Prototyping S P A C E in Gangtok, India

LIFE. STORIES. Multiple, divergent, intersecting, and contradicting pluralities of narratives: the things we are pursuing here are not so much about gathering outcomes and publishing stuff that sounds and looks interesting (but has no content); rather, we want to invite into our innermost circles, in S P A C E, the exact kinds of new and different others who will show us, together, as we get going, in our conversations in the protected-page posts that constitute, as a set, the thing we call S P A C E, well yeah. All of it. Is a thing now. There’s a bulk to this that I can’t deny; a gravitas and a resonance that stays with people. They tell me this. ‘I really enjoyed that exercise you did; it was super relevant at the time, do you remember, you put us in groups, ‘Past,’ ‘Present,’ and ‘Future?’ asked my friend MR, whom I’d met at one of my events in Bangkok and who went on to join DK again at something called ‘16N‘ in that same city, the next year.

S P A C E || Bangkok // DK 2015
‘N’, the big blind date

(Honestly, we didn’t recall that exercise or think much about what it might have meant to everyone; at the time, we were just hosting, and hosting means you’re talking to people and making sure everyone feels included, that her or his voice counts, that she or he is invited to all the conversations circling about, moving, changing, diving into other spaces, letting that happen.

Afterparty for ‘N’ Bangkok at jazZ happens! // DK 2015

Of course the afterparty for ‘N’ there had to be at a jazz club: improvising in collage and collaborating with jazZ happens! there, that was also very fun. With both, it’s a jam session: making it up as we go, but also, playing off what we learn, together, from one another. Most importantly, there’s no hierarchy. It’s flat. We’re talking, together, in dialogue. Round tables. Let me tell you a bit more about this idea, of circles. (SN, watching Akira Morita in action one time hosting a meeting, had called it ‘circle time.’ We love circle time, here at DK. Why? Lots of reasons.’)

Real dialogue

‘Book of Blue’ is an art book, made in Bangkok, Phnom Penh. 2014

Dialogues that are really good are the kinds ‘with a center, and not sides,’ as William Isaacs, had put it in his book, Dialogue. How lucky I am to have been able to reach out directly to Isaacs, ahead of my conversation salon series, ‘Modern Sikkim: What does it mean to be Sikkimese?’ which had happened in Gangtok, Sikkim–a part of India that my relatives in Delhi aren’t too familiar with outside of an image of ‘the snowy mountains’. Well, wow. There is of course Kanchenjunga, but before I go marveling about the miracles of the Himalaya, and daydreaming about going back there in November (yes: mark it! Atelier S P A C E || Gangtok is in the works), well, yeah, so what was I saying? Oh! This: I’m lucky, very, I could ask William Isaacs directly, over email, in 2013, thinking hard about the design of Modern Sikkim and how to collaborate well and whom I should contact to make a go of it and what we would do in the spaces-to-become, well, yeah. How I could make such a conversation salon series work well was important to me. Researching that. Learning what to do in the instance that someone tried to be overbearing (this happens a lot, in societies where there are hierarchies established from social class, economic status, or hey, let’s be real, male and female gender roles), all that normal stuff you have to figure in, and be ready to take on, when it does hit you, all that. And I remember the email coming back. What a good feeling, to get a note from the internet to say, Just do what you’re doing and here’s some more stuff to think about, more or less. Well. What a nice thing to feel reassured that no one knows what’s on the way, not ever, not fully, but that allowing things to pop up by hosting a space that is inviting, safe, comfortable, relaxing, and readied for the things-that-might-happen, well, that’s the work. And the art. So it began. A journey into making more and better such space, or, as I call it now, S P A C E. I’m the architect of it; we follow a checklist, it has 7 points, to do this in a way that works, in DK’s style. Which is what? Well, you can read my personal artist statement thingy at this website, if you’re curious about what interests me about gathering people in these ways. ‘I want people to relax. To feel air, space, and comfort.’ Find it in context at dipikakohli.com.

Modern Sikkim // DK x Echostream 2013
Gangtok roundtables begin with the conversations about the role of government. Over chai and biscuits. Doesn’t everything good start with ‘tea talk?’ I think so. // DK 2013

But in the meantime, there’s this.

Philosophy of the moment

8 October

GETTING SET. For our first-ever online salon, ‘Philosophy of the Moment.’ In which we’re going to share all of the best learnings and gathered notes from our decades-long pursuit of the big questions, ‘What are we doing here? What does it mean? What is ‘good’? What makes it remarkable? What does a meaningful life look like? How can I make changes so that I can better enjoy the life I have? What does it mean to love? How does it feel to let go? Where are the important notes to carry forward? What kind of legacy do I want to leave? Who am I? Who am I, apart from you? What is my role in society? How am I doing, and where I am going, and does it mean much to consider these questions, and besides, what is ‘time?”‘ What’s this all about? Find out.

Writing and designing, connecting and discovering in Aarhus, 2015. This was where we learned about ‘relational art.’ It’s been all relational art, everything, ever since. (HT AP, BM and SCH).

 

Fail fast

THIS WEEK AT DK WORLD HQ in Phnom Penh, we printed a zine. S P A C E, the first one that’s not digital. Just one copy. To look at it, to see how it feels. Stick it on the fridge, ‘live with it.’ And you know what?

It’s terrible.

A total flop.

OK. Now, perhaps, you’re thinking, What? They’re writing about their terrible flop?

The answer is yes.

The answer! Is yes.

Let me get a little bit nerdy here, now. About design. About quickly mocking something up and flying it by a few people and seeing if there is something there. Magic, that’s what I’m looking for in this kind of experiment. Does it have the magic in it? Is it really going to do something *cool*? You know the experimenters who design science [experiments] and stuff, they have hypotheses and that’s great, and they use these methods to discover things like The Uncertainty Principle and the Copenhagen Interpretation, which is marvelous. Because science matters, and the approaches it takes towards discovery are *awesome*. But! We are not scientists. We are designers. And our approaches are different. Our approaches start with throwing something together quickly and testing it, FAST. Fail fast, they say. The innovation people. The design thinking ladies and gentlemen. The ones talking about ‘Human Centered Design,’ which, let’s be honest, is just Good Design.

Jeez.

Isn’t that obvious?

No. It’s not. People aren’t used to testing things quickly, they don’t want to run it by someone and look stupid. They don’t want people to say, ‘Hey, you know, you spelled that wrong, dude.’ Because why? Because people take things so personally! You know, you gotta lose that if you wanna invent something cool. You have to just go, ‘What do you think of this crazy little prototype thing that I just printed, and I thought it was great, when I was laying it out, on InDesign, but you know, once I printed it, ooooh. It’s just sooooo off the mark. OMG. But that’s okay. That’s just my personal response. What do you think? What does this thingy do for you? Does it move you, in some way?’

So of course I took it along last night to my first social outing since 2001. Okay, I’m kidding, but you know. Going out for a drink, seeing what’s going on. Making smalltalk, my least favorite thing to do. And enjoying it, somehow. But also, sharing this little printout. Does it move you, in some way? There were a few people that seemed to be interested, to be intrigued. Watching how they responded, that was cool. I learned something. The things to note, I noted. Put them in my heart, let them sit for a night, see how it feels the next day, when I start all over, with a new file, and totally rewrite the damn thing.

 

Prototypes and improvisations

BEBOP JAZZ artists and improvisational theater people are probably the ones who get this idea, the most, when I start to go there, in that direction of… well, whaddyou think? I dunno. Because we are jamming. You have to have some creative confidence around this, sure, I get that. And it’s like this, a chicken and egg thing, because how do you get confident about a thing if you never actually get in front of anyone to talk about the thing that you are making? Jeez! Again!

And so, this prototype is a fail. It’s okay. I’m cool with that. I’m just redesigning, like mad, today. I’m happy. It’s gonna be better, as a result. Whatever is the point of printing anything if you never test it first? I see the ego in the vanity publishing industry and I feel sad that so much paper is getting wasted. People give me the books that they have written, and this normally would have seemed like, you know, a thing that would make me go, ‘Wow. You published something.’ But you know what? I didn’t read their books. I quietly left them behind, wherever I was. I gave them away. I wondered if those people I forwarded the books onto have read them. Bad writing? Maybe. That’s some of it. Ego? Sure. I hate the idea of self-publishing, mostly because it means you never collaborate with anyone, you just sort of do it anyway, all your way. [Uh, like blogging here.] No offense to our team members here who are self-publishing just about everything. But not printing it, mind you. They’re not printing because the life of the story is still in prototype phase… people are still reading, and sharing their thoughts. There is no final final yet, to anything we are making here, not yet. We’re not that old yet. We can take our time. This is fine. Go slow. Enjoy the journey of discovering your way towards something that is better, even better, than what you have just printed.

Yesterday, this printout.

Tomorrow, the world.

(Or, at least, a more thoughtful, more human-centered, better-received printout. Yes?)

 

Next in S P A C E

LET ME PUT some links here someday. Things like ‘innovation,’ ‘design,’ ‘chance encounters,’ ‘ideation,’ ‘systems thinking,’ ‘validate your ideas,’ ‘get to 50 ideas first, please, before you go and do the second one, by Akira Morita‘, et cetera. I need to finish writing my checklist-book, ‘The Quality of Space,’ and make it more of a how-to because the doing is what makes design interesting and good, there should be design doing seminars not just design talking or design thinking, but the budgets are for people to make design thinking seminars and not zine ateliers (which are really just mini moments of experiencing the design process, you see? By hand, in real life, in person, with HUMANS). Oi.

But you know what? First I have to get back to this S P A C E zine. I have to print it. I have to get it looking and feeling right, before I take it to Singapore, and hand out 8 copies to the 8 people who will together, with me, make the next S P A C E. Some of you reading this online in other parts of the world might also be curious about becoming part of our S P A C E programmes. Check out our calendar, if yes. Prototyping a few other kinds of things, there. Exciting stuff.