TODAY OUT OF THE BLUE, I recalled some tidbit of wisdom that reminds me of how true it is that we are able to make things happen if we put our minds to a focused direction. The tidbit went something like:
We overestimate what we can accomplish in one year but underestimate what we can do in five.
The 5-years-and-counting journey in Cambodia is getting outlined and packed-together, in the way I like to do when taking stock and making summary statements of ‘what I’ve learned’ to myself. I remember doing that for every single project, at my first job. An architect’s office. Before that, I’d write down what I thought I’d learned from my college projects, mostly civil engineering stuff, all those diagrams, all those flowcharts, all those steel load calculation I-beam thingies.
Ace is high
IT WAS HARD work and tiring but the important part, I think, was learning to get through the tedious. Problem-solving. Arranging items, making calculations. Learning what problem it is that you want to solve. What variable you want to optimize for. These are the things of engineering school. You work all night on a homework assignment, or anyway, half of it, then you meet for coffee at usually Caribou on Hillsborough Street to find JK, who would have the other half, and there you go. Voila. Done. From what I learned, thereafter, JK went into finance. Said so, once, in a letter? Or a call? I can’t remember. I went into design somehow. Not that I studied it. Not that I studied journalism, either, but worked for a daily for two years and an alt-weekly for two, too. (‘Two, too.’ I like this little thing.) When we were seniors, we talked about what we were gonna do next in Life. The big chapter of Next. J wasn’t taking the EIT. ‘What’s the point? I’m not going to be an engineer, ever. And neither are you.’ I took it, passed. I never became a PE (professional engineer). Last time I heard from J, I was in art school in NY, cycling around over the Brooklyn Bridge at half past three usually, running around to jazz clubs with a black pen and white paper, all night long. But hell if I didn’t know how to take a derivative. LaPlace transforms, however, were never my strength. Why am I talking about math?
My father, an engineer told me not to study architecture because it was too artsy, and so I went into structural civil engineering, no, wait: it was geotechnical. Soils. Soil mechanics. Talk to me about clay. Talk to me about silty-sandy.
OR NOT. But if you did engineering, ask me to tell you my joke. Have one good joke. I’ll tell it to you. Oh, I know why I’m talking about math. Yeah. Because, KE. Fractals and chaos and our renderings on the computer all night while we tried to figure out the equations and Julia sets and z stuff. K, my best friend in those days, and roommate, and optimistic, very dear friend. K, who came to ‘Today I Love You’ the art installation where so did my high school art teacher and a new client at a big university who had signed the contract with the software guys who had subcontracted DK and whom I’d yet to meet. ‘Hi, I’m DK.’ ‘Hi!’
And yeah: serendipity. Entropy. The way things emerge. Chaos, turbulence: flow. This is starting to sound like a poem.
Poetry and math. Math and jazz. These are the things. It’s getting interesting around here. In S P A C E. Shoo.
I <3 MATH? But math is fun. Geometry, sin cos tan. Relational art and relational aehsteics and trigonometry are all related. Related ! See what I did there. Wow, I type like this when I’ve had too many coffees in a row, and it’s loud where I am because of some kid’s video game, and of course the pops. Too loud radio. Too many people on their phones. I forgot why I liked being fa away, in Finland (very very quiet). But I also had missed the chaos of all this: the noises blurring into each other and ridiculousness of conversations that the so-called ‘do-goody’ types come and do nothing of substance. But maybe they need five years… be nice, DK. Be nice. Ooo. One of them is ordering something, in that typical way of condescension, making a wisecrack that he doesn’t think anyone can understand. Me, on my headphones, trying to blare out the jarring juxtaposition but secretly enjoying it, too. The chaos. What a change from Caribou on Hillsborough, and all those gridded pages of calculations and discrepancies coming up and the most important conversation being what to do next. Here, it’s anything is possible. Anything is next.
… And I’m excited, too, to finish the next issue already, today is the launch of S P A C E member Aske Pedersen‘s ‘Janteloven.’ Really great to work on this, I’m feeling excited to share it with our community, soon. Today we’re just gonna stare it internally, in DK’s very small, most inner circle of S P A C E: editors and friends, who’ve been talking with us, teaching us new ways of trying things, experimenting, exploring, traveling, discovering, and most importantly, writing and making, with us, these past 2+ years, around the world. But I do have a public page, too. Find it here.
Earlier this year S P A C E | Sheffield (with the lead story, Briefly in Sheffield) and S P A C E | Kuala Lumpur (Kaunter Tiket) had launched, but yesterday, something new.
HELSINKI. This time, S P A. C E is both a print-edition zine as well as a PDF. But, seriously, a wallop of a PDF, this round. It’s a 30-pager, packed with photos and some creative nonfiction from the summer in Finland. Three months there, all told, to gather and write the feelings and conversations and make some kind of arc out of it. I am really pleased with the way this one turned out.
Why? Writing. Is fun. Relaxing. Coming to the places that are where I want to be, writing about them, sharing what I’ve learned, gathering other people’s voices along the way and co-creating short packed works of hyperlocal creative nonfiction, informed, of course, by local knowledge, experience, and the culture of a place. The work to bring these things into shape is lovely and rewarding and invigorating and hard. And it’s getting more complex and sophisticated, I think, this zinemaking journey—one year, so far. I started Atelier S P A C E over P’chum Ben in Battambang, here in Cambodia. This coming weekend, it’s P’chum Ben again. So that means I’ve got one more year in this 2-year, roving, popup, zinemaking atelier that is getting run mostly out of pocket, with the occasional contribution from ticket sales, zine sales, and, hey, people who just want to buy me a lunch or coffee because they like this idea and can’t think of why anyone would put their own expenses down to make it happen. But for me, it’s obvious. I want to do Atelier S P A C E because I love new people, new input, fresh and original and faraway places that are new to me, and of course, writing, publishing, and sharing. So it hits all the right keys. It took me forever to think up the idea, besides.
So once it was there, it was like, ‘Of course I’m going to do this.’ Battambang was not too terribly far from Phnom Penh, so over four days, completely offline and on my own, I found the story to write the lead piece, ‘Here Comes the Dance,’ which, wow, is really about the Age of Anxiety. I really love S P A C E | Battambang. Probably my best one, but wait, no. Helsinki. No, no. I love Sheffield. Chuffed, still, to have gone there to finish researching the story. And then, there’s Kuala Lumpur: a place that’s becoming home away from home (away from… home?) I’m not sure what this is all going to lead to but I’m excited to share more news, soon, about upcoming Atelier S P A C E programmes abroad. It’s gonna be great, in the words of M, there in Finland, who taught me how to let go of the hard things that relate to grudges and difficulties in getting over yourself in order to show up properly for others, and who, in part, inspired this edition of S P A C E. Massive learning, this trip. The conversations with Alexis Jokela, too. Good craic, as they say in Ireland. In case you were wondering why I have an Irish accent sometimes, just google ‘The Elopement’ and ‘Kismuth Books.’
There you go, then.
For the bigger story.
Kismuth was the prequel, I guess, to the stories ahead, in S P A C E. Creative nonfiction, but in first person, so they were talked about as memoirs. I got all into that whole idea, even though technically it was too soon, in some ways, to write memoir. Someone who wasn’t happy about me publishing anything had said, ‘Who would want to read anything you write?’ Can you believe that? Some people actually hate it when you do the things you really want to do. What did I do? Leave the country.
As always for me, it’s the process of getting lost in order to find center that is inviting me to share some of the stories from ‘the road’ in the series of zines. Curious? Download S P A C E || Helsinki instantly when you order over here.
Enjoy it with a nice cup of chamomile (or, if you prefer, vodka and gingerale) while listening to the track, a mix tape, sort of, Exit Vantaa. Here’s to the journeys, then. The new, the near, the now, and the next.
GREAT CONVERSATIONS UNFOLDED as DK and friends made zines in Oulu with guests of Hei Kesä.
Hei Kesä was 16 August’s popup zinemaking workshop and mini-art exhibition.
Very special thanks to Anu Lakkapää of Kahvila Tuokio for co-hosting with us, what a great place, and to Paavo Heinonen of Ouluntaiteidenyö for the exceptional conversations.
It was cool and low-key to be part of the yearly Ouluntaiteidenyö, or Oulu Arts Night, a popup of art, literature, and music. Highly recommend putting this on your tour if you are an enthusiast of small -scale cities, nature, new places, new people, intriguing peoplewatching, and drift. Not that many people wander this far north, and here we are, finding a moment, at Tuokio, discovering the point of it all, I feel, the point of making art, anyway: discovering the beauty of now, here, where we are. In real life, together.
ZINEMAKING. Zines from the summer. Zines from the moment. Learning together about how to let go of the ‘this is what art making looks like’ ideas, in order to just play. Like, improvise. On the spot. Together. Co-creating poems in the dada style, choosing buttons from a bowl and sewing them into our books. Folding, cutting, drinking coffee, enjoying. Very special, very cozy (like our hygge experiences at small clubs in Copenhagn, and fika conversations in Malmö).
There are a lot of people who informed the design and content of this, and I’ll be talking more about that sometime, but meantime before battery runs out on this machine, and before I fall asleep again, I want to share one picture today of what it felt like to be there.
Next stops: Helsinki, Kuala Lumpur, and Phnom Penh for salons, workshops, and ateliers. See our upcomings here.
CONTINUING. To make. Zines, mostly, in June. July looks different. July has a different feeling to it. The flowers are changing. The fragrances, too. I feel like I’m a teenager again: staying up really late, talking to people about everything, joking, cutting up paper and sending little notes out into the world, writing letters, sharing the time with friends, and generally being curious about ‘what’s going to happen today.’ Slow moment. Slowing. Noticing. Making things is a way to do that, of course. You put something together with your time, focus, and your craft. You make a thing that, after some time, begins to take shape.
This zine (pictured) was one of the first ones I made here, when I got to the residency and started obsessing about ‘producing stuff.’ It was a limited edition of just 3. Two of them went out into the world to new people I’ve met. One is left. It’s the favorite of the ones that people peruse, when they examine the three dozen or so little books that I’ve made since I’ve been here. I’m in a conversation with someone who is going to maybe help me put together a little exhibition, at the end of July, so we can share them in a giant popup style installation with the general public. It would be very DK. Come as you are, have a read if you want, put something back, take a look, enjoy the books, talk to each other, ask me anything. More and more, I’m realizing the books and art pieces are just conversation-starting prompts. They invite some query, sure, introspection, even. But like everything I make and do, it’s the conversation I care about most. The giving and receiving, the interconnection, the sharing of S P A C E, and of course, time. Art, at its best, is a conversation. Something I find myself saying over and over again, including yesterday evening upon parting with my new possible collaborator in the making of installation art here in, um, Kärsämäki. Finland, like. Who knew.
Friends and new acquaintances. Guests in ‘Slow Moment.’ Members of S P A C E. All of you are always welcome, to meet me in the aether, the forums, the real life spaces, the public squares of our lives and disconnect from the internet world, where there are only facades and cropped pictures of the things that are really real. But go to a lake or down by a river, look at a rainbow or find the moon and the sun together in a bright white sky, and there is no way to capture or record that feeling. The smell, the people, the ambient nature of it—you cannot put that into a square photograph and expect it to be received the way you’re receiving it. The scene, I mean. And that means… here it is, the crux of it, the thing I wanted to say, that means, when you just document for the sake of it without paying attention to where you are and who you’re with and the things that are being said with words and gesture and the blank space that convey far more than either, then you’re not really there. You’re not sending something cool and interesting into the world if you’re just shooting a quick pic and blogging it or microblogging it somewhere. You’re just… looking for attention or validation. Let’s admit this. Social media is about validation-seeking. Isn’t it? And you know what? That means–you’re not fully there when you’re presenting something to someone. What you send is vague and tattered, what’s received is even more so. That said, I’m concluding that this is probably the major reason I don’t have a mobile phone or trade texts with anyone or even use most social media these days. Why? It’s not a great conversation. And if conversation and dialogue is what I care about most–and it is, making great space for remarkable connexion and interconnection—then I better find the channels and media that work best to do just that.
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.
DK’s roving, popup zinemaking atelier S P A C E will be sharing ‘Slow Moment,’ a new photozine, on that day, in real life.
FINNISH SUMMER. What we are doing zining in Finland is a different story, but what’s ahead for July is this. DK is in sketching phase with possible co-creators to make: a set of three mini-workshops to bring the zine experience to the public spaces in this small town. ‘This is a zine,’ DK are saying to people we are meeting. ‘Let’s try making one?’ DK’s Dipika Kohli–a former journalist, a graphic designer, and all around improviser–is hosting. After arriving and getting a sense of this place and what we want to do here, DK are in good conversation streams with: Kärsämäki retailers, its local library, and an artist co-operative where we are being hosted this summer. (Zinemaking: like we were doing in Singapore, but way, way lower key. You learn from the past things, right?)
Top: Ahead is the Atelier S P A C E | Kärsämäki project. Bottom sequence: In the past, DK have hosted zine popups and shows in Singapore, Durham NC USA, and Chiang Mai. Photos by DK and OMNI Studiophotos.
CONTENT. How to make a zine, how to rediscover real life, how to enjoy new conversations with people you haven’t met before (or have, but haven’t seen in a while, or have seen but have never spoken to–adjusting this for small-town life), how to enjoy the process of being offline and cutting, pasting, folding, drawing, and how to experience a new media form are all part of the unfolding series. We are jazzed about this jam. A zine. Is new. To a lot of people, where we go. But a zine. Is simple. To make.
‘HELLO SUMMER.’ The summer series, ‘Hei Kesä,’ will gather, we hope, both younger people and young-at-heart people and interconnect the community in a new way. It’s going to be different, for sure, from our past ateliers, and that’s exactly why we’re excited. A full month to prepare. Zines to make, every day, in the meantime. Articles to post to the people who have already pre-ordered the photozine we will create from this town, S P A C E | Kärsämäki. (Read more and support this project, when you pre-order S P A C E | Kärsämäki here.)
Or be a part of it from a distance, when you pre-order a copy of the photozine. You’ll have access to the online forum S P A C E | ‘Slow Moment’ between now and the end of July, when you do.
EXPRESSIONS. Developing new voices has been our work until this point in time at DK. Now we are exploring our own. Designing space for new and different others to find remarkable connexion. But how? Practicing our way towards the answers. Or… the questions. What are yours? Comments are open, for now.
I’m in a small part of the middle of it, close-ish to Oulu, and about six hours north of Helsinki. It’s called Kärsämäki. Will be sharing this photozine later on this summer. The reason I’m here is to make it.
Making a zine
But before getting caught up in the production-mode, I’m laying low and getting my bearings. I like to take my time. Plus, the theme for the photozine is ‘Slow Moment,’ which means you should probably get accustomed to slowing down a little before you take photos angled at that idea. No? I feel this way. I’m also realizing that black and white is the way to go for this. And that fewer words are going to be in it than most of the zines I have been making at Atelier S P A C E moments in the past. (View the new collection at this page.)
ATELIER S P A C E. This work started in Sept. 2017 with the first of the popup zinemaking ateliers, Atelier S P A C E || Battambang. So wonderful was that offline experience that I went to other cities and made more things, some of the time with others, some of the time with just me. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, you know, showing up for you don’t even know what’s going to happen yet. But I swear, that’s the way I’ve lived my whole life, and that’s why I’ve lived in so many countries [Ireland, Japan, United States, Cambodia, for 3+ years each], and had so many kinds of jobs [architecture, journalism, design], and built so many opportunities for myself. Show up, and magic happens. It does. It really, really does.
Zines? Why this format? They are short. They are accessible. They are easy to produce, and distribute. They are often photocopied, and the best part is they’re not pretentious. You can have literature in the pages, but that’s not the point. The point is that a group of people connect in time, and space, and make something, on the spot, together. Creative nonfiction comes out of this. Sometimes drawings, sometimes poetry. Sometimes more. But it’s always about seeing what emerges, when you allow the space to take the shape it wants, instead of over direct or overprogramme. The problem for me with most stuff is that they want to have a specific outcome, and these are the ‘key takeaways’ or ‘learning goals,’ but what I love the most is a lab. Give me a place to play around with stuff, so I can find out what comes out, naturally, when you move towards the things that move you. Little kids play in this way: they gravitate to what interests them. Some people let them. That’s more my style.
‘You’re a genuine person, and more people should know about you,’ said one of the younger people I met on my travels in Malaysia earlier this year. I think he really wants to see DK and our whole team here get… well… famous, but. We. Just. Don’t. Care. What I said was that I’ve resisted this in many ways because I think that you should work on finding the thing that is your thing, and not get caught up in all the other stuff that seems, from the outside, to be a thing that an artist would want (external validation, for example, in all its many, many forms). But I liked hearing these words: you’re a genuine person.
Maybe that’s all the recognition I need.
FOR NOW, I’ve been getting acquainted with this new place; it’s a small campus, very small, of about three buildings. But the fields and the nature abound. You just have no clear idea of where you are the first moment, if Finland is new to you (and it was to me), but in a minute, it starts to become more obvious.
This irrigation ditch is where the blue wildflowers grow.
Those are the birch trees demarcating property lines.
These are the dirt roads for going into the thinner arteries of the roadwork. Here is where we dine.
Connect and disconnect
Genuine. Authenticity and transparency were things people said they liked about DK when we threw all those parties in Seattle in the 2000s. They liked this blog when it used to be bigger, and more writing like I’m writing now… I think I’ve forgotten to write directly and straight-up, this is what I’m doing. News-like. For example, ‘DK are in Finland to create a photozine with others who are interested in the story form as part of a collaboration with an artist-run co-operative.’
That’s really what’s going on. I should probably say yes to this invitation to go to Kärsämäki . I should disconnect for a while. That’s what I said. That’s why I came. That’s why, too, the theme is what it is. Slow. Moment.
No ads. In international development terms, that’s like having no donor. Or in tech startup terms, it’s like having no venture capitalist who looks like Mr. Burns from the Simpsons and who will own you and all you make before you even know what happened. Or in creative fields like moviemaking it’s like not having a studio sign you, or in music, a label, or in writing, a publishing company. Sure. Of course that means you’ll be way, way less known. But so? The canvas is completely yours. (Besides, what’s really funny now is when I meet someone and they say, ‘You’re a writer? Oh? Written anything I would know?’ I kinda have to laugh, because probably they haven’t even read Dickens, or other massive basics.) But what was I saying? Oh, right. Freedom. Creative freedom. I’ve engineered my whole life around this concept: it was the one thing I value the most. Freedom.
To do as you like.
To make what you want.
Which is huge, for me. Personally. (Sure took a lot of quiet reflection to figure that out. I’m glad I did, though. It changed everything.)
Lack of these variant models of ‘strings’ is exactly why, I think, we’re going to see some dramatic and beautiful moments, ahead, in S P A C E’s online and offline ateliers.
How to start anything
OH, SO I HAVE to tell you. There is this expression I learned when I was in Denmark three years ago (doing something similar, but less formally, that time I was writing the Book of Songs) that says, ‘You can’t just show up in a place and expect to be able to know anything about it. You have to put your finger in the ground for a while, first.’ Put your finger in the ground. I remember when I once took a trip to Portland from Seattle with BR, this was a road trip, and when I got to Portland my first day I just walked around–no pictures, no drawings, no writing–and only on my last day, when I met up with B. again to catch the lift back up north, only then did I get to the camera. It was that kind of way, for me, all my life, writing is not something you do until you have a thing you really feel like you can say. Unless you’re blogging of course. Blogging is about, for me, journaling my way towards something. Grappling with the curious and different, the space of not-knowing, and writing into it. Sometimes people read these, and maybe they feel something when they do, but for me, writing here is a way to share the journey. The journey is muddled with lack of conviction, and that first step towards making anything artful, I feel, is letting go of the idea that we, individually or even as a small group, have it ‘figured out.’ (Here is the reason I avoid groups, generally. They tend to lead, even if they are well-meaning, to one-toned echo chambers, what people call ‘thinking in silos’ and they also inadvertently cause that social ill of ‘othering’ and other stuff. One of the people I’ve had a little personality clash with in recent days is into something in a fashion one might call ‘zealous,’ and it has been trying every ounce of my patience. Fact. Recognizing that I have to do my own work of inviting new and different perspectives means dealing with it. Fact. Hard! But AM told me on the phone that it’s gong to help me grow. Growth is big around here at DK, so I need to practice this way towards it.)
Mm-hmm. Cultivating the ground for new ideas to pop out and to take shape means first leaving all your baggage at the airport, or wherever it is your point of departure from the ‘old and familiar’ into the ‘new and different’ begins. Not everyone is going to enjoy this esoteric tirade; certainly not some of the people I am here, with. Phew. I will refrain from diving into the details of bumping into some of them, but I’ll give you a clue, when you start your conversation with ‘Hello’ and the other person says, ‘I do not understand what you are doing with your life,’ it can get a little awkward. [Nothing has been as awkward, however, as showing up in Seattle with no idea that there is a culture of ‘the freeze,’ and doing this right after living in southwest Ireland for a spell, mind, where ’tis all grand altogether, like, and fierce interesting when a stranger comes to town. (Yes, Ireland, and Seattle. Yes, I like rain.)]
I LIKE WRITING loose, open style words and paragraphs. It’s more me. Less news, more story. More diary? More journaling. Wasn’t blogging, though, originally ‘web logging?’ When did everything turn into a mini-ad? I hate that. I stopped reading most of the articles I used to look for online because they tend to get chopped into a meatless, droning series of words that sound like a pitch and lead to nothing of value. I feel I have wasted my attention. That bothers me. I want quality. I want to focus. I want people to talk to with me in small circles who also care about these things. Slowing down, relaxing, discovering, sharing. But yeah.
Settling in (but not travelblogging)
FEELS KIND of like study abroad, except, we’re in charge of our independent courses and there are no classes, no professors, and no grades. There is no canteen, no cafeteria, no study hour. I have no classmates, nor do I need or want them. It’s a place to get away from ‘it all,’ I imagine, for those of us who choose to join this Kärsämäki artist residency programme here, and to be quiet and apart from the things that can distract us from accomplishing, because accomplishing to an artist looks very different than it does to, say, a businessman or entrepreneur. When I roam around in the cities connecting with and discovering people, I coast into the old habit of talking shop, talking about DK, talking about the past work in Seattle. I don’t go as far as handing out a business card (I don’t have these now), but I definitely have a tendency to talk more about DK than I do about S P A C E. That has changed, a little, in recent months, but it’s definitely been a work in progress. Moving more towards the art for the sake of art, or art because it feels good, or art because it’s a way to make better things that I imagine will lead to even better work when I do start client gigs again for DK when that happens. Et cetera. Now I’ve said that twice, see that? ‘Et cetera.’ Oh, thrice, then.
Writing for the sake of writing, writing for sharing, writing for connection, and writing to get better at writing are all part of the reasons, if people need them, of why I write. I’ve been writing my whole life, and what’s weird, is now I’m in a place where stilling and centering are part of the programme (more of this kind of slow moment is on the way, and we’re also going to be sharing the real life conversations and interweaving them with S P A C E’s online forums, by the way). What’s even weirder and more curious are things I will write down, every Friday, and post in the next issue of our online eZine, S P A C E. It takes time to get to know the things to write about, but I’ve been very mindful of whom I share these outcomes with; especially because a lot of times when you write from your heart, it can fall on deaf ears.
Not that this is such a tragedy. I have zero interest in most of the writing that’s ‘out there’ for people to read, freely. I’m much more interested in focusing on the few things I have been meaning to get to and especially getting to that when it relates to the projects at hand. I’ve got a couple of books with me, a poetry book that I found in Helsinki (a lovely size), and a volume I bought in Berkeley, Calif., about four years ago. These things are going to be important, I feel, to the work at hand to write the next things that I’ll share at this site. S P A C E zines, for example, but real live art books, too. I would like to see more of the handmade feel coming through in my upcoming pieces, so I’ve stopped doing things like social media for the time, to focus. To concentrate. To see where the next big thing is, artwise, and not otherwise.
ARTWISE & OTHERWISE. DK’s summer guest editor Michael Bridgett, Jr. wrote ‘Why I Art’ in recent days, and I often think back on the conversations we had in Phnom Penh at STAMMTISCH regular meet ups on Mondays. Real life. The best way to converse, I feel. But it’s harder and harder to make time and space for it, isn’t it? I’m phone less and uncontactable outside of email, and email is iffy, and google reads everything, and that makes it hard to feel like using the computer to talk, and I have zoom now, so that is way, way better than Skype for conversing, and so on, but it’s tough to make these phone appointments and keep them, and see if they go somewhere because we are all so busy and focused on our work. But for me, work is about learning about others, discovering their stories and uniqueness, and, occasionally, celebrating the moment of this kind of ‘I see you!’ by getting us together in real life in small circles. Sometimes it’s really great. Sometimes it’s disappointing, at first, but the work and the art of it is to move the direction of the flow so that it’s less disappointing and more great. You have to be open to these things changing, as we go. Rivers do. We do, too. Who stays the same after ten years? I don’t think that anyone I count among my friends does. Stagnation is boring. Staying in one place means missing out on the views from other ones. At least, that’s how I feel. That’s some of what we’re talking about in the conversation salon, ‘A nomadic existence,’ so maybe I’m biased because that is a set of people who are also moving around the world, all the time, not staying still, not putting down ‘a root,’ because we’re all about the ‘radicant growth’ that you can discover about if you google that term, and read more about ‘relational aesthetics.’
Let’s see where this party goes. Certainly it’s easy to stay up all night. It’s bright as hell, and I’m tired.
To support this project, pre-order the zine S P A C E || ‘Slow Moment’ here.
AVAILABLE in both print and soft copy, this issue of S P A C E is a 2-volume, limited edition zine. It was released on June 1, 2018.
It’s set in Kuala Lumpur in December, 2017, when DK and others were gathered there for Atelier S P A C E to look for the hyperlocal story and make a zine. It relates the honest dialogue between two women (‘both middle-aged, single, and tough with men’). In the story, two main characters, both brassy in very different ways, open their innermost vaults of secrets to one another, swapping candid stories about ‘the way it is,’ in their respective opinions, when it comes to love, admiration, power, and sexuality.
Sweet dreams are made of this/ Travel the world and the seven seas/ Everybody’s looking for something… —Eurythmics
THE HEROINE of this piece is a woman whose real-life story left DK so speechless, that we completely overhauled the story originally published last winter. Since then, the team collaborating on the zine continued shaping the story, to refine the so that it is much more a portrait of one particular strain of a life, a style, and a philosophy.
In this work of creative nonfiction, ‘Kaunter Tiket,’ corporate exec Ritu Raj meets a remarkable and unexpected chance encounter, and sees in an insightful instant it will reframe her perceptions of material, and personal, success.
Worlds apart, but joined in their experience of a series of life experiences with common denominators, two women enter an all-night dialogue that will touch on all angles they can manage to delve into on the subject of love relationships.
Look forward in this short, packed zine to discovering an unexpected intrigue, witnessing closehand a superior poise, cutting up mainstream media’s images of female beauty, and being allowed to witness a bright, passionate resilience.
Set in the smoky billow of neither heartbreak nor apathy, but reality, the story starts somewhere behind Jalan Sultan Ismail.
New recountings of age-old narratives invite you to rethink painted facades and false illusion, to re-examine your own storages of untested so-called certainties that may just disintegrate when challenged arduously, (as was the real life experience that inspired this story), by someone who simply knows a thing, by living it, a thing very basic and primal, and yet, a thing that many of us will never be able to access. DK insist that true connexion starts with showing up, that means paying attention, noticing and being there when someone begins to let the floodgates open. In this case, an honest beginning of just such a kind of personal connexion led DK and the team at Atelier S P A C E to revise theories about ‘status’ and ‘motive,’ and to note with alacrity thanks to one woman’s wisdom, how nothing and no one are as they may at first seem.
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.
LAST CALL to register for Atelier S P A C E in Singapore.
Tickets for the 3-day atelier are SGD $180. Register here.
We are ready, and we are set. Look forward to meeting our registered guests tonight at the *secret meetpoint* at the National Gallery.
S P A C E. Meantime, if you are not in Singapore, but are wondering about how all this will play, do consider subscribing to our online magazine, S P A C E. It’s a weekly. Going since 2014. See what we will be writing, sharing, and co-creating. Find out more at this page.
Competing interests. Times that you were starting to do something, and then you didn’t, because… what? Distraction. Something came up. Something that you thought was going to happen didn’t, because of… what? Lack of commitment. Lack of conviction. Something else popped up on the other end. No worries, nothing gets done, time goes by, nothing gets done, because… why? Lack of commitment. Lack of showing up. Not caring enough about doing it, because you are too busy considering other options. Paralyzed into inaction because of… what?
‘16N‘ if you are hearing about this for the first time, is a conversation salon. A very specific kind, in which 16 people whose paths have never crossed will connect once, but briefly. In a city that has an ‘N’ in it. To discover together more in hosted conversation space about a topic that starts with an ‘N’.
Now, if that is weird, then that’s fine.
Because we are not trying to be conventional here. None of our events are about the usual things. We are not creating networking opportunities for you to bring your business cards to. Nor is this about meeting someone with a hope that you might develop some kind of romantic interest, because these kinds of things are, as far as we are concerned, ‘regular.’ Regular kinds of events, quite honestly, are becoming enormously dull to me. I’m not looking for work or a relationships, so that makes most regular events hard to go to. For a long while, I simply stopped socializing. I just stayed home. As a general rule, I avoid going out anywhere after 5PM on a Friday or Saturday. Those are the days when I write, here in my little abode, wherever I happen to be in some part of Asia at the time. Not that I travel that much. (When I do travel, it’s for ‘N’.)
THERE ARE THREE CITIES in which ‘N’ has been completed. These are: Phnom Penh, Bangkok, and London. Currently I am in Hanoi. I am, really. I didn’t think I would be. I had given up hope that in the next four weeks I could find and gather 16 total strangers in an ‘N’ moment. I am going to blog about this journey, this time, because for the last few I have been a little… Um. Opaque? Yeah. I didn’t share about the feelings as they were being felt, about the trepidation that comes with ‘showing up!’, when in fact you have no idea if anyone else will. This is a clear, honest and wide-open fact.
At the time of this writing, there are 0 tickets moved for ‘N’ Hanoi.
But that’s probably because I haven’t shared the registration page with anyone, yet. I have been, to be really honest, sort of… Worried. After a couple of small events here around town in recent weeks, I kind of felt like maybe this wasn’t the city for ‘N’, after all. Like, people say they’re interested but they don’t really show up. Then again, that’s true anywhere. ANYWHERE. And I don’t think, correct me if I’m wrong?, in 2017, it simply is not… Normal to actually go to a thing just because you said you would. For a while, I was adamant that ‘N’ ought to be about ‘pushing back on the Culture of Maybe.’ Now I know ‘N’ is something else. It’s own thing. Designed on the spot, like an improvised theater piece… As much as I like to talk about the theory of it, each ‘N’ is its own kind of jam. (Maybe that’s what it’s like to have several children? Each one is so different, but you give them equal love.)
Lately in this world of many things happening and options galore, I noticed in order to really go to something special like ‘N’ or something, you have to commit with something more than your word, now. A ticket. An obligation. A something else. I am going with tickets, for ‘N.’ What I did was this. I just extended my visa, so that buys me 4 weeks.
Will I find 16N in that time?
Let us see.
Let me just blog it as I go, shall I?
That way you will see the nervous fray that sometimes happens, here. I am terribly excited to be back in Hanoi after 4 years. It’s a good city. A great city, really. Exquisite details, so much to note. Our theme for this one is NARRATIVE. I find, on a personal note, that I’m much different, too, having come to this side of the world as a very different person compared to who I have become, today. Asia. Living here. Getting to know the methods, how to read the air, between the lines, how you kind of understand another language without knowing the words, after practicing that, too, in Phnom Penh. I had imagined that I had to live in a city where English was the first language, because, here I am, writing in native language English and isn’t that what matters for communication? Answer: NO. What matters is the ‘getting.’ Of being ‘gotten.’ I see you, I hear you. It doesn’t matter where you’re from, as long as this connection is genuine.
Of being there. And showing up. SHOWING UP, so important to me.
NOW, IF YOU ARE just discovering this ‘N’ thing and you are in Hanoi, I would like to make your acquaintance. Do connect. Here is the page with a form, [updated, now it’s working!]… just fill it out… to let me know you’re curious about ‘N’ Hanoi: NARRATIVE. Happening… Sometime in the next… Four weeks. I think. More to follow. On this, and other things. Designing as we go. Making it up as we go. Improvising, looking, listening, sharing this time. WILL IT HAPPEN? As with each ‘N’ preceding Hanoi, the answer is the same: We shall see. –AS