedish for ‘harbor’) to the next havn (as in ‘København’). Let it begin… Again. Anew.—DK

Social innovation with my Cambodian teammates

TODAY, A GUEST POST from Phnom Penh-based innovation consultant Akira Morita. Akira is a founding member of Design Kompany’s creative collective.

Today a guest post from Phnom Penh-based innovation consultant Akira Morita. Akira is a founding member of Design Kompany’s creative collective.

IT WAS DURING my third Startup Weekend that I was a coach at, in Siem Reap, when I realized I had no idea what it was like to actually participate in this world of quickly assembling ideas and forging them into a clear, well-formed business pitch.

Then I thought: ‘that’s not right. I need to change this.’

Which is how I wound up entering an ‘idea competition’ with a group of Cambodian youths this summer.

THE INKLING. I had watched, coached or spoken at these [startup event and pitching session] things before (I don’t know why—because I was a ‘design thinker’ and a ‘consultant,’ maybe? Is this why people ask you to sign up for things like this?) Whatever the reason, I was always happy to be asked and said ‘yes’. But like I said, I had never personally participated in something that gets people together to quickly come up with an idea for a thing that’s cool (and is needed. And works).

The ASEAN Impact Challenge was a chance.

Deciding to ‘do it’

First a little bit about the contest we are still awaiting word about this week. (Fingers crossed!)

THE CHALLENGE. ASEAN Impact Challenge is an idea competition that gathers people from ten countries in Asia, to compete in coming up with an idea and pitching it. It has to be a social innovation that exists, or gets thunk up on the spot.

It’s organized by SCOPE Group, an ‘international impact consultancy,’ and it’s also supported by Malaysian Governmental agencies, too. It partners with other private companies and organizations (More: AseanImpactChallenge.org/About.php).

The teams of 5 people each have to go through an application process (dead simple and virtually everyone gets accepted), then undergo a full-day workshop on human centered design.

Our ideas get made into 3-minute pitch videos that explain the big idea, then those are submitted to the judges in Malaysia. (This is our status presently, awaiting word on our entry—this week.) Eventually, two teams from each country will be selected to compete live in Kuala Lumpur in November. Coaching. Incubation. (I think. The details of this event is best conjectured at, since the organizers are not necessarily forthcoming with exact details, probably because it’s their first time organizing it.)

Why did I do this? Same reason I do everything. Practice. Trying new things.

To practice ideating for real—with a team. I wanted to do more than side-line coaching with the youths here, to see if I can work with them and help them experience something that results in real growth.

How I found my Cambodian teammates

I ATTENDED AN ORIENTATION session in July, and asked around in a wildly open-format way for teammates. ‘If you are still not sure about what you’ll pitch, I’m looking for team mates.’

Creativity
Ideating in Phnom Penh

Two people came up to me afterwards: one ended up forming her own team, but the other turned out to be a perfect match for me. A recent graduate with a business degree, TT had experience with his family tailoring business that made him eager to help garment sector workers (his sister was one once, before she started her tailoring business.)

We brought in our mutual friends SL and ST, who had professional experiences in media and marketing, to help us.

We found the last member, another ST, later in our video making process.

‘CHAOTIC.’ The process turned out to be more chaotic than I’d imagined. I’d thought, ‘We have a whole month, surely it will be quite simple,’ but I didn’t account for just how busy these young people were. We could only meet in the evenings and on weekends, and two of them in particular had to travel all the time for their jobs.

We had to meet in parts to refine our idea, write and plan the video, then shoot footage and edit in a three-day sprint. Luckily, the video guy, SL, and marketing gal ST had participated in Startup Weekend before, so they were used to the pace, and could deliver on what we needed, which is a video that’s ‘good enough.’

IDEATION IN PRACTICE. Coming up with ideas in a group was the trickiest part for me. I had three idea generating sessions, twice in three and once with just TT, and by the time we came to the final idea it was almost mid-August.

I had wanted the process to be driven by the other team members as much as we could afford to, given the time constraints. I wanted to respect and nurture their creativity. But in the end, I was the one giving more ideas out, and encouraging the others to pitch their ideas in, and think beyond their initial idea was tough. In the end, I had to synthesize the various input I gained from the members into an idea that addressed the needs put forward by TT of creating livelihood for the rural youth, which everyone is happy about.

Once the idea in place, going through a CANVAS process and making sure the idea holds up, and storyboarding the video and planning the shoot, were pretty straightforward, if not necessarily the most FUN part of the process for everyone. I led these efforts and the team participated as they could. We all worked hard to meet the deadline, and I’m very much pleased with the result:

Related: Watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5w5QCcbhofY

Lots to say about this. But for now, I’m thinking about how my growth was in learning just how complicated a group collaboration could be, and at the same time, how much fun it is. I was lucky to have such open and friendly team mates and for me the biggest challenge was to forget my default role as a leader, and enjoy the experience fully! —AM

November 17: FLOW. Hit your peak productivity with this workshop in Malmö, Sweden

MOST IMPORTANTLY, what we care about most now is co-designing space with people in locales around the world. But not just any people. People who are interested in connecting in real life, connecting with one another, eye to eye so that we can have some good old fashioned human style conversation. It really is awesome when it happens. We get into it. There is a sparkle.

imageThis week in Malmö, Sweden, we are hosting our first-ever workshop on productivity. It’s called FLOW.

GREETINGS FROM SCANDINAVIA, ladies and gentlemen. DK is ambling about here for a spell, bumping into people and places so as to make space for real life. Workshops and conversation salons, that is, for people we are meeting in Malmö and Copenhagen.

(It seems pretty wacky to be writing that, but then again, it seemed weird to be hosting tweetups in Hanoi and esoteric salons asking, ‘Is the medium still the message?’, like we did with Aether, in New York’s Bryant Park, and other stuff. So much to share about past stuff, and how we are changing towards more conversation-space design in 2016, but the present moment is pressing upon us and so let me not get carried away reminiscing or projecting.) For now, it’s really about happening upon an insight: what we care about most now is co-designing space with people in locales around the world. But not just any people. People who are interested in connecting in real life, connecting with one another, eye to eye so that we can have some good old fashioned human style conversation. It really is awesome when it happens. We get into it. There is a sparkle.

ON FRIDAY, DK GOT TO MEET SS, a photographer lately taking images of airplanes. They’re supersaturated pics, because they’re printed on metallic paper, I learned. He told me this and a lot of other things, things I was enjoying more than what the previous art reception (larger, boxier), had to say about anything. Oh, and how did I get to SS’s show? I followed some people out of the other place, a fancy gallery, one of those that I once thought were really cool but now see as institutions. This person I struck up conversation with invited me to hop into the giant bucket attached sturdily to the front of his bicycle. Why not?, and there I was, climbing in just like a kid might. Room to spare in this. Viking country.

So nested, I asked, ‘Um. So, where are we going?’

‘I’m not sure yet.’

I like this kind of party, already.

But we are going to meet SS, I find out.

Who will talk about planes and photoshoots with musicians everywhere in the world, but in a light, nonpretentious way that makes me feel glad that I came to Denmark. Then we will go on to philosophize, of course, about how to find the flow and make work that is truly interesting. Creativity, productivity, flow. Call it what you like. Portraiture comes up. Selfies. Chuck Close. ‘I like that Chuck Close quote,’ says S, ‘about working on things.’

I think he meant this one:

The advice I like to give young artists, or really anybody who’ll listen to me, is not to wait around for inspiration. Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work. All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself. Things occur to you. If you’re sitting around trying to dream up a great art idea, you can sit there a long time before anything happens. But if you just get to work, something will occur to you and something else will occur to you and something else that you reject will push you in another direction. Inspiration is absolutely unnecessary and somehow deceptive. You feel like you need this great idea before you can get down to work, and I find that’s almost never the case. —Chuck Close

THIS SENTIMENT, interestingly, is also going to feature in our workshop this TUESDAY in Sweden. Who’s around? Stop by, say hi. 🙂 —DK

Flow Workshop
Foo Cafe, at the Media Evolution City building
17:30-19:00
Malmö, Sweden
‘Flow Workshop’ event page on Facebook > | Foo Cafe’s Flow Workshop registration page >


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Ad agency Hakuhoudo’s Masaharu Kato on creative thinking

Process of making.
Click to read about S. P. A. C. E. >

IN A BOOK called Kougu*, which in Japanese means “thinking tools,” author Masaharu Kato of ad agency Hakuhoudo offers a few tips to come up with fresh ideas. I’ve used them when coming up with ideas for our clients, and thought I’d share some of my favorites…

Tips on how to start concepting ideas

1. Know what you are looking for
Start with a clear idea of what you’re trying to come up with. A catch phrase? A new name, a logo? Once you identify your goal, repeat it aloud to yourself a few times, and engrave it on your mindscape.

2. Focus on the surface: color, shape, size, word.
You can gather ideas anytime–driving to work, taking a stroll, during your lunch breaks. When you start these ‘idea gathering sessions’, sometimes it helps to decide ahead of time that you’ll focus on something arbitrary, say the color “red.” Think about the problem you are trying to solve, and at the same time, focus on the color red. You’ll notice red things around you that you’d might otherwise ignore, just by being focused on that color. Tuning into these details can lead to unusual, fresh connections that help you solve the problem.

3. Write thoughts down wherever, whatever they may be.
The act of writing activates your brain and focuses your thoughts. Use anything – post-it’s, the back of napkins, or a sketch book, to write. The point isn’t to come up with perfect notes, so don’t worry about keeping everything together or too tidy. Don’t worry about whether your thoughts are “good” ideas, either. Just keep writing–sometimes that’s enough for something brilliant to pop up in your head.

Here’s an example.

SAY YOU’RE TRYING to come up with a tag line for your new product – a new condo complex on the waterfront. You are thinking about the condo – how big it is, what kind of amenities it has, your target demography, etc. Then, you go out gathering hints outside. Focus on something specific, like, for example, the color blue today…

The sky is blue (for once, in Seattle! Hey, maybe weather should play a role in this), so is this car (an SUV – what kind of cars do the prospect tenants own?), and a mailbox (maybe they can offer a concierge service for the tenants, drop-off points for mail, dry cleaning, packages, rented videos/dvds?).

Jot stuff into a notebook as you go, connecting dots and coming up with more random links. Get your head to work this way so you can get to really interesting ideas more quickly.

*Published in Japan by Hankyu Communications, 2003.

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WRITING PROMPTS AND MORE are coming together at Design Kompany’s new weekly eZine. More here on S. P. A. C. E. >

‘N’ London: NOTEWORTHINESS. What’s remarkable? Why?

2015-05-17 22.58.14POSTS. TAGS. Tweets. Comments.

Handwritten letters. Memos. Novellas and plays.

2015-05-17 22.58.14
‘N’ ticket. 16 in total.

POSTS. TAGS. Tweets. Comments.

Handwritten letters. Memos. Novellas and plays.

How do people decide what to note? What to omit, where to expand, or how to refine even an instapic as a narrative?

What are criteria to decide, “This! This is worth making note of.”

How do we choose what’s worth giving focus and attention to, and what isn’t?

That’s the framework for the conversation installation ‘N’ London, set to take place later this year in that city.

Just 16 people. Invited personally. For a MOMENT of CONNECTION in a short frame of time. Details to be shared to registered guests only.

Curious? Say hi, request an invitation: Contact DK >

Against boredom (and the boring, and that thing called ennui)

I NOTICED SOMETHING.

The more risk-averse a person is, the more boring that person seems to be, too.

Think about it. The most intriguing people you meet are the ones who took a chance on something. Right? And they didn’t stop trying new things, even in the face of humiliation, failure, or becoming the butt of other people’s jokes. The most important thing for them was to continue to press forward. Tenacity. Grit. It’s what you have to have, if you want to arrive at anywhere vaguely interesting.

But boring people come from that world that stays ‘safe,’ even when most of what we are scared of is inside our heads. Anxiety. Will drive you mad. It’s kind of the way it’s going, in the world, isn’t it? If we’re really honest with ourselves, the Western world seems to be heading down a long, sad road… one that leads to ‘safety,’ but is swathed in same same boringness. In other words, the status quo.

I detest boring.

Inviting the mesmerizing

PROBABLY THIS will only connect with people who are, like me, tired of the banal. It’s just to everywhere. Complacency is driving us into herd, and the herd isn’t going anywhere but to the slaughterhouse. Isn’t it? Let’s be honest, shall we? If you continue, that means you’re feeling that we should talk about things, out loud. Here, in the open. Okay. Let’s. Oft I’ve thought this: ‘Yeah. Here I am, stuck in this place, listening to someone talk about a banal, nonessential dilemma or simply complaining about life.’ I remember when I lived in a country whose people loved to one-up each other on the piling-on of how mundane and hard their lives were.

I know this is a first world problem, this thing about ennui.

Didn’t mean for it to happen, but on a whim, sometime toward the end of the summer last year in Phnom Penh, I asked a few people to meet me. To talk about it. Ennui. Five of us convened. Aside from me, they didn’t know anyone. So there we were. Total strangers, for the most part. Discussing the big question. Why do we have this angst? Where is it coming from? What can we do about it? How do we want to feel next?

Next

I DON’T PROFESS TO KNOW.

But.

Something made me invite this set of four others. Out of the blue. Something made me think, ‘Time to have a conversation salon about ennui.’ Why? OF course because I was feeling it. Personally. It happens like that. I get this idea in my head that I want to discuss something, because I have been going through some personal stuff and there’s no one to relate to about what it is. The internet is a one-Internet conversation that has nothing to do with how I feel, right here, in the space of where I am. Hyperlocal, and tightly focused—these are the important points for a conversation salon to really work. And by ‘work’ I mean to move from the space of general banter to true dialogue. Not quite intimacy, that’s a whole other level, but somewhere in between strangerness and closeness. I’ve been designing the ‘shape of space’ pieces, slowly and quietly, outside of these salons. Making notes, keeping myself posted. What works, what doesn’t. How to keep improving on the last one, in the next conversation salon.

ENNUI. Was such a fantastic event, for me. I’m so very glad I did, because we hit on something brilliant, together. In a small space of time (I like to cap these things at 2.5 hours), we got immediately past smalltalk towards the interestingness. Why do we have ennui, what is it anyway, how did it get there, what does it mean? We asked one another questions. We talked about our families, and our homes. I won’t go into the specific details, those are private and confidential for all of our events in S P A C E. But the big general idea was that we had a chance to connect, like, for real. Short and sweet, but beautiful. Art is conversation. It really is. For me, it’s beautiful when we can make the kind of space that allows for this magic to happen. The noticing of one another. The inter-relating. #relationalaesthetics

To date, it’s been in the aetherspace, me and the people I met, mostly. But I want to get offline more. I want to take it to the dimension of real life. Going slow. Small steps. It’s not easy striking up smalltalk and trying to move, quickly, to bigtalk. I have to set these things up, and that is taking time and learning, and practice. Of course. You meet new people and you talk about the weather. You talk about banalities. It gets immediately boring. I hate parties for this reason. I hate going out on Friday nights. It’s always the same thing, the same sort of conversation, the same expectation, the same frustrations that nothing interesting happened, not really, and as a direct result, increase of ennui.

What is to be done?

You know, I’ve been asking this question to myself for the time ever since this group dispersed. I wrote some thoughts up and tried to make sense of it by creating a little collaged book, with our combined writings:

The Book of Ennui. A co-creation, S. P. A. C. E., Phnom Penh 2015
The Book of Ennui. A co-creation, S. P. A. C. E., Phnom Penh 2015

 

I haven’t shared this publicly, nor do I plan to. I hope to distribute pieces of it to the participants, if we cross paths again. That would be cool. Mix it up, shuffle. See what new insights might come of the disruption of logic and leaving things like discovery up to games of chance. Why not? They did it with the quantum physics stuff, they got it figured out with Boltzmann’s uncertainties in the mix. Max Planck, I mean. Max Planck, who said, ‘When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.’

PROBABLY BECAUSE I CARE ABOUT mixing it up, changing how we look at things, changing what we can create, and co-create, together, I’m intrigued by the idea of making a bigger space for a dialogue. Not just about ennui. Not just about any ONE thing. And certainly not confined to one locale. Thinking about this out loud, right now, but just wondering if anyone else is reading along, if anyone else wants to connect, to talk deeply about myriad and thick topics, not just the ones designed to lampoon or roil up others, not the ones that ‘big us up,’ as NT, DK’s colleague in London, would say, but really, about how to do the big work of looking at things in complex, rotated spaces. Perspectives, shifts, discoveries, hits upon ‘a-ha.’

The artist knows this.

The innovator, too.

Where do we begin?

Many conversations are beginning. Send me a comment, if you want to connect, in S P A C E.