Looking for the kinds of places where you can go in the world and just hang out, write, or work, from the comfort of your desk-that-goes-where-you-do?
DESIGN KOMPANY is offering a short course that’s completely online from [update] 7 October called ‘The Cojournal Project: A Nomadic Existence.’ In this, we will be communicating once a week with you about the kinds of topics that are popping up as people who are moving away from traditional 9-5 lifestyles and finding themselves in cafes all over Southeast Asia, where we are, are starting to talk about the way of life that, for a lot of us, is weird and curious but also… freeing.
This programme is hosted by DK’s own Dipika Kohli, who was a staff editor at daily in Seattle and a bi-weekly in southwest Ireland (2002-2005) before turning to interactive magazines and spacemaking for conversations that get us out of boxes. In 2014, she won a Ted Howard Scripps fellowship for environmental journalism, flying to Colorado to get to know more about the field of writing for the sake of not just infotainment but actually depth and substance. She got talking with fellow editors around the United States then, and afterwards through continued correspondence, about how to make better space for conversations that actually move. That, for example, develop, progress, and teach us something interesting.
WRITING TO LEARN SOMETHING. Instead of talking about writing for the sake of publishing, what if we talked about writing for the sake of getting to know what we were even thinking. Like, writing towards a kind of clarity on who it is you really are, and what it is you really care about. A lot of people seem to go traveling to ‘get lost and find center,’ at least, that’s what I noticed from half o the people I’ve met on my travels in the 1990s (Ireland, India, Japan, USA), and more recently, in Southeast Asia (Malaysia, Cambodia, Thailand, Viet Nam, Nepal). Getting out of your space and seeing what else is in the world is a way of finding out a) what you want, and b) what you don’t want. But often we don’t have a chance to process what we are discovering because we are talking to the people we already know, instead of the people who are also on the same kinds of journeys.
A nomadic existence is a choice; it’s not for everyone, but it works for some of us. Knowing why and how, and being able to pinpoint those things for each of us, is a matter of simply delving into the questions and letting the answers come as they might. You know, you don’t have to have it all figured out at the start. You don’t even have to have it figured out in the middle, or at the end; the point is to know that you are searching and seeking with an intention that involves really caring about the journey. You have to care if you want it to become anything interesting.
What work you do, where you choose to ‘settle,’ if you choose to settle at all, whom you decide to partner with, if that’s something you want to do, and all the big questions of our lives that are related to these things that those of us finding ourselves in certain positions of privilege and capacity to move around the world and talk to people on the internet and somehow make some cash through that work is, well, a kind of curious set of things. If you are interested in writing towards some sense of self-awareness, and doing that with a small circle of others who are also ‘on’ for this kind of a challenge, consider applying for the Cojournal Project 2018.
We started this out in 2014, quietly, and it led to a short eBook anthology, The Mirror. In January of this year we opened The Mirror up as a separate workshop—100% online—that became a conversation space with forums, passwords and weekly prompts. I think that the interconnectivity of it is what made it truly great. Engaging with others who are very different from yourself: at least on the surface—is a way to start to get a perspective that is hard to find in everyday life.
‘Rereading Edward de Bono‘s book Teaching Your Children How To Think in recent days, I was reminded of the importance of sharing the variation of perspectives with young people,’ writes Dipika Kohli. ‘Of making it a priority to show them that there isomer than one way to look at a thing. That ‘rightness’ is a problem. That the argumentative stance that people like to take in Western societies, in which you get to feel good by putting someone else down, or by more eloquently arguing your way towards a position (even if it’s completely garbage, like showing through math that 2+2 = 5 (HT F), well, you see where I’m going wit this, right?)’
Make a space and find the muse
TAKE THE TIME to write with others. Journal your way towards clarity. Find the muse when you make the space. Not a lot, don’t worry. Each week’s prompt is designed to take just 20 minutes to complete. People say they like this because it holds them accountable to themselves, knowing that there will be a new prompt dropping into the inbox on Monday. Every week, 7AM USEST.
What’s different about this programme from the other online journaling projects we’ve seen online is that it happens in S P A C E, that is, it’s interactive. What you write influences what prompts follow.
This is not an algorithm or AI, this is a real person, Design Kompany’s creative director Dipika Kohli, for this project, will be customizing the next week’s prompts based on what you are writing in, as a small group. listening, sharing, empathizing: it’s all int here, but it takes showing up to get the best out of it. Take the 20 minutes of your week available to connect and to re-connect, first with yourself, then with others.
Design Kompany’s work is to make space for people to notice one another, and themselves. To pay attention. To notice the moment. That will dissolve before we know it. Ephemera, relational aesthetics, conversation space design… these are our beats. Ask us anything. Talk to us. Connect through the form at our ‘About’ page, and if this all sounds curious, try it out. We’re doing this for 12 weeks, [update] starting 7 October.
Application required. Open invitation. Apply here.
ADVICE to young artists, this time from photographer Chuck Close. (A detail of one of his giant, floor-to-ceiling self-portraits is clipped above.) Very cool technically, if you have a chance to see these sometime, I recommend it. Also, Close is all about process, One particular quote about getting down to work popped to mind after the interview above. Here’s what Close said:
‘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 [Hat tip SS]
‘Well, you know I can’t really judge. I’ve been doing the same thing all day.’
‘I mean, if it was ten years ago, and MA and I were hanging out having our meetups on Tuesdays like we used to, all those many lovely weeks, I think… we would have turned it into something similar. Co-worky and everything. I’m sure of it, actually, now that I think about it. But we didn’t because we didn’t have that technology. Instead we talked. A lot, really. And those were memories I treasure from those days.’
‘You guys did that regularly. Every..’
‘Tuesday at ten. At Vicky T’s. I really got to know her over those chats. Something about showing up, regularly, over time. All those weeks, those doodling sessions, conversations, just letting things come up as they wanted to. Not forcing it.. .making the time for one another. Just us, that was nice. It’s actually the only thing I miss about Seattle. And JB, of course. JB, for sure.”
‘And yeah, now that I think about it… it IS weird. Co-worky office-y over dinner with laptops, phones, and wine, and food, and phones, and phones and laptops and texts…’
‘Sometimes I’m just glad I was born when I was. But then again, like I said, I did do the whole computing thing all day. So I can’t judge.’
MAKING OUR WAY TO N. EUROPE in the coming weeks to host Atelier S P A C E around and about in Finland. This means starting the process of following up on all the general notes we had shared towards that part of the world in 2017. DK are seeking:
design studio partners
art book publishing partners
jazz club owners
self-initiating others to do _____
for a popup, traveling zinemaking atelier series, Atelier S P A C E.
CURIOUS? This page outlines how we are making proposals for partnering with people for an installation in Phnom Penh. Open to your suggestions on how to:
discover and engage with new people in creative, and other fields
so that we can design
occasions, experiences, ateliers and salons that
get us all out of our boxes and usual routines
to discover the world, to listen to each other, and to play
in truly remarkable ways
one conversation at a time.
Yes? Ask me for the PDF that outlines our offer, and the ethos and method of Atelier S P A C E, in detail. Use this form to reach me:
It has been four years since we began publishing our eZine, S P A C E. Which runs the gamut of topics relating to creating new, and better space, mostly the kinds that foster interpersonal dialogues that progress in a meaningful way. That doesn’t have to mean lifetime friendship, or anything. Just… It has to be real. Space for new thinking. New perspectives. New journeys, collaborations and friendships. New, though. New matters. New is where we push the edge, try new things, and grow. Meet me in S P A C E? Let’s play.
Atelier S P A C E is DK’s popup, zinemaking on-the-spot workshop. The idea is to gather a handful of people to meet and cocreate a short publication. A zine.
So far, DK has hosted Atelier S P A C E in: Battambang, Singapore, Penang, KL, and a few smaller cities in Malaysia. Zines from Atelier S P A C E have appeared at writers festivals in Singapore and Georgetown Penang, so far, and more appearances are set for a Finland tour in the summer.
Be a part of the international conversation.
For the full five-day programme in Bangkok, it is THB 8000.
Register by 5 March to confirm your spot. Get tickets here. ✨
DK hosts ‘In Mixed Company,’ a sequel to ’16N’ which happened in Bangkok in October, 2015. Meet new people in remarkable ways. Prompt-led, guided conversation in a way that opens you up to try new personas, play a little with identity, and brush up your imrovisation skills. Be prepared for anything, expect the unexpected.
‘Weird and intriguing’ —Guest at ‘Hello August’
Zines will be on display to peruse, enjoy, and to take home. Make sure to RSVP to book, as we have very limited seats. Max 6. Use this form to RSVP:
A POPUP CONVERSATION salon, with snippets from our 2014-2017 highlights from the ezine, S P A C E. We will be hosting this in real life at a venue in Bangkok to be shared with registered guests only. Free with RSVP. To RSVP, contact DK through the form here.
PEOPLE WHO ARE ALREADY IN MOTION know that the hardest part about starting a thing is, well, starting.
In classic high school Newtonian physics, the coefficient of static friction is greater than the coefficient of kinetic friction. Which means that if you had a mass on a flat surface, for example, you would need less force to push it and keep it moving at a certain velocity if it was already in motion (kinetic) than if, say, it was just sitting there, not moving at all (static). Friction exists. Sure it does. It’s a fact of life. It’s just… Coping with it. If you only have a limited amount of effort you can make, might as well do it where you know that it’s going to have more impact. This is a topic that we are discussing in our current online programme, The Mirror. It’s been quite a few weeks of learning and discovering how to talk more, how to talk more clearly, and how to shape a space in our online forums that, I hope, will continue to seed new inspirations and angles on things, for those of us writing and interconnecting. What would be the map for that kind of quality exchange? How would its arteries be shaped, where would be the high flow channels? (Forgive me, I’m a civil engineer by training… I tend to enjoy things like fluid dynamics and city planning, and building infrastructure for social [ex]change.)
INITIATIVE. Naturally, because of the friction thing, you discover when you are trying out stuff that something new is harder to get going when it’s standing still, or ‘to get it off the ground,’ or to initiate. So much gets in the way. Cloudy headed from your own self-doubt, that’s one, that’s the first hurdle, then there are more and more layers that impede you from moving towards, well, just the starting line. Let’s be honest about it, shall we? Today, I wanted to share a little bit about some people who have inspired me. Specifically, I want to tell you about their work to take an initiative, not just talk, but actually do, to get past blocks, and actually make a thing happen. Two are in Cameron, one is in Melaka. Malaysia. Asia.
So much more to say here about how hard it is to go against the grain of what’s socially acceptable, and what your parents say, and what your peer group is doing, and the general rules about what you’re ‘supposed’ to be doing which are so, so hard to get around. None of them knew, at the start, if their venture ‘would work.’ The Cameron story is just a few months old, and the Melaka one a little longer, but the bonus points that I want to give here for the people who are making and doing are there because they are making and doing in Asia. (I can relate. I come from Asian roots. Even in those United States, growing up with the steadfast rules that Asia extends even when its natives go away, far away, breaking out of the boxes is never a cake walk.)
ASIA. Yeah. Here, it’s extra hard, for the handful of reasons I just mentioned, but also because there aren’t a lot of examples of really interesting creative risk taking. On account of maybe government censorship stuff, too, but also, hey, there’re just not a lot (that I can find easily) of the creative class scene (which is difficult to define, but you have a feeling of it when you see it, right?). Understandably. It’s so hard to get a thing that is new and different to be valued: much simpler to follow the lines that have already been painted for you, go through the motions, live within the boundaries instead of breaking out of the margins. Starting a business and doing it for yourself is hard, everywhere. But it’s multiply difficult to do it, in my opinion, if you are young and taking the chance, and going against what’s accepted in these parts of the world, where enterprise isn’t seen as cool and edgy, but a risk that might embarrass not just you, but those who are near to you. And saving face is such a big part of everything, here, that the whole ‘fail early, fail fast’ rah-rah stuff that the US West Coasters like to run around in cities of Asia touting as the way forward just simply doesn’t blend in with the native program. Does it make sense? With that background, what I’m sharing next, to me, seems extra impressive. Here are the two businesses I wanted to talk about today…
Map Travelodge, Cameron Highlands
UP IN CAMERON HIGHLANDS, known locally as just ‘Cameron,’ I met a pair of cousins who started their own venture, and what struck me about it, was that, through dialogue and casual conversation over the course of four days, then ten, then, at the time of this writing, an embarrassingly lengthy perhaps 20, because once I find a place I like I tend to stick around, well, in the chats and learning I got to see that there are still people who are trying things, even when they don’t know what’s going to happen. Doing it on their own, doing it with their own gumption, and doing what they know a teensy bit about how is what Aaron Goh 吴秉洛 and Peter Goh吴秉腾 areup to, in Cameron, their native town in the hills here in Malaysia, where I’m writing from at this moment. I wanted to come to the higher country and put down some thoughts about space, about geometry, about systems and emergence, but all of that is sitting in a pile of notes while I write today’s thing, which is about deciding to want to change.
You know, they could have continued doing their jobs: Aaron was working in a big hotel in Penang for six years. He’s now 26. His cousin, Peter, loves traveling and has tons and tons of beautiful photographs (and if you know me, you know I don’t just offer compliments easily, especially on photography). Based on his own travels, Peter told me he wanted to create a ‘backpacker’s home.’ He wanted it to have all the things you would want, if you were living out of a bag and being on the road somewhere. Cafe. Warm reception. Laundry. Food. Privacy in your own space, that sort of thing, And it does, this place, that the two of them co-founded. It’s called Map Travelodge, there’s a humongous wall map that you just can’t not look at for a long time, and I guess seeing that, straightaway, along with the rack of postcards that I found out only later were all taken by Peter himself (no Instagram, no big sign saying ‘look at my beautiful pictures,’ so rare and refreshing in the era of narcissistic exhibitionism. Taken together, to me these things add up to authenticity and being good. Speaking of which, I asked Peter what makes a photograph ‘good.’ He said it is about timing. Then he went and got a postcard with some lions. Their eyes really popped out, so deep and penetrating, and so did the azure of the background sky. Timing, he said, makes the difference. (The same could be said about relationships, how they develop. You watch you learn, you wait. It takes time to grow towards a thing, to feel yourself connecting with it. Right?）
Gastro Coffee Bar, Melaka
IN THE MIDST OF MY STAY IN CAMERON, I took a break to go down to Melaka, to see what my favorite cousin calls ‘hoopla.’ Touristy stuff. There, I discovered despite all the attractions and heritage stuff and people around taking pictures, that I only wanted to take one shot. It’s weird, doing this ‘just one shot’ in a place thing. In the past I was a freelance photographer full time. So that seems odd, but it’s what it is. These days, I only share them with people in DK’s online community, S P A C E. The cheapening of people and places through over documentation, the lack of attention to detail and relating to the people who are experiencing the detail, subverting qualify for something superficial and ‘sexy’, like food porn (?), or insta friendship… These are the sorts of things I got talking about with the owner and proprietor of Gastro Coffee Bar. It’s in a quieter street, not like you’d run into it if you stuck to the main one-day tour route. It took me a few days to warm up to talking about real things, but we did, and in depth, and I wanted to mention her here in this little note on the web about cool people, smart and talented, doing their best to make something out of scratch, despite the odds. (And frowns, from Society, and general I articulated but highly present, palpable dismissiveness, from The West.) Tough subjects!… But why avoid them? I got to meet the incredible Nisa Aziz, owner and proprietor, and the resident cat in her space, and to tell them that I don’t publish the most intimate pieces I write. Why? Relating. Takes time to work up to. A getting to know you. (Japanese-speaking friends might appreciate it put this way: a kaiwa that hazumu-s.) Well, yeah. Of course you want to relate. You want to feel your way towards knowing, a little, and being known is nice, if and when it happens, too. So you wait. Is there going to be a connection? That only time can tell. Or the lions, in the case of Peter Goh’s timing and photography. Letting themselves be seen, at last. Fully, fully naked, but only to the eye that has built the trust with them, a rapport. Relating. And now, let me return to Cameron, and complete the story there.
Being who you are
DOING THEIR OWN THING really impresses me, watching Gastro. And Map, and its day-to-day, and meeting the new staff who’ve come on since my return. Dealing with people, the front desk reception, isn’t easy work, especially when you have girls in the dorm who start obsessing arbitrarily about bed bugs, which I watched unfold one evening at about 1AM in a conference that, really, wow, to watch it… There weren’t any, bugs that is, there were just paranoid people who were taking pictures of flies or whatever and screaming away as they cross-referenced them with the Internet.
People are a little zany, at times. One girl talked for like 4 hours about it. There was an expert, a 22-year old who’d been talking with me quite calmly moments before about Love and Art, but subjects those are, too, and she came in to share everything she knew from having just experienced this, like how to cope with these things, yeah. She came in from another room, and started to give a mini lecture. This was what happened. Big-eyed people were shooting questions at her, and she happily replied in detail. ‘They look like this… you seem let me describe this, or wait, see, how this would be, the shape is this. Their feet look like this… They grow like this… The light changes it, they aren’t going to come out if there’s light… This is how to cope, and then… Make sure you… warm water… Don’t forget that these things are also good to know… And when that happens, this is what you can expect next…’ While all this went on, a dozen heads poked out, you had to open your curtain to hear, and we all leaned out, watching her. She lit up on that stage, expanding in long form about how bed bugs move around, reproduce, grow, and are eradicated. People jumped in with their burning questions. ‘Can they walk across the floor? Is my bag okay there? Have you seen one here?! Can they go through zippers? Can they eat clothing? Can they reproduce inside your sheets? Can they stay alive for days?’ I couldn’t help it. I just went, ‘Can they apparate?’…
All kinds of ways to try a thing
A BUNCH OF PEOPLE would be gone the next day, as happens in a place like this that rotates clientele regularly. They’d go and more would come, and you’d hear the same exact stories every time. ‘We just got here. We’re going to figure out what trail or tour we’re going to do tomorrow, then we’re going to go for dinner.’ There are card games, or chess, in the common room, which is nice to see. Wifi is spotty so you just have to wing it, and it’s kind of refreshing to see people talking talking instead of just zoning out doing what I’m doing right now (typing into a device).
These things make me happy. People who are making things, sharing things. Doing things. Not because they have to, but because they want to. They’re not in this because they want to make a ton of money, that much is clear. They’re making a space. Just like us, here at DK. To host people. To give you a place to stop in, for a while. Make sure you’re comfortable, that the space you’re in is safe, and clean. How much more could you ask, when you’re on the road for a while, far from home? Yeah, it would be neat to share this coliving experience with friends or family, one day, but my friends and family aren’t about to hop on a plane to Asia and stop in to a hostel with me for a while!… Ludicrous!
I guess there’s just a stigma around pushing out of your zone, challenging your static friction coefficient, in a way, and going and doing whatever you bloody well feel like doing. It’s a luxury and privilege, I recognize, to be able to do this moving forth and generally meandering thing, but now that I look back on the last five years, I realize it’s more than that. It’s wanting it. Change starts there. With wanting it. You can go and stay where you are and wish and hope and talk about things, but you don’t really go and do them not because you can’t, but because, deep down, you don’t really want to. Me? I’m not interested in turning this blog into a ‘how we did it’ thing. That’s just dumb. I’m interested in sharing tools and tips and resources with people like Nisa, Peter, and Aaron, who are young and on their way. They’re already experiencing the ups and downs that will continue to befall them, there’s no going around it, you just have to go through. But you teach yourself so much when you do… Go through.
Like business, like travel, like starting new chapters, change is the thing that has to come from within, from wanting it. Not for everyone. And to return to that question of what makes a thing good, I’ll love to tell you more about that, if you become part of S P A C E in March or April, where the theme is Quality. (Sharing, for me, has to start with relating, and I just can’t do that on the public Internet, these days. Not for everyone.)
LUXURY OF TIME. The space to create. These are things that a lot of people I’m reconnecting with, so far, this year have said they really wish they could have, and seem to think that I have, and therefore there is a sense of… How can I say to them, it’s not about having it. It’s about designing for it. What you want. That’s just not a popular viewpoint. But, so? It’s mine. And apparently, with the new people I’ve met and written about above… it’s theirs, too.
Proceed with caution. But don’t stop.
This story was underwritten by members of S P A C E. Join us.
A POPUP CONVERSATION salon, with snippets from our 2014-2017 highlights from the ezine, S P A C E. We will be hosting this in real life at a venue in Penang to be shared with registered guests only. Free with RSVP. To RSVP, contact DK through the form here.
THE CALL OF THE ROAD. The urge to change something. But… What? Maybe it’s not the urge to change something, but just to take action. Any action. To just… go. In this freestyle conversation salon, hosted in the zany way that belongs only to DK, you’ll be able to enjoy new people, new thinking, and new kinds of conversations that have a center, and not sides. Expect the unexpected! Seasoned travelers and new voyagers are welcome. Tell us where you’ve been, how it’s been, where you’re going. Experience 4 short activities that we will do together, activities taken from Design Kompany’s handbook, ‘SELF,’ in which you will be able to also explore the inward journey. A short, sweet and once-off salon that doubles as a workshop, ‘Wanderlust’ is perfect for the seeking, curious, introspective, and (occasionally) extroverted traveler.
‘Wanderlust’ is a guided, prompt-led conversation and workshop in which you have the rare opportunity to process the very many feelings that crop up when we go, as and how, and where, when we wander. Up in the hills. Away from everything. Let’s gather in real life. Let’s converse. Let’s play? More at the registration page. Register here.
MEET DK in Kuala Lumpur to talk about things related to creativity, learning, play, travel, journaling, and the journeys. It’s an open-space format conversation salon. If you’re curious about new and different others, and are interested in a chance to connect I ways that don’t involve hand phones, Google, CVs, or bars, this could be a good fit, for you. Ideas. Personalities. Really talking, and about things in depth, not trivially: that’s S P A C E. This is part of the Atelier S P A C E || Kuala Lumpur (17-30 January) programme. Location details to be shared with those who indicate interest in attending. Let us know you’re interested thorugh this form? Agenda, meetpoint to follow from there.
MAKE A ZINE with just a handful of others, in this international atelier series, Atelier S P A C E.
ATELIERS. These pop up from real life when we converse offline with new and different others. It brings storyfinding back to person to person contact, while ‘journalism’ becomes increasingly less human-centered. Who will we tell our real selves to? Each other, in real life, offline, away from package-making for others and towards more listening for common threads and similar experiences. In so doing, we feel more connected, DK have found, and inspired to improve, too.
Starting in Battambang in Cambodia in Sept. 2017, we are moving in Asia to discover people who are curious, creative, and ready for something new. Our cocreated Battambang issue was on the topic, Ennui. In Singapore (10-12 Nov) our zine was on the theme The Third Place. In Penang (6-11 Dec) we took a different focus, Growth. Each theme is based on what conversations emerged when we meet new people in real life in those places, and simply take time to talk. Then we work to make a zine that is cohesive, and is hyperlocal to the place and the contemporary narratives. What will happen, whom we’ll meet, who will join, and what zine we will then together produce is an open question. Let’s consider the possibilities. Let’s make a space.
ONCE UPON A TIME, a very smart person wrote a thing about my art. I guess that was the thing that threw me off. ‘Art.’ It was weird, because I thought I was an engineer-architect-journalist-designer. But I was making things that someone with a real eye, experience, and like I said, brains, didn’t say wasn’t art. LW. (Thanks, if you see this.) What happened was this. AM suggested it. ‘There’s this person. She’s looking at people’s art. She’s gonna write it all up, a review. You should do it.’
‘Says it’s for “artists”. Or whatever.’
‘You’re an artist. How many times… Just. Go.’
Unconvinced and commitment-averse, I sat on that idea. No, it’s not for me. I’m a designer. I’m working. I’m not… Painting canvases. I’m…
But I did go.
Unannounced, with all the best ‘art,’ or whatever, that I had made, ‘best’, in my opinion, up until that point. Stuff from Kyoto, New York, Seattle. Stuff from way before. Stuff I just hit ‘print’ on. Word stuff, drawing stuff, comic stuff, sharpie stuff. A lot of stuff. I couldn’t know then which stuff to keep, and which to get rid of, because I didn’t know the ‘what this is’ thing, not clearly, not yet. Maybe she could look at it.
Blind luck: there was a cancellation. Or a no-show. What a missed opportunity for that guy. ‘Dipika… Kohli?’ ‘Hi.’ Let’s see what you got. Were we mutually asking? I think so. I still remember the moment that felt, within that scene, which was also pivotal, to be the one that switched us on to one another. A certain piece. A certain exchange of looks. A certain ‘getting’ of one another, right there. When a piece makes a person feel a thing, a thing that the person already has an inkling about in nonverbal ways somewhere within, floating around, but just hasn’t… Tuned into… Then the piece is relating to them. That relating is the art.
But that awareness would not come until 2017. Maybe a twinge came when I met MT? A glimmer… A hint. Yes, certainly there was an echo there. I think I even said ‘interstitial space.’ I think my plastic name tag was poking at a skewed angle. Talking geometry. Talking about space. But it was well received, and added to. That was why it was so exciting.
THAT’S KIND OF how it (it?) started. It? Everything, really. Work became project-making. Maybe it was art? I read about things that kids in art schools in foreign countries told me to google. I looked up words I didn’t know and found, through deeper and deeper investigations in that shallower and shallower place that is the Net, little gems.
But the review thing. Some people want to get their work in museums, have shows, travel and be seen. I don’t care about being seen, really. I care about about the art itself. And yeah. The relating, to me, is art. A thing doesn’t mean anything if no one is there to receive it. Et cetera. So yup. Everything from that moment changed everything I do now. It wouldn’t have even happened had it not been for curator BMC. Also important. The people who shake things up, right? You see them when you look back, on the long path. In the West it’s all about ‘me me me’ and glorification of a person and equating ‘success’ with material wealth. Not always, but often, I feel, in the East when it’s really good, that’s because it’s a collaboration, the beautiful things… There’s less of the ‘look at me! Look what I did!’ vibe. Now I have to talk about George Webber. No, no. I’ll save that for the S P A C E crowd. Anyway. Changing from West to East (2014-present, I’m Asia-based) has meant appreciating the people who helped me make the things we’ve made, since arriving in Cambodia, to reset all the buttons.
WORDS. I watched. The review. Being written. ‘Hey, that’s kinda cool.’ Next few years, I read it over and over, until the penny dropped (that’s an Irishism for ‘it sank in’). This: she had called it, like tarot cards. This thing. That I like to do. Show the process. Include new voices. Close-ups. Relationships, aesthetics… that are there when people connect, convene in new ways… She looked through my zines, papers, (I always have papers), my oversized black portfolio I got because you needed that, right? To be legit? (No. You needed a concept to be legit. That would take time. Practice. Faltering. Bracing. Returning to the next place, sticking the foot out, going again, letting go of the people who said, ‘What are you doing? Get a job!’, and trusting the process.) What design taught me was to not get too complacent with the first or 17th idea. Push to the edge. Then, go past. Out there is the interstitial. Out there is S P A C E. A very specific kind of space. (Writing about it. A checklist. Sharing in small circles.)
WORK. I think she saw me trying, in my immature-yet way, to poke a hole in that materialistic veneer that is so supersaturated… So not-critiqued, so upheld as ‘that’s just how it is’ mumbo-jumbo status-quo. I was doing things to provoke some response, maybe. Drawing kooky Sharpie comics. Blogging a lot. Too much, really. I didn’t want to stop, it was like a habit, but then the blog got deleted kind of accidentally and it’s a long story, but it was so amazing because the feeling wasn’t one of sadness or loss, but of… Relief. Now we can finally start something new. Ten years of a blog is a long time. Ten years of trying to keep saying the same stuff in interesting ways is boring. I don’t even know what we were doing there. Yup. I am saying that. I am. Saying it all. Honestly. Nope. I’m not a super-duper-well-put together kind of a person. My friend IK said, ‘Twitter is for the smart people. Instagram is for the beautiful people.’ That was… Insightful. Spot on. What if you don’t hang out in those ways? You just want to, like, chill? I learned when switching from East Coast to West Coast in those United States of (North) America, one thing: you don’t have to wear a suit. Or nice shoes. Forget New York Black and ‘a Manhattan minute.’ You can go around in a hoodie and some old jeans. You could be dressed like that, slumped in the corner of Joe Bar Cafe, and you could be a millionaire, or a scruffy writer, same thing over there. Seattle. Which is where DK started up as an official thing. That would be 2004. Does history matter? Why am I telling you this? Och. Another Irishism.
SHAPE OF SPACE. BECAUSE IF THERE IS ONE THING I learned from the last couple of years that I took away and kept in my most intimate drawers for revisiting, it’s the idea of ‘provenance.’ How have you held a thing, where has it been, who used it, where did it get shared. This is a hard thing to measure. Impossible, really. That same hoodie scenario… I still have this hoodie. I wear it all over the place because the buses are cold and the trains are colder. Oh. I’m on the road. (This is part of the reason I am blogging so many paragraphs.) There are no obligations other than to host The Mirror, certain ateliers here and there, and to dream up the next thing. Whatever it is going to be, it has to have meaning. And I find meaning in a couple of things, things that JŽ knows, but few others, because I shared those ideas when they were just starting to become visible… A sea of abstract ideas… And then, some emergence. I’m here, though, to listen, to field queries, and to show up for whatever comes to be. I am learning how, a little bit, once more. The road teaches you things. That’s what I’ve discovered, anyway. It’s important to share, sometimes, too, the little lessons. Blogging is kind of ambient way of sharing. I was getting bored of it because I didn’t know… How to… Share better. I guess, though, I got a lot of practice. You write, and you write, and you write some more, and you get a wireless keyboard and then you type some books into your little devices and press ‘publish, make this a PDF, go!’, and say, ‘Do you want to read this?’ And wait and see if relating happens. Sometimes, when you’re lucky, it does.
NEXT. ATELIER S P A C E || MELAKA. Zinemaking. With new and different others, in real life. It’s happening, and I’m jazzed. Popping up at the weekend. This one is gonna be low-key. By invitation-only, no buzz, no noise. Very fitting, this style, for Melaka. I’ve been here more than a week, gorgeous architecture, world heritage site. Yet I’ve just been walking around, getting my bearings, trying to connect with the place before photographing it. So I’ve only taken one picture. That’s this one. I hope you like it. —DK
TOMORROW WE START. A new chapter for The Mirror, an online conversation that doubles as a workshop. This year is The Mirror‘s fourth.
In creating our invite list, I’ve been reconnecting with people around the world, these last few days, rekindling old ties and fostering a few new ones. Not everyone, of course. But a few. A few is good. A few is all you need.
We started it in 2014 as an experiment: if we could write with people we didn’t know, could that open space to a new kind of learning? What would happen? In the short compilation that came forth from that year, this was how we descibed the trepidation: ‘… 2014, a small group of people agreed to give me a shot at helping them make space to write more this year. It was unconventional and experimental, exactly what you have to be a little bit of a chance-taker to try, because I was making it all up from scratch. Thanks to their trust in us to create and hold space for writing, and especially for writing together, we were able to connect through words.’ Four years later, I’ve been musing on the changes, shifts. I love the beginning of a thing: a book, a new friendship, a fresh place. But now, I’m learning to appreciate the early-middle. Things brew. Become a little familiar. This is nice, very nice, too. We just finished our registration. Half our guests for The Mirror are returning participants. I am so excited! And I feel lucky, and bewildered, and delighted, as if the party of my life is about to start… In a way it is like a party, my favorite people from real life conversing in virtual rooms, over the coming weeks. The goal is interlink them, meaningfully, not trivially, with this more formed, but not fully formed (and thank goodness for that), version of The Mirror.
Like a four year-old, The Mirror now has grown up a little, and has a will of its own. Inquires, questions, accepts new input, want to discover, test the boundaries, and most of all, play. DK is all about that, if you know us personally or if you worked with us in the past. Let’s look at this in a new way? Let’s consider another perspective? Let’s not pin this down too soon, because we are still learning, still trying things, still letting it be what it wants to become. Along the way in any period of development, though, you see the heart of the thing that is emerging. With a child, their personality comes through clearer and stronger at four, right? They assert a little later, but they kind of have the general sketch and outline of the personality. We are there, with The Mirror, too. Wonderful things to look forward to, but also, extremely cool this evening as we are setting up for tomorrow, to notice the elegant part, that when you do pin down a creative idea it’s time to focus on giving it the kind of attention it needs to really flourish. At this stage, a wide mix of voices and stories, a gathering of people in virtual space, people from around the world who opt to apply and try something new, is what The Mirror is overjoyed about. I like the Englishism, ‘mates,’ as in, ‘I was with me mates.’ That’s the feeling. The Mirror can’t wait to play.
It’s almost time.
A new, more sophisticated, but also fun, what would it be without fun?, version is about to start. And guiding that, without knowing for sure how it will play out, but needing to trust and learning to trust that it will, is our work, here. Spacemaking. For new and different others to find remarkable connexion. We took a chance, we planted a seed. That thing germinated, it began to grow. It would have been so easy to not try, not even bother planting it. To make an excuse, to busy ourselves with ourselves. But the light and the water and the air, the things you used to cultivate that seed, were the beginning, as it flourished, the little buds weren’t just things to mind, but rather, they were part of a new section of yourself. They, slowly you realized it, they grew you.
WHY MAKE SPACE. We are doing this because we love new people, new places, and sharing from our 20 years of experience in calling out some of the best of conversation through carefully designed and well-facilitated space for real dialogue.
VALUES. Authenticity and sincerity over coolness and broadcasting, for us. No posers. No fakes. No phonies. (And no phones, please. When you join one of our ateliers, we will ask you to put yours in a box, stow it away, and attend to it when we are finished).
Who’s interested? It’s not for everyone, real life. But it’s where we like hanging out it.
S P A C E is invisible. But S P A C E connects us all.