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.)
REWIND TO 2014. It’s summer. I’m in California.
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.
In the zinemaking atelier.
Next stop: Singapore.
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.
A NOMADIC EXISTENCE has begun.
AS: What is it about?
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.
IN RECENT MONTHS, parts of DK have been regrouping on the road, while some of us are in Phnom Penh. We are trying to sketch out the ‘why’ of DK. The purpose, the whole thing. I know we’ve been ‘at it’ since 1994, in various ways and shapes, but now, it’s for real. Why? One reason.
The world needs artists.
Okay, maybe not ‘the world.’ Maybe… humanity. We need artists. Artists see. They see, and they interpret. They share the form of the essence of something, and when it’s good, it’s because that form is something that we can all resonate with; there is resonance because there is some kind of universal… hm. Not ‘truth,’ but… something. Something that we go, ‘Yeah,’ when we see it, and when we see it, we see it with more than just our eyes, we feel it.
Here’s an example. Music. Music does this brilliantly. In Wholeness and the Implicate Order, David Bohm (a physicist I learned about because of his dialogues with J. Krishnamurthi, just google it) talked about music and the universal. I had shared about these conversations in the 2016 series of our online webzine, S P A C E. Proceeds from subscriptions of S P A C E, and our other programmes, make it possible to maintain this blog. (And keep designing, on the road, one step and one designful conversation at a time. Next in the 2017-2018 sequence here in S P A C E, this is the plan: Discovering and including and shining a light on voices that for some reason the mainstream media just ignores. Fortunately, we have a rolodex this time, and a good batch of past programmes that we’ve prototyped, too.)
It’s been wonderful being in Asia for these four years and learning just how very vacant Big Media is, truly, in its overlooking and excluding of so many fantastic voices. I think that is a vision that is coming forth now more strongly in our new programmes and the designs ahead; we want to be more clear about this, more intentional: we want to discover new people and new stories, not just pander to what’s already popular. Because what’s popular isn’t really what’s… well. It’s personal taste, right? But… to me, it’s not interesting. What’s interesting is what we can learn from one another, in real life, when we meet and connect. Which takes showing up, but also curiosity. I believe we still have this… curiosity. About one another.
Synthesis is a kind of art: and this comes from engaging, connecting, and learning from various input sources. That’s the kind of resource-collecting we just have to have more of, now. It takes… work. Going out of the boxes, making it uncomfortable for ourselves because we have to go where we don’t know where we are. Otherwise, stagnation. Boredom. Ennui. Bad art.
We need thinking. We need it to happen when people connect with those whose paths wouldn’t have crossed. So that we can… do things better. More… collaboratively. For dialogue, for sharing. For collaboration. So we have to do something. We have to change it up. This is how.
This facebook post on Design Kompany got the Origin conversation started…
YESTERDAY IN A SHOP I HEARD ENGLISH. It had been a while since I heard my own accent, clear and steady. I looked to where the source of this was, and caught sight of a young girl, maybe 9 or 10. She switched to Khmer when two smaller girls sidled up to her and took either of her hands.
Were they cousins, I mused?
Had she grown up with parents born in Cambodia, had she learned the native English of a land like England or Australia, complete with their own slangs and facial cues and other things you learn only when you are raised in that place?
But what about ‘place,’ anyway? Why should it be defined by the border of a nation, an ethnicity, or even a language? Watching the children together, at play, it was clear. They were ‘from’ the same place… maybe Childhood.
They were from, let’s see.
Let’s get creative here.
In how we define bounds.
They were from ‘a world that invites,’ ‘a place of connection,’ ‘a universe where laughter is joy, and joy is currency.’ They were from, that is, let’s see… ‘a community that holds hands, smiles, laughs and engages with that which might be interesting, that which might invite sharing of stories, making of plays and jokes.’ They were from… ‘Humanity.’
At this awareness, I got happy. There might be hope for us as we all explore our identities, and how we’re more alike than different. These little girls were all smiling, all three of them, skipping about beneath their mothers’ elbows, pointing at frilly dresses, testing out the oversize shoes the way any little girl in any place might.
Does this resonate with you? I’m going to keep posting bits and pieces from now through 21 April, when we will host our last conversation salon in Phnom Penh on the topic of ‘fromness.’ ORIGIN will invite anyone who identifies with this topic, anyone at all. Perhaps you grew up in #PhnomPenh. Or outside of it. Maybe you’re ‘from’ Kampot Province, or somewhere else. Maybe you want to just discover who else is curious about this idea. Join us in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, to mix and connect, to talk and discover what it is that outlines your own sense of belonging. Come and share with us, Where are you +local+?
Come play. 21 APRIL in #PhnomPenh is Origin.
A NEW ESSAY COLLECTION. It’s about many, many things but most of it is about uncertainty. How we can’t possibly know a thing before we start, and how we simply must investigate our way towards what feels right, and how that even works. First release will be 1 June for members S P A C E. Then, pre-orders will be released 1 July.
LEGACIES ARE MADE AND BUILT based on the learnings we can articulate clearly, and share. Dialogue makes us gather our ideas and respond to those of others, too. Perspectives can shift and whole rooms of internal awareness can open, if we allow ourselves room to reflect. It’s why I am always taking pictures like this, I think. I like to make the space for zooming into quiet. Processing ‘N’, which just happened on Wednesday here in London. No pictures. No social media. Just quiet space, to feel what it was, and reflect. Quietly, alone.
NEXT. There are a few things coming together for 2017 for members of our online community, S. P. A. C. E. A different kind of thing than me posting blog entries, much more interactive: both real-life spacemaking events in cities like San Francisco and Bangkok, and conversation forums in online ‘rooms.’ The big idea is much like the 16N experience: connecting us to new and different others, making space for us to reflect and better tune in to our own selves, our own hoped-for legacy, whether we’re conscious of what it is or just open to ambling our way towards something bigger than simply existing day-to-day. I came to London a year ago to see George Bernard Shaw’s Man and Superman. In which similar questions of existence and purpose and meaning popped up. I can tell you where all this is going, but only if you are interest in hearing more. Are you? If yes, leave me a note.
I AM WRITING FROM MY ROOM, and it’s morning, and there is a rooster telling me so. Except that rooster isn’t the first one up, usually. All of the other people in the house are already out. I heard that there was going to be some commotion, later in the morning. That people would be coming by to pick up some stuff, and move it out. Somebody else’s stuff. That’s been here since before I was, because this is a new living space.
This is a new chapter.
I guess you could define chapters of your life in that way, huh. By places where you’ve lived. Not just cities. Cities are great, cities are fantastic, but cities, I’m realizing the more I write about the things I care about from them, are no longer the same places they used to be. For me. I can’t speak for everyone, and I certainly can’t pretend to know something. But my particular experiences have led me to see that the city isn’t where, long term, I personally want to be. I think I had a hunch about this in New York City in the late 1990s when I was looking for the big road to the gold and the art world. Just writing that now seems funny and strange, and a little bit embarrassing, too. Growing up on the East Coast, though, New York was ‘it.’ Where you wanted to be if you wanted to be anybody in the arts. That was the programming. That was the conditioning. And now, I think about all that and pore through the pages of The Complete Short Stories of Mark Twain, which my boss loans me, and points out the stories that are very good (‘Did you read “A Dog’s Tale?” Did you read “Is He Living or Is He Dead?” I go and read IHLOIHD and I laugh out loud and then blink: it’s the plotline for Posthumous! Then I read ADT and absolutely cry of indignation. I burst out my most bursting-out voice and the boss looks at me, and this time he blinks. Slow. ‘Some rich people are good,’ he says, sagely. That is the thing about bosses. They just know things, somehow.)
But the changing of chapters is where, I think, the good stuff is. Was it on the internet, or in a QM book, where I read: ‘Life happens on the edge of a change of state.’ Like, water boiling into gas, or gas turning into ice. Change of state. Transition. Life happens there. I remember being in Japan, this would also be in the 1990s. When I was studying in Kyoto. I remember Japan, because it was before New York, and I had never even been to NYC before I’d been to Tokyo. The falling-in-love with the city happened there. I know. A lot of people are like, ‘Tokyo?’ But the skylines and the things there were to draw with the line and photograph with the eye were multitudinous and out of my usual scape of seeing. That was why I stayed on, for a little while longer than I’d meant. Got to know the city well, got to hang out in Ueno often, got to see people and build a small life and meet people, and then meet them again, and in this small way, turn the place I found intriguing into a sort of a village. A place I could relax, a little, even if it was extremely lonely, most of the time. That was before internet. I can’t imagine what it must be like, now… I guess the internet is great though in some ways because I can live in a not-big city and run into people and run into them again and meet over time and then feel, in some way, a sense of connection and belonging. Even if this isn’t my town. Even if this isn’t even ‘my’ country. Less and less claim on the boundaries, now. I don’t have to wonder about the ‘where I’m from’ question as much as dive more deeply into the more important one, for me. The ‘who am I’ question. Which, obviously, can rustle people up if you start asking all about it. Who are you? What do you care about? What makes you move, sing, fly, dance, love? These are too big of a place to start with so many people, of course, but I am deeply curious about people and asking is how I learn, so that’s why I got into writing, and that’s why I got away from Tokyo. I couldn’t ask anything. I got away from New York, too, for the same reason. ‘Who are you? What do you want from me?’ F, f, f. So I went home and found the rest of the story waiting for me in the cupboards of the dusty room where I used to be when I was a pre-teen and then a teen and the magazines I’d collected. And then I started cutting them up. Bit by bit. The programming, the conditioning. Snip, snip, snip. The way women are portrayed, the way they are showcased, objectified. Men are also showcased, successified. There is something wrong here, I think, but not in words. I just cut and paste and write little things in comics and wonder if anyone will laugh along with me, but I’m cutting and pasting all winter long and then part of the spring, and then my parents ask me when I’m going to leave, already. So I do. I go away, not sure where. Without a plan. No idea. Thinking about how to turn DK into something ‘else.’ But not doing it, not until I find the right mode, the right impetus, for the thing to come. The change of state. Not just to Washington, but this time, further. Asia. Like, for a while. Like indefinitely. I go on a tour.
SLOWLY, THROUGH THE DISTANCE, the fog clears. This happens in Gangtok. It’s October, probably my favorite month. October 2013. I write a piece called “Cloudy feathers in Gangtok” and describe pigeons on roofs and the feeling of the mist on my face, and the way the light pinkens the tip of Mount Kanchenjunga, sending me into the tizzy that will not let me come back, not ever, to believing in anything I can’t see with my own eyes, or feel anything I haven’t felt in my own heart. There are sweaters in the suitcases in Delhi but those are heavy and far from where I am, and we are, because I always travel with Boss. Obviously. We are carrying around the people and places that matter most to us, no matter where we are. No matter where we go. Going is part of the work, though. Just like we are doing all this emailing to people to ask if they might like to come to ‘N’ in London and Copenhagen and later, Hanoi and Bologna and New York (see the pattern there?) is work in the other kind of way. Practicing the art of being there, showing up. Saying hi. This is hard for me, especially since 2016 has been, so far, a year of introversion. I mean, really. It’s actually not very good. I am the kind of person who needs new input all the time, so that is why the City was so appealing. But trips to Europe in recentish months have shown me that the City of old, the one where there is ‘energy and buzz and cool art,’ is really not that anymore. It’s just a marketplace. All reduced down, in that way, in my opinions. Everything is an opinion, though, that anyone writes. And media isn’t media anymore, or maybe it never was, and social media isn’t newsy, because I followed someone’s recommendation to the wrong part of the city for a snatch of breakfast and it was weird. It was like, ‘So now what.’ And then you go back to that old awareness. Nothing is for real, everything is subjective. An observer, observing a system, changes the system.
MOVERS CAME TO THE HOUSE AND TOOK HALF OF SOME STUFF that’s been stored behind the grand staircase away. I had wondered about it. Because the blockage of the front passageway in a home is bad feng shui. I’m not schooled in feng shui, but I do design spaces, and I’m sharing some of what the feeling of my ‘rooms’ for conversations and the installations and the once-off ‘events,’ which are really more, in my opinion, like ‘happenings,’ which are about people and connection and the shape of space, and the conversation, and the moment and the whohappenstobethere and not overly designed but half improvised, half make it up as you go, those are where I am learning how to place things and create the lighting and set the stage for these great moments to happen. Because it’s design. The architecture of the interstitial. Whoa. If that’s not esoteric, I don’t know what is. And I would never, ever block the front passageway. That just stifles. That stiffens, stagnates. It’s not a good thing. I open the windows of the room and let the air cross-ventilate, when it’s not raining so hard the drops poke their hands in and get on all my bajillions of scraps of this and nostalgia snips and the cut-up magazines from glossies that adorn most any of the many rooms and rooms of the chapters and chapters of the where I go, where I am, looking for Self in the Other, discovering the Stillness in the attentiveness to the Shape of Space. It’s getting there. Slowly, surely. I’m learning and changing, every day. To the journey, then. To boss-men, new old classics, text and the story to come. I don’t know where will be next.
But I’m going to investigate.
And learn. And think about the Next.
Because of course there will be one, and not in the too-far future. The only thing that will need to happen is the deciding and doing part. The beginning, as they say, is half of every journey.
[Update: AS OF SEPTEMBER 2017, DK is making Atelier S P A C E. But before we began roving the world gathering people in real life for conversations about the creative process (and hands-on programmes designed to get us doing instead of just thinking about doing), we used to have these conversations in virtual spaces. The Q&A series that we made for our online magazine, S P A C E, continues to be a place where we return for inspiration. A past life in journalism led to the style of asking questions and diving deeper to explore what it is a person cares about most, what she wants to say about her work and how we can contextualize it to make what we learn relevant to a broader audience. Everything we do in S P A C E has to do with the connections between people, with interstitial spaces. That is why we are starting to share more openly some of the early Q&A’s that were originally exclusives for our online community, S P A C E, which subscribes each week to our ongoing conversations, learnings, resources, links, and musings about how we make, who makes, where we are, and why we do this work. For more information about S P A C E, go here.]
A CONVERSATION TODAY with North Carolina ceramics artist and a personal friend, Ronan Kyle Peterson.
Here is what he had to say about our theme this month, IMAGINE. We are discovering some shared interests in, amongst a few other things: work, cycles, and practice.
DK: I’ve seen your work evolve quite a bit in the last decade. What is it you are up to?
RKP: Essentially, I am dealing with effects of agents of growth and decay and how these agents shape and embellish the surfaces of stones and the skins of trees. Employing an earthy background palette stretched across textured but quieter surfaces, I wanted to upset that quiet earthiness with intense splashes of vibrant color, patterns, and glossy surfaces not commonly associated with tree bark or the rough surfaces of rocks amidst fallen leaves.
DK: Tell us your thoughts on ‘work’—what is it, who is it for, and why does it matter?
RKP: ‘Work’ noun-wise, would be the pots that I make to sell. Which references my ‘job’ or the verb ‘work’ that I do to make a living. The work for me is learning about color, how colors work together, how color and pattern changes perception of form, and how color pattern and texture can affect a person’s mood or perception of a pot.
The work that interests me, or the energizing part, is figuring out forms for functional purposes—cups and mugs for drinking, bowls for eating or serving from—and decorations or surface treatments that complement and complete the form.
DK: Why do you do what you do?
RKP: I make… because it makes me happy, fulfills a need, keeps me searching. I’m just infinitely blessed that others, customers, want to buy my pots and are interested for the most part in what, the work, that I am doing. It doesn’t matter in a larger context, but it does matter to me, because in the doing I am happy.
DK: Is that where the magic is? In the doing?
RKP: For me, the magic is in the making or the doing. Talking, wishing, and hoping do not get the job done. The magic is in the doing.
DK: A lot of people say they wish they had more time be an artist, make music, travel, write a book, and so on. What you would say to them?
RKP: I guess I would say, you just have to make it happen. And it will not just happen. A lot of times there has to be a sacrifice of something else: sleep, long meals, vegging out, tv, income, family time, socializing… Making time or sacrificing something else to make time seems to be hard for some people, because they are energized and content through socializing, etc. For me, working, making new work, exploring new forms, colors, combinations, that is what energizes me.
DK: What does rhythm mean to you?
RKP: Rhythm recently is not contained in one working cycle. Work is started, but not finished until later, spilling into the next cycle, and the next. It used to be frustrating, but I have found that through continued experimentation with form, color, and pattern, that ideas tend to belong aside one another: they are a continuation of thoughts I build on. I guess this speaks to an overall rhythm? I’m making a healthy offering of cups and mugs each cycle, but I have more larger pieces waiting to be finished. Now it is kind of nice to think more about the larger pieces, figure out different decorations and surface approaches that fit better, better than my original plan. I’ve started reglazing older pieces, [and] making different lids for jars. Revisiting sometimes resolves some deficiencies of the pieces. I have a general set of forms, but I’m trying out new things, mostly decoration-wise, every cycle.
DK: Imagine two young people, maybe teens, who are thinking about artistic pursuits having a conversation, perhaps at a museum somewhere, and they know virtually nothing of the real experiences of people like you who have reached some sort of acceptance, it appears, in the methods you are using to make and do and share. What would you tell them?
RKP: I would say be patient. It takes a lot of time, and failing and observing, to figure things out. One thing that I try to keep in the forefront of my mind is how much help and support I have: I’ve worked for many potters with different styles and aesthetics, I have in-laws who let me use some of their space for a studio, I have galleries who work with me and for the most part allow me to bring them work that I choose to make. Growing that network, that support system, I think, is pretty crucial. And being patient, humble, and open to comment, advice and opportunities.