THANK YOU to those of you who have been connecting with me off-thread for these last few weeks; we’re really jazzed to share some of what all these various conversations have led up to. In short, new stuff! A collection of print zines: S P A C E || Finland. Just a handful–we like very limited editions, so there are no more than 5 of each of the short stories. The pieces are titled ‘Letting Go of Dead Things,’ ‘Michaela,’ ‘Hei Kesä’ (which is Finnish for ‘Hi, Summer’), and ‘Kesärakkausjuttu’ (‘Summer Love Story’).
People and place
I’D LIKE to acknowledge a few people with whom I spoke in depth and at length, over teas and coffees in cozy spaces in Oulu and Kärsämäki. A story isn’t a story if it isn’t based on real life sharing in such moments, right? That’s why I am feeling incredibly grateful. Many warm thanks for the great conversations to: Eveliina Karsikas, Asta Sinerva, Sirpa Heikura, Simo-Sakari Niemelä, Fırat Taşdemir, Johan Engström, Maria Raasakka, Sanna Upola, Rastislav Somora, Seo Jin Ahn, Ana-Maria Ovadiuc, Charles Tirkey, Saarah Choudhury, Benjamin Nwaneampeh, Joanna Ohenoja, Paavo Heinonen, Reijo Valta, Eero Österberg, and Merja Vedenjuoksu. (Additional thanks to Merja, too, for the gift. A knife to cut magazines. Well, wow. It’s fabulous.) None of the stories in the pages of S P A C E || Finland would have been possible to make without you all. I’m a little bit of a nerd about relational aesthetics, so of course it’s a lot of fun for me to share about our conversations here, in a paragraph in which all of your names (and with them, my associated memories of our shared time together) are included. It’s the parts that make the whole. And a composition is only what it is because the parts are each unique. At least, that’s my take.
I had promised myself a year ago that I would go on the road in search of new people in new places, and interconnect real, contemporary, hyperlocal stories through a set of international zines. Creative nonfiction, and stuff. This is the beginning of starting to really see the fruit of all this intent. A character from ‘Briefly in Sheffield’ comes to Helsinki in ‘Kesärakkausjuttu’, for example. Everything’s based on real life conversations, real places I’ve been personally to ask a lot of questions. People interest me. A lot. And people you don’t often get to hear about, when you are reading the news. I was a reporter for a while… two years at a weekly, two at a daily. Then something changed. I felt like writing first-person stories, or at least, stories I felt like were about us just hanging out, asking our big philosophical existential questions, in some instances, or just telling damn good jokes. The absurd and the esoteric are flip sides of the same coin, are they not? Let’s see. How did we get here? Er… from journalism to design to… uhm. S P A C E. Chance, serendipity, veering towards what’s interesting. The thinking goes like this: Well, let’s just do that. Let’s just go there. If it sounds weird, good. If it wasn’t weird, it wouldn’t be DK. More like this is ahead.
Comments are open, for the moment. Say hei?
NOW, on to the ‘how to order’ bit. Want some zines? Limited edition and one-of-a-kind. Order today or tomorrow and I’ll put them in the post to you before getting the bus to Helsinki. Yay! Snail mail from Finland. And soon. Order here.
SLOWING. Stilling. Finding the quiet space. Wrapping the stories. Getting set for the road that takes me home. Always love this part: the feeling that anything is possible, around the next bend. In search of meaning, in pursuit of beauty, framing the sensation of urgency in this, this very thing: the new, the near, the now, and the next. In the meantime, this gathering of current flowers. My way of showing you what’s ‘on’ right now on the sandy banks by the river I’ve gotten to know a little bit better, these twelve weeks in Finland, wondering how to sit still.
IN A PRETTY FASCINATING kind of collage and layering, two things I am discovering are my ‘thing’ while I have 12 whole weeks to sit around and make zines and shoot the breeze whilst listening to the sound of, well, breeze–in aspen, in birch—I am doing something new. A podcast. I know that some people have been telling me that I should do this, for some time now. I know. I heard you. I just… don’t like the idea of… voice. That said, why then, have I recorded my voice over the years, starting from microcasette tapes on that world tour that led to the short film, ‘The India Tapes,’ which some people I knew well in Seattle got to see when it screened at the Tasveer short film festival in that city some time ago. A decade back? Where does the time go? Okay, well, that is a good segue to the next bit.
Some of the time when I am writing I get all philosophical and esoteric. I ‘lose my audience.’ A lot of people tell me that, too. But then, they listen to my voice recordings, and they’re like, ‘Are you, um. High?’ ‘NO!’
‘Art, to me, is conversation. A very particular kind… the kind that has a certain quality…. the quality of S P A C E.’
OF COURSE NOT. It’s just that when the jam is good, I love a great conversation. I’m super into it, when there is a high quality of S P A C E, that is, and only then, really… the back-and-forth of it, the improvisation, the silences, the whole thing. I love it. It’s like… my favorite thing, ever. I write in this style because this is how I talk. I know. It’s not straightforward. It’s not direct. It’s not even linear, for feck’s sake. It’s just what it is. And it’s me. Totally, honestly, raw, unedited. These things are very underworked, these blog posts, and now… the podcasting… I’m not going to promise a lot with the audio files. Not because it’s hard to make them: I’m discovering that with Zoom, QuickTime and a couple of friends in other parts of the world to help me push the sound clips together, plus a couple of websites with sweet sound effects (I was going to say ‘fx,’ but I’m not really that trendy), well—it’s easy. Podcasting with Soundcloud is super easy. I don’t have the equipment you would want to have if you were pro, but that’s okay. I’ve never been a big fan of expensive equipment. In fact, everything I make these days is based on what falls to hand. In bricolage style. The stories that I write now (there’s some new stuff coming together for the new zines, one of which launches at Oulu Arts Night on 16 August, and stuff, well, those as well as the visuals come into shape not because I have this predetermined idea of ‘what I’m going to do,’ but because, in the process of looking around and bumping into things, people, materials, magazines, stuff just falls into place, and makes a picture. Not a picture, necessarily, like a photograph, though I do have those now, because of the camera and the ‘Slow Moment’ photo journaling workshop that I’ve been hosting online since the start of June, but other kinds of pictures. Conceptaully, imagine that a conversation is captured and frozen into a moment. Then you spool that moment out. You maybe write some kind of short fiction piece. Or you actually record it and edit it into a sound file. Or make a short video and share it at a festival. Well. There are so many things you can do when you have the essence of the moment and you are able to see the art in it. Not easy, to see things. That’s part of what I talked about with some of the new guests in ‘Slow Moment’, in June, over email and forum-salon conversation spaces. Well, mostly email. Occasionally, a phone call. I am in Scandinavia now so I have so much wifi and since it’s way up here by the Arctic Circle, I also have tons of brightness and tend to be awake 23 out of the 24 hours of the day now. Which renders the time differences and timezones irrelevant.
This is good.
This is leading to some very important and unique moments of catching-up. And going back to the people who most intrigued, or left impressions, or seem to have been on their way to interesting places, back when I met them.
‘It’s the thread that makes the necklace’
I’M EVEN GOING back to some of ht many, many hundreds of thousands of words I’ve written in the past and doing that good thing that all writers must: rewriting. Thank you, Dropbox, for holding all this stuff in your digital vault. I’m ready to dump most of these archives, though. Keep only… the highlights. Because short and sweet is another thing I like. Keep it short. Keep it simple. Zines let me do that. So the zine form—8 pages, nothing more—is a good way to repack some of what I’ve written (while also giving it a little bit of a tweak because when you are younger and writing and when you’ve written much, much more and are writing, you are also able to see the thread, the thread!…. and it’s the thread, after all, that makes the necklace.
Pearls on a string. Here we go. Now it’s not so much about the discovering of the new pearls to add to this thread, as it is feeling like I’ve found what my set is, already, and have closed the loop, and am now going back through the circle, saying ‘hi’ to the many lovely gems of people and places and conversations and… artistic moments… that I’ve been lucky enough to collect. And sharing these new learnings and reopening those stories, but only selectively. Only in S P A C E. To the journeys, the new, the near and the next.
Next in S P A C E, today’s prompt, for ‘Slow Moment.’
Are you wondering where I am? It’s cool to contact me—I’m not that hard to reach. Email me, maybe? Here’s a form.
I didn’t know that we would get together with the small group that we did for our event, but wow. We did. People had warned me: ‘Don’t expect too much; it’s a small town.’ I never expect anything, these days. I mean, with the conversation salons that I host that have such esoteric titling as ‘Rooftop Philosophy,’ for example, or ‘Beauty: what is it, who gets to decide?’ or, hey, this really happened, ‘The Book of Time,’ I never expect anyone
to come. But they do. Occasionally, they do.
And when they do, when they self-select to become part of ‘the experience’ as I think of S P A C E now, when I talk about it to my close associates and friends and mentors and when I begin to form budding partnerships with people who are also in the same line of work as me (making space for remarkable connexion), then yeah. It happens… we talk about what brought us out of our daily lives and into the shape of space that lets us slow for a moment, take the time out from the usual, and discover something about ourselves—together. It’s nice.
It really has been a pleasurable day of conversations and slow moments. Even with the new rain. A respite from the heat wave (?) that we were having here in Finland. (Did I say ‘we?’ Hm. How easily I adapt to wherever I am.)
By invitation only.
From here on, rather than hosting something and asking lots of people to come, and wondering if they will, the new angle will be much more personal. I guess it’s always been more ‘us’ that way, really. The parties in the nineties in Raleigh, for example. Or after that, in West Cork, then Seattle, then Durham NC. The salons in Phnom Penh, Bangkok, and a smidge of stuff to begin, perhaps, in Kuala Lumpur. And of course smatterings of things in Scandinavia–where I find myself returning (Sweden, Denmark, now Finland. Norway is next, isn’t it.)
Personal connection, though. Is what we’re into. And we used to do that more. Calling. Writing letters, even. Remember? All of that stuff we used to do before it got social media-y and less ‘call me and I’ll be there’-ish.
Now, returning to the past.
Of reaching out to just a handful of people, one person at a time, and inviting them to just exactly the kinds of things that DK’s Akira Morita and Dipika Kohli together feel would make sense. For them. In very small circles we can get more deep and more conversational, more quickly. I prefer small scales, really. Small is lovely. You have a good time. You’re making something, together, on the spot, and you’re getting to participate more when there are fewer people. As a host, I like it this way. Super opt-in. Relaxed. Low-key.
Taking the concepts, learning, gatherings, and growth and creating more moments for others to connect in remarkable ways. The shape of which we call S P A C E. Installations like today remind us not to quit. Not yet.
Because there is still learning.
And the learning is good.
Special thanks to Cafe Onni and guests today at Hei Kesä.
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.
THE LONG DAY is reminding me about old conversations, in many places, about time. Philosophical, you could say. That’s part of who DK is. It took a while to admit to it, but then, didn’t we do a TEDx talk about how there’s not that much time left? We did. Six years ago. Seems like a lifetime: I’ve been on the road for a year in Asia, then parked for four years in Cambodia, now I’m on the road again–in Scandinavia. Well, kind of on the road. Because I’ve learned that bouncing around from point to point is not as intriguing as sitting still in one spot and absorbing it more fully, I’m here for three solid months in the middle of northern Finland. Lapland is over yonder, there is talk of reindeer meat, or reindeer hitting your windshield, and how nice it is to see the sun. Lots of talk on the talk radio about summer. Festivities and the cheery feeling of it; the sun not going away, the lakes reflecting all of it, with a mesmerizing shade of light grey twinged with blue. Chillin’. I noticed it’s a quiet day, today, here. I saw some people getting their cameras out and taking pictures of the river. I saw some others getting gas and going in for a bite to eat–the hamburger place, the pizzeria, the cafe where I’ll be co-hosting a zine popup this month. Buncha stuff. There are people who come through this town because it’s a stop on the motorway from Oulu to Helsinki, a major throughline, though the road is only two lanes and looks like it’s any countryside road, to me anyway, in the smaller counties of North Carolina. One of my many homes. That’s another thing, though. That’s drift. Today, time.
Slow down to see now
SLOWING. That’s the topic, these days, here. Slowing down to sense. Slowing down to see. Slowing down to feel. Letting things catch up… feeling the ambient awarenesses that have been percolating for years, but haven’t had time to precipitate out into the here and right-in-front-of-you, because… time. ‘The way we live our days is, of course, how we live our lives,’ it has been said, and many times, and I am thinking about my friends who will say, ‘Yes, I wanted to, but I didn’t have time.’ I’m thinking of DB in Seattle, who, in his drawing class for freshman and sophomores, would make a comment about how texting and drawing nude models just isn’t a good idea, that you don’t need to multitask here, that, ‘we all have the same amount of time.’ Priorities are the thing to focus on, instead of how to make more time. How to do the right things, instead of just doing things. How to… well, wait. I’m turning into one of those productivity blogs. I don’t meant to do that. But I do agree with PT who said, ‘Relentlessly prune bullshit.’ You just have to, if if you want to move the ball further down the playing field, towards the end zones that you decide are worth pursuing. You can’t just… wait for things to happen, nor can you… wish for more time. All of these thoughts are trickling in and out of the S P A C E of spaces where I’m conversing with some of you, some new people here in Finland, too. And learning. Always, always curious. Wanting to know more. Where does the time go? What did we do with it? Is it important to plan? What are the benefits of not-planning? And: what will I do with my days, while I live? This is the question, ultimately, that the TEDx talk landed up, asking about. What will be your legacy?
Don’t get me wrong. It’s not like I was aiming to go up there and make a long philosophical statement about how people are being busied into being busy and forgetting how to slow down, notice now, and be present and aware of what it is they actually want their lives to be about. What is the story your life will spell? (DK always asked this of our clients, and then, added to it, with: How can you design for that?) Not that popular a topic. Thinking about the life you want to live and what you can do to make it happen? That’s big-picture stuff. That takes overarching grand views on things and letting some time go by so as to reflect. But who has time for that? The day to day details of getting things done are at hand. And that’s why, really, honestly, the pervasiveness of the ‘to-do’-ers and their insistence that making time is more important than making artful connexion and meaningful moments of their time is probably why I decided to come here to focus on ‘Slow Moment.’ It’s a long story. It’s going to have to be shortened, though, because ‘Slow Moment’ will be an 8-page zine. That’s later, though. Now, I’m thinking about a time I sat on a terrace and talked with someone I hadn’t seen for more than a decade, about what we did with our lives, in the interim.
‘The time,’ he said. ‘The time does not come back.’
I wonder if he remembers it as clearly as I do.
YES, IT WAS DIRECT, and sort of out of nowhere. ‘The time does not come back,’ he said. Did I detect regret? Resentment?
I remember looking out over the plates and chairs and people who were talking together in groups of two or four, drinking their wine and beers and partaking of desserts and salads, and the sun was setting, and it set, and we were still talking, and I remember this clearly, about that line, ‘The time does not come back.’ Of course, I’d wanted to say, and then add something about reversible time and physics and multiverses and some theory–but it wasn’t that kind of a party.
Time. Not reversing. But that’s why we have to notice it, right? Be here now. All that stuff. Notice it and do the things that feel good, make the work that matters–to us. It’s relative, after all. Why follow someone else’s prescription for ‘what counts’ and ‘what matters?’ A job is really you just selling your time. What is the work that matters to you? Are you doing that? What is the legacy you want to leave?
I’d wanted to ask such questions, of course. I always do. Was there something you had wanted to do with it that you didn’t? (This is mostly what I had wanted to ask, but couldn’t, of course. Acquaintanceship is different from friendship, after all.)
We parted. The year ended. The next one came. This is life. This is the cycle. This is how things go. Probably won’t ever see one another again, either. Something about feeling… a sense of distance. At not knowing why the action and initiative weren’t there. I felt he had regrets, but they weren’t faced on, not looked at, not examined, or questioned. Self-awareness of this was missing, too. There was some weird sense that there was a lacks somehow. A lack that could not be felt, or seen, until another day, and time, which, I got the feeling, would not come.
Because making the time and space to reflect isn’t for everyone. Those who do come out, I think, with a purpose to their life that goes beyond ticking boxes of filling in lines or paying bills. Those who are able to assess themselves clearly can do… living. Yes. Do living. Do it. Without trying so hard to conform to someone else’s pictures of ‘success’. Without avoiding looking in the mirror, and asking the hard questions, ‘Is this for me? Am I living the life I want? Am I being true to myself?’ So many people skip this. Well, of course. It’s hard.
But I think about these things a lot. I look for others who do, too. I count those people amongst my friendship circles. I listen for the curious, the ones who are saying, ‘There’s got to be more. Help me think about this.’
‘Did you see Waiting for Godot?’ I’ll ask them. ‘Or read the play?’
‘Beckett. Read it. Then let’s talk more.’
Philosophically, these kinds of existential queries—what is the point of it? what are we doing with our time? where is the meaning?–are the ones that we thinky-thinky types like to dwell on. (Sometimes too much. Acknowledged.)
More philosophy and so on, ahead this month in ‘Slow Moment.’ Be a part of it, when you join us in these places in S P A C E: ‘Slow Moment’ the salon, and ‘Slow Moment’ the zine.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.