DK INTERVIEWS OUR favorite portrait photographer in the world, Benjamin Nwaneampeh. Who says, ‘Tell stories. Make art.’
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Yesterday, a watch stopped. Hers.
This was the second time this kind of thing had happened. That is, a watch stopping. That time, his.
Both times, in the middle of a superb conversation that, really, slowed into a moment. Conversations with people that I had just met. That day, or a few days prior. Really good sweeping topics that spanned the universe, life and death, birth, stillness, space, poetry, philosophy, conspiracy theories (me), art, skepticism of nonsense (them). And you could feel it, just there. The stopping. Then, it was literal. How does this kind of thing happen?
Let me try to feel my way towards the ‘how,’ even if I don’t get there. With words, of course. Words are a sort of paint for me, the paintings I’ve been looking at this week reminding me to play with them a bit, to see where the layers might take us.
Yes, the ‘something’ that happened, let us call it ‘!*’, whatever ‘!*’ was, well, I know it happened, it happened because I felt it, not just in the way that you feel when you are feeling a shift in the breeze, or that kind of thing, but because you are sensing something inwardly shifting, which is reflecting something larger, very large indeed, and you know that the quantum bits and pieces are at play, or that strings are vibrating, or that there are nine other dimensions (nine? More?) that are resonating in the same hum, or a different one, or a new color, and that, taken together, these things are beginning to make a new pattern. Of course the intricacies of the design are beyond our capacity to ‘note,’ and NOTEWORTHINESS being the theme this week-and-a-half here in London, of course I have to philosophize a bit about it, here and there, when I find the urgency of the moment in which that frequency will suggest, in a gentle but firm whisper, ‘Yes, now.’
I HAVE BEEN QUITE LUCKY, this trip. I have met some of the most outstanding people I’ve ever encountered in my life. And all at once. At ‘N’. The most incredible thing happens when we assemble, just sit together, talk together. [Not like in the round, in the workshoppy-style that SN, remarking on DK’s style of making circles, had once called ‘circle time.’ Was it 2014? It’s stuck since then. Circle time. Yes, we love circle time here, of course we do, but you just can’t always go into the circle space because sometimes you are meeting in public spaces and it just would be weird.] I mean, you might get kicked out. In this instance, for ‘N’ London: NOTEWORTHINESS, we convened at the National Theatre. While on the one hand I had made the good acquaintanceship of some of the people working there, who noticed that I was greeting people who didn’t know one another and would be later pointing the latecomers towards our table, asking, ‘Are you here for the blind date?’, and letting them know where I was, yes, while they were on my team, you could say, in making it happen that people whose paths might never have crossed were, at ‘N’, designed to intersect in one moment, well, I don’t think they would’ve been cool with it if we did some circling up and talking about things like I like to do sometimes at these sorts of conversation installations. I don’t know. Maybe it would have been okay at the Royal Academy (pictured), whose purple velvety cushioning made me want to curl up and read a book, any book, by, say, J. Krishnamurti (thank you JB), all evening and through the night and the next day, but then again, circle time is special. I don’t know. I think you have to just feel like it, in that moment. Like so very many things, that are good. That are noteworthy, even. But then, ‘Royal’ doesn’t start with an ‘N’, so that’s it, it’s a no-go, right there. Plus, ‘Royal?’ Who wants to make it all hoity-toity? Not me.
THERE IS SO MUCH more to say about ‘N’ and the things that preceded it, the conversations that revolved around that strong central gravitational point, ‘What’s remarkable? Why do we think so?’ I’m going to be sharing more about it slowly, through the eZine, but also, with guests who took part in ‘N’ London this time. There’s stuff to report to past guests, of ‘N’ in Bangkok and Phnom Penh, and the one to happen next, in Copenhagen. I’m getting to it. All of it. But I need some time.
Writing, today. In pencil, on the keypad. In my head. Writing for the sake of writing. Writing for the self. This is the time that won’t come back. This is the time to sit, quietly, and make a poem or two, and let the flow come as it does, when and exactly and only when it’s ready. These are the moments, aren’t they?, when time stops.
ALMOST THERE, now.
Once the date is set this sort of moves pretty quickly: finalising the guestlist, sharing the agenda, confirming that you can be there, making sure you know where we’re meeting. That kind of thing. Just like any great party, you have to do all the detail stuff way ahead of time, right? But also, like any great party, it’s about who comes more than anything else, at all.
So I’m very excited to meet some of you for the first time and reconnect with those I haven’t seen for quite a while. More than anything, I’m looking forward to the dialogue to come amongst you all as we gather for the first time and last time, most likely, in this ‘onceness’ experience of ’16N.’
Next I’ll share the details of the venue. An agenda. And the exact meetpoint.
NOTEWORTHINESS being our theme, I’ve been brainstorming quite a lot about this, also talking to people here about how to best host a conversation salon on this theme. Pretty excited about some of the playful conversation-starters that have come towards me from this wonderful group of people who are also making spaces to engage with new and different others. We all have our methods and styles and ways, but I think gatherings are just so great. So I’m looking forward to it.
More soon on email…
TODAY I AM GOING TO UPDATE the page that tells the story of ‘where is N’ now? The story is happening. There are conversations going on. This is really exciting now, there is momentum, let’s talk about momentum! Gumption gumption gumption. And magic. Flow. And what’s even better than all of that? Guests. So happy to be hosting ‘N’ for you. I can’t wait to meet you. To the journey!
TODAY THERE IS NOTHING TO SAY. Zilch. No one is throbbing with heartbreak right here in my midst, there are no traffic accidents, and no one is shouting at anyone about something that is agitating him or her. The people are not crowding around demanding anything. The politicians are out of eyeshot, earshot, but are probably spying on this. Then again, PWS had said, ‘You’re not that important.’ Touché. Speaking of French words, I have a fun story about that. But I am saving this up for when I next speak to MB, which could be 16 years from now, theoretically and in all likelihood. Busyness. Time. The passing of which makes you feel, at times, like a Beckett play.
But then, I can wait. Sixteen years. To tell my joke. ‘Cause probably no one else would find it funny, except possibly VH, or my brother, but… probably not. Drift. Mostly philosophical differences in lifestyle. But hm. Time. I hope I don’t forget the small story because it has a punchline, unlike many of my other, over-repeated ones. KK knows. And KE. I am talking about the silly sort of humor that is, quite understandably, waysided in most public places that are online. Little jokes of happy absurdity are sidelined, yes!, in favor of more intricate details of people falling apart, or trying to put themselves back together, or typecasts and stereotypes and blaming and… and… so on. No one cares about great bad jokes. Or how they’re told. What happened? Where is eloquence?
I am worried. About people. The way we are getting caught up in things. Games. Or Online Games. That is what gets reported nowadays, no? If it’s not about us gouging one another, it’s about online games. Sixty-eight percent of every story is about the rise of artificial intelligence, according to the CEO of Farce Media, L. O. Quince. Yes, that’s right. Ninety-four percent! DK finally tracked down Quince after 485.92 emails to no one in particular, and one missed call. Quince gave us the two figures which we will not dispute. Seriously. AI and games! Not of the sort that are thronelike, mind, because I don’t know what those are, but you know, kind of messing around with each other’s heads. We all know those types. They are on Tinder, right? The hookup site that is all about intimacy and quality and two-way respect and stuff in relationships, that one, right?
Well, here in my morning setup everything is quite dull, I’d say. I am enjoying a very nice coffee and listening to the sound of the breeze blowing through very green, bright, and equally unremarkable leaves above me, and enjoying the sound of no buzzing, squirming, blinking phones or the intermittent beeps that let the people around them know that, in fact, they are up to something, after all, and perhaps it might even be good. But one thing is for sure. It doesn’t feel like Waiting for Godot. It feels warmer, safer, more bouncy, even bright. The anticipation, I suppose, is the story. To the next, then. Au revoir… à bientôt! And stuff!
I WANT TO MAKE ‘N’ for London and Copenhagen and Ha Noi this year, and I’m going to just have to keep on inviting people until we find the magic sets of 16 per city. Bearing with me are the guests who’ve joined so far. I’m so lucky and grateful that a few of us are on for new things, for challenges, for learning as we go, for mixing it up, for giant blind dates, and for, yes, the human connection that can happen when we unplug, show up, say hi.
DK’s 16N project gathers 16 strangers in 16 cities. Cities that have an ‘N’ in them. On topics that start with ‘N’. This began in April 2015 in Phnom Penh with ‘N’ Phnom Penh: NORMALITY, then in October that year continued with ‘N’ Bangkok: NOW. We are now inviting new guests for ‘N’ London: NOTEWORTHINESS and ‘N’ Copenhagen: NEARNESS. Here is an update from the series, ‘Diary of N’.
Published in S. P. A. C. E.
Get new insights every week in DK’s eZine S. P. A. C .E.
MAKING MY WAY OUT OF THE BOX. It’s true. I’ve been hiding, sort of. I’ve been avoiding the work of actually inviting more people, because it takes a lot of mental effort and huge emotional reserves. I mean, not like the kinds you would need to go through trauma or anything.
Just—when you are idealistic and hopeful and optimistic and believe like anything in the power of people to work together collaboratively, beautifully, together when they only have a chance to meet and get over their initial seeming differences then yeah, you get discouraged to see that most people, I’m talking about 99% or so, but I haven’t done all the math yet, will not agree with you.
Maybe they’re scared. Worried. Not into it. Don’t think it’s important to ‘go outside the comfort zone.’ Is that what I’m asking people to do? It seems that way. That is what I hear, mostly, in the responses to my invitations—
‘You’re asking me to go outside my comfort zone.’
And sometimes, that is a welcome thing. I guess now that I’ve been hiding for a while I’ve had a chance to regain my enthusiasm for ‘N’. Some cool people are joining and I have made a promise to them, that I will make this happen. I am the kind of person who does what I say I will—it’s a huge value I inherited from my father, who is stout, and stubborn, sometimes keeping us from getting along, but boy, do I love that about my dad: his consistency in doing what he says he will. Later in life, I learned that is the best way to build trust and quality relationships—for work and for personal stuff, too. Show up. Do what you say you will.
I want to make ‘N’ for London and Copenhagen and Ha Noi this year, and I’m going to just have to keep on inviting people until we find the magic sets of 16 per city. Bearing with me are the guests who’ve joined so far. I’m so lucky and grateful that a few of us are on for new things, for challenges, for learning as we go, for mixing it up, for giant blind dates, and for, yes, the human connection that can happen when we unplug, show up, say hi.
I’m sharing the journey in some updates on our blog, but mostly in email conversations with people who have opted in to our mailing list at Design Kompany. (Just go to the contact page and click ‘get updates by email’ if you are curious.) I’m guessing most people are not aware of the quality level I am looking to make for ‘N’.
I AM GUESSING THAT they would see this, initially, as some sort of quick buck thing. They don’t know that it’s actually running at a loss. That is to say, the sponsor that everyone asks me about is actually my own studio. And we’re not rolling in it, like. We’re just… we care about uncertainty, trying things, taking chances, showing up, making something beautiful if we can find people also interested in those things. (Lately, business execs, generation Z, and innovation R&D heads.) It’s not everyone, for sure. And that is the learning, to date. It’s actually very, very few people. But then again, it wouldn’t be worth it if, through this giant maze, I didn’t find my way towards them.
TO BE HONEST, I don’t know how I would respond if the tables were turned. That is, if someone from the internet whom I didn’t know asked me if I wanted to get a ticket to some event that had never been done, with people I didn’t know and couldn’t read up on beforehand, and on a date ‘to be determined’ together by the registered guests, Hm, what would I say to that? Maybe it’s because of the challenge of trying to be more open this year, to say ‘yes’ more, to try new things myself that I wanted to keep going with ‘N’ after Phnom Penh and Bangkok and really try to make it to 16. I’m not saying it has to happen all at once, perhaps a break after the UK-DK tour this year. The rest can wait. It can happen over sixteen years, if it must, because what counts is the moment of it happening, in those places, not the hurrying through… I care about ‘N’. I guess I care about it because it is introducing me to a very neat set of people, (you know who you are), and the future ‘N’ guests to be determined, and it is for them, for meeting them, the chance to know them for a bit, that I want to keep pressing forward, and push through this awkward ‘givey-uppy’ moment, the one that some people call ‘the dip.’
To be continued….
Published in S. P. A. C. E.
Get new insights every week in DK’s eZine S. P. A. C .E.
WHEN I WAS A NEWSPAPER REPORTER, on staff at a daily in Seattle, my big day was Tuesday.
That was the day ‘my’ page came out. Page three. ENVIRONMENT, it said, right there at the top. My business card said, ‘Environment Editor.’ Showtime.
This was a trade journal, a daily. All week I would be working to gather just the right things to include, and only those that would be of interest to specifically the kinds of people who would pay for this paper, and that wasn’t everyone, not even a fraction of the mainstream, if you had to be honest about it.
Which is how I learned about niche publishing. How I got interested in, over the years, switching up from ENVIRONMENT to S. P. A. C. E. Maybe it was the architects DK (my after-newspapers and self-designed collective) worked for in Seattle, or the dreamers, artists, engineers, musicians, organization heads, and so many, many other people in the time since, but I got into it. Spacemaking. And that’s my newest, most favorite-ever beat.
Still gathering bits from people. Still getting wind of things through the Net. Trying to curate just the right set of stories, tips, resources and fine fragments, while also holding the safe space for true dialogue (the kind with a center, and not sides). Members of DK (who are those who pay dues) get S. P. A. C. E. every Tuesday at 7AM USEST. Today I’m gonna send one announcing the new July/August theme, VALIDITY.
That’s how things shift, isn’t it?
You find yourself doing what you know how to do (curate, edit, share), but for exactly the people who care about what you care about. Niche. It’s a real thing. Maybe S. P. A. C. E. isn’t for everyone, but what I learned from Seattle is that it totally doesn’t have to be for everyone, and it’s better if it isn’t.
So lately my ‘Tuesday page’ is S. P. A. C. E.
Of course it’s not mine at all. It’s members’.
It’s what you tell me, and what you say, and how that fits into the big thing, that 100th monkey idea plus collective unconscious and other things that connect us, even when we aren’t right next to each other, face to face. Wish we could be, but this is a way to keep the conversation flowing, and to keep it progressing. Hard, when we are inundated with feeds, tweets, likes, links, kids, spouses, work, our own hangups, friends, not-friends, and more. Pro-tip: Declutter the channels. Go with what you like. And just that. Niche.
S. P. A. C. E., Design Kompany’s eZine ($), comes out on Tuesday mornings. Don’t miss the July and August series on VALIDITY. Join today: here >
TALKING TO PEOPLE offline a lot more in recent days. Getting back out there, fraternizing, seeing what’s going on.
A particular topic keeps coming up: What ‘counts’ as ‘worthy.’
So this July and August, let’s explore ‘validity.’ That is, let’s take a round look at the ideas of: remarkability, weightiness, validity, quality. Already a few friends here in Phnom Penh are resisting, but I think the challenge is part of this space. More on relationships and why I believe great ones come from a mutually inspiring push and pull, in a bit… —Read more when you join here >