Five years: I <3 Cambodia

TODAY OUT OF THE BLUE, I recalled some tidbit of wisdom that reminds me of how true it is that we are able to make things happen if we put our minds to a focused direction. The tidbit went something like:

We overestimate what we can accomplish in one year but underestimate what we can do in five.

The 5-years-and-counting journey in Cambodia is getting outlined and packed-together, in the way I like to do when taking stock and making summary statements of ‘what I’ve learned’ to myself. I remember doing that for every single project, at my first job. An architect’s office. Before that, I’d write down what I thought I’d learned from my college projects, mostly civil engineering stuff, all those diagrams, all those flowcharts, all those steel load calculation I-beam thingies.


I-Beam. Steel Mechanics. I got a stupid ‘B’ in this class. The other ‘B’ was in… psychology.



Ace is high

IT WAS HARD work and tiring but the important part, I think, was learning to get through the tedious. Problem-solving. Arranging items, making calculations. Learning what problem it is that you want to solve. What variable you want to optimize for. These are the things of engineering school. You work all night on a homework assignment, or anyway, half of it, then you meet for coffee at usually Caribou on Hillsborough Street to find JK, who would have the other half, and there you go. Voila. Done. From what I learned, thereafter, JK went into finance. Said so, once, in a letter? Or a call? I can’t remember. I went into design somehow. Not that I studied it. Not that I studied journalism, either, but worked for a daily for two years and an alt-weekly for two, too. (‘Two, too.’ I like this little thing.) When we were seniors, we talked about what we were gonna do next in Life. The big chapter of Next. J wasn’t taking the EIT. ‘What’s the point? I’m not going to be an engineer, ever. And neither are you.’ I took it, passed. I never became a PE (professional engineer). Last time I heard from J, I was in art school in NY, cycling around over the Brooklyn Bridge at half past three usually, running around to jazz clubs with a black pen and white paper, all night long. But hell if I didn’t know how to take a derivative. LaPlace transforms, however, were never my strength. Why am I talking about math?

My father, an engineer told me not to study architecture because it was too artsy, and so I went into structural civil engineering, no, wait: it was geotechnical. Soils. Soil mechanics. Talk to me about clay. Talk to me about silty-sandy.


The hydraulic gradient. (A+). ✨




OR NOT. But if you did engineering, ask me to tell you my joke. Have one good joke. I’ll tell it to you. Oh, I know why I’m talking about math. Yeah. Because, KE. Fractals and chaos and our renderings on the computer all night while we tried to figure out the equations and Julia sets and z stuff. K, my best friend in those days, and roommate, and optimistic, very dear friend. K, who came to ‘Today I Love You’ the art installation where so did my high school art teacher and a new client at a big university who had signed the contract with the software guys who had subcontracted DK and whom I’d yet to meet. ‘Hi, I’m DK.’ ‘Hi!’

And yeah: serendipity. Entropy. The way things emerge. Chaos, turbulence: flow. This is starting to sound like a poem.

Poetry and math. Math and jazz. These are the things. It’s getting interesting around here. In S P A C E. Shoo.

I <3 MATH? But math is fun. Geometry, sin cos tan. Relational art and relational aehsteics and trigonometry are all related. Related ! See what I did there. Wow, I type like this when I’ve had too many coffees in a row, and it’s loud where I am because of some kid’s video game, and of course the pops. Too loud radio. Too many people on their phones. I forgot why I liked being fa away, in Finland (very very quiet). But I also had missed the chaos of all this: the noises blurring into each other and ridiculousness of conversations that the so-called ‘do-goody’ types come and do nothing of substance. But maybe they need five years… be nice, DK. Be nice. Ooo. One of them is ordering something, in that typical way of condescension, making a wisecrack that he doesn’t think anyone can understand. Me, on my headphones, trying to blare out the jarring juxtaposition but secretly  enjoying it, too. The chaos. What a change from Caribou on Hillsborough, and all those gridded pages of calculations and discrepancies coming up and the most important conversation being what to do next. Here, it’s anything is possible. Anything is next.

But next, more immediately, is KL.


KL // DK 2018

Who I make N for

THERE COMES A TIME IN EVERY LIFE where we face a crossroads.

You know when you’re there. It’s a big deal, this noticing of the moment of having to make a very significant choice. Which way will you go?

Who are you, and why are you doing this? The guest had asked.

Sincere question, and yet, I couldn’t find a way to answer honestly, not quite. I mean, I had some ideas about what ‘N’ was about when I first hosted it, here in Cambodia’s Phnom Penh. I got clearer when I did this again in Bangkok. The goals for ‘N’ Phnom Penh: NORMALITY and ‘N’ Bangkok: NOW were, I think, more about making something interesting actually happen. Rather than, you know, sit around and imagine how much better everythign could be and complain that there is no good art anymore, and why is that, and the banal nature of everything that gets popular on YouTube (a woman I had asked on twitter about why her post went viral said she thought it was because there was an element of ‘hating on’ someone else, that those were the posts that went around quickly, and so, she was writing more of those kinds, to get attention, even though, she admitted to me, she really felt like her other works were better.) Quality, then. A space for something magical to happen. What does tat mean? It’s different for everyone.

But I think, really, when asked if there is a point or a purpose to gathering people in 16 cities around the world, cities which have an ‘N’ in them (two ‘N’s is better, of course), to converge with 16 strangers to talk about a topic that starts with an ‘N’ is that, really, well, these are quite arbitrary constraints, no?, and that, in fact, there is no point.

Let me reiterate..

The point is this: there is no point.

Something I learned from Man and Superman, last summer in London at the National Theater. Sitting in the audience in a place I had booked two days prior, while home and searching the internet for people to invite to ‘N’ in that part of the world and discovering, well, look at this, it’s Ralph Fiennes acting on stage, and this is Bernard Shaw, and, well, I simply must… attend this.

Is there a point?


That’s what they said.

That’s what they said, right there, on that big stage. The world of theater is so brilliant, sometimes I fall in love with it, and it’s very good to keep going to things. I’m not the type to just up and go to foreign countries on account of plays happening, not usually, in fact this was a lark, but I am so glad I did. Because I care about learning, and people, and connection, and Art. Capital ‘a’ Art, that is. The kind that you can experience over time, across distance. I don’t think the same feeling would have emerged if I was reading it, but I did find it on Google books and got a few of the lines that most moved me. One of them of course, and I’m paraphrasing because the best bits that you feel when you hear them may not fit the agendas of those who post online with quotes that back up their own viewpoints (it’s really real, isn’t it? Bias.) But my own bias is this. I believe that the purpose of living is to live in the moment, the unadorned, unattached, unexpecting right here and now. And ‘N’, I think, is about onceness, chance conversations and connection happening in a closed, bounded space where someone (that would be me) is ‘holding the space’ for people so that they feel safe, included, welcome, invited, warm, and, if this goes well, and I think it has, judging from the past experiences with 32 people I didn’t know before in BKK and here in Phnom Penh is that, yes, that is valuable. Yes, people want converastions that go beyond the usual variety of ‘paid or laid’ agenda. I know! I’m saying that. Out loud. Here. I want to talk to people who want to talk to me, about the big things, the art the culture the light the space the beauty the moment the magic. The magic! It’s very exciting when we can discover one another, and arbitrary constraints are a big part of design projects. So the brief I made for myself went as such: Find 16 people in 16 cities. The people won’t know each other. They will show up for a ‘big blind date,’ they will have decided a date together, collaboratively, and they will do this by making a commitment first (in this case, purchasing a ticket). Such a commitment makes it easier to believe that it will happen. I have made a promise to the guests who have registered. 16 people. In one moment. To meet and talk, together, about NOTEWORTHINESS. That’s the London one. The Copenhagen one is about NEARNESS. Hoping that the dates for both will be kind of close enough together that I can just make one big trip there and go to both places, so that, you know. Airline tickets. Time.

Here’s another one, from Man and Superman:

‘This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; the being a force of Nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.’

Can you dig it?

#play16n on: twitter instagram facebook

Now registering for ‘N’ London, ‘N’ Hanoi, ‘N’ Copenhagen, and ‘N’ Bologna. Say hi through the note below, if you’re curious. I’ll share more.

Mini afterparty for guests of ‘N’ Bangkok

THE COOL THING ABOUT ‘N’ BANGKOK was that, up until right before, and even after the start, I wasn’t sure if everyone would be there. That’s partly because a few of the guests I had just met, and one of them, earlier that day. It was a sort of a hunch: for true spontaneous invitation, for the real and authentic practice of our theme for BKK, which was NOW, I’d need to simply go to the city and discover the last four guests in person, in real time, on the spot, and even on the day of. Why not? Thank goodness for CM, who came in to do that short, lovely improvisational piece that wasn’t what, I think, he had intended, but whom, I think, enjoyed the playfulness of ‘N’ BKK: NOW. I, for sure, did.

Since we had a short series, and since ‘N’ is designed that way and can’t quite happen in the same configuration (exactly 16 people, exactly once per city) again, I thought, why not invite a few who want to keep talking to an afterparty? A free one. It was, it so happened, to be this place that I’d been thinking about using as a venue for ‘N’, but which was small, too small for our intentions, when I’d gone there in person to suss it out. So I thought, since I’d been there, and liked it, and it had that vibe for being fun, it might be cool to do a small get-together with whomever would like to be part of Part 2, which was informal and collage and bricolage live session, with me and a few others making pieces together and taping them up on the window. At jazZ happens! It’s such a nice spot, and if you’re in Bangkok, I recommend a visit. If you’re into this kind of thing. Local, low-key, off the touristic scene, and very youthful, really, what with the college right next to it.

That was fun.

There was a Part 3, too, that was a few of us peeling off from this spot, finding a spot to talk some more not far from there, where it was easier to sit and hear each other and keep the conversations flowing since there wasn’t a lot of noise. So that was, unexpectedly, a highlight of the event, which really wasn’t the event itself, which of course was also bright and had its own sparkle, because ‘N’ is made for that, it’s designed for the magic moment to happen within and it happened there, and people wanted to go to another one, in another city, but no. ‘N’ is just once for the people it’s for. And in the whole world, there will be 16N in 16 cities. And that means, just 256. A finite number. I’m working my way towards inviting them, slowly slowly slowly. It may take a decade before I get to the last one, ‘N’ New York. But I know what the theme will be.


And why New York? That is where I started.

T. S. Eliot: ‘The end of all our journeying will be to arrive at the place where we began, and to know it for the first time.’

Art school.

And incomplete.

I left.


Because why.

Apart from RM‘s shop, I didn’t see any art. More about timelessness, when I start to make the invitations for ‘N’ NY.

To be continued! To the journeys! To ‘N, N, N!’