When 16 vectors cross in a bounded box: ‘N’

SO TO REMOVE SOME OF THE MYSTERY behind ‘N’, which you may have been invited to in recent days, I wanted to let you in on the story.

Because after one year and a little bit, ‘N’ is becoming clearer.

As clear as a variable can be, that is.

A variable that also happens to have the little arrow above it, indicating it’s a vector.

A vector, recall from geometry, is a point that has a line poking out of it, extending infinitely in that one specific direction. ‘We’re on a particular vector here…’

So when the idea of getting 16 people together who didn’t know one another in a designed, hosted and comfortable space for conversation that’s not boring or predictable came up, the image of sixteen vectors crossing in a point sort of popped out of the chaos of the randomness of that which was around me, at that time, in that particular moment. It started to be clear then that the moment was important for me. Not just when I make my zines and collages and try to go with the feeling, to celebrate the sensation of just improvising on the spot and making it up as I go, but in reality, too. (Reality? Whatever is reality? That’s a philosophical conversation for another time, perhaps in S. P. A. C. E.) But for now, the story of ‘N’.

BRICOLEUR. I LIKE THE IDEA OF HAPPENING upon things. Of finding small bits and pieces around me, and collecting them. Those who know me well know that I am a terrible hoarder of magazines, especially when they are beautifully laid out with lovely typesettings. And typefaces. And general colors, and the paper is nice, and, and… Happening upon the spaces in which I discover these pieces is as much a part of my zinemaking as the materials that collide, somehow, together to become the booklets and studies and once-off collages that for some reason seem to me to do that thing I realize now that ‘N’ also wants to do. Freeze-frame a moment.

A particular coincidental crossing of… people, in the case of the real-life event ‘N’, or in the case of the making of tickets for ‘N’-going guests, the pieces that happen to fall into my space in the just-beforeness of the events.

So it seems natural that the tickets for ‘N’ Phnom Penh were built of magazines I found around the time that was about to happen (April 2015), and that the ones for ‘N’ Bangkok were made of a draft for an eBook I was writing all about that city—some highlighted where errors needed attending to, all of them 8-page minibooklets, and some of them with messages from guests of the first ‘N’, here in Phnom Penh…

Pictured at the top of this page is today’s work: starting to create tickets for the ‘N’ event in Hanoi. Just 16, as always. See 16N >

Making them from bits and pieces I picked up in Denmark.

These tickets will be distributed to guests who’ll be invited to register to ‘N’ in Hanoi.

It’s all very lighthearted, I think, in the approach?

I mean, I’m not sure of how to answer people’s questions that pop up over and over again as I invite guests to ‘N’ salons around the world…

‘Why are you doing this? What’s in it for you?’

Um. Hm.

Can I punt on that, for now?

I think in my heart of hearts, I just can’t help it. I can’t help doing this because I see that it brings people together for awesome conversations. The kind that aren’t boring, and the kind I just love. I imagine this is what people aim to do when they have receptions for various giant occasions—but it’s small-scale and differently approached. Still, the bringing-together of people for a moment of great dialogue with those whose paths they’d not have crossed, really excites me.

I’VE MADE MORE THAN 400 invitations so far for ‘N’ events in the four cities:

  • ‘N’ London: NOTEWORTHINESS (6 ‘ticket-yeses’ so far)
  • ‘N’ Copenhagen: NEARNESS (5 ‘ticket-yeses’ so far)
  • ‘N’ Phnom Penh: NORMALITY (16 ‘ticket-yeses’ with ‘N’ held in April 2015 at NUK Cafe)
  • ‘N’ Bangkok: NOW (16 ‘ticket-yeses’ with ‘N’ held in October 2015 at Nikko Cafe)

THE GAME. Of the four cities, 2 have seen ‘N’ happen. Sixteen people got tickets, and mutually agreed a date. If that sounds bizarre, it kind of is. But I’m more interested in finding people who say ‘yes’ than those who say ‘when.’ If that makes sense? I’m looking for commitment, and yeah, it’s probably not the easiest thing to say ‘yes’ to, this idea of pre-registering and then deciding a date with someone you’ve never seen or worked with in the past. But you know what? I love the people I am meeting through ‘N.’ Not in an overly intimate, ‘best friends’ kind of way. I mean in a mutually respectful, ‘Yeah, I see you, and I see you saying, what the hey, it’s only a couple of quid and a couple of hours—who knows what might happen?’ way.

I’m looking for the spirit of start, taking a little chance on a thing. Just… a small one. Onceness is the thing. That’s why invitations expire, too.

‘I’M NOT JUST A NUMBER.’ Because did you ever notice how people collect friends, as though we’re numbers? That’s part of why I don’t have a personal FB page, and why I deleted my personal twitter. It’s why I don’t like it when people ask me first thing for my FB, because I’m pretty sure they don’t really care about what I care about and most likely we’ll never have a real conversation online. I guess what I wanted to do was to create an event like ‘N,’ in which 16 variables (16N) represent 16 people, who become real and complex and three-D and have feelings and opinions and can say things in a way that we can never say them online-only. Once. One moment. Of conversation. On a topic that starts with ‘N’. In a city that has an ‘N’ in it. And why 16? Oh, that’s because of 2^8. Clearly.

The framing of the moment is the big work of ‘N’… At least it is, for me…

WHAT HAPPENS NOW. I’m not even going to be able to predict this but that’s okay. I’ve been feeling great about the cool people I’m in conversations with about ‘N’ in London (NOTEWORTHINESS is our theme) and ‘N’ in Copenhagen (NEARNESS). Because I think this is a time when people really do want to connect offline, and in person, and without all that pressure that there is because wow, real life is intense. And often loaded with expectations (let me refrain from spelling these out—I think most of us know what I’m alluding to? and if not, send me a note through our contact page and I can share and we can start a conversation). Because quality comes when we can see each other, hear each other, and feel like we’re being seen and being heard.

So that’s what I task myself to do at each ‘N’. Allow everyone space. To feel included. Seen, and heard. It’s a big month, this one, for me and for invitation-making for ‘N’ events in London, Copenhagen and soon, Hanoi. As soon as I get these things glued together and finish each ticket with an ‘N’ vector insignia… Soon.

Trusting the process. Looking for whomever might become my guests for ’16N.’ Curious? Go here.

GUESTS. Did you attend an ‘N’? How did you receive it? Does this stuff resonate with you? I’m still ruminating, but I’d love to hear your thoughts. If you’ve been invited, well, feel free to ask me anything. Except, um, ‘The exact date is when?.’ I’m working on that, in a poll, with registered guests, right now. To be continued! —AS

Trust the creative process, find the art and magic

[Update: AS OF SEPTEMBER 2017, DK is making Atelier S P A C E. But before we began roving the world gathering people in real life for conversations about the creative process (and hands-on programmes designed to get us doing instead of just thinking about doing), we used to have these conversations in virtual spaces. The Q&A series that we made for our online magazine, S P A C E, continues to be a place where we return for inspiration. A past life in journalism led to the style of asking questions and diving deeper to explore what it is a person cares about most, what she wants to say about her work and how we can contextualize it to make what we learn relevant to a broader audience. Everything we do in S P A C E has to do with the connections between people, with interstitial spaces. That is why we are starting to share more openly some of the early Q&A’s that were originally exclusives for our online community, S P A C E, which subscribes each week to our ongoing conversations, learnings, resources, links, and musings about how we make, who makes, where we are, and why we do this work. For more information about S P A C E, go here.]

 

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, IMAGINE. We are discovering some shared interests in, amongst a few other things: 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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Order the Book of Songs

IT’S NOT QUITE A CHAPBOOK, nor a novella, but rather a curation of some of the most intriguing people we’ve met in the last two decades. A curated collection of poetry and line art drawings. Some images are photographs of collages.

WANT TO ORDER the Book of Songs?

Order here >

WHAT IT IS. It’s not quite a chapbook, nor a novella, but rather a curation of some of the most intriguing people we’ve met in the last two decades. A curated collection of poetry and line art drawings. Some images are photographs of collages. Visuals were mostly made on the spot, live to music. Mostly jazz. Paired with poems, collages, most of the time done right there, on the spot. The Book of Songs is 8 poems and one short story. Each is inspired by someone pretty darn amazing, and there are links in the back to some of their sites. It’s also a dedication: this book is for the memory of Soknea Teang.

SPECIAL OFFER. Get a free track from the Norwegian free jazz band Gunslinging Bird Quartet when you order the Book of Songs. Pretty cool song, ‘If Your Mother Was a Hamster,’ comes with your order.

Get both in an instant download here.

Book of Songs
Book of Songs

 

‘Et eksempel er frygten for at udleve mine passioner’

Frygt og Lykke. A short essay by Aske Pedersen

I VIRKELIGHEDEN HANDLER det ikke om at skrive, men om at åbne mig op for andre mennesker. Og for mig selv. For at gøre dette, er jeg nødt til at smide min facade, mit uigennemtrængelige skjold af forsvarsmekanismer, og hvad sker der, hvis modparten ikke kan lide det den ser? Noget af det mest uhyggelige er at gøre sig sårbar, blot for at blive såret.

 

image

TODAY, a guest post by Aske Pedersen from Aarhus, Denmark.

(English version here.)

Frygt og Lykke

JEG ER BANGE. Ikke for mørke, højder eller for at dø. Nej, jeg er bange for ikke at slå til, at være utilstrækkelig, og derfor foregår der en konstant kamp indeni mig. En kamp mellem frygt og lykke. Et eksempel er frygten for at udleve mine passioner.

Når folk spørger mig, hvad jeg virkelig godt kan lide, siger jeg næsten altid at skrive. Men hvorfor har jeg så ikke rørt tasteturet i snart et år? Jeg ved, at det gør mig glad, men noget holder mig alligevel tilbage. En del af min identitet og selvforståelse er bygget op omkring forestillingen om, at jeg er god til at skrive. Hvad sker der med mig, hvis forestillingen ikke holder? Hvis jeg virkelig giver det bedste jeg har, men det bare ikke er godt nok. Denne frygt holder mig fanget i en magtesløs og narcisistisk stilstand, hvor jeg gemmer mig for frygten og udskyder konfrontationen. “I dag er jeg træt, jeg skriver i morgen. I morgen har jeg travlt, men der er tid i næste uge.” Næste uge bliver til næste måned, og næste måned bliver til næste år. Frygten vinder kampen, og min selvfølelse bliver baseret på en løgn, som jeg ikke længere tror på. Men der er sket noget i kampen mellem frygt og lykke. Jeg skriver.

I virkeligheden handler det ikke om at skrive, men om at åbne mig op for andre mennesker. Og for mig selv. For at gøre dette, er jeg nødt til at smide min facade, mit uigennemtrængelige skjold af forsvarsmekanismer, og hvad sker der, hvis modparten ikke kan lide det den ser? Noget af det mest uhyggelige er at gøre sig sårbar, blot for at blive såret. Denne frygt holder mig fra de mest spændene samtaler, nye venskaber, kærester og evnen til at kunne elske rigtigt. I mødet med andre mennesker vælger jeg den nemme vej, hvilket for mig, er humoren. Ironi er blevet en så stor del af mig, at grænserne er blevet udhviskede. Jeg ved ikke længere, hvornår jeg er ironisk, og hvornår jeg ikke er. Måske har alt jeg siger en grad af ironi, hvilket betyder, at jeg kan sige stort set alt. Men mister mine ord så ikke betydning?

Det er ikke kun det jeg siger, det er også måden jeg lytter på. Ofte tager jeg mig selv i at udtænke mit næste svar, før modparten er færdig med at tale. På den måde er jeg sikker på at undgå den akavede stilhed, og samtidig kan jeg fremstå mere intellegent. Dog går der noget tabt i processen. Jeg glemmer at lytte, og jeg formår ikke at se mennesket overfor mig. I stedet kommer samtalen til at foregå på mine præmisser og ofte til at handle om mig. Måske er jeg nutidens narkissos, eller måske er jeg bare bange, eller måske er det én og samme ting.

Hvis man koger det ned, handler det om at tage den sikre vej i samværet med andre mennesker. I samtalen kommer vi ind på alle de selvskrevne emner som studievalg, vejret og geografiske placeringer, og så kommer der et par vittige bemærkninger. Bare så det hele ikke bliver for kedeligt. Det er ikke pinligt, ingen er blevet såret og alle har det fint. Fint… Hverken mere eller mindre. Men jeg gider ikke længere have det fint. For når målet er at undgå fiasko, udelukker jeg samtidig muligheden for succes. —AP


Fear and Happiness

I AM AFRAID. Not of darkness, heights or of dying. No, I am afraid of not being enough, of being inadequate. And because of that, there is a constant battle inside of me. A battle between fear and happiness.

An example is the fear to live out my passions. When people ask me what really lights my fire, I almost always say writing. But then why haven´t I touched the keyboard in almost a year? I know that writing makes me happy, but something is still holding me back. A part of my identity and self-understanding is based on the conception that I am good at writing. What happens to me if that conception breaks? If I really give it my best shot, but it´s just not enough. This fear keeps me in a powerless and narcissistic standstill, where I hide from the fear and delay the confrontation. “Today I’m tired, I will write tomorrow. Tomorrow I’m busy, but there should be time next week.” Next week becomes next month and next month becomes next year. Fear is winning the battle, and my self-esteem is based on a lie that I no longer believe in. But something has happened in the battle between fear and happiness. I am writing.

REALLY IT’S NOT AS MUCH about writing, as it is about opening up to other people. And to myself. To do this, I have to throw away my facade, my impervious shield of defense mechanisms, and what happens if the counterpart doesn’t like what it sees? One of the most frightening things is to make yourself vulnerable, only to get hurt. This fear holds me back from the most interesting conversations, new friendships, girlfriends and the ability to really love another person. When meeting other people I choose the easy option, which to me is humor. Irony has become such a big part of me, that the boundaries have become blurry. I no longer know if I’m being ironic or if I’m not. Maybe everything I say has a touch of irony, which means I can say almost everything. But then what significance do my words hold?

It’s not only what I say, it’s also the way I listen. Often I catch myself devising my next answer while the counterpart is still speaking. That way I’m certain to avoid the awkward silence, and at the same time I can appear more intelligent. However something gets lost in the process. I forget to listen and I don’t manage to really see the person in front of me. Instead the conversation happens on my terms and is often centered around me. Maybe I’m the modern day Narcissus or maybe I’m just afraid, or maybe they are one and the same.

IF YOU BOIL IT DOWN, it’s about taking the road of comfort in the companionship with other human beings. In the conversations we go through the even written topics such as education, the weather and geographical locations, and then a couple of jokes are thrown in just so it doesn’t get too boring. Nothing is embarrassing, no one has been hurt and everybody is fine. Fine… No more, no less. But I don’t want to be fine anymore. Cause when the goal is to avoid failure, I exclude the opportunity of success. —AP

Pushing through the dip: on process and perseverance, or something

I WANT TO MAKE ‘N’ for London and Copenhagen and Ha Noi this year, and I’m going to just have to keep on inviting people until we find the magic sets of 16 per city. Bearing with me are the guests who’ve joined so far. I’m so lucky and grateful that a few of us are on for new things, for challenges, for learning as we go, for mixing it up, for giant blind dates, and for, yes, the human connection that can happen when we unplug, show up, say hi.

DK’s 16N project gathers 16 strangers in 16 cities. Cities that have an ‘N’ in them. On topics that start with ‘N’. This began in April 2015 in Phnom Penh with ‘N’ Phnom Penh: NORMALITY, then in October that year continued with ‘N’ Bangkok: NOW. We are now inviting new guests for ‘N’ London: NOTEWORTHINESS and ‘N’ Copenhagen: NEARNESS. Here is an update from the series, ‘Diary of N’.

Published in S. P. A. C. E.

Get new insights every week in DK’s eZine S. P. A. C .E.

MAKING MY WAY OUT OF THE BOX. It’s true. I’ve been hiding, sort of. I’ve been avoiding the work of actually inviting more people, because it takes a lot of mental effort and huge emotional reserves. I mean, not like the kinds you would need to go through trauma or anything.

Just—when you are idealistic and hopeful and optimistic and believe like anything in the power of people to work together collaboratively, beautifully, together when they only have a chance to meet and get over their initial seeming differences then yeah, you get discouraged to see that most people, I’m talking about 99% or so, but I haven’t done all the math yet, will not agree with you.

Maybe they’re scared. Worried. Not into it. Don’t think it’s important to ‘go outside the comfort zone.’ Is that what I’m asking people to do? It seems that way. That is what I hear, mostly, in the responses to my invitations—

‘You’re asking me to go outside my comfort zone.’

And sometimes, that is a welcome thing. I guess now that I’ve been hiding for a while I’ve had a chance to regain my enthusiasm for ‘N’. Some cool people are joining and I have made a promise to them, that I will make this happen. I am the kind of person who does what I say I will—it’s a huge value I inherited from my father, who is stout, and stubborn, sometimes keeping us from getting along, but boy, do I love that about my dad: his consistency in doing what he says he will. Later in life, I learned that is the best way to build trust and quality relationships—for work and for personal stuff, too. Show up. Do what you say you will.

I want to make ‘N’ for London and Copenhagen and Ha Noi this year, and I’m going to just have to keep on inviting people until we find the magic sets of 16 per city. Bearing with me are the guests who’ve joined so far. I’m so lucky and grateful that a few of us are on for new things, for challenges, for learning as we go, for mixing it up, for giant blind dates, and for, yes, the human connection that can happen when we unplug, show up, say hi.

I’m sharing the journey in some updates on our blog, but mostly in email conversations with people who have opted in to our mailing list at Design Kompany. (Just go to the contact page and click ‘get updates by email’ if you are curious.) I’m guessing most people are not aware of the quality level I am looking to make for ‘N’.

I AM GUESSING THAT they would see this, initially, as some sort of quick buck thing. They don’t know that it’s actually running at a loss. That is to say, the sponsor that everyone asks me about is actually my own studio. And we’re not rolling in it, like. We’re just… we care about uncertainty, trying things, taking chances, showing up, making something beautiful if we can find people also interested in those things. (Lately, business execs, generation Z, and innovation R&D heads.) It’s not everyone, for sure. And that is the learning, to date. It’s actually very, very few people. But then again, it wouldn’t be worth it if, through this giant maze, I didn’t find my way towards them.

TO BE HONEST, I don’t know how I would respond if the tables were turned. That is, if someone from the internet whom I didn’t know asked me if I wanted to get a ticket to some event that had never been done, with people I didn’t know and couldn’t read up on beforehand, and on a date ‘to be determined’ together by the registered guests, Hm, what would I say to that? Maybe it’s because of the challenge of trying to be more open this year, to say ‘yes’ more, to try new things myself that I wanted to keep going with ‘N’ after Phnom Penh and Bangkok and really try to make it to 16. I’m not saying it has to happen all at once, perhaps a break after the UK-DK tour this year. The rest can wait. It can happen over sixteen years, if it must, because what counts is the moment of it happening, in those places, not the hurrying through… I care about ‘N’. I guess I care about it because it is introducing me to a very neat set of people, (you know who you are), and the future ‘N’ guests to be determined, and it is for them, for meeting them, the chance to know them for a bit, that I want to keep pressing forward, and push through this awkward ‘givey-uppy’ moment, the one that some people call ‘the dip.’

To be continued….

#whynot #sayyes

Published in S. P. A. C. E.

Get new insights every week in DK’s eZine S. P. A. C .E.

On quality and intrigue, a conversation with line and music

A Q&A WITH ERLING SKORPEN, a jazz artist, on what makes something intriguing. ‘When you listen to a concert, and you notice that the musicians are really into what they’re doing. When you can feel the energy in the room, and there exists a special atmosphere there. That’s the feeling that best describes intrigue for us.’

IN DENMARK I got to hear a pretty neat collection of intriguing bands at a weird and fascinating spot in Copenhagen called Mandags Klubben 5e. (More about them, another time—so fun.)

But for today I want to share an interview with someone intriguing I met, whose upcoming album is another thing I’d like to share about in a future post as it has a connection to one of our own pieces of work, The Book of Songs, in an abstract, tangential sort of way. Abstract and tangential, now that I think about it, is exactly what was awesome about being there on that day last autumn.

Let me expand.

Loved the sound of a young group called Gunslinging Bird Quartet, and started drawing in ball point pen and off the page—two new things for me, at the same time. I later asked trumpeter Erling Skorpen about the style of music he and his bandmates play, and why. Free jazz.

DK: Cool show, can you tell me about your band?

EK: Through years of playing and exploring different types of music, we all found a common interest in this type of jazz music. It’s merely a process—we might part ways with this aesthetic in one year or ten years. This is the music we all love, and which inspires us right now.

DK: What makes you happy?

EK: When we are playing music and it really works out. Drinking coffee. Pleasant surprises.

DK: How do you define intrigue?

EK: When you listen to a concert, and you notice that the musicians are really into what they’re doing. When you can feel the energy in the room, and there exists a special atmosphere there. That’s the feeling that best describes intrigue for us.

DK: How do you define quality?

EK: When music is honest and it connects with the audience. When you really hear that these people mean what they do.

MEMBERS OF the band are: Trym Daniel Rødvik – alto saxophone; Erling Skorpen – trumpet; Alex Riris – double bass; Amund Nordstrøm – drums & percussion.

Discover Gunslinging Bird online here: Soundcloud.com/gunslinging-bird.

Arts and culture, conversation and the story

IT’S NOT FOR EVERYONE, as Erling says and which is exactly why I enjoyed being there. Mainstream can get in the way of real connection, in my opinion. When you bumble into the unexpected and find intrigue, there is something *! that happens.

Magic?

Magic.

It’s delight these days, I’m convinced, that makes up the aesthetic of a new kind of ‘beautiful.’ And when I say ‘delight’ I don’t mean some user interface or an app. I mean, real life. What is the role of music in society? What is the role of poetry, of design? To make artfulness, I think. To meander, to open hearts.

But what’s your take? Comments welcome. —DK

This post originally appeared in the INTIMACY sequence of our eZine, S. P. A. C. E.

Guest post: ‘Skipping the awkward get-to-know-you-phase’

GUEST POST from a guest of ’16N,’ our international conversation series of salons: ‘When we met, it was like we didn’t have a long awkward get-to-know-you phase, it was easy to chat and talk about less usual things.’

Published in S. P. A. C. E.

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A guest post today from Sarah Rhodes. Sarah had joined us at ‘N’ Phnom Penh, and reflects on that experience. 

WHEN I FIRST moved to Siem Reap, I was attending a lot of different events to meet different people and try and find my place and friends in a new city.

It was at one of these events where I met [DK], who was hosting ‘N’, an event that sounded a bit interesting, and although we didn’t get to talk directly, it was a few days later that we ended up having a great chat watching the sunset on a rooftop in Siem Reap town.

Whether it was the first meeting or the sunset chat there was no doubt that the connection had been made, so when I was visiting Phnom Penh in April last year and it coincided with the ‘N’ event, I considered myself very fortunate.

Sunset

It was during this visit that I realised the other attendees of the event had also had similar encounters with [DK], so it was no surprise that when we all arrived for this event we found that we automatically connected, as we had one main thing in common. The way the event was organised was well thought through; from the personal invitation, individually crafted official invitations, creative activities which with facilitated conversation beyond the usual ‘who are you?’ and ‘what do you do?’.

WHEN WE MET, it was like we didn’t have a long awkward get-to-know-you phase, it was easy to chat and talk about less usual things. I met many interesting people that night. I now have friendships with people in Phnom Penh from ‘N’, after all a friendship is formed by first talking with someone, and then talking with them again. —Sarah E. Rhodes (@saraherhodes)

Published in S. P. A. C. E.

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S. P. A. C. E: ‘Diary of N’

…PEOPLE WHO’VE said ‘yes’ to this wacky and weird idea. Followed all the instructions. Showed up, on the day. What happened in Phnom Penh and Bangkok was very special. And it’s because of the people who came. I can’t even tell you how cool it was. We made it possible, ourselves. We chose to be there, and we were there. Because we were curious. We wanted to be. That’s what made it magic.

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‘N’ IS IN PLAY.

I’ve given myself a task. To find 256 people. In cities that have an ‘N’ in them. To talk about a topic that starts with ‘N’. In a venue that starts with ‘N’, too. So far we’ve gone to Phnom Penh for ‘N’ Normality at NUK Cafe, and to Bangkok for ‘N’ NOW at Nikko Cafe. The next few places are on the books for later this year, and I am now working to invite the magic set of 16 to each of those places. There are a lot of reasons for this, but the number one reason is:

‘N’ is magical.

Why?

It’s working. The thing that an innovation consultant we know and work with closely said innovations are solutions to the right problems that users love to use. The important parts: ‘Right problems,’ and ‘love to use.’

The problem: people aren’t connecting in meaningful ways. Outside of work or romantic relationships, it’s hard to discover space and time to connect for quality dialogue, intellectual play and stuff like that. ‘A 30 year old guy talking to another 30 year old guy?’ someone on a train I met somewhere in the autumn said, ‘Well, that’s just weird. It’s like a date. What do you like? I don’t know. What do you like? That’s just… weird.’

Is it?

Can ‘N’ let it happen, so it’s NOT weird?

My original gut feeling was, ‘What if we could stop trying to collect people? As if we’re all numbers. What if, instead, we were all N, so randomly chosen and highly self-selecting. And then, when we have this very short moment of a conversation space in real life, those ‘N’ who’ve chosen to join the project become real people. The kicker: you have to check in your phone at the start. This is a picture of what it ‘feels’ like to be there. I took this picture in Copenhagen.

People. It’s about the people.

256 in total.

You. Me. Us.

People who’ve said ‘yes’ to this wacky and weird idea. Followed all the instructions. Showed up, on the day. What happened in Phnom Penh and Bangkok was very special. And it’s because of the people who came. I can’t even tell you how cool it was. We made it possible, ourselves. We chose to be there, and we were there. Because we were curious. We wanted to be. That’s what made it magic.

‘A – H A!’

EVER SINCE the idea to make ’16N’ flashed into concept in March 2015, I have sort of obsessively been writing people or bumping into them and asking, ‘Will you like to hear more about ‘N’?’ Sometimes they say yes.

I wanted to design a way for us to all meet each other at the SAME TIME. Serendipity and chance, but sort of on purpose. An experiment? Something. The idea being let’s see who comes. Let’s see what happens. Non-boring conversations, please. How to make it happen? This was my premise: You can design for great conversation. You can engineer conditions so that it’s more likely to hit on something cool in the space of a short burst of time. (PS, I’m an engineer by training, a designer by school of life.)

What I needed were these things:

People’s trust.
A unique proposition.
A firmness in structure.
A way to make it fun.
Hurdles.
Openness within the structure, on the day.
Gumption.

NO DOUBT this is a work in progress. But if you’re here because I invited you to an ‘N’ in your city, there’s more to share, at the password-protected link. Let me know you are there, and I can share more.

Diary of ‘N’ is published in Design Kompany’s eZine S. P. A. C. E. —DK

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Where great physics intersects with great literature: Outbreaks

NEILS BOHR: ‘There is no quantum world. There’s only an abstract quantum physical description. It is wrong to think the task of physics is to find out how nature is. Physics is what we can say about nature.’

A surprising overlap in thinking: What Neils Bohr and Henry Miller both say about the creative process

SERENDIPITY LANDED IT ON MY LAP.

In a dusty, sun-caked patio of a lending library in Phnom Penh, the worn volume tossed towards me by a longtime friend, with the abrupt grunt, and a halfhearted recommendation. ‘This one, maybe. You might like it, A.’

Henry Miller. The Colossus of Maroussi.

I did.

Too much.

I still haven’t returned it. One day, eventually, but it is too nice to read and reread the dense packets of prose that answer life’s big questions: what is our purpose, how can we reconcile our callings towards the esoteric (live artfully, miraculously) when the world is ravaging itself in global warming, apathy, fragmentation, and war. I lately read classics more and more. They seem to have some of these things organized and carefully, beautifully, and quite convincingly spelled out.

What we are, how we are meant to live, and what we might yet become are super giant metaphysical questions. When I talk about metaphysics, people get kind of all distant and a little weirded out. Science is hard, I get the rebuttal. I spent a lot of time in a part of America with the highest concentration of PhDs (this would be Raleigh-Durham), and often, more often than I care to admit, ran up against the celebration of logic over all.

Logic is a mess. Logic is killing us. And logic isn’t working. When we have the world upping in temperature inch by inch, the empire of Disney comes along and tries to put it out of our mind with a pretty little distracting animation about a world of cold and ice. A movie glorifying war comes out at just exactly the time as, guess what? Real war’s on. This is weird, but this is the world we are in. I was in this bungalow in a hippie outlay in a rural part of Cambodia one day, just hanging out on a hammock, and this older guy gets it that I’m getting him, and just tells me point blank, it’s all over. ‘The truth will be buried in a sea of irrelevance. You should read Aldous Huxley.’ ‘Tell me more.’

CAN’T SAY THAT I AM A BIG READER. I like talking, though. Correspondence in the written form is cool, too. What matters is the quality of exchange. The dialogue. Value is the awareness of something new, an input that is beginning to plant somewhere, and inform the old learnings. I am reading for the sake of curating a magazine. I don’t have much else to read, except what will engage the people I care about. The ones who ask questions.

Miller, describing his thoughts at being taken to an astronomical observatory in Athens along with his friend Lawrence Durrell:

The image I shall always retain is that of Chartres, an effulgent rose window shattered by a hand grenade. I mean it in a double or triple sense—of awesome, indestructible beauty, of cosmic violation, of world ruin suspended in the sky like a fatal omen, of the eternality of beauty even when blasted and desecrated. ‘As above, so below,’ runs the famous saying of Hermes Trismegistus. To see the Pleiades through a powerful telescope is to sense the sublime and awesome truth of these words. In his highest flights,musical and architectural above all, for they are one, man gives the illusion of rivaling the order, the majesty and the splendor of the heavens; in his fits of destruction the evil and the desolation which he spreads seems incomparable until we reflect on the greate stellar shake-ups brought on by the mental aberations of the unknown Wizard. Our hosts seemed impervious to such reflections; they spoke knowingly of weights, distances, substances, etc. They were removed from the normal activities of their fellow-men in quite a different way from ourselves. For them beauty was incidental, for us everything. For them the phsyicomathematical world palped, calibred, weighted and transmitted by their instruments was reality itself, the stars and planets mere proof of their exeellent and infallible reasong. For Durell and myself reality lay wholly beyond the reach of their puny instruments which in themselves were nothing more than clumsy reflections of their circumsribed imagination locked forever inthe hypothetical prison of logic.

Their astronomical figures and calculations, intended to impress and overawe us, only caused us to smiole indulgently or to very impolitely laugh outright at them. Speaking for myself, facts and figures have always left me unimpressed.’ —Henry Miller, The Colossus of Maroussi, published in New Directions Books: New York, 1941

Neils Bohr takes it further

THE WEIRD PART IS this. Henry Miller’s ideas about precision and logic and the people who profess that this is the prime tier of thinking itself is right in line with the physicist who gave us the model of the atom, Neils Bohr.

Now, I have been writing quite a bit here lately about my rambles in DENMARK. And the Neils Bohr Institute visit in particular, for example, features in a strong, central way in the new book I am writing (more on that some other time). Mainly, I wanted to get back to Phnom Penh and find a different library, one that has textbooks and not just novels, so I foudn the ___ university on the second floor above a moto parking lot and went on in, and got to the physics section, which I already knew about because of some old research on Bohm and qualia, and discovered, quite happily, a biography of Neils Bohr.

The man who became so well-loved in Copenhagen that taxi drivers taking physicists invited to study there took no money for their clients when they heard the destination was the Neils Bohr Institute has given us, as Miller, a lot of meaty and comprehensive thought on our collective work in life to be the best humans we can. Like Miller, he gets easily irritated with people who profess to know things, absolutely. What I learned from being in Denmark, as the biographer also comments, is that one must suspend his conditioning that directs us to speak and act as though we are ‘correct.’

There is no quantum world. There’s only an abstract quantum physical description. It is wrong to think the task of physics is to find out how nature is. Physics is what we can say about nature.

–AS

Thank you for applying for THE MIRROR!

Registration period for THE MIRROR has ended.

We’ll share about the next window for joining THE MIRROR through an update mail later this year.

REGISTRATION period for THE MIRROR Spring 2016 has ended.

We’ll share about the next window for joining THE MIRROR through an update mail later this year.

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For a notification, just add your name to the S P A C E orientation page, which you can access at the link from our contact page.

A hundred baby posts

IT’S PROBABLY NOT A COINCIDENCE that people into meditation and mindfulness and peacemaking and conflict resolution and organizational development and yoga and innovation and jazz and architecture and software developing are our usual circuit of people who we ‘get’, and who ‘get’ us. The quality of space invites room for play, for discovery and co-discovery. There is no ‘wrong’ or ‘right,’ at the start of these things. You begin as you are, where you are, and how you are. It’s about making the room for it. Space. Time.

Published in S. P. A. C. E.

Get personal and connect with DK in S. P. A. C .E.

WRITING TODAY. Mostly in pencil.

A new journal. The right-side pages are blank. So I’m going to be drawing more. I’m going to get back to pencil, more of that, and less of the overassured line. Back to the sort of line that has pressed places and soft places, HB and 5B and stuff like that. There were some products that tried to simulate this on a tablet, but I much prefer the sensation of hand to paper, paper to words, words to thoughts that link and connect and hopefully, one day, make some degree of conversation that is quality, and nothing less.

I wanted to tell you a little bit about what we are up to here, and what DK is about. (I usually stay away from posts like this because it gets long and I start to go on about the ‘past and what we used to be about’ and that’s really much more interesting, I think, to me and the people who used to know me, than it is to you.) You are probably new to DK. I am hoping so. That’s part of why I deleted the old blog. Hitting reset was real good.

A blog for 10 years! And just, poof. Over.

Something about that was freeing. We could reinvent DK for you. For the new person who is coming here, is looking, is curious, is open and I hope, feels invited. Design Kompany is nothing if it’s not making space for the new, the near, the now and the next. All of that, yeah. At once. Can’t even tell you how important it is to us to open this place up a bit more, much more, wider and unblocked. DK’s looking for conversations, for space, for rooms to design scope for the uncertain. There is a lot of loftiness and airiness to that idea, but I want to make a list today of why.

  • TIME. There comes a moment when you realize, ‘This is what I am born to do.’ For me, it’s making space for people to explore ideas, deeply and stuff, and not just the boring usual conversation. When I say ‘deeply’ that could mean a couple of things. For company people, it’s about what matters and why. For individuals, it’s about who we really are, and not just in terms of big picture overdone philosophy, but who we really are in this moment, in this time. This is a weird time to be a human being. We have digital presences. We have real life presences. And the lines between both are getting more and more obscure. Time is short. Attention is light. Ennui is blunting. What can we do to make the most of our time? That’s one reason we make rooms for conversations: salons, installations, sometimes workshops, sometimes online stuff. It’s all very much in process and behind the scenes there’s more in the way of N:N.
  • FILTERING. I can’t believe how much time we are wasting these days in the name of productivity. I have been offline this morning and writing in pencil, like I said, and today after I don’t know how many years I busted out the colored pencils. That felt great. I have missed moving color on the page and thankfully, this new book has blank ones, so it’s invited me to pick up the drawing in colorspace, once again. But filters are huge. Filters on who is allowed closer to you, into your inner space, are really necessary now more than ever. Part of why DK was on a boat in Sweden in the fall. Cocooning. It takes one irritating comment to undo a day’s worth of building yourself up to get to the right mindspace for real insight-making. And insight-making is what, ultimately, making space is all for.
  • INSIGHT-MAKING. I could tell you now about the previous 10 years, but I’ll spare you. If you are the kind of person I am most resonant with, none of that will matter. You won’t be the sort who cares about credentials and degrees and client lists and testimonials, but you will, I’m sure of it, believe me if I say I can produce some of that in five point eight seconds if you want to read it. But you and I will both know that if you have to ask, we aren’t a fit. We’re not a match, and that’s a fast filter. Who has time? I want to get to insight-making. For the people I work with, of course, but also for me.
  • FOR ME. ‘Why are you making spaces for people to meet and talk with strangers? What’s in it for you? Why are you traveling the world and hosting salons? What about these workshops, why should I join you? What’s in it for us, what’s in it for you? I need to know what your agenda is. I need to know if you’re cool enough to connect with. I need to know, I really need to know, why you are doing this, DK? What the hell? What’s in it for you?’ This is probably the #1 burning question in the hearts of those who get talking to me enough that we are like, ‘Yeah. So what about what you’re up to? What’s in it for you?‘ How to explain. I remember saying these words to a kindhearted locksmith in Sweden: ‘It’s awesome for me. I’m learning. I’m here, I’m seeing you, we’re having this conversation, it’s real life. Real time. Nothing I read about dead philosophers and what they think equals this. I’m actually saving myself a hell of a lot of time, if you want to know the truth. I’m able to move about now, physically and mentally I’m prepared to go into the unknown. I know that might sound bizarre to you, but I’ve been playing in the mucky space of not-knowing for about ten years. Do you think I had a plan, when I started? Of course I did. But of course, I was totally wrong about what my projected stats would be, one year out, five years out, and now, here, look at this, ten years out. The Design Kompany of back then is a whole different thing and you know what? The Design Kompany of back then was pretty darn boring. Young. Unsophisticated. Naturally, that’s how everything begins. Baby steps. Today people call us ‘DK.’ I don’t know why but it just stuck. I read somewhere in a naming thing that if your name is more than four syllables that is just going to happen to you, shortening, so be prepared. I also remember reading in a branding book that it’s not what you say it is, it’s what they say it is. And so whatever DK is it’s DK, and it’s doing the things that DK of today, 10 years on, is doing. Which is still a work in progress, of course. We are getting some pretty cool insights. But it’s not random.
  • OPEN SPACE. I have been really frustrated lately finding out that the online personas of some people (in Denmark, Cambodia, and America) were pretty much bullshit when I met those people in real life. Bullshit is irritating stuff. It subtracts from time. It hacks at quality spacemaking. I know, I know. I just posted programmer and writer Paul Graham‘s thing on our facebook about how Life is Short. The problem, though, with just knowing that is that knowing isn’t enough. We need spaces to go into and discover ourselves, or remember ourselves. That doesn’t have to mean flying to India and sitting on a mountain. It can be just making time and room in your day to day life through reflection. It’s probably not a coincidence that people into meditation and mindfulness and peacemaking and conflict resolution and organizational development and yoga and innovation and jazz and architecture and software developing are our usual circuit of people who we ‘get’, and who ‘get’ us. The quality of space invites room for play, for discovery and co-discovery. There is no ‘wrong’ or ‘right,’ at the start of these things. You begin as you are, where you are, and how you are. It’s about making the room for it. Space. Time. That sort of thing.

IT’S BEEN A LONG 10 years of learning, looking, changing and growing. Failing, yeah, but I don’t want to jump on that bandwagon. I don’t want to go onto the ‘design thinking’ one, either. It’s obvious that design isn’t an intellectual thing that you can just go into a classroom and fill out the right things in the right boxes and voila, you’re schooled. Don’t get me started on school, I have some terrible new insights that will rock the status quo. (But you can DM me on twitter if you want to hear them.)

These things in the list above are why we are at it, making space. For DK and the people we are collaborating with this year (open call for co-designing, just contact us),
2016 is the year we open things up. Looking for others to talk with, connect with, co-design space for quality conversation, dialogue, and insight-making. Breaking walls starts with knowing how to put walls there, to begin to talk, together, in ways that invite dialogue—the kind with a center, and not sides.

So this is my 100th post. A baby steps blog for trying out the new thing, the space and making of it. DK is here, we’re here because you’re there. It’s relativity, like Einstein talked about. It’s observer changing the thing being observed, like Plank and Bohr and Heisenberg brought up. More if you’re interested. There’s always more. 🙂

DK is making space.

Making space for quality. Making space for us, and you.

Published in S. P. A. C. E.

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The Book of Songs #5: ‘Open Heart’

‘STARTING TO START?’

‘Yes, how?’

ANTHOLOGY. The Mirror, 2014
ANTHOLOGY. The Mirror, 2014

THIS is the cover. The cover always is the last part, in the book-making process here at DK.

The reason is you just don’t know until the very end what might become, what is going to become and how it becomes is the work of the creative process. You have to start somewhere, for sure, but where and how to begin the compositions… that is the question for physics experiment designers as well as those standing and looking, at the canvas, whole.

There comes a time when you write and you collage and you find out that something exists that isn’t even in the words or the image. It is the intention. And when that intention came out in such a way that it was 10 people’s shared work, the work of looking deeply, within, well, wow, we had magic. Even though I’ve never met some of the contributors to The Mirror 2014, there are the connections that were built from correspondence and more than that, attention. Because attention is the highest currency now, isn’t it?

Readying to open THE MIRROR 2016A new volume is poised to be co-created.

I don’t have any idea, right now from this vantage, what the new collection will look like. Who’ll be part of it, what stories will be loosed? What will be the cover, what will be that new collection’s title, look & feel, and list of contributors and their stories’ names? It is a mystery, this. But the invitation is the first part. Setting the stage comes next. These things I learned from a different kind of artist—the musicians.

Playing pen, playing line, playing words, or playing notes. The compositions flourish most brilliantly, don’t they?, when they start from… what…?

‘Starting to start?’

‘Yes, how?’

‘Simple: it’s this. An open heart.’

‘Trust the process?’

‘Trust the process. Of… becoming.’

More like this

READ posts on DK’s new collection, Book of Songs >

‘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

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

Published in S. P. A. C. E. 

A bounded box

BUT THE CAFE is different.

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S. P. A. C. E. posts Tuesdays.
S. P. A. C. E. posts Tuesdays.

IN THE INSTANCE OF THE LIBRARY, it is obvious. We are there to find books, randomly off the shelf if it’s possible, and we are there to discover something new. (This in Aarhus, I saw.) Or maybe we have a pretty specific title in mind, and we’ve pre-arranged to request that exact volume, and we are simply there to retrieve it for a short spell in some climate-controlled room with security gates in place. (This in London, at a fancy place that one might have hoped would have a low-key magazine section).

But the cafe is different. The cafe is where you can just linger, and maybe be online or maybe not. (‘I’m sorry, we don’t have wifi,’ this, winningly, in Malmo.)

DK has been bumbling about looking for the interestingness, so that we can bring the best-of highlights and conversation snippets straight to interested readers in our eZine weekly, S. P. A. C. E. . I’ve been asked to share a little more publicly what the hell that is, and all that’s happening there since it’s now been a year.

But this is the era of too much information, so I’m reticent to do so. Suffice to say if we’ve met in real life, you probably already have a good sense of what S. P. A. C. E. is about, and why it matters. But if you want to talk to me directly, just get in touch. Direct is good.

See you around, maybe run into you in some library or cafe. Public space is my favorite. Serendipity and chance encounters can happen. If let, they can become relationships. These can deepen, and perhaps lead to artmaking. When such happens, that is even better. —AS

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