Designing the next

Update: April 12. Very warm thank-you to those who helped me think carefully about the writing for the letter to ask for funds for the Finland programme. I am going to circle back to you individually, so hang on there for a bit, and I will give you the personal report on what’s going to happen next. Meantime, check out the updates on this project at this page.

Be sure to add your name to the mailing list there to be more closely connected, in the months to come. 

 

Making more and better S P A C E

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.

A song for Jean Rhys, a letter from Rilke

FIVE OF US. Wrote a poem together.

And I’m going to send it to just the five of us, and that’s it.

It’s called A Song for Jean Rhys.

Jean Rhys inspired the work, in a big way, of hosting The Mirror.

Writing needn’t be about mass producing, or selling, or convincing, or debunking. Sometimes, writing can just be about sharing. Making a quiet space, and letting that be enough. Enough. Letting things slow and experiencing this here, this now, is enough… What if that could be a philosophy?

Asia for five years now. You let go a little bit of the old programmes. I know I’ve written that somewhere before, but it isn’t a bad thing to underscore it. Letting go of the programmes. To see, finally, when we can make space, to be together for a time, to listen and to share, that’s neat. That’s being here, being here now. Some people who have mentored me have shown me the ways to try to include the quiet spaces in my everyday, and indeed, to let them take the center stage. Stillness. Quieting. I’m living next to temples. I’m learning to stay the journeys now, without abruptly quitting a person, time, or place. But… Selectively. The small poem is ‘A Song for Jean Rhys.’ It isn’t for sharing here, but there, in our closed circle, where things have gone from small and simple maybe things to wow, this is good, this is right things. Is this intimacy?… is this beauty? Is this the whole thing of Art?

SOME DISTANT DAY. Big questions, but we don’t have to resolve anything. Rilke said, to the young poet, don’t ask so many questions, but let yourself live your way toward the answers… Of course he said it better, but it’s past midnight and the scrap of paper I had written it on is, oh, no, wait! I typed it! In Cameron Highlands! Here… Indexed, searched…  found:

Be patient toward all that is unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves… Do not… seek the answers, which cannot be given to you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.’ —Rilke’s letters to a young poet

The Mirror Section B

Forget what ‘they’ say.

THE MIRROR is for helping you discover and listen to you. You don’t need anyone else to spell it out, but here it is: no one is going to regret it more if you don’t do the work than you. Did you read that article that went viral, a while ago?  ‘Top 5 Regrets of the Dying’? >

DK’s online workshop for 2018 is THE MIRROR. The unique reflection workshop THE MIRROR will give you a chance to discover your way to fresh, revealing insights. On you: the inner motivations that are moving you towards your goals, your dreams, and your heart’s desires. We are accepting new guests on a rolling admissions basis through the end of March.

WHO SHOULD APPLY. If you are questioning the goals and methods that you have or are using, then THE MIRROR is ideal for you to re-evaluate and confirm your personal values are aligned with what you are doing and making at work.

  • If you are in a period of limbo,
  • if you are in transition,
  • if you have just come out of something or are about to head into a new phase, THE MIRROR is a good programme.
  • if you have been through some difficulty or a change,
  • or something has pushed you to question your own goals, vision, mission and values, then THE MIRROR is an excellent tool.

SCHEDULE. Posts will be sent weekly. Each week’s is designed to be complete-able within 20 minutes. These are sequenced to help you discover with clarity the pop that makes you very much you, and only you. You will be invited to share also in selected pages of our concurrent conversations going on in very small circles in Design Kompany’s protected-page forums.

A few testimonials from guests of DK’s online programmes…

  • ‘Thank you for the opportunity.’ —Anonymous
  • ‘It’s a unique project and it’s pretty special. If you’ve been looking for some structure or accountability in your writing—and supportive community in very small groups, this could be for you… a compassionate leader… offers some accessible assignments that are helping to shift my writing lens. I love it.’ —MH
  • ‘Warmly recommend it.’ –SG
  • ‘[This] motivated me more to do what I wanna really do and kick some a**… Thank you, DK!’ —JH

JOIN THE MIRROR. You’ll need to apply, then to register: Apply. Choose an 8-week or 12-week option. Late registration fee is USD $160-200. Selected applicants will be invited to register.

S P A C E || Breakfasting

‘THAT WAS GREAT.’

‘It was.’

‘It’s good that we can still talk. A good conversation!’

‘It is. It was.’

‘About so many kinds of things! It keeps it new. I like that.’

‘I do, too.’

‘I think… I think that what’s really interesting is when you can have the old things and the new things, together.’

‘…’

‘I was talking about this the other day, when I was telling you I had such a great conversation jam? That was really fun, and you know, there are more things to talk about, all the time, as we go, because the talking towards some kind of discovery, even with the limitation of language as that is there, you know Niels Bohr said—‘

‘Who you love to quote.’

‘Who I love to quote! Who I love!, and yeah, he said, “We are suspended in words.”‘

‘…’

‘I think that S P A C E and writing like this is about suspension.’

‘…’

‘Everybody thinks they want stuff to be grounded, you know. Clear. Crazy clear and understandable, the bullet-point list. The one-pager. But… We also like to curiously float off sometimes, too. No one admits this out loud! I mean you can’t. It’s crazy talk.’

‘Yeah.’

‘But what you said, earlier, and last night, and everything. That was good. That was helpful. Informative.’

‘That was! Thanks.’

‘So we’re not fighting now.’

‘No.’

‘I like that we could skip over all the stuff we used to do, like sit around and process all the line-by-line stuff. I think I was just tired. And sick. I’ve been so sick. And all these papers, everywhere. And yeah. I’ve got to make a whole batch of zines, S P A C E || Malaysia has Ipoh, Cameron, Melaka, Penang, and Kuala Lumpur… And I’m only two-fifths done… And…’

‘Productivity isn’t the point.’

‘No.’

‘The journey is.’

‘Yes. But that is so… Philosophical and everything. But it is. The journey.’

‘…’

‘So, where’s next?’

Join us in S P A C E for more conversations. This month, we are giving away to new subscribers a PDF copy of Dipika Kohli’s book, Breakfast in Cambodia (Kismuth Books // 2016). It’s also available here.

SELF || Bangkok

DISCOVER YOUR SELF. Sounds crazy, right? You know yourself. Well, do you? In this era where layer after layer of facades keep us from truly relating to others, maybe it gets confusing. It’s a good time to take stock and reflect on who it is you are, under all of that. No cameras, no phones to distract, no documenting… That’s how we will host this very small-scale, intimate salon at the cozy Chong Nonsi venue pictured here. No need to bring anything. All materials will be provided. Hosted by Dipika Kohli. Which means you’ll get activities to facilitate insight-making moments through reflective writing. And a conversation party with other people taking part. No more than 8 seats for this.

Last seen at Neilson Hays Library in 2014, one guest had this to say about SELF…

‘Overcome my fear of writing’
I AM WRITING because I wanted to thank you all for sharing ideas and memoirs, I am very much impressed and really enjoyed the workshop [SELF]. I’ve been working on my writing, and finished one short story which I feel so happy after I finished writing it (it’s in Thai.) I’m working on its English version pretty soon and will send to you all for the feedback. Bottom line is I’m happy to let you know that I’ve somehow overcome my fear of writing, though there’re times when I got stuck with the stories, get distracted, or feel like it’s not good enough – if it was before, I was just going to give up. Now, I feel it challenged me and I find writing more enjoyable. Most importantly, I feel like my writing is getting better too. —J. Lee, Bangkok, 2014

In sum, SELF is a workshop that, intriguingly, also doubles as a conversation party. Meet people interested in exploring, through writing. Find your theme. Peel back the layers. Put your phone away, in a box. (Yes, really). And show up for yourself, for the others, and for a conversation in just under 3 hours that very well could change the course of your year. Are you on for the challenge? Register here.

Disclaimer: If giant life-changing steps follow this workshop, we are not responsible for the people in your life who get mad at us! This has happened. 

Interstitial 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.

Oh.

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  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

8 January | Discover The Mirror

OUR NEXT ONLINE programme, The Mirror, begins on 8 January. Details are here.

What’s next for you?

If taking time to consider that very question thoughtfully sounds interesting to you (yes, we know it’s hard, of course it is, but is it interesting?…) then I invite you to apply for The Mirror. It is my favorite of our online workshops. I guess I like it because I’ve see transformations. So far, more than 50 people have taken part in our online programmes since we first opened spaces three years ago, all these would be online, for the kind of salon-style dialogue that: progresses; is carefully moderated; and is kept to a very self-selecting, small set of people. Real breakthroughs happen. I see it every year. You don’t have to be a pro at writing. Mistakes, drafts are welcome. It’s a journal, not a report. 😉 Since early 2014, DK has hosted The Mirror, this interactive and small-scale  experiment in journaling with others online. The framing question for its design was:

What if we could discover something together with those we didn’t know, but who were also exploring the same themes?

Great conversations emerged, resulting in a short eBook anthology, The Mirror. In recent days new conversations have inspired a fresh sequence of prompts, those that will, we hope, encourage people to break free of rigid thinking that ultimately confines us. For this I have CC to thank, in large part. (Glad I got to tell you.) If you are returning, there is more to share, on email, about the new things and a special group for alums.

The Mirror 2018 will circle in the new guests we are meeting in real life at our Atelier S P A C E programmes with our existing online community.

It’s fun, light.

And conversational.

Curious? Apply by 2 January. Apply here >

S P A C E || Games afternoon

JOIN THIS FREE games afternoon, hosted by DK’s in-house chess enthusiast. Discover new people and the games at Narrow Marrow, in Penang, on Carnavon Street. We’ll be there from 2:30PM to 5PM, no need to register. Free.

Scouting venues and making friends

PART OF THE PROJECT OF ATELIER S P A C E is, when I forget to be concerned about Programme design and making sure all the pieces are in the right order is letting things just happen.

It has been not quite two weeks since DK shifted from Singapore to scope the scene here in Penang. But already I feel like it’s been, in many ways, like meeting someone you’ve always known in a way but haven’t fully seen.

Like a pen pal. Or a distant cousin.

There are overlays that you can’t deny, a cultural identity that’s shared in a very tangential way, for me, here by the side streets of a warm and seaside town. I love this village feeling, it reminds me of Skibbereen, and very shortly I think I will feel ready to start sharing out loud and not just blogging into the obscure about Atelier S P A C E || Penang. That’s here.

Meantime it is just now posted, details and tickets and everything, to Eventbrite.

Tonight in Singapore! A 3-day zinemaking popup atelier begins

LAST CALL to register for Atelier S P A C E in Singapore.

Tickets for the 3-day atelier are SGD $180. Register here.

We are ready, and we are set. Look forward to meeting our registered guests tonight at the *secret meetpoint* at the National Gallery.

S P A C E. Meantime, if you are not in Singapore, but are wondering about how all this will play, do consider subscribing to our online magazine, S P A C E. It’s a weekly. Going since 2014. See what we will be writing, sharing, and co-creating. Find out more at this page.

Journey to S P A C E

IT IS SUNDAY. Laying low, conversations are being kept to a min. It’s that kind of mood, here, what with throngs of people out and about soaking up the city at the weekend. I remember this. All my city travels were like this… the weekend is when you really want to keep it to a minimum, the hubbub, at least, that’s how I feel about it. All scenester and hipster and instagrammy and it’s weird, and strange, but you could just go to the same places on a different day, say a Wednesday afternoon, for ex, and enjoy the space for much more airiness and lack of crowds. For a conversation salon space maker I am a terrible hermit, I suppose. But maybe that’s because I like to save up my energy and interactions with just a very small handful of self-selecting others. When people choose to take part in S P A C E, it means a lot to me because it says, ‘Yes, I, too, want to try new things. Show up. For something new. I want to try it.’ Maybe it’s just once, maybe we’ll never meet again, but wow, when we do this, it’s magic. Really. We can enjoy these things, can’t we? One real life conversation atelier or salon or just a bumping-into-you-for-this-moment space of time? I think so. Let’s see what happens, now, as we get ready for Singapore’s Atelier S P A C E. Only 6 days away. I’m here, I’m laying low, I’m readying, and I’m happy. The chai. I’m all about the chai. ‘One more?’ ‘But of course.’ ‘Yaar, you really look happy.’ ‘Chai, man. Haven’t had this stuff since Gangtok, Amritsar, and Delhi, way back before all the things that came.’ ‘Things?’ ‘It’s a long story. Meet me in S P A C E?

 

A designers’ guide to 25 of Singapore’s day-work cafes, art stores, and ‘third places’

 

 

AFTER MUCH SEARCHING ONLINE, and even more not-finding, I have given myself a writing commission. Go to Singapore. Walk around. Look at stuff. See who’s doing something interesting. Discover them, drifting towards whomever or wherever intrigues, without too much noise, or fanfare. Talk to people. And see where the cool stuff is going on. The good stuff. Not just what people say is interesting, or pay to promote, or whatever. No advertorials here. No sponsored posts. That is just not what we are into, here. No thank you. We are interested in real, genuine, and authentic conversations, with people who actually mean it when they say things, and who show up, and who are, like us, intrigued by the possible, the new, the near, the now and the next. When I go around town with my marked-up map, checking out some of the cafes to see if they really are the kind of places I would go to and work out of if I were, say, a designer or a writer with a laptop looking for somewhere to lay low and focus, or a place to walk into and get inspired, or a place that just has the kind of vibe you really want to have if you are looking for ‘your people,’ in a city that feels, from what I remember, on my brief past visits, to be… let’s say… distancing? Maybe the world is just like that now, it’s hard to find space for real life. True conversation, connection, connexion. Why do I care about this so much? Relational aesthetics, et al. So many reasons. Sure I can write and write and blog and blog and who cares? If I don’t meet you, in real life and eye to eye, then whatever is the point of it? Really. I’m serious. So I’m going to outline for a few people the 25 places that I will discover. I’m gonna shortlist stuff, and post about things, but not here, not in public space. In forums,like ‘Strange Geometries.’ New mini-guide to Singapore, writ for the discerning and authenticity-seeking who are coming from out of town. No maps or pocket guidebook stuff. Just, a list, and essays, and pics. First release will be to members of our eZine, S P A C E. Join us there if you want to read it. S P A C E posts weekly, it’s USD $7/week.

 

Cojournal17

WHAT IF WRITING could be a *shared experience?*

DK x Kismuth invite you to join us for the Cojournal Project. In which you will meet a very small circle of others (just 4) interested in making time and space each week to write. It’s not that you have to quit everything you are doing, but why not just commit to making *writing* a *thing*. Be accountable to yourself and the others, make it *happen*. It takes 20 minutes a week, and we do this for 12 weeks. You’ll get a new prompt on Monday, and you’ll have a week to write into a forum in a protected-page at Design Kompany’s site. So far we’ve enjoyed conversations with people on topics like, ‘Home & Away,’ ‘A Nomadic Existence,’ ‘The Village.’ Next are: ‘Strange Geometries’ and ‘The Book of Time.’ If the idea of connecting with Design Kompany’s Dipika Kohli and a handful of others to write and have someone write back with their own responses to the same prompts sounds interesting, this could be the thing for you.

Dipika asks, ‘What if writing could be a shared experience? What might we make, together?’ Kismuth Books published a short anthology, The Mirror, which was a collection of essays from Cojournal Project 2014. ‘It’s offered sporadically, when the mood strikes to write with others,’ she says.

JOIN. The Cojournal Project takes place in protected-page forum blog posts, online. It is 12 weeks. Starts 10 November, with a kickoff in real life at a *secret location* in  Singapore. Details will be shared *only* with those who register.

Questions? Contact us.