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.
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?‘
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.
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.
NEXT MONTH IN SINGAPORE, DK are going to be hosting a popup, weekend zinemaking salon, Atelier S P A C E || Singapore. It’s not quite what, I think, fits into the usual programme of ‘writer event, go to the library,’ and ‘design event, go to a conference,’ and ‘open space, that’s some kind of tech thing, isn’t it?’ But rather, a combination.
Only eight seats for this, and it’s open-invitation, this time, but the idea is to gather quite a variety of perspectives so that the thing we make when we meet to do a zine together (S P A C E Singapore), will necessarily be inclusive and curiously unusual.
It’s going to be 10-12 November. Starts on the Friday night at 7PM at the National Gallery. (That’s the meet point on the first day, when we’ll kick things off in a light, fun, easygoing conversation salon. I’m looking forward to this so very much.)
Based on the notes coming back from the internet, so far, I’m seeing at least a few Singaporeans are ready for this kind of thing. [Update Very nice to read ‘curious and intrigued,’ when I opened one of the responses. But truly, I hope so. The real creative process which I think is missing quite a lot, not just in Asia but the world in general, is one that involves tons of room to invite lots of new and different perspectives (for input, for exploration, for hitting on something novel). How can you ever hit on something different if you always approach the same people, discuss the same things, never leave the boxes? That’s the thing. The silos are where the dullness, mediocrity and complacency set in, we feel. And innovation suffers, and we’re all left with just boring stuff, all around us. Boring because it was a sole person’s ‘idea!’, good for them, but what about the whole, the collaboration, the gestures that can be made when we go where we’ve never been? Outside the comfort zone. Mmm-hm.]
At DK, we’re a little zany, sure, but we are totally serious about our work. Quality matters. It’s important to me. There will be some interesting conversations ahead, for sure, as there always are in our programmes. Conversations! Zines! How fun the two of these things together can be.
GET INVOLVED. I’m excited, ready, and… busy. Skype calls all next week with potential partners. Curious how to get involved? Check out our new page to find out what we’re looking for. Reach out through the form there for the fastest response.
WAS IT YESTERDAY? Yes. I said I was going to redesign the entire zine. It’s done. The 8-pager is going to be printed later tonight, or tomorrow. This is a sneak peek of the cover drawing, by Dipika Kohli. This will be folded into the 8-page zine format you may have seen if you were at ‘Remarks on Noteworthiness,’ or ‘Excerpts of Note’ in London, or if you were at ‘Origin’ in Phnom Penh or Hanoi. The idea of a simple folded thing that you can just put in your pocket works well, for this particular one, which is S P A C E || Battambang. Going to print just 8 copies, to distribute to the 8 guests who will take part in Atelier S P A C E || Singapore from 10-12 November.
Simple collection, limited edition. Distributed P2P, with kindness and love, personally shared by hand. Isn’t that where the magic is? Person to person, eye to eye? Let’s *make* something. Let’s play. To the journeys! —AS (PS Digital copies of S P A C E || Battambang are going out this coming Tuesday, in S P A C E.)
Now, that doesn’t seem so strange, does it? Except, this:
I had no idea that I could be in America again, the year after leaving for ‘the practice of the known, the uncertain, and the different…’ it wasn’t a tour, it was an experience, made on the fly in south and southeast Asia with neither income, savings, nor a plan. Could it work? Yes. But I didn’t know that. How could I? Fretting, fussing, moving around because of visas coming to an end, et cetera, we found ourselves as a studio in the emerging city of Phnom Penh. Which had a kind of magic to it, an anything-can-happen sensation. Things are built, things are taken down. Stuff goes up again, wham. Fast. This is different from what I’m used to. It’s intriguing, it’s new. But… California? That wasn’t… part of the plan. Or was the plan not having a plan? And that’s how we landed in S P A C E. Okay, wait. Bangkok, Hanoi, Vientiane, Gangtok, Delhi, Amritsar, and somehow, Phnom Penh. Where we are still, almost four years later. If it was March, already, it would be 4 years. Four years in Cambodia? What?? A long story. Let me break it up with subheds.
A tree I found in California
HERE WE GO. Right before I go to California, I’m in Phnom Penh, and I don’t know a soul. What do I do? Go on twitter, of course. Put together a quick call for interest for a tweetup, #pptweetup, through which I meet VJ and GB, and soon, EC. Along with a handful of new and different others, and we are in the swing of it. Talking in real life, showing up. The magic of this moment, however, isn’t clear to me, yet. (Back then, it’s still about ‘networking.’ It’s about ‘finding gigs.’ Oddly, a gig did happen, through this, but that was just a footnote, it turned out.) Another twitter contact led to a person far away, YZ, in California, who asks me to come and join a 9-week programme to get people talking together in new ways, reflecting on their purpose. Sounds lofty, but great. I say yes. The brief is vague, but I have an open hand. So I do the thing I can’t help but do. Like the tweetup, but different. An unconference. I get us talking together. In circles. At places like this:
ON THE LAST DAY, one of the participants wrote a very sweet, colorful card, in which she said:
‘My favorite part was the tree place.’
‘The tree place’ became a place. You name a thing, and it has value. By noticing it, you give it something different. That was the beauty of this whole thing. Not the setting nor the discussions, but the noticing of the tree, that she had noticed it, and that was cool. I know this is already getting kinda… whooo, but you know? You know what I mean? Here is where the bright note of conscious awakening slammed its feathery light upon us, and said, ‘Spacemaking is not about a *place*, it’s about a *feeling*.’ When you feel like you’re in a space, it’s space.
So, yeah. We did the whole thing in Palo Alto as an unconference. Let’s name it. Let’s call it S P A C E.
SUMMER, nice weather. I’m meeting people from the deep past. People I haven’t seen for five, nine and 20 years. It’s neat, it’s remarkable, and what do I do? I invite them, of course, to walks, concerts, and to S P A C E. Be part of it.See what happens. BO’K comes, magically appearing out of the aether after 20 years of not seeing one another. I follow her to the cafe where her friend, a landscape architect who’s come along just to see what this is all about, and I sit and listen to music for two hours, talking about the price of real estate and things that four and six-year-olds like to do. It’s simple, it’s life. It’s where we are at. But the noticing… did we notice it? Yes. YES. We did. I go to her house after things are done with my programme, catch brunch. I meet some more people. They give me their cards. They ask me what I do. I have no idea, really. My house and life is in Phnom Penh (did I say that, to them, out loud? Huh…) and, uh, this is a side tour from a side tour, and yet…
I say something.
For the first time, it sounds super cohesive, it strikes a note, for me, the high note.
I don’t say, ‘I’m a journalist’ or ‘I’m a writer’ or ‘I have a design studio.’
None of this is relevant to me, all of it is just the past, and incomplete, each idea. So I say this.
I say, ‘I’m a spacemaker.’
And it sticks.
Discovering the Art of Not Knowing
I GET BACK FROM PALO ALTO totally jazzed and then I design a mini-tour. To Bangkok to make SELF. To Singapore to see what the Singapore Writers Festival is doing, to see EC off before he goes to Los Angeles or somewhere and does some computer work far away from us in Cambodia. In Singapore, I get a press pass and pop around to Paul Muldoon‘s ‘Art of Not Knowing’ workshop, in which we are playing the game Exquisite Corpses. Then I notice it. We are in a circle. Like the tree place.
I meet people at my left elbow, my right elbow. It’s like school, but much funner. This is like the lawn, outside, in the picture above? See it? Of course I made the unconference stuff happen outside. Why wouldn’t you? Air and light, breeze. The story to emerge, outdoors. Outside the box of stuffy academia. Man.
The sharing and the circle and the unexpected in the Art of Not Knowing reminds me of the summer, just gone. I think about the music I heard, the people I met, the space that we made, together. We go into the interstitial, and it gets dreamy and wide and vast. It’s intimate but it’s not… too much, too soon, too fast. You don’t have to be anything. You just show up, and you automatically belong. In the AONK workshop, I make a quick note about a Grecian urn, because I remember that from English Lit, even though I wish that it had had more Asian Lit in it, and not gratuitous if you know what I mean. Somehow, someone later mentions Keats. This is dialogue. This is sharing. Someone right up front suddenly falls asleep: is it narcolepsy? We don’t know. It’s kinda fun, funny, light, and relaxing. This is how I like it, too. Same vibe. As what we did in Calif., with S P A C E.
I get back to Phnom Penh and the winter passes, but it’s sunny, so I hardly realize it’s already turned 2015. What will I do in 2015? I will finish Kanishka. It will be published in a serial format in English, for the magazine that hosted me for the residency program while we were ‘out there’, on the road. Days and months and people who show up when you most are in need of encouragement, a warm bed, a hot meal: these are the people whom you will never forget, and whom you will list on every acknowledgements page you write for the next five years.
In Phnom Penh, I will go to the same cafe pretty much every day and order the same thing, I still go there and they just nod and I get the same thing, and this routine makes me write Breakfast in Cambodia in the meantime while I’m trying to ‘figure it all out.’ What am I doing in Asia, anyway? What the hell is next? Where and how will we manage to pay for all this? Meantime, DK is starting to get a little known. AM is networking, this time. Used to be me, now I’m a hermit. But so? Weirdly, it doesn’t even matter about me being in hibernation. Gigs are coming, anyway. People are asking us to do things. Think about how to think about a thing: a project, a design, a story. It’s magic, again. It’s spacemaking. I’m not sure where things are going to go, but they go to: London, Copenhagen, and Battambang. They go to Kampot, Bangkok, and Kuala Lumpur. They go around and around in circles and I’m there, I”m listing to the ambient note, that is playing, playing very softly, but is resonant. Something is there. In the aether. Like BO’K coming out of the internet and meeting me in real life, eye to eye, smiling and laughing and talking like we’re kids again in Kyoto, and wow, it’s there. All of it. The journey is not the journey. The work is not the piece. The here, right now, is the whole of it. The infinite vastness, the big black empty, the deep and mysterious magic of just being here. How did that happen?
A new physics of space
I’M GOING HOME. I’m going home. Which is what? Which is where? Phnom Penh. Home is now a little apartment. Now it’s flat. Now we’re moving to Toul Kork. No, no. Not it. For two months, I explore Hanoi. I get to know the places. I draw, write, think. Make poems. I meet SY, she is a poet, too. We are lost in the ‘out there,’ together. In Battambang I meet Y. He is on the verge of tears. I try not to get too involved, because, to get involved is to end the journey of noticing the *magic* of *simply being*. I go esoteric again, write a website about relational aesthetics. I share essays with a very small circle of people who read what I say and respond, in something called S P A C E. Of course it’s called that. What else would it be called?
Later, much later, and nearer to now (yesterday), I will email VJ and say that business, for the writing, is slow. I’m quitting. I don’t want to quit, but I can’t do it, now. The writing into the void, without feedback, is killing me. I don’t want to do it. I much prefer the forums. I say some of this, but incoherently, because I’m just not a line-by-line, develop the story kind of a person. I know that this is how you communicate, though, and so, I’m trying to learn it. It’s slow. I’m fine with going slow. Meantime I’ve become a very different person from the one I was when I was frustrated that ‘no one understands this!’ because, hey, you have to know a thing intimately yourself, first, if you want anyone to give a damn about it.
So yeah. I accept it. Writing what I want to write in the way I want to write it isn’t going to foot the bills. But AM, my partner at DK since the 90s, reminds me not to worry about that, to push the thing, to make it better. Make what better? Make it better: solve the problem that you are designing a solution for. He sounds different. The time apart, working separately, has evolved us in different ways. He is prototyping. I am playing. We move along the diverting paths of the fork. It’s good. It’s healthy. I finish writing Breakfast in Cambodia. I do Q&As with people who talk with me about ‘starting to start’, people I meet online, or how bitcoin works, or their own take on explorations of venturing into the unfamiliar, and how we trust the process. That stuff.
Figuring out there’s nothing to figure out
EVERY ONCE IN A WHILE, I take a mini-vacation. Solo. I put all these thoughts away and sometimes take some small pages, and put them in my back pocket, and consider them, alone, for a week. Offline. Deviceless. Then I come home. Once, I redesigned this entire website. Now it’s Atelier S P A C E. Lately, I’ve recruit people to help me share about it, spread the word, since I’m so… esoteric. Noted. Sure, I tend to get lost in the corners, go into the philosophical, stop and not think about how does this communicate? Because you know why? People want a ‘topic sentence’ and a ‘developing paragraph.’ But the world of physics that I love and adore (quantum, fuzzy logic), is not concerned with linearity. Or proving something. There is the uncertainty principle, of course. staring at us. Why don’t people respect it? Why do they insist on boxing the answer, proving it until death, submitting to academic journals ad nauseous, making us think that yes, this is a thing the we need to swallow, wholesale. But I don’t believe it just because you typed it. There are 10 dimensions, right? Or 11? What’s the latest research on that?
The next journey
LOTS HAS CHANGED since 2014. I’m no longer writing for the people who have the gigs to give me, because I don’t want the gigs. I want the stories, the collaborations, eye contact, the in-the-box conversations that go places, that move an intrigue. I want real life. I want a shared experience of beauty: that which we see, when we are in person, noticing one another. Together. Am going to make Atelier S P A C E because zines! Zines are light, fun, simple, tangible. You cans ee them. You can hold them. You can know where a thing is going. It’s a kind of container: what goes in it, how that happens, where we discover that which we’ll share is all an open question, but the box is there. That is the space. We already have the form. The work is in the going and discovering, now. I have to go and do that. I have to. It’s just not going to be okay to stay in one place and keep on writing into the void, in private page posts for myself, no matter how romantic the life of a recluse might appear to some (Y, I’m talking to you… remember that thing I said: find out what turns you on! Then go and offer that to people!), no matter how much I want dot hide in this box forever, I’m ready now to stop it. To get out of Phnom Penh, and make stuff, with others. Out there.
In the world. Can you dig it? Let’s do this, then. Let’s make something. In real life, together.
MEET DESIGN KOMPANY this week to get a copy of our new chapbook, Phnom Penh || S P A C E. It contains some of the highlights from our 2014-2017 series of images. It gathers select short, quiet moments in a new collection, which has not been shared elsewhere outside of our online community, S P A C E. Many of these will be unexpected images: this isn’t what the ordinary passerby will make a note of, we are certain of that. Only by staying still in one place for a time can you really start to finally see it. Which means, of course, recognizing that you can never see a thing fully, no matter how long you look or how much you investigate, unless you see it clearly, with your heart.
‘How arrogant it would be for me to write about Cambodia,’ I said to VS yesterday, an earnest young man who, after working in international development, is freelancing as a translator of English to Khmer, his native language. He tells me I should write a story about __. I say, ‘No. __ is not mine. __ is yours. These are not my stories to write: these are yours. What I can do is show you the viewpoint I have, as a person who sees space in a very particular way. This story, this visual communication, without too many words that can clutter meaning, this is what the Phnom Penh || S P A C E chapbook is about.’ Curious? Get it when you join S P A C E this month.
AN 8-WEEK or 12-WEEK online programme that prompts you to ask questions designed to elicit self-awareness. Reflection. Connection. Discovery. It’s a 1:DK conversation that is exploratory and emerges, week over week. You’ll be able to choose-your-own-adventure as we go, selecting from the grab-bag of more than 100 prompts that DK have built over the 2014-2016 period when we had hosted something else, called the ‘cojournal.’ Discover and share, co-discover with us. By invitation only.
DK: ‘A Nomadic Existence?’ asked one of my longest-term mentors. ‘What is it about, exactly? Can you name that? Can you paint a picture of what it IS? In other words, what is the content of your forum?’ Let me answer that. What IS it about. It’s about lots. It’s about the things that happen, magically, when we simply make *time* and *space* to converse, together.
AS: How does it work?
DK: I post on Mondays. We have a week to write a response. Then, on Sundays at 7PM ICT, I respond and craft the next day’s post. It’s emergent, one step at a time. It’s N+1. All of this is behind protected-page posts on this blog. Those who are taking part in the online forums are participant, see, and I truly mean are participating in the making of the content, as we go. We don’t have to know each other for a lifetime, heck we don’t even have to know one another for one hour. Or ever have met in real life. But… we show up together, and there’s a pattern of how this works, and what we can do with it, and you know? It’s a kind of community, without all the weird things that some communities turn into… I believe that this is a conversation space, and it’s also an exploration. I don’t know why I’m going into this much detail. Because I care so much? Because I lack editing skills? That’s where you come in, A. Thank you.
AS: Why is it interesting? What makes it different?
DK: We are looking for the a-ha. It comes, at times. I believe there is a way to design space for meaningful, magic moments. Connexion. Real connexion. I believe it has to be designed for, this kind of quality of truly well-collaborated, well-made space. There is design, but design is useless if it’s not inclusive and inviting and welcoming and made-by-the-collection of those who are there.