Excerpt from ‘Serendipities’

The formation of the most perfected words, the most meaningful, the most philosophical, in the fullest sense of the world occurs unfailingly in periods of ignorance and simplicity. The onomathurgical talent is invariably disappearing as we descend towards the civilized and scientific eras. In all the writings that appear in our time on this most interesting subject, there is nothing but an invocation of a philosophical language, and without knowing indeed without suspecting, that the most philosophical language is that in which philosophy is least mingled. The latter lacks too little faculties to create words. Intelligence to invent them, and authority to have them adopted. Does philosophy see a new object? It will go and leaf through its dictionaries to find an ancient or foreign term, and always the enterprise comes to a bad end. Montgolfiere, for example, which is used throughout the country, is correct in at least one sense. And I prefer it to aero state, which is a scientific term but suggests nothing. You could just as well call a ship hydrostatic. Observe the invasion of new words borrowed from the Greek over the last 20 years, gradually, as crimes or madness demanded them. More or less of them are formed erroneously, they are self contradictory. Theophiloanthrophists, for example, is a term more foolish than the thing in itself, which is saying plenty. A simple English or German scholar would have been led to say on the contrary. Theanthpophile. You will reply that this world was invented by wretches in a wretched age, and yet the terminology of chemistry, which was surely created by invited men, begins precisely with the lowest sort of solecism.

Poetics of Space

oxygen

When they should say, instead, oxygon.

I am not a chemist, but I have excellent teasons to believe that honest terminology is destined to vanish. The fact remains in all case that from a philosophical and grammatical point of view it would be the most unhappy imaginable if the prize for barbarism were not contested and wrested away by the metric vocabulary.

p. 138-140 from the chapter, ‘The Linguistics of Joseph De Maistre’, Serendipities, Umberto Eco

29 August | ‘N’ Helsinki: NEUROSIS

LET’S TALK ABOUT IT. Neurosis.

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.

Being offline more

WIFI. Is scarce, here, in Penang. So, more offline time.

Eye contact.

As I talk in real life about the why of Atelier S P A C E, it’s doing something, it’s making it clearer.

As in, why.

As in, for whom, and where.

I seek cozy spaces that might not be ‘regular’ for philosophical and nonlinear meanders into the abstract. But… That’s what it is. Think about it. Space is invisible. But space connects us al. That particular S P A C E. Is what we are designing, in Atelier S P A C E. Really.

Don’t believe me?

Check out our gallery, and learn about our process to invite new people to join us in these kinds of things, as we blogged it all for ‘N’ Hanoi.

NEW & DIFFERENT. Wherever you look going to be a wallop of awakening; that’s because you’re in the newness, you’re in a spot that you haven’t been, and though it might be ho-hum routine for those who are living and working there usually, for you it is New. I didn’t tell you about S., did I? This weirdo installation… Involving… Well, wait. it’s too personal to put on this blog.

In the last 20 years of trying to find ways to engage people (so that I can get more engaged with the design work I think is better as a result, to be really honest), I have learned that the high-quality space that I want to create more of in this world resides in the real life bounded box of time, and location, which is set. Which is intentional. And good because we are *there*.

So yeah. If we meet, in one of the cities where I’ll be traveling, in 2018, I can share there.

(More for members of our online community, S P A C E, in exquisite and intricate details. Curious? Subscribe here.)

 

How I think I found 2 or 3 of us

THE THING IS, you just have no idea. When you go and say, ‘I’m here for a thing. A salon, sort of, but not really. It’s not a performance, well, wait, it IS, kind of. It’s an improvised play. together, the 16 of us, together is the important bit. Because who cares about ‘the arts’ or stuff on the walls these days in snooty galleries, who cares about what’s in our phones, who cares about the old books by dead people that line the halls of libraries in parts of the world where those books might have been interesting and important at one time, because, well, now, lookit. That way of schooling us just didn’t get us places. Did it? [Aside: I’m not a political theorist, or a sociologist, a psychiatrist, or an expert in cultural theory, science, et cetera. No. But I am an artist; and that means, I feel. I feel terrible about the way that the things that They Told Us Would Be Good For Us turned out to fragment and isolate us, turn on our fears and anxieties, and generally keep us from discovering our ‘edge,’ and most importantly, seeing what we are each capable of achieving as individuals with unique, one-uva-kind flair. I’m talking about us noticing ourselves, being who we really are, mirthful and fulfilled. Money and power and the chase, the hierarchies… that stuff… was someone else’s dream for something else. A time that died, that got dusty, but which we couldn’t let ourselves be pulled away from. The future happened, already. I met someone the other day at my second-favorite Indian restaurant in Hanoi. Who knows who he is. (Dude. If you are reading this, you need to really fill out the form about the conversation salon ‘N’, because those things where you actually show up are where the real learning happens, not these blogs that are written by people behind screens at all hours of the night on the other sides of your screens, because writing is a medium that is tired, so tired, sad as it is to admit this because it is my favorite medium (and yours, maybe?), but podcasting is where it’s at now.) And I don’t do that. So I am going to be quietly left behind the curve of Innovation and Evolution and Forwardness because I am too tired and probably too old to go out and buy some equipment to record myself and try to Get Famous. No, thanks. I’ll just write and blog and tie my shoes the old-fashioned way; one at a time. Here we go.]

INVITEES. Anyway, the lady who was with the person who I met was one of the two or three I think would be into ‘N’. And the new person. The one I met… yesterday? At the cool new cafe with the nice latte art? The too-cool, I think, cafe. A slightly-too-cool to be a place to host an ‘N’, but definitely isn’t a bad place for people watching. I love Hanoi for this one aspect, it might just be my favorite sport. Or maybe trying to make an ‘N’ is? That’s not a sport though is it. That’s just an impossible challenge. Well, mostly impossible. But not quite. And that sliver of almost-maybe is where ‘N’ lives. It is trying to be the thing that no one things can happen: 16 strangers saying ‘yes’ to showing up at an agreed-upon date, place, and time. For a salon. This one, this time, is on NARRATIVE. Are you ready, Hanoi? Are you there? Is anyone listening? See because that is the major part of it; you don’t know if your things that you talk about on the blogs actually have resonance in the real world. And the real world is where life happens. So I’ve been coming out of hiding a bit more and more, showing up at things, going out of my box. Saying hello to people who don’t say hello to me first. Saying nothing when they ignore me at the goodbye. Discovering it’s not personal, it never was, this online weirdness, this strange way of conversing the that nothing at all to do with the fact that some of us like to write and even at one point made a living from it, and others just like emojis. I hate emojis, but I think you know that, if you know me, personally, or if you see that I never use them, here or in the emails, or texts. Texts are rare. I hardly text. I text, though. I do. I sometimes text. Why am I telling you this?

BECAUSE ‘N’. ‘N’ is the kind of thing that brings up all sorts of things. You wonder, you think out loud, you wander. You go where you don’t think you should go (a bridge, yesterday) and you look out for people who seem like they might be the kind who would return your ‘hello’ instead of flee to their phones and glare into the glowing rectangles into the middle of the night. I am trying not to be cynical. I am typing into a glowing screen myself. Just, with a keyboard. That doesn’t make it any better, though, does it? I am still trying to find people who are interested in connecting. Just not through the usual ‘normal’ ways now. I do not do Tinder. I don’t care much for Meetup. I am not a fan of LinkedIn. I am, however, interested in chance, serendipity, looking around and walking about and running into it. The third person that I think would be a good fit for ‘N’? A lad. A youth. Let me tell you…

Is someone who I think would really get a lot out of it, on account of it being New and Different, and knowing what I know about being young and angry with the world, feeling like it’s all bad and everything, until, this one thing happens, this kind of bright light shines for a second on a spot that you didn’t see before. You see it for that one glimpse of a moment, and then, poof, it’s gone. Keeping it forever isn’t the point. NOTICING it, that is the place where we go from living to something more than just taking in sustenance… we go to places that connect us to things beyond just our day-to-day, our routines that might not involve little side conversations or the smile and hello that you would have seen if you had not grown up in a way that involves texting more than real phone calls. Real phone calls are so intense now, aren’t they? Well. ‘N’ is even more real life than that. And that is why I care so much about it. To the journeys, then. Pressing on. I made some real invitations, on email. And twitter. Good people are there, saying ‘tell me more,’ which makes me happy. Must not quit this. Must keep showing up. Must not let it bother me that the world is ‘too busy!’ and ‘thanks but next time’ and you know what? There is no next time. Onceness, noticing it, the shiny thing that’s there now!, that’s the entire point. The good news is there is still some time. My visa is good for another couple of weeks. WEEKS. I remember discovering four people in Bangkok on the four days ahead of ‘N’ there, and in London… SEVEN. So the odds are good. People here are a bit more open, too. I like this. I like it very, very much. To the journeys, then! To the next. —AS

 

‘N’ London is ON

output_nCB76V5.56PM. TODAY I AM GOING THROUGH THE DIP. The one that they tell you is important to ‘push through,’ as my favorite guru-watching, Headspace-listening friends and colleagues like to tell me, when I am not wanting to hear it, when I am not-wanting-to-hear-it and wanting to just sit and think, alone, quietly, all day. With internet. Because with internet you can write and type and skype and talk and chat and feel like something is happening. Something is moving. That if you keep on pulling the loom and knitting in yarns and patches and bits and so on, there will become, eventually, magically, a pattern. A tapestry. A thing that is the beautiful thing. Because of the labor, the labor, the labor, the WORK. Where is all this coming from? Too much internet. Toooooooo much.

2.45PM. All morning I was thinking about how to do it. Write to everyone I have contacted so far in London and tell them that, yes, after all this time, after more than a year of some of the guests there bearing with me, trusting me that yes, this WILL happen, it is starting to do its thing. It is starting to happen. It is. It really, really is. Magic moments, making spaces, holding the rooms for dialogue to happen, in the salons and roundtables and workshops in cafes and libraries and parks and light bars that don’t press you to buy things if you just want to engage in esoteric conversation, all of those things are where I start to notice things. The good stuff, for example. The good magical place where we can connect, eye to eye and, let’s be really open here, if we may, and talk about it: heart to heart. Internet is missing something. It is. You know that, though, right? That it is? It’s missing the spark that makes us human beings. I am seriously tired today from writing so much email and wondering if anyone cares as much as I do about the magic moments that happen in the space framed by the bounded box, held with care. When 16 vectors converge for one MOMENT in the space of time, when we can design for that, when we can angle it so that it WILL happen, will it matter to anyone else besides me? And yes, the very good people who have said ‘YES’ to ‘N’ so far. (41/482 so far). There are more things to say but those are for sharing privately, with the 41 people, because not everything that is good is for public consumption, and sometimes the very best of the good stuff happens when it is by design meant to be shared with only a very small set of people, a very tiny scale of a few. In our case, 16 per city. SixteenN. Sixteen x Sixteen, for the magic set of 256 in the whole wide world. The colors. The boxes. The spaces. The making of space. The holding of it. None of this would be happening if people weren’t saying yes. *thank you* *you know who you are* *to be continued* We want to connect. To engage. To do this is human. Isn’t it?

NOW. Today I’m cleaning my new flat of its clutter. Putting all the right papers in their containers, sensing the story that is the ultimate centroid of my life work: making space for connections between people who don’t know one another; discovery through serendipity and chance; growth through these kinds of experiences that, while ultimately extremely basic (who are you? let’s talk?), are so very hard to find in our fragmented world of illusions, spectacles, and yes, if I sound jaded, I am. Today I reconnected with everyone to whom I’ve ever sent an invite for ‘N’ in London. Tomorrow I start hitting the internet again to keep querying. More than 485 invitations for ‘N’ events in four cities so far, yeesh. But last week I found renewed enthusiasm for this when I got off a skype with #28327a, who was the first to join ‘N,’ like a year ago. It was his idea to reframe ‘N’ as a challenge, and he said it: ‘Don’t wait for better options! Be a bold human being and pick a date and show up!’ And we were off, then, taking all of this much more seriously. Lamenting, together, the decline in opportunities to engage, connect, share, and discover. New and different others. new ways of thinking, new people. Curiosity! Oi. If art is all there is that can save us, isn’t curiosity its prerequisite? Is there hope for art, for newness, for intrigue, the universal quest to ask, ‘What is this, and let me just see now…’? I’m looking for the right people, so it’s taken some time, and I still have a month, so here we go. Here we go, here we go, here we go.

Care to comment?

DK

PS They are playing some seriously nice violin-y stuff today here. I am feeling all on a roll.

When 16 vectors cross in a bounded box: ‘N’

SO TO REMOVE SOME OF THE MYSTERY behind ‘N’, which you may have been invited to in recent days, I wanted to let you in on the story.

Because after one year and a little bit, ‘N’ is becoming clearer.

As clear as a variable can be, that is.

A variable that also happens to have the little arrow above it, indicating it’s a vector.

A vector, recall from geometry, is a point that has a line poking out of it, extending infinitely in that one specific direction. ‘We’re on a particular vector here…’

So when the idea of getting 16 people together who didn’t know one another in a designed, hosted and comfortable space for conversation that’s not boring or predictable came up, the image of sixteen vectors crossing in a point sort of popped out of the chaos of the randomness of that which was around me, at that time, in that particular moment. It started to be clear then that the moment was important for me. Not just when I make my zines and collages and try to go with the feeling, to celebrate the sensation of just improvising on the spot and making it up as I go, but in reality, too. (Reality? Whatever is reality? That’s a philosophical conversation for another time, perhaps in S. P. A. C. E.) But for now, the story of ‘N’.

BRICOLEUR. I LIKE THE IDEA OF HAPPENING upon things. Of finding small bits and pieces around me, and collecting them. Those who know me well know that I am a terrible hoarder of magazines, especially when they are beautifully laid out with lovely typesettings. And typefaces. And general colors, and the paper is nice, and, and… Happening upon the spaces in which I discover these pieces is as much a part of my zinemaking as the materials that collide, somehow, together to become the booklets and studies and once-off collages that for some reason seem to me to do that thing I realize now that ‘N’ also wants to do. Freeze-frame a moment.

A particular coincidental crossing of… people, in the case of the real-life event ‘N’, or in the case of the making of tickets for ‘N’-going guests, the pieces that happen to fall into my space in the just-beforeness of the events.

So it seems natural that the tickets for ‘N’ Phnom Penh were built of magazines I found around the time that was about to happen (April 2015), and that the ones for ‘N’ Bangkok were made of a draft for an eBook I was writing all about that city—some highlighted where errors needed attending to, all of them 8-page minibooklets, and some of them with messages from guests of the first ‘N’, here in Phnom Penh…

Pictured at the top of this page is today’s work: starting to create tickets for the ‘N’ event in Hanoi. Just 16, as always. See 16N >

Making them from bits and pieces I picked up in Denmark.

These tickets will be distributed to guests who’ll be invited to register to ‘N’ in Hanoi.

It’s all very lighthearted, I think, in the approach?

I mean, I’m not sure of how to answer people’s questions that pop up over and over again as I invite guests to ‘N’ salons around the world…

‘Why are you doing this? What’s in it for you?’

Um. Hm.

Can I punt on that, for now?

I think in my heart of hearts, I just can’t help it. I can’t help doing this because I see that it brings people together for awesome conversations. The kind that aren’t boring, and the kind I just love. I imagine this is what people aim to do when they have receptions for various giant occasions—but it’s small-scale and differently approached. Still, the bringing-together of people for a moment of great dialogue with those whose paths they’d not have crossed, really excites me.

I’VE MADE MORE THAN 400 invitations so far for ‘N’ events in the four cities:

  • ‘N’ London: NOTEWORTHINESS (6 ‘ticket-yeses’ so far)
  • ‘N’ Copenhagen: NEARNESS (5 ‘ticket-yeses’ so far)
  • ‘N’ Phnom Penh: NORMALITY (16 ‘ticket-yeses’ with ‘N’ held in April 2015 at NUK Cafe)
  • ‘N’ Bangkok: NOW (16 ‘ticket-yeses’ with ‘N’ held in October 2015 at Nikko Cafe)

THE GAME. Of the four cities, 2 have seen ‘N’ happen. Sixteen people got tickets, and mutually agreed a date. If that sounds bizarre, it kind of is. But I’m more interested in finding people who say ‘yes’ than those who say ‘when.’ If that makes sense? I’m looking for commitment, and yeah, it’s probably not the easiest thing to say ‘yes’ to, this idea of pre-registering and then deciding a date with someone you’ve never seen or worked with in the past. But you know what? I love the people I am meeting through ‘N.’ Not in an overly intimate, ‘best friends’ kind of way. I mean in a mutually respectful, ‘Yeah, I see you, and I see you saying, what the hey, it’s only a couple of quid and a couple of hours—who knows what might happen?’ way.

I’m looking for the spirit of start, taking a little chance on a thing. Just… a small one. Onceness is the thing. That’s why invitations expire, too.

‘I’M NOT JUST A NUMBER.’ Because did you ever notice how people collect friends, as though we’re numbers? That’s part of why I don’t have a personal FB page, and why I deleted my personal twitter. It’s why I don’t like it when people ask me first thing for my FB, because I’m pretty sure they don’t really care about what I care about and most likely we’ll never have a real conversation online. I guess what I wanted to do was to create an event like ‘N,’ in which 16 variables (16N) represent 16 people, who become real and complex and three-D and have feelings and opinions and can say things in a way that we can never say them online-only. Once. One moment. Of conversation. On a topic that starts with ‘N’. In a city that has an ‘N’ in it. And why 16? Oh, that’s because of 2^8. Clearly.

The framing of the moment is the big work of ‘N’… At least it is, for me…

WHAT HAPPENS NOW. I’m not even going to be able to predict this but that’s okay. I’ve been feeling great about the cool people I’m in conversations with about ‘N’ in London (NOTEWORTHINESS is our theme) and ‘N’ in Copenhagen (NEARNESS). Because I think this is a time when people really do want to connect offline, and in person, and without all that pressure that there is because wow, real life is intense. And often loaded with expectations (let me refrain from spelling these out—I think most of us know what I’m alluding to? and if not, send me a note through our contact page and I can share and we can start a conversation). Because quality comes when we can see each other, hear each other, and feel like we’re being seen and being heard.

So that’s what I task myself to do at each ‘N’. Allow everyone space. To feel included. Seen, and heard. It’s a big month, this one, for me and for invitation-making for ‘N’ events in London, Copenhagen and soon, Hanoi. As soon as I get these things glued together and finish each ticket with an ‘N’ vector insignia… Soon.

Trusting the process. Looking for whomever might become my guests for ’16N.’ Curious? Go here.

GUESTS. Did you attend an ‘N’? How did you receive it? Does this stuff resonate with you? I’m still ruminating, but I’d love to hear your thoughts. If you’ve been invited, well, feel free to ask me anything. Except, um, ‘The exact date is when?.’ I’m working on that, in a poll, with registered guests, right now. To be continued! —AS