Origin

ORIGIN: ‘What is fromness?’ is inspired by ‘Ask me where I’m local’ by Taiye Selasi: ‘When someone asks you where you’re from … do you sometimes not know how to answer?’ Selasi speaks for “multi-local” people. In other words, people who feel at home in the town where they grew up, the city they live now and maybe another place or two. How can I come from a country?, she asks. How can a human being come from a concept?’

Origin: What is ‘fromness?’ Join Design Kompany in an informal setting for a conversation salon, ‘Origin.’ We’ll be talking about questions that help us all reflect on self-identity, whereness, and the notion of ‘where I am from.’ The program is light, and a slight redesign of our 2014 Origin conversation salon, also held in Phnom Penh, in which 16 people gathered for an unusual experience of talking with complete strangers about close-to-the-heart questions. We enjoyed the outdoor and informal setting, so we’ll keep that. Come to meet people from a wide mix of backgrounds. People whose paths you might not have crossed. Who are interested in taking a good, honest look at questions like: Who am I? Where am I ‘from?’ Who is my family? Where is my home? Questions that, we learned in 2014, truly open the heart. And help us learn more about one another, as well as ourselves.

  • ‘I never imagined I’d meet so many different people.’
  • ‘I wish we’d had more time! Thank you.’
  • ‘Weird and interesting!’
  • ‘Refreshingly honest.’

Order ticket — $11.25

Metaphilosophy and metaphysics, with clouds

MEET ME IN THE SKY?

Get together with a very small group of people to talk about things that feel more interesting than the usual drone of:

  • ‘How long have you been in Phnom Penh?’ (yawn)
  • ‘What do you do here?’ (Why? Are you job hunting?)
  • ‘Where are you from?’ (How about ask me where I’m local?)

The idea. After a series of four really amazing ‘Rooftop Philosophy in Phnom Penh’ salons, limited to just a few people and small and informal in style, we bring back Rooftop Philosophy in Phnom Penh, this time the #5 edition, by invitation only. Share your availability with DK by email and we’ll choose a date and time that works for most. Max 6.

Agenda. Guided, prompt-led conversation. No experience or expertise necessary. Proficiency in English is best, but all are welcome. Light, relaxed, nice view. How to design space for great dialogue? Conversations that, I promise, will veer far from the vein of the above. That is the work of DK.

Fee. USD $15 per person to participate. Free for patrons of DK. (Want to become a patron? Here’s how.)

RSVP through the form below. Details to follow.

Rooftop Philosophy in Phnom Penh
Rooftop Philosophy #1 – #4 happened here.

Let’s meet in real life in Phnom Penh

See what’s on now.

THE FIRST TIME I CAME TO PHNOM PENH, there was a feeling that anything could happen. This was in March, 2014. This was a time in my life that I needed to be in a place where you could try things, make it up, see what happened. Because so much of what I had imagined was going to work simply hadn’t been doing that. I was on the verge of quitting it all. Giving up on the ‘Anything is Possible’ dream that we started Design Kompany with as a limited liability company in Seattle in 2005.

This was the hope, back then: You could do anything you wanted, if you just had a clear picture of what it was. Somehow, the universe would deliver. Regardless of background or income or societal class, the clarity of intent was the key. 

A few days after moving into a flat on Street 63, something that I never imagined I would do, I organized a conversation salon called ORIGIN.

What is fromness? Having turned this question about in my heart for the one year on the road in India, Nepal, Viet Nam, Thailand, and Laos, I very much wanted to know.

Having a burning question in your heart is one of the best ways to host a salon.

So I did.

ORIGIN was hosted in an ‘unconference’ format, which I think is a new idea here in Phnom Penh and I’d only first ever heard of it a few years prior at a barcamp in Seattle. You propose a theme, a topic that is, that could be openly interpreted. Here’s how it works. You share about it as a date-time-place and just see who comes. When guests arrive, you host the space in such a way as to invite those who are there to share what they hope to hear, and in this way, a natural and organically formed agenda is devised. On the spot. It’s very nice. We talk together in small circles, only with those who are also interested in exploring the topics that we are. In this way, we make good on our time. We establish real connections. People at ORIGIN, pictured below, seemed to really engage with this style of gathering with new and different others.

Here’s a pic:

ONE OF THE GREATEST things I have learned about living in Cambodia is just how open to trying new things that the Cambodian people are. How could I possibly have gotten to know people here, who are from here, when I’d only just arrived myself? Yet there were a lot of people who were local to Phnom Penh who got word of this and came. I really admired and appreciated that.

A lot of times you just throw an idea ‘out there’ and see if it ‘has legs,’ which is just designspeak for, ‘Does anyone really want this?’

In my three years since ORIGIN, I have tried out a lot of other kinds of topics, to mixed reviews and response. I have also gone to other countries and gathered people in different cities, just to see if maybe it was about the place. It’s not. It’s about the people. Whoever comes is the right people, it says in the Open Space manual. Whatever happens is exactly the only thing that could have.

What does this mean?

I will be hosting ORIGIN again.

It will be DK’s last conversation salon in Phnom Penh.

The date is set for 21 April.

The location will be on Street 334 in BKK1.

There are tickets on sale at this website.

You can also send me a note through the form at the end of this page and ask me how to join with Wing or cash. I’m so excited about ORIGIN 2017, but I’m also more experienced now in salonmaking. The people who come are the right people when you have the clarity of intent communicated very articulately. Are you interested in the topic of ‘fromness?’ Then ORIGIN is for you. What it is not is a place to go if you are otherwise bored, or if no other options come up for you on the day. That is why there are tickets, and they are only available for advance bookings. I’m looking forward to it.

Will we see you there?

Seeking interesting people in Berlin and Hanoi

QUICKLY.

A short note.

About ‘onceness.’

And ’16N.’ I’m looking for interesting people to invite to a 16-way blind date. ‘Interesting’ has a lot of definitions, I’m aware. I guess for me, the kinds of people who would say yes and show up to something as wacky as an ‘N’ deems theme exceptionally intriguing. I can tell you now, why.

Making the magic moment *happen*

DESIGNING MOMENTS. Two years ago, I was sitting in a cafe in Phnom Penh wondering if I would ever meet Person A again. The conversation had gone so brilliantly, but it was just a passing thing. Wasn’t it? Yes. That was fine. Not everything has to be eternal friendship. But… what if it could’ve been a different kind of setup? As in, the stage-setting for the two hours or whatever it was, so that the actual time together was *better*? That is the work of designers, isn’t it? To make things *better.* So I started drawing on a napkin, thinking about nothing. I made an ‘N.’ It was weird. I put a vector sign over the top. Now it was ‘N’ vector. What the? Geometry?

And then, weirdly, it hit me.

What if 16 vectors crossed just ONCE?

What if 16, which is a nice number, people who’d never met were invited to join in on a once-off conversation salon? Of course the theme would start with an ‘N’. The place? A venue with an ‘N’. In a city with an ‘N.’ Just for symmetry or maybe poetry, 16N events in 16 cities. Yes. That. That is how ’16N’ got dreamed up.

Salons on topics like BEAUTY, ORIGIN, and ENNUI from 2004-2015 in Phnom Penh, Seattle, and Durham NC have been experiments to discover what works, what definitely doesn’t, and how to enjoy gathering people in bounded boxes of temporal, ephemeral space and time. Skilfully designed. For highly present guests.

The first ‘N’ events were in Phnom Penh and Bangkok. (NORMALITY and NOW). Next was London (NOTEWORTHINESS). Continuing. Making it happen. Improvising as we go.

Can you help me discover people? New and different others…

The kinds of people who’d be open to enjoy a short evening of playful conversation, some improvisation maybe, and ‘let’s just see how it goes.’

Know anyone like that? I hope yes.

Introductions are very welcome. All the instructions and updates are on this page: http://16n.strikingly.com

Discover more about 16N at this page.

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Magazine pieces

MAGAZINE PIECES. New works on paper, A4 and smaller dimensions. Cut and paste. Mixing it up. Discovering fragments, enjoying the play. Collection draws from magazines stolen in Hanoi, Kathmandu, Copenhagen, London, and especially Bangkok, which has the best oversize glossies DK has ever seen. ‘My process? Oh, yes. The instruments I use are extremely specialized. Scissors, for example. And glue.’ View the collection >

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?

No.

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.