What I learned from Ireland about how to make space

I REMEMBER going to the Cork Jazz Festival in the 2000s and being irritated that it was sponsored by a beer company. That wasn’t the worst part, though. It was the way people acted. Maybe they just didn’t like jazz. Okay, okay. I know it’s a niche thing, sort of. Fine. But… what was it with the whole ‘being seen’ thing? I still remember. A weekend up in the city, away from the quieter days in West Cork. A city break, yeah. That was it. And a festival of jazz. Amazing, right? In theory, yes. In practice, it was a zoo.

The overwhelming loudness of the people drowning out the music with boozy jokemaking was the start of a series of disappointments: more and more large-scale events in the years I would attend them since would seem to be less about the art, and more about ‘going there with my friends,’ ie, people ‘looking cool’ together instead of actually listening to the music, or having a good conversation. What about the craic, like? 

Ireland, though, for what its worth, was where exactly I learned how to begin to design S P A C E. Space for remarkable connection. Space for really sharing, deeply. For poetry and art and music happen in that country, or used to, I don’t know what’s going on now. I went to my first writing circle there, at the West Cork Arts Centre. I went to the West Cork Literary Arts Festival, and met the people at Fish Publishing who helped me understand that writing isn’t about trying to sound like a writer, it’s about telling a damn good story. Or improvising one. I still remember that week of opening up, trying things, sharing, and lots of pints. Rounds, as they say. It was what you call ‘a formative experience.’ What some people who are interested in vocabulary words would maybe see as a chapter in: bildungsroman.

Writing to learn, learning to write

The Elopement (Kismuth Books 2012)

Later, I wrote The Elopement (listen to the interview on NPR), but I forgot to put in all the things about Ireland that helped me become the designer of S P A C E that I am, today. I make space the way Irish people taught me: hosting, welcoming, inviting, sharing. I make space the way, too, I learned how from the philosophy circles at my high school summer in Laurinburg, NC, at a place called Governor’s School East. Where I met four people I am still to this day in touch with and whose stories I have followed closely, so much so, in fact, that I still feel like if it weren’t for that summer, and it was only six weeks, I wouldn’t have been tuned in to the kinds of things that say, ‘You know what? Grades don’t matter. Heck, we’re not even going to have them, this summer. And you know what I want to do? Let you lead this conversation. Let’s sit in a circle. Let’s have a dialogue. The kind with a center and not sides.’ GSE, as we called it, was an even earlier formative step. In this narrative of S P A C E.

TODAY I AM GOING THROUGH lists and memories and archives. I am searching out the people who most inspired me, all these years. I don’t mean that they became financial success; that would be dull. Anyone who has the right connections, privilege, and gets to go to the right places at the right times because of those things, can make it with their wallets. But art. Art is different. Art requires tenacity and grit and sticking with it and saying ‘fuck you’ when you have to because someone tries to discourage you from going where you are going. It takes being okay with publishing drivel and knowing that it’ll be time, and only time, and practice, and only practice, that will make you get better. And you will be your only audience. At the end of the day, you have to make stuff that you like. This is the overwhelming refrain when I ask highly creative people near and far (or ask them to be a guest editor) what they are doing and how they are doing it and more than all of that, why. They want do stuff they want to do. Period.

DO WHAT YOU LIKE.That’s what I’ve learned, too, from conversations in S P A C E with some very talented and far people. We are inspiring each other and co-creating a tapestry together, int eh comment threads of protected pages. It’s not just ‘cool’ or ‘nice’ or ‘something to do to be seen at’. It’s because we care about our practice. Of showing up, making something, and doing the work. To. Get. Better.

Self-improvement is something I learned not from Ireland, though. I learned that drive for constantly challenging myself and seeking new opportunities from someone specific. I just talked to him, the other day. It had been about six months. It was nice to tell him, ‘The most creative person I’ve known now, all my life, is you. And I’ve traveled around quite a bit you know, well, that was inspired by you, too.’ The person was delighted, I think. His wife said, ‘He’s getting emotional.’ That woman was my mother. Because the coolest and most creative person I know in this whole wide world and all its seas and continents, is RK.

RK.

Is.

My dad.

 

‘Art is in the moment’

SOMETIMES YOU FIND the red ribbon that threads the narrative of your life story. I think that for me, it’ about these ‘magic moments.’ Not just of self-awareness, but of simply being together. Noticing that. Sharing that time, and being truly present. Not in a ‘cool’ or ‘trendy’ or ‘yoga retreat’ way, but, like, for real. That’s what I experienced with S P A C E events and also ‘N’ ones, like in Hanoi. Wow. We did that. But it’s not just… me. It’s… us. All of us who are attendant. Who are making S P A C E. Quality, not quantity. Making it. Together.

Were this Ireland, someone would now say, ‘Ah, g’wan. Give us a song, like.’

And I would. (Since I’m not a singer, I’ll share something I had taped when I was working for the Skibbereen Day Care Centre kind of on a part-time basis as a help for teaching ‘internet,’ would you believe. But yeah. One day there were this kids with their musical instruments. Now, the contrast between that Cork Jazz Festival and its buzzy thing and the shared moment of intimacy and quiet and connection that I got to experience with this moment, well, wow. You can see for yourself, what it was like. I found the old video. Here it is…)

HT to all the members of ‘Slow Moment’ and S P A C E. And RK. Here it is.

 

Teddy O’Neill from Design Kompany

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ATELIERS ARE A WAY to bring some of this to the contemporary space of real life and now, wherever I go in the world. Hosting events is a way for me to bring to other parts of the world the good days of Irish pub life, when it’s early evening and you’re with your mates and things are cozy, and fine. It’s not hard to have a good time when you’re with people who are so clearly skilled at bringing conversation to the fore. Now I’m starting to get misty-eyed.

Alright. Where’s my Christy Moore CD?

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.

A Slow Moment begins

THE CELEBRATIONS CONTINUE. Midsummer happened. The all-night party (in which the sun doesn’t set, which makes it easier) continued on into the next day, spilling into the following week. A small going-away last night for those shuffling out (June ends) and a small, curious anticipation today. That’s because a handful of us still here and continuing our summer at the artist residency in Kärsämäki are left wondering who’s coming this week. (Maybe even today. It is, after all, 1 July.) Timekeeping. In the form of months, not minutes. Hm, I guess this is how it starts. How a slow moment begins.

Kärsämäki // Photo by DK 2018

A SLOW MOMENT BEGINS. Tomorrow I start sending the first of the series of prompts for ‘Slow Moment,’ which is the project that brought me to Finland. The ideas in sketch phases that I had been working on since the ‘Book of Time’ conversations in Phnom Penh (early 2016, with CN, mostly) are now a 12-step programme. It’s neat when you can take a step back and see how the seed of inspiration grows into a thing with its own character, spunk, and will. It’s exciting to see how people will play with this one. After all, ‘Slow Moment’ and the goal of really seeping deep into it, immersing, is how all of this ‘let me go to Finland and lay low and make some stuff, maybe art, maybe poetry’ began. I had never been to Finland before, but had heard about its natural beauty from many friends. I’d been to Denmark, and Sweden, and had always had an eye on Finland because, hey, more Scandinavian design to be inspired by, but not until I got invited to come here to where I am did I have a real compelling reason to make the commitment to a plane ticket, and come. But… ‘Slow Moment.’ Needed to be thought through in exactly an environment like this. Slow sunsets. Slow sunrises. Slowing down into the natural world and remembering where slow time comes from, how it is ample, when you let it flow. (You have to let it.)

The point of departure for this inquiry was: What would happen if I devoted 12 full weeks to the pursuit of the ‘Slow Moment?’ And here I am.

S P A C E x ‘Slow Moment.’ As usual, I’ve invited people to join me on this query: the online forum-salon ‘Slow Moment’ begins tomorrow. We’re going to keep the application window open this week, because of ongoing celebrations and how that means a lot of time needed to get back into the swing of things. Especially here in Finland. And I’m hoping to see a few guests from the town where I am, and possibly Oulu or Helsinki, too. Let’s see how the conversations unfold. But yeah. The application window is open through Friday, just in case any one who was on the fence about applying needs a day or two to actually do that. It’s okay if you don’t, we’re going to carry on. (But if you do, it could very well be the beginning of a cool, relaxing journey into the space of, well, S P A C E.) A photography x journaling online workshop, this one. Curious? Good. Here’s where to learn more.

Apply here.

JOURNALING. I am on the road again. Sometimes I get caught up in the day-to-day stuff, like, ‘Yes, now these are things to be done today,’ and forget to just notice, well, the now. Here and now. I have been putting musings as well as full-on writing prompts together all weekend for the ‘Slow Moment’ project. I’m really excited about it. All new prompts, new people, new conversations, new connexion. And maybe, if we’re lucky, interconnection. Which would make it, after all, kind of relational and fun and cool and interesting, and not just ‘an online course.’ There are far, far too many of those. When we mix it up with a swatch of S P A C E, incredibly odd things can pop out, and surprise us. Refreshing, unexpected things. Which make us go, ‘Hey! Did you see that?’

MAGIC MOMENT. And that’s how it happened, too, that last night, out of the window, a bright wide thing came into full view: an end-to-end rainbow. It had… to be… one of the most exquisite I’ve seen. It’s been a long time since I lived in a place that has rainbows like this (Ireland, early 2000s), and the flat space where you can see it, both ends. You could plot the curve of that parabola, you could make an equation about it. You could take a pic and put it on instagram and you would certainly get a lot of ‘likes.’ But you know what? I didn’t feel like doing those things. Replica-sharing. Ew.

I just took the camera that was in the room, the nearest lens, and went out there. It’s SDF‘s old camera, and it belongs to BOSS now, and I’m borrowing it for the duration of ‘Slow Moment,’ and I got about five or seven pictures of the field, the backlit flowers, the red small cabin like buildings where there are people who go and take lunch and coffee, then, of course, the sky. As much as could fit. To describe it would take pages. To feel it took a lifetime of waiting. Readying, too. For it. The thing that came. In a whiff of droplets and a sideways glimpse of ROYGBIV. The night continued, as usual, into its white, long hours. And turned into the next. The sun sets. Two minutes later, it rises.

 

A popup zine festival in Finland: ‘Hei Kesä’, celebrating International Zine Day

A summer festival of the zine in Kärsämäki


#heikesä

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Saturday, 21 July

I N T E R N A T I O N A L  Z I N E  D A Y

H e i   K e s ä

Making zines. Sharing time. In real life.

 

P R O G R A M M E

 

10am
Atelier S P A C E | Kärsämäki


Details here

 

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12-3pm

Hei Kesä @ Cafe Onni 


Details here

 

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9pm
Author reading from the new zine ‘S P A C E || Kärsämäki’

Details here

S P A C E || Zines

NEW. Zines. Creative nonfiction pieces. Are now for sale here at Design Kompany’s site, exclusively. These were created at Atelier S P A C E, a popup, roving, zinemaking atelier that seeks to interconnect people in hyperlocal narratives. We write them, on the spot. With the people who take part. It’s pretty fun, light, conversational, and really all about seeing what emerges when we frame a space to ‘get lost, together.’ Improvisation, poetry, philosophy, breaking out of boxes: and yet, doing all this, within the confines of a specific time-bound and space-bound frame: that’s it. That’s the whole thing. That’s Atelier S P A C E. See the journey so far in pics at our instagram, or follow the posts here.

Currently available for immediate download and pre-order:

The collection, shown below, is set to be completed by December, 2018. The entire work will interweave narratives of people, place, and story. The first story is set in 1996, in Kyoto. The last store is set in 2018, in Phnom Penh.Each zine will be released to members of our S P A C E community. Join here.

 

S P A C E || Zines

Research. Reporting. Creative nonfiction. Digital publishing. Limited edition photocopied zine-making. Popup atelier hosting. Welcome to the S P A C E collection made at Atelier S P A C E. Started in Sept. 2017, and is moving to new places to discover people there, get us all talking together, and publish the stories of here, and now, in new editions of the zine, S P A C E.

‘The world is a beautiful book, but of little use to those who cannot read it.’
–Anon

Arts & Letters Society | Kuala Lumpur

Two dates. April 25, and May 25. Follow the instructions on this page to find out what is going on, the agenda, and meet point for this twice-off event in Kuala Lumpur. (Friends of Design Kompany will have a pretty good idea of it if you’ve heard us talk about ‘N’.)

Hello Kuala Lumpur

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.

Blink, and 2017 ended.

 

 

The narrative of ‘N’ Hanoi, Part 4

At the time of this writing, we have 4 people ‘in’ for ‘N’ Hanoi.

IN THE MIDDLE, that’s where we’ll begin.

At the time of this writing, we have 4 people ‘in’ for ‘N’ Hanoi.

  • __, from the bus.
  • __, from the… um. The internet.
  • __, from a public event.
  • __, from upstairs. Who was first to join ‘N’ Hanoi. A spot that I am always eternally grateful to someone for saying ‘yes’ to. More on the ‘why’ of this, below.

SOMETIME IN THE COMING DAYS I will circle back to Parts I-III. About how it has been going all this time, since I first started to share out in the open about the journey of ‘N’ Hanoi.

From the time we started with having discovered the venue, to when the decision came in a sort of weird inward insight to commit to the doing, to starting the ‘N’ journey in this blog for the first time really talking about all the uncertainty as it’s going on, et cetera. And how I think I found 2 or 3 of us (but, in the end, was wrong about. Hm. Happens.)

Ups. Downs. Movements in between. Still at it, though. Still working towards gathering 16 total strangers for a conversation installation in Hanoi in June on the theme, NARRATIVE. ‘What are the stories we tell the world? What are the ones we tell our selves?’ A low-key conversation, in which no prior experience or expertise is necessary. It’s about the who, more than the where or when, so I am starting with invitations to people I don’t know. Asking them to add their preferred dates to a secret poll online. Asking us to confirm whether we can do this, whether 16 of us can ‘say yes’ and ‘show up.’ The two most important things you need to have happen before the magic moment of ‘N’ can even begin to come within gravitational reach. More about ‘N’ is at the ’16N’ link, in our menu bar at the top of this page. Check it out.

Those things happened, and between then and now Parts I-III of the narrative of ‘N’ Hanoi did, too, and I shared a little with the S P A C E community, which is what? Which is something you can find out about when you click the box here, and so on. There’s so many layers to this, isn’t there?

After the first ticket moved in Bangkok, I got this coffee.

 

***

 

When someone joins ‘N’ for the first spot, I know that the ball is in motion. The onus is now on me to gather the rest of us, somehow. It feels hard, sometimes, like trying to pull a rabbit out of a hat. But other times it’s very natural, very casual, very normal. Like today, when I met ___. I hope you will read this, __, I hope you will discover that this is part of an interactive story, not just me writing and blogging and ‘documenting.’ I used to have comments open on everything here, but they are always taken over by people in car sales or something like that, and it gets ugly going through all  the spam, so I don’t do that now. But my comment box is always open here, in case you are reading, or someone else whom I shared about ‘N’ with today (or in recent weeks). I guess I only just started talking about it out loud because I got the feeling, after the first ‘yes’, that there was scope for this, here. Hanoi is on for ‘N’, I think. People are game, I think. People say yes and people sometimes even show up, and once in a while people co-host things with me, too. That is beautiful, when it happens. That is conversation at its upper limit best. Co-creation. Conversation. Making things up, together, as we go.