Discovering, sourcing, planning, sharing, connecting, interconnecting and framing. That’s what it is. To start.
Getting the team together. Organizing the pages without overthinking or over designing.
Leaving room for stuff to develop, other stuff to emerge. Being okay with things taking time. Being cool with letting go of what doesn’t fit, in the collection. Bricolage and collage being my ‘thing,’ along with relational art and the aesthetics around that, which academics write about (thank y0u) but which I, personally, design moments in which me, and hopefully others who also enjoy these things, can experience the ‘magic moment.’
AHEAD. New things, ahead. Grateful for the learning, and the reconsiderations of old things. For the replies to the notes I’ve been sending here and there around the world, and calls that I’m getting to make and enjoy relaxing into, too. For the responses to the poetry, for the notes and the critiques to the Winter 2018-9 collection’s editorial calendar. For the trust. For showing up. For the new rekindlings, deepening of some of what had begun, on my last trips here, and also, for the continued happening-upon new and different others that lands me here, time and time again, in S P A C E. Today was cool. It’s not over yet, but it’s been really neat. Booked tickets. Firmed up plans for the next stops. [To the wonderful urban planner, C, whom I just met today–hey! That was one hell of a conversation and very much needed. My questions again: how do we design and architect social spaces that ‘feel great’, but also, help people discover ways to think crticically and make choices that let them live better? What does a full city contain that an underdeveloped one doesn’t? What should be doing, as people who design spaces, and whose responsible for us ‘being happy’ and ‘living such as to become our best selves?’ Used to nerd about about these topics at walkable communities conferences Stateside and the time in Seattle interviewing loads and loads of engineers, city officials, and yeah, urban planners. The podcast I mentioned, is here. So yeah. Looks like Tuesdays are turning into S P A C E-y ones. Shall I make another thing? I can. I’m thinking maybe just two or three people now. It’s tiring, sometimes, to keep at it. But yeah. Sometimes you fall into the moment and it catches you by surprise. If you wanna talk about art, design, architecture, the shape of space, poetics, cities, and what gives the fabric of meaning to them, hey. I’m all in. Just hit me up.) To A and K: safe journeys. To A and R: SYS. And yeah. For anyone wondering what’s going on behind the scenes, here is where to join the conversation.]
New photography by Dipika Kohli, in mostly black and white. All from the Atelier S P A C E series in Finland, and inspired by the amazing guests in DK’s concurrent online programme, ‘Slow Moment.’
That twelve-week sequence designed for people to connect and converge in S P A C E was about: slowing down to ‘see’, journal, note, and ‘be.’ Says DK: ‘How do you do that? Just start.’ Cover photo styled by artist Kathelijne Adriaensen. // DK 2018
PHOTOGRAPHY. DK’s creative director Dipika Kohli began her freelance career in 1998 with a gig for the then Raleigh newspaper, Spectator Magazine. The conversation with editor Stephen Wissink on that first popping in led to a yearlong photography assignment to capture restauranteurs’ best arrangements of plates of salad, desserts, light entrees, and fancy drinks. From there, Dipika continued to take photographs, but began to focus more and more on architectures, and cities. The urban landscape was always her favorite. Two grants from the Japan Foundation had led, in the 1990s, to a 500-picture series, ‘Japanese Lines’. Curating large collections of snippets of 3″x3″ prints, she exhibited these at the N. C. Japan Center. She co-founded DK in 2006 in Seattle, after working as a staff editor and sometime-photographer for the Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce. Special thanks: Kathelijne Adriaensen for artistic inspiration and Benjamin Nwaneampeh for the fun interview we got to do with him for ‘Don’t Just Document, Make Art’, the S P A C E podcast conversation about photography..
NEW THINGS. Starting again. In S P A C E. In very small circles. Trusting the process and enjoying the adventure, creating the design for hosting and engaging some of us, some of us who are still curious, still open to the possibility of being changed by what we hear, and still ready to learn, from any chance encounter: as did the people I met at the N. Bohr Institute in Copenhagen when on a visit there, or in the corners of philosophy classes after the teachers left and texts were closed in my high school summer at Governor’s School East in Laurinburg NC, or in the empty moments just being on the edges of the world, for all the edges are at the edge, are they not?, in Nagarkot, Manali, Kyoto, Berlin, wistful piazzas in Bologna, the drone and hum and boisterousness of the throng of the West Village in 1990s New York, and more, and, other, and, more recently, in S P A C E. Here’s to the journeys, the new, the near, and the next. Ready for the 8 Oct thing. Ready, set.
The opposite of a profound truth may be another profound truth. —N. Bohr
A DAY AGO, I sent an email invitation to a handful of people in: Seattle, Durham NC, and the place that I affectionally call ‘The Road.’
What kind of invitation? To join me for an online salon in October called ‘Philosophy of the Moment.’ I’ll tell you about that more in a second. But the feeling is this. So many people. So much time. So many places. And so many great conversations. What if I could find a way to wrap us all into one space, to talk together about ideas and things that have popped up, from these, that we would all find curious? Or maybe handfuls of us would? And if that could happen, what might we learn, together? What could we make, too, if things got really interesting? An anthology, perhaps? Like The Mirror, in 2014? Something in print? What about zines? What about, what about? And that’s how I got excited about it. The starting of the thing–an interactive forum-salon, in protected-page posts, that is S P A C E.
LET ME ELABORATE.
Those places I met the people I invited? They’re from certain bases, of my past life in different parts of the world. Presently I’ve been thinking hard about such ideas as bases, because… well… it’s al long story, and one that I’m not totally sure I want to put here in the public space, but one in which a few of us explored quite nicely, in a 2016 writing salon called, ‘Home & Away.’ That was the first-ever forum-space. Some people really dug it. Some people left. But you have to take chances on things if you want to see innovations. And I like risk taking, if you know me you know that, but some of the time, I take much smaller steps than I wish I could. Writingwise and art wise, though, it’s much easier for me to take big jaunts out into the unexplored territories because, unlike most stuff, with writing and art I feel like I’ve had a lot of time and space to really practice. To get past my own qualms about, ‘Is this good enough?’ F yeah, it is. So go for it. So I do. I make S P A C E into salons, I do that because I like to correspond. I write a lot. Maybe too much. Maybe too often, certainly, too long at a time. This one, this [post] is long. I’m writing the extra bits in, I’m seeing that pargraphslong texts can be daunting, but… that the people I connect with best read. They read, to the end. And you know what else? They check links. AM and CW were among our very first clients in Seattle. (Hi, guys!) I still remember when they came to the office, that was my first one that I had ever rented, committing cold, hard cash to a thing as nebulous as ‘rent,’ because of a promise of it leading to ‘possibilities,’ which you know of course, it did. Big ones. Manyfolded. And at our meeting, I had said, you know, my blog has lots of long, long posts, that people don’t read. AM had countered, ‘I read. I read everything.’ And you know what? Most of the people I really like in life, they read. They read everything. The whole checking links thing was part of a post that used to be on this blog, about the Seattle-based DIY indie fair, ‘Urban Craft Uprising.’ I went to that not knowing what the hell to expect but finding
myself surrounded by a very specific type of person and writing a post called ‘Psychographics.’ In which I had quoted CJ, whom I’d met a the art gallery OKOK and run into again at UCU and he, there, upon hearing my comment, had said, ‘Yeah, yeah. These are very specific people all right. They’re the people that check links.’ Check links! Wow. Well, okay then. Let’s let that be a thing. ‘Kay, cool. Lessons learned: My favorite people, who are DK’s community and network and clientele and collaborators and friends, read til the end, read everything, and check links.
From out of left field
I GOT QUOTED ONCE, on study abroad, in the back of the ‘yearbook’ for saying something that, my goodness, my hero N. Bohr might have enjoyed hearing me say. I said, ‘I don’t make statements. I just say things.’ See? Statements imply you know something. But Bohr, good man himself, said: ‘The opposite of a profound truth may be another profound truth.’ The friends that I had in those days didn’t give two shites about quantum theory, or possibilities, or new angles, or the potentiality of multiverses and suchmuch. They just wanted jobs. Jobs! My jobs almost always turned into departments of philosophy. I can tell you some stories, but I’ll spare you. Because: Ichiro.
Instead of trying to ‘figure things out,’ or hit a homer for every single damn thing you try to do, the way that they tell you when you’re younger you need to, if you grow up in a country where I grew up, because success looks like a major league baseball game where all the lights are on full blast in midsummer and the crowds are loud. You go there and you watch and you see the big show. Casey at Bat notwithstanding, you go. You hit homers, if you’re good. That’s the thing. But me? I’m changing. I’m interested in other ways to do it, to show up for my own at-bat… Yeah. Show up like…
Yeah. I’ll rev up like Ichiro, try to make a poetic thing happen by just stilling into the moment. Show up for the on-deck circle, then head up to the plate. Batter up. A single to right field works for me, these days: no need to get high and mighty, trying to be Cecil Fielder, or anything like that. Work is getting around the bases. Work is making your way to home plate.
Arriving at home
Work is the work it takes to score the runs that earn the points for the team. Collaboratively. This. This is the new thing. Showing up, but also, being aware of the strengths of the rest of the team. And our team is pretty wide-ranging, now that I look at the whole picture. Some fascinating people have come through DK’s doors.
Things moved into cojournaling spaces, and now, we have the interactive magazine, S P A C E. And print zines, too. Lots, and lots, in other words: but the philosophy thread remains consistent. It’s where we are most intrigued. Exploring together the art of the conversation that gets us all thinking more critically and with an eye towards making our own lives more pleasurable. I read somewhere once that is the definition of philosophy. Then SY told me about Epicurus… And more to say, one day, about that. (But if you’re curious, read this fabulous poem that S had introduced me to, ‘Oriah’s invitation.’)
Clients, interns, part-time collaborators, commissioned artists, and more. I’m really lucky to have had that chance to make and share, and to work things out, in a way that’s evolved, these last, oh, I don’t know, what’s 2018-2005… okay… so, that’s what, 13 years. Thirteen years freelance studio-ing up at DK. I think we’ve learned where our strengths are: we have good pitchers, that’s pretty much the secret sauce around here. Pitchers who have a clear awareness of the simple but important fact that every at-bat is its own thing. That each batter up is her own ball of questions, struggles, philosophies, psychologies, temperaments, and triumphs. All of us are playing baseball, really. Just that, sometimes, it goes the way you think it would, like it’s a Cubs game from the 1990s, and you’re just watching them go through the motions. I can hear Harry Carey in my head saying it, ‘We’re just playing 1-2-3 baseball, here,’ and then, later, if things go his way, ‘Cubs win! Cubs win!‘ But the game is different, here. A wider field: the one that takes up the entire surface area of the globe. We’re going to play, now. A big game of giant rounding-around-the-bases. Batter up. And here’s the pitch…
Introducing ‘Philosophy of the Moment’
NOW THAT DK have been based in Asia, more or less, for the past four years, we’re using this angle on the way the world seems to have shifted to gather people in online forums and talk, together, about what to do to make stuff better. I know that sounds really heady, and lofty, but the truth is, that if we can make our own lives more clear to ourselves, and understand our own contributions to ‘the world,’ and I’m not talking about in a way that’s corny, cheesy, or ‘do-gooder-y,’ like toooooo many people [from abroad] come to Cambodia every single season (and last, if they’re lucky, three months to do… well, let’s see, what I’m really saying is… the stage is pretty giant, the stories myriad and numerous. Influenced by the new perspectives of having been, by sheer osmosis and inertia, in one place for so long (one year in motion in South and Southeast Asia, followed by four years at the time of this writing, in Phnom Penh, with the occasional excursions to Northern Europe–Sweden, Denmark, and [this summer in] Finland, and I’m not sure which spot is next but I’m going back, sometime, I can’t help it, the palette is what draws me, mostly, but more than that, the quiet spaces, but that’s a different story). And yeah. I’m ready. To share the conversations more widely: there are so many intriguing people whose paths have crossed with mine in these last five years, (the four here in Cambodia, and the one before that, on the road, in search of ‘uncertainty,’ or the practice thereof, long story, very esoteric, landed in no fashionable bullet-point list of outcomes, just lots and lots of e-correspondence in the time since with people all around the world whose ideas are still intriguing to me, people who have taught me very much, and people whom I’m really excited to interconnect, though S P A C E. More and more, lately. But in very small circles. Invite-only, kind of, since the end of the last registration period. That was for ‘Slow Moment.’ This time, it’s just a small circle of us probably who’ll join in to POTM. We’ll dive into philosophy. Of the moment. Ergo, ‘Phil. of the Moment.’ Like that?
Mm-hm. So okay. What is it? Philosophy of the Moment is a four-week side conversation online, nested in our ongoing interactive salons happening concurrently in our forum, S P A C E. We are going to spend some time over four weeks in
October talking together specifically about ‘Philosophy of the Moment.’ It’s open format. Four rules of Open Space: the people who come are the right people, it starts when it starts, ends when it ends, and the things that happened are the only things that could have happened. In other words, give yourself a break when hosting an Open Space because it’s about framing the thing and letting the jam just happen. As jazZ happens in Bangkok put it on email to me before we made ‘The Book of Blue’ together there, ‘Let’s let it roll.’
The people who come will be the right people. We’ll explore creative writing tips from experts whose advice has gotten us places. Collectively, sharing what we know from individual experience. Just like in our real life salons, like, for example, this one. We’re going to make things, too. A short anthology. This project is for people whose paths DK has crossed in recent months, whose writing and ideas have inspired, and intrigued us. We want to make a ‘room’ in a virtual space (that would be a protected page on this blog, with comment threads, and a password to get in), so that we can send weekly prompts to get us talking together, to get us learning together, too. From each other. I said that already, didn’t I. Guess it matters a lot to me: listening to one another, hearing each other’s voices and perspectives, being open to the possibility of being changed by what you hear. And all in a flat hierarchy. In which every. Voice. Counts.
‘The secret is to just begin’ –As told to DK by A. at AOTZ
MAKING SOMETHING through art or writing is one goal, but learning together is the main objective. Experiential publishing, this.
This is our method pre-start, this month:
Invite guests to take part. Make sure they are from a wide range of backgrounds, geogrphic locations, past experiences, and philosophies on life.
Ask people if they want to commit time to this project. Make sure they do have the bandwidth to do so.
Be interested in other people, and check through the application process if the guestlist also is so inclined.
Know that we are all going through this as if on a journey, together. That the outcome will be less important than the process of learning as we go. Being open to the veering and changing is hugely important, and we must communicate that up front: this is a journey we’re going to largely improvise, as we go. Are you cool with that? Then let’s begin.
Begin. Gather people to register before 8 October. Start on that date. Continue through the end of October. See what material has come together and. where we could push the envelope and see what kind of meaningful story or narrative or poetry or art we could fold into a short book. The anthology could be a collected work that becomes a digital book (if material is sparse) or a printed one. We’re in conversations with a book designer in Singapore about this, and we are quite serious.
Sample questions to get started: Travelers and artists, romantics and poets all know about the difference between time that is spent and time that is well spent. Kairos and chronos time, the shifting edge from one to another. Can we focus and look at these questions: when is it good, what makes it great? How do you know when to change things up?
With everything I make, I want people to relax. To feel air, space and comfort. Philosophy: the pursuit of making life more pleasurable through considering it from various angles. Let’s try this. (More about POTM is at this page.)
Let’s converse? Let’s play. Curious? Ask me anything. Leave a review. Comments are open. Say hi?
Not sure why, but it sure seemed to come up a lot in conversations. And maybe that’s why the next word I learned was ‘maybe.’ Things are always, it seems, in a kind of flux. You just have no idea what’s going to happen. You live in a countryside town, and you’re a farmer, say, and the things that evolve in the day have nothing to do with what you might have imagined, at the start of it. Staying flexible and being open to things suddenly veering is part of the everyday mindset. It’s actually kind of beautiful: you let things happen, you don’t go in there with an agenda and a list of things ‘to do.’ Summer in Finland and these things became clearer and less intense; the idea that you have to ‘produce’ is somehow out the window. For better or worse. Some of the new people I had met told me how they feel like it’s a bit of a drag, sometimes, like not having ambition could be a way you perceive this lack of momentum or the lack of some kind of urge to ‘do something.’ Thinking about things sometimes substitutes for doing things, as I learned, on my last night, talking away to the last person of the series of many, many chance encounters that informed the conversations that led to the knitting together of a new narrative. I’ll tell you more about that, tomorrow.
Meantime, let me get the final edits done.
There are a lot of people I wish to acknowledge, people who contributed to the making of this series, and I had first mentioned them at this page. Doesn’t hurt to underscore my gratitude, I think, by sharing again. So here we go. Many warm thanks for the great conversations to: Eveliina Karsikas, Asta Sinerva, Sirpa Heikura, Simo-Sakari Niemelä, Fırat Taşdemir, Johan Engström, Maria Raasakka, Sanna Upola, Rastislav Somora, Seo Jin Ahn, Ana-Maria Ovadiuc, Charles Tirkey, Saarah Choudhury, Benjamin Nwaneampeh, Joanna Ohenoja, Paavo Heinonen, Reijo Valta, Eero Österberg, and Merja Vedenjuoksu.
THE CREATIVE PROCESS itself was the subject of two conversation salons in Durham, NC: MAKE and MAKE II. ‘What is the creative process? Who uses it? What changes as a result?’ We had a dozen guest speakers at those two events; and a crowd. I can’t believe it, still, thinking back, that when I first returned to the Raleigh-Durham region after a decade away to throw the ‘do that we called MAKE how almost 100 people drove in from far and near vertices of the Triangle to connect, converse, listen, and learn.
Was just marvelous, that time, so we hosted the same event a year on.
MAKE and MAKE II were occasions, to me, the kind that I wouldn’t forget. I had no idea at the time that relational art would become my kind of party, that the being-together was the whole show. That awareness came way later, probably the night I read from the chapter ‘Blankslate’ at a cafe in Phnom Penh–the first chapter of Breakfast in Cambodia, to the group who had gathered that night–‘I know this street, I know that feeling, I know, because I”m here!’–that was the feedback.
And we were. Together, there.
In the moment, in the place that was written in the pages.
Diving in and out of S P A C E.
Yes. There’s a lot of philosophizing I could do here, but I’ll get back to the story of MAKE.
BEING THERE. I still remember JW, a sculptor and guest panelist at the first MAKE, talking about birds and the beautiful metaphor he gave us that day about how the creative process is like a flight. I can’t properly fit the whole feeling here… I couldn’t eloquently state it here; you simply had to be there, that’s what these salons are for, after all—the real life, real time experience. A co-created improvised play, which happens on the spot, and which ends in rather no time at all. Ephemera and the heightened moment of the urgent, sequestered ‘now.’ Oh, no. I’m getting philosophical. Well, let me save that sort of talk for another day. Perhaps this one, in Phnom Penh.
EVERY SO OFTEN, and this happened just last night, someone says something that reminds me of the existence this video that someone made, animating radio host Ira Glass‘ thoughts on the creative process. Of course any mention of IG makes me remember JK‘s story about picking the man up from the airport and getting starstruck–too funny. JK, what are you up to where you are? What are you making lately? Questions I would foist your way, if we were in good e-communciation. I’m still around to talk about these kinds of things, you know. Hopefully in a comment thread to come, over here. But yeah. The video.
Here it is:
FILE UNDER ‘RESOURCES.’ Personally, I just like to ‘do’ the creative process. Instead of just diving in and making something, which is my usual habit when I have this kind of focus time, today, I’m writing to people around the world whose work I think is curious, and whose perspective I’d love to hear when it comes to questions about the creative process, why we make anything, and what we’re doing this for. It’s a big question, of course. The point is not to get ‘popular,’ for me, anyway, or ‘rich.’ I just want to make good art. Did you see that video, ‘Make Good Art?’? SK had sent it to me, right before I left the States. I must say it was a contributing factor to the decision to get going on the road, indefinitely, without a fixed income, savings, or a plan. But yeah. I found a link. Here’s the YouTube video:
For further reading?
Anyone have further resources to add?
Please leave a comment with your link. Really would be great if you could point me to some people who aren’t white men, hey. I’ve been looking but it’s tough–women and people who aren’t white tend to just simply not get the spotlight as often. Imagine! But it’s true. That doesn’t mean that they aren’t there, with things to say. Help us find the important stories? Connect with me or just leave a comment below. I love the interactive part of writing this whole blog thing, because it’s not a flat space, we’re evolving it as we add to it. The geometry of a space is the set of all points within that space. And: S P A C E changes because you’re there. It’s kind of fun to think about physics and space, spacemaking and the fourth dimension. I can talk more about that, sometime. Let’s get to know each other, though, a bit first.
Thanks! Comments are open for a bit.
This post and other stories are made possible by support of members of S P A C E. Discover more here.
LOOKING BACK, it must have been at the conversation salon ‘The State of Publishing’ that I got the first inkling of what the thing is that today I call S P A C E. In which new and different others gather for a unique, once-off, real-life moment for remarkable connexion.
This is me, at that event:
SO MUCH happened there. So many old ties, crisscrossing with new ones. There had been a decade interval since the time I was in the Triangle (Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill, NC, for those who are not familiar). I had been there for university and my first jobs, including freelance work in photography and illustration, back in the 90s. So I of course had to invite some of the editors I knew from those days, including the people behind what was then the cool creative nonfiction-style not-a-magazine, and not-a-newspaper that was called the Urban Hiker. UH had run my first-ever first-person story, ‘Midmorning Lakeshimmer,’ which had been about sitting lakeside in Udaipur, Rajasthan, enjoying, guess what, a conversation. With a fellow passerby. The content of that conversation, and the publication in which it ran, set in motion, I think, to me, the notion that we can tell our first-person true stories, in the ways we like, if we just make a space to publish them. It was with great admiration that I continued to follow UH, until I read somewhere from the other side of the country, or perhaps when I was abroad in Ireland, prior to that, that it folded. Well, then. But the spirit of writing, conversing, connecting, and sharing: that was glittery. And that’s what I think I am carrying forward, here, in my own way, with the zines and salons in S P A C E programmes near, far, and online.
More to say about these ideas, about a hat tip to the past salons and of course, to the people who came, who shared, and who, in the end, made the magic moments happen. It’s all about showing up; showing up is Art, to me, and making the space for new and different others to convene in remarkable ways is what I’m up to here, at DK. Come a long way since freelancing for the then Spectator in Raleigh, I’d say. But then again, I remember walking into that office, asking what’s up, and getting a commission, on the spot. Not bad. Same thing happened over the years, repeating, telling me and confirming for me that yes, people want to hear about others, read about places, discover through the simple act of sharing what it is to go beyond the edges, and see what gems one might discover there. Thinking about these things, considering the tracks since I was back in NC, one of my many homes.
Another pic from State of Publishing:
OF COURSE IT IS IMPERATIVE that we have a strong sense of self before we can really engage in the kind of peaceful dialogue that will help all of us quell the ills of the world, what with its many division-making tendencies. Too this or too that, you’re relegated to too ‘out.’ You stay in the margins long enough and you discover other people are there, too. That’s how it happened, really. That’s how DK got going. We were wacky. We were curious. We were open. We were not buying into the program. We wanted new things, but didn’t know where to find them, or how they would change us, or why we felt compelled to go further into the ‘out there.’ The unknown. The not-yet-knowable. The uncertain, the different, the new. In the end, it’s because of the chance encounter with that one guest at SoP that led to the thought that it was no longer interesting for me to be in North Carolina, that I had things to do, somewhere else, wherever ‘somewhere else’ might be. I knew, after I put it down, and spent 9 hours writing a blog post that got circulated a little (and accidentally deleted when, well, it’s a long story, has to do with not making backups, something that people who aren’t as organized as they wish they could be have a tendency to fail to do), and yea, it was that time, and the people I met, and the things we said, and the books that got recommended, and the reading of those books, that led to new things.
Philosophy, I read recently, is the work to examine questions that will allow us to live more pleasurably. As I write from my very last night on the long, twelve-week stretch of being still for the ‘slow moment’ in northern Finland, I’m thinking about that. I’m thiningabout the chance encounters and the conversations and the people and what we made together. I’m curious about what will come of this, in my own thinking, and the style that will become what it will, as ar result of all the influences of being here. I remember a 17 year-old girl walking, at sunset, letting me stop and say hello, letting me say, ‘Thank you for participating in that workshop we did, the other day. It was nice to meet you.’ Letting me talk a little more about my feelings about being here, in a rural place, and sharing her own ideas, too. Then meeting her mother. Meeting a woman whose poise and patience were both of the highest level I’ve seen, and I’ve seen a lot of leaders in my life, and I saw that she was of that kind of upper crust calibre, and I saw that she did that work of mothering with the kind of gentle hand that we need to see in leadership today, in every walk of life. Because the mothers of the world know how to be tender. How to listen, with love, how to give of our affection. We aren’t expecting anything, when we’re mothering at our best. We just do. We just be. That’s the lesson I’ve learned, too, from being here, in Finland.
To the journeys, then. The new, the near, the now, and the next.
In more than 50 conversations to date with people on the bus, on the street, in cafes, at pubs, passing through the town, looking left, discovering something, sitting still, not speaking, in libraries, distancing themselves, and telling me in some form or fashion that DK’s comics about this place remind them of ‘Finnish nightmares, and that I should look that up,’ well, in 99% of them, something uniquely common has popped up as a thing that everyone wants to tell to a total stranger. Maybe it’s because there can’t be judgment around it, or the fact that they’ll never see us here in Finland again. Maybe that’s why there’s an ease to it: the simple act of divulging personal data that, hey, were we to be living together as neighbors from hence forth, they wouldn’t ever, ever share. The thing is this. Mental disorders. As much as I want to share more about all the various things I’ve heard, I am not going to do that here, in this public space of the blog. Instead, I’ll collect the impressions and stories and 16 random people in Helsinki, and share at ‘N’ Helsinki: NEUROSIS, in the end of August when the time in Finland for Design Kompany’s team here comes to a close.
WHAT IS N? A conversation. A salon. A real life magic moment. For those whose paths cross DK’s, by sheer randomness, chance, and sometimes, internet discovery. I’m looking for people I don’t know—I’m engaging and connecting with some of you, here on the internet, and others, in real life. If you are in Helsinki or will be, you think, towards the end of August, hit me up. Or better yet, investigate on your own what I’m going to do by following the links at ’16N.’ We are just starting to make the move here, on showing up for ‘N’ here in Finland. It would be fascinating to see if we find all 16 people to make a ‘go’ of a thing that, honestly, wouldn’t be what it is were it not for 16 people taking a risk, showing up, and making magic together. A big blind date. Why not say yes? Read more about how to play 16N and then, if it’s a fit, I’ll invite you to register.
NEXT MONTH, we’re going to host an online conversation called ‘Slow Moment.’
It’s designed for writers, photographers and people who practice slowing in all its many, many forms. In this post, I’m going to tell you a little bit about how the online projects here at DK work, and also, why we’re doing the 12-week sequence on the theme, ‘Slow Moment.’ I’ll start with the latter.
The idea started when we hosted ‘The Mirror‘, in which one prompt was ‘Slow Moment,’ and the responses that came were so fantastic that it led me to dedicate an entire 12-week block to just this subject. We talked about family, the woods, walking. Hikes, oceans, and being on our own. We talked about wanting to go places, going there, and what happened when we did. Relationships. Journeys. Endings, and new starts.
OPEN SPACE. Popouts. Allowing people to spend more time talking together about the topics they are most interested in. That’s how Open Space works, and that’s how we’ve been conducting our four-years-and-counting online project, S P A C E. It’s a salon. It’s a workshop. It’s a community. (And it’s just celebrated its fourth birthday.)
For me, moving towards the focusing in 2018 on the conversations that have developed and progressed is a really cool, fun step. Maybe we’ll create an anthology, perhaps a photozine, to share sometime in the fall, based on where we take things now. You never know how things can flow, they can meander, they can fizzle, they can blossom, they can die. It’s not a big deal, really, what happens. It makes room for new things to grow. New input. Original thinking. Freshness, space… that sets the stage for innovation.
HERE’S THE THING. I could have continued doing design for the next hundred years, when the work was happening and I was getting into it, and clients were referring DK, and so on. But what did I do? Move to the other side of the country, start over. That’s how it changed into more of consulting work; but also, salons. Started doing weirder and funner things, like ‘Aether: Is the Medium Still the Message?’, a series in which we invited guests to talk with us about the old ideas and the new ones when it comes to making media. Took that from Durham NC up to Washington DC, then New York’s Bryant Park, then Boston. Came back and made even more, even weirder installations. (Like ‘I Went 2 the City (And There Was Nothing There’, and more. I can talk about them for pages and pages, but that’s not the purpose, here.)
I want to invite you to join us in S P A C E, if you are getting a link to this page from me personally, especially. When it comes to making this invitation, what I care about is the spacemaking. I show up. I have the thing designed. If people enter the box of S P A C E to play, and they do, they really do, sometimes, then I’m happy to host. That’s how it’s been and that’s what’s going to happen now. I’ve just received the first application for the 2 July start of ‘Slow Moment.’
IT’S A PLEASURE as always to read these applications. It feels like getting letters in the mailbox. It’s personal, it’s warm-hearted, it’s sharing. People write a lot of beautiful things. I can’t tell you what they are, because of confidentiality, but the whole thing makes me feel very humble. If writing for the sake of writing were all there was, we would keep our manuscripts in drawers and never show them to anyone. Of course, that happens, and it’s cool, if that’s your thing to just write and be a writer or photograph and be a photographer, and never share, then cool. That’s you. But it’s not me.
Sharing is a part of the experience, to me, of making art. And being ‘in’ on the process of how a thing is made is something, I’m just realizing as I write this, and as I make zines with people here in Finland, is a huge piece of my own approach to art. If you can’t see how it’s been made, what is the fun of seeing it in its final form? Especially now that we have this two-way medium of communicating (web!), why not enjoy the process of developing our works, as we are making them, with others to write with, share with, post pictures to, engage with. But I’m not talking about 1:N. I’m talking about very small circles. Like, four people in each. I’m inspired by my way back in the day fifth grade class, and the style we used to have there, in small groups. Four of us would have desks facing each other, and we had these little ‘pods.’ I’ve since learned about the ‘jigsaw‘ method of teaching, and realize what an impact it had on my own way of learning, approaching things, and asking peers for their ideas on what I want to know more about.
That’s probably why I’ve reached out, in recent months, to more than a dozen of my favorite photographers. People whose work I’ve seen in real life, or really admired and reached out to and subsequently met up with just to talk art-shop. People who are doing really cool things. Whom I wanted to ask, ‘What do you think about really seeing, really noticing, really going into the quiet spaces and enjoying them, and then, somehow, photographing or capturing them through written words? It’s a big question, for sure. But… what do you think?’
Some of their answers are already prepared for you, in the upcoming workshop… ahead.
But to give you a sneak peek, here’s some of what I learned.
SLOW MOMENTS let us remember what our story is. To ourselves, about ourselves, but also, who we are in relation to others. (And in an existential way, to the cosmos). In many ways, I think for many of us taking part in DK’s online salon-workshops, we’re just talking together in these online circles because it gives us a place to share.
I’ve been making S P A C E salons in real life for a while now, and the goal is to create a cozy space where people who don’t know one another can simply be together, and talk if they want, or not-talk if they feel inclined that way, and simply be who they want to be, which I hope, in S P A C E, is who they really are. So many other facades are out. So many guards are up. In the real world, I mean, and in the social media world, too. But who are we really? When I connect with people in S P A C E, I feel I’m talking directly to them, their real selves, without all the layers. That’s a privilege and a responsibility. But I think, I do really think, that I’m getting kinda good at this. That’s why I’m not quitting the salon-hosting online, not yet. I’m going to keep hosting as long as I get amazing applications. And I do. So I will.
S P A C E is where we write, talk, and comment; it’s asynchronous, and it’s international. I encourage pen names, too. It’s not about google-ability or sounding smart, or anything weird like social media commenting status quo goes. I don’t understand how social media got so out of hand. I really miss those days when twitter wasn’t algorithm-y, nor did it have promoted ads, and we could just say ‘hi!’ to @anyone, and it was chronological, and not driven by… agendas… Of all varieties.
STAMMTISCH is MONDAY. Guest artist Mike Dynamo will talk with us about music and writing. More below. Ticket registration page is here.
Salons: What are they?
Design Kompany hosts conversation salons. This is what it looks like. Pictured, from left: ‘The State of Publishing’ in Durham NC with Mercury Studio, MAKE at Fishmongers Durham NC, ‘Modern Sikkim’ in Gangtok India, ‘Breakfast in Cambodia’ at TINI in Phnom Penh, flyer for Designers Korner standing date at Stumbling Monk, which looked like the last image. Good fun. These happened 2011 through today, in (most of the time) very small circles.
Meet new people. Discover S P A C E. At Monday’s meetup in Phnom Penh, STAMMTISCH. What is it? A place that’s not home, that’s not work. For conversations with a center, and not sides. No agenda, not religious, just let’s meet and talk. But briefly. Let’s play?
Monday, 16 April’s programme: ‘Welcome to the Creative Process’
Phnom Penh-based musician and writer Mike Dynamo will be joining us at STAMMTISCH.
His blog post, ‘Has the Artist Been Killed and Replaced by the Entrepreneur?’, inspires this week’s session.
Meetpoint: Java 2F 4-6:30. At one of the outside tables.
Here’s a light agenda…
5PM Artrepreneurship II
5:30PM Short Salon: ‘MAKE: What is the creative process?’
About Mike Dynamo
Mike Dynamo is a Phnom Penh-based musician, writer, and thinker. He knows a little bit about a wide mashup of topics—culture, film, video games—and can converse at length about anything with remarkable energy. Substantially, not trivially. (Though he does host a weekly trivia night at Lucky Gecko). His piece, ‘Has the Artist been replaced by the Artrepreneur?’ starts like this:
There was an interesting piece in the Atlantic from two years ago that was about the relationship between art and commerce throughout the ages – what it means and where it is heading. The writer, William Deresiewicz, delved into the paradigm shift between the “hard-working artisan, solitary genius, credentialed professional,” and the birth of the creative entrepreneur. I could barely wrap my head around it because it’s so difficult to understand what exactly I’m trying to create while still clinging to the old ideas that art isn’t meant to be a pursuit of massive attention as much as a divine gift from beyond to be used for its own sake. Read the full story >
About Dipika Kohli
Dipika Kohli is an author, artist, and designer. Her studio, Design Kompany, was founded in 2006 in Seattle WA USA, and has been exclusively freelance since. While in the US, she orgnanized a salon, MAKE: ‘What is the creative process, who uses it, and what changes as a result?’. This gathered more than 70 creatives and scientists around Research Triangle Park (aka ‘The Triangle) in NC to talk about these questions, together. Out-takes are at this writeup on Processed Identity. Ahead of the event MAKE, DK had asked the Ottawa-based graphic designer who runs it, Steve Zelle, to share a guest post with DK. That post, ‘A sprinkle of magic dust,’ is really great. And it’s here.
Are there ID or minimum age requirements to enter the event?
Can I come for just a portion of it?
Sure. But as we have very limited seats, be sure to register to confirm your attendance.
Can I pay on the day?
You can, but we do have limited seating. If you’d rather show up on the day, bring exact change to help us out. The tickets are: $15 + 1000 riel, so as to cover handling fees.
IT IS INCREDIBLE. The road. How it teaches. You just have no idea where you are going to go, and then, there you are. Writing today from a small unexpectedly well-connected wifi place. Fast. Lucky. Reflecting lately on the journeys, typing and sharing the gems in S P A C E. Enjoying offline random conversations. So many! A few intriguing people; no, no, that’s understating. More than a few. A dozen? Atelier S P A C E has brought me to them. A Programme that is by design about bumping into chance encounters, during specific windows of time in selected spaces. Going and finding these ‘boxes’, be they cafes or lounges, bars or museums, whatever and however it works it works, but the important part is that there has to be a good feeling about them. Chemistry is big. What is the quality of the space that we are shaping? Something like ‘the third place,’ is the closest I’ve found. But with a spark: a little twinge of !*, an ‘I didn’t see that coming!’ And ‘Huh!’ I like to think of it as the magic moment. You have to design for it. And you can. It’s pretty neat.
There was more here, before, but I deleted it. I guess it just felt pretty personal, and it was hard to get so full-on intimate outside of the boxes that we make, in our ateliers, and in our online ‘rooms’ for conversation. Something has changed, I guess, for me. More interested in small scales, human scale dialogues. With new, and different others. So many of the people I *just met*, for example, are exceedingly interesting—for a time. in the shape of space that moves and shifts, these encounters linger and press a kind of memory. But the new news is this. Memories of memories change, in fact, too. What do we think about, how we feel, where we were, what’s next… All questions to think about, if you are the thinking-about-questions sort. If you are, let me know. We have more things ahead, in S P A C E.
TODAY AND TOMORROW, we are in Cameron Highlands hosting a popup salon-workshop. The theme this time is photography, and travel in general. Never thought that I would start writing and blogging and conversing about #travel, you know, with the hashtags and everything. It seems so overdone, these days. It seems like people all over the place want to write about all their places they go and all the people they meet and collect them up on social media and pretend like everything is supersaturated, perfect-perfect posty-posty. You know what I’m talking about, right? Anyway, I got inspired to host this when I found this place, and stuck around long enough to have gotten a feel for it. It is authentic. That’s why we’re doing the popup here. Let’s talk travel, wanderlust, showing up, real life, and authentically gathering and sharing stories. We will do this together in a very small circle, with those who opt-in to join me for Atelier S P A C E || Cameron. In Cameron Highlands? Discover more about this popup atelier, when you click ‘upcomings’ and the details are all there. To the journeys! The new, and the next.
Join DK and very small handful of others at this new, and different, style of conversation salon. Our theme is ‘The Prospect of Beauty’. Discover the parlor games ‘Art of Not Knowing’ and ‘Excerpts of Note,’ as shared in similar small scale salons in Tokyo, London, New York and Hanoi. Welcoming the very curious and looking forward to receiving you. A meetpoint, and programme, to be emailed to registered guests *only.* Advance bookings only. (Ticket sales close at midday on Wednesday, 1 Nov.)
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.
NEXT STOP, Singapore. Talking with people in design, publishing, writing, photography, illustration, networking as much as I can right now (online) before I get there (early November) to *make it happen*. I’m really looking forward to making a go of this, it’s been a long time in the works trying to discover how to get people connected, engaged, and talking together. In London, I stayed at this place where a young lad came up to me and said, ‘I heard you were going around the world meeting people.’ I was like, ‘Ummm.’ But that’s it. I am. But it’s not just about the ‘going around the world’ part that’ interesting, or the ‘meeting people’ part. It’s about connecting and inviting and discovering and most importantly, inter-relating people in new and remarkable ways. Where is the joy, otherwise, if we’re not really looking at each other? Who cares about e-lationships? I want real life.
I realize that a very short deadline, tight-run, and succinct programme would be a fun way to try something, in real life, together.
What do you think of this programme? Suggestions for making it smoother to read, and understand are welcome. Anyone who is a member of S P A C E is more than welcome to join me at this, for free. If you are thinking about being in S P A C E and aren’t sure about what the benefits are, here’s the thing. No one knows. Just like ‘N‘ and other things, it’s about *showing up*. I find that the magic moments happen when we make the choice to do that, and see who else has made the same commitment. Is it weird? Is it working? Is it overly ambitious? I am writing and wondering, out loud, as I do.
I’m only sharing this quietly, today. I want to stay connected and in conversations, so just add your comment, critique, or sideline soliloquy in the form below? I would use comments but if I do they start getting all spammy and it gets totally out of hand. Mostly, what we are all interested here at DK is designing space for us to really collaborate. If we’re not working together well, we’re not doing anything interesting. Did you notice? Look up. See all those people in their computers and phones? Me, included. We are losing the magic of real life, by showing up together, and noticing one another. Eye to eye. All very esoteric, this kind of talk, but you know what I’m talking about, right? You know.
Let’s converse? It’s all open space. And I’m listening.
Here’s a form. This could lead to all kinds of cool conversations in real life. It has, and does.
WHEN DESIGN KOMPANY landed in Phnom Penh in March 2014, something incredibly magical took hold of me. I still remember the photo: I’m on a tuk-tuk, looking out at what was the Independence Monument, though I didn’t know it at the time. We’re rounding the circle, I’m staring. I’ve got one hand clutching the open-air tuk-tuk’s column, it’s like a movie, or a dream. After trying to put the experience of being here into words (my best shot, in Breakfast in Cambodia), I want to share with you the pictures and drawings of the aesthetic that moved me so much, in that first week, that I pressed for our team to stay here for a while. A flat to let. That turned into one year, then two, then three. It’s now almost been four years, and it’s time for me to look for the next place.
But before I go, this is the last dance. ‘Phnom Penh || S P A C E’ is the chapbook, a visual summary of some my finds when exploring the aesthetic of Cambodia. I didn’t train fully in art and design, I was an engineering major, and I spent my time abroad in Kyoto. But coming to Cambodia made me question this. Why wasn’t Phnom Penh an option when it came to where to study art, design, the ornament, ritual, symmetry, these kinds of things? When we were students, it was all about Florence. New York. London, Tokyo. But now, you can go anywhere. You can study anything. This was my self-designed independent study. I had no idea it would last more than three years.
What is Beauty? Who gets to decide? Here, in this place, it’s quite miraculous; never taught to us in art schools, but of a quality and temperament that only by being here, in situ, for a time, and absorbing, can you really feel. It’s not easy to articulate, but the pictures, I hope, and the drawings, will tell this story to the world, from the perspective of Atelier S P A C E. Can you dig it?
Free digital copy for those who join S P A C E in September.
AFTER HOSTING THE JUNE SERIES OF EVENTS in Hanoi, DK are back in Phnom Penh as a team and curious to discover new people who might be newly arriving here. We just reset all our mailing lists, but there’s a new conversation salon that is getting underway and some of us are in Phnom Penh. People who are interested in taking part in real-life stuff can be part of this, when joining us in S P A C E. Meetpoints and programmes will be shared by email with anyone who is starting a conversation with us here. Let’s play? To the next! –JP
IT MIGHT BE A LITTLE PREMATURE to start blogging about the next ‘N’ already, but it is here, in my heart, as soon as the last one finishes. There is, of course, the thank-you not that I am still writing. For those who joined us at ‘N’ in Hanoi… wow, just last month. At the very end of June, when we were all sweltering and wondering if we could really pull that off, must have been really surprising (as one guest told me, hello GN!) for some to see that we did get together, 16 of us, and then, we took a selfie.
I need to share that.
I need to do that right, but I am also realizing that there is no ‘right’ for things like this. Blogging, is it already old school to be a blogger? I do not do product placements. There are no sponsors. I feel sad when I go to a nice event only to see that it’s been co-opted by some giant car dealership or beer company, and it becomes, well, more of the same. The banal.
This happened before, when I would join events that were ‘free’ but turned out to be anything but, what with the snapping of photos for someone’s ‘promotion’ and the marketing materials that are shoved at you more subtly in 2017 then they were in the 1990s, they don’t print flyers and blast them at you, they just… what? Make weird psychological triggers, capitalize on your insecurities, make you feel like you need something (absolutely ‘must-have’ it), because you’re not complete enough without… But ‘N’, if you were wondering, ‘N’, I think, I believe, is a way to really come back to just being who we are, together in a small circle, small is important, but not too small, because… you need a mix of people and I’ve found 16 to be perfect.
Four groups of four, that’s a bit of a holdover from the days when I recall working with other consultants to bring the jigsaw method to play in experiential learning workshops that we would design together. To varying degrees of success, of course. It’s not trendy or sexy, what we’re making here, in S P A C E salons, workshops, magazine, print stuff, zines, eZines, and things to come. Things to come! There is always that wild card spot. ______. Anything is possible, anything anything.
‘N’ CPH. For ‘N’ in Copenhagen, so far we have 5 people who are ‘in’, and that’s exciting. Things have changed a lot since 2015, though, since that time when they said ‘yes’… Still. We have been in touch. Corresponding, from time to time. The theme is NEARNESS, and that means building trust, over time. Showing up, even ambiently on email, is important, I think. Learning, changing, as I go.
More patient, as I learned to be from those I met in Copenhagen in 2015, on a foray into that place to see about making ‘N’ happen. I got there and realized I didn’t have enough time to find the people I was looking for, that those whom I would meet would need time to meet again, that email wasn’t something people do anymore (this is just something I do, is it?), and that… you have to kind of know people before you can show up from out of town and throw together something as wacky and undefined as ‘N’. But… I have been… staying the course. I still did some small things, a little talk about productivity and a couple of salons: Internet I Hate You and Drift and the Nomad. Both were good. Small, clean.
OPTIMISTIC. For Copenhagen, for 5N, whenever it will be, and however it comes into shape when it does, I am optimistic. I have been practicing at this, just that… cultural differences. It is so not like America, you don’t just walk around handing out cards and putting up flyers and saying, ‘This. This is good. You should do this.’ No one takes that kind of craic seriously, there. And why should they? I like the place because people do show up when they say they will… no fuzzy cancellations or weirdness which happened so often here in Phnom Penh that I got riled up about enough to design ‘N’ Phnom Penh in the first place. That was when you had to get tickets ahead of the poll-making step, so you really had to commit before you even got to help select the date. Same with Bangkok’s ‘N’. And London’s. This time, though, in Hanoi, I thought it would be interesting to kind of wing it. Once you get there, and you start being yourself, and people can see that you are earnest about it, what you’re making I mean, then yeah. It works. It can, it does. It will, for CPH, too. (But if it doesn’t, that’s okay, too.)
IS IT WORKING? That’s subjective. Maybe people wouldn’t see the losses that are coming back financially as successes, but I, personally, find each ‘N’ moment to be such a magical one, such a gem, that I can’t help but keep motivated to carry forwards. ‘Success’ isn’t about ‘outcomes,’ it’s about paying attention, I think, to what you are learning as you go, and being able to adapt yourself so that you can, well, add to your life instead of simply check things off some list.) Is it working? Who knows. We are just 4N in. I am going to be writing more about Hanoi soon, and maybe I’ll share about Bangkok and Phnom Penh, too. There were ‘N’ events here I hardly wrote about, mostly because… new at ‘N’-hosting. New means… reluctant to share. Less so now. Less new, more open. Blogging again, weird, that. Anyway. Here’s to the journey. And very warm welcomes to those just joining us, in S P A C E.