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.
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
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.
‘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.
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.
Did a popup art installation here in Kärsämäki. Zines. Sketches. Magazines. Collage.
Three people put stuff together with DK’s zines and we made a tea room out of the front porch.
There are literally like 23,004 tea cups, saucers and related in the kitchen here. I think this place was originally the kind of spot you could stop in, whenever you felt like a chat or the need to unburden, and have a cup of tea.
The Pappila Popup was fun.
It looked like this:
This all started when about 4PM, I noticed a bunch of people beginning to turn up. Cars everywhere, suddenly it felt like the parking lot of some kind of a carnival. Then, there began a parade of *taxis*. Taxis out here in rural northern Finland are *giant.* They are bigger than minivans. They are serious things, elephantesque but black and yellow, that look like 12 people would be inside but then, only 2 emerge.
This whole thing was a ‘happening,’ as they say here in Finland. The actual happening happened to be a music concert. I’d heard about it since I got here–music, concert, August. But given the relatively small turnouts for most things I’ve been to now, I just had no idea there would be some 100+ people popping in. My hunch is that people
drove from far and very far (no big deal in Finland to take on long, long road trips, ‘Thanks for the offer to stay, but why would I need to overnight? It’s only 140km from here.’) They came to hear the music of Arja Korieseva — Elämäni Laulut. Glad to see so many people looking happy and enjoying themselves, the music, and the sun. And a few who popped in to say ‘hei’ and join us for tea. (Kiitos! You know who you are. Hyvää. Joo. HT Kaltio Magazine, At Johan’s, and Kattilakosken Kulttuuriosuuskunta.)
Secret event ‘Kesämuisto’ *happened* in Kärsämäki
Thanks! We had nice time and a private event. Come and view the zines on display through the end of August.
OUR TRAVELING series 16N is next stopping in Helsinki. It’s a big blind date for just 16 people. (Who will be there? That’s the whole magic of it. The thing is a giant *surprise*.) It’s by invitation. Ask us for an invite, when you follow the story, here: http://designkompany.com/16n
ALKU ON VAIKEIN osa kirjoittaa. Aloittaminen, alku. Tunne, ettei tiedä, mistä asiat alkavat. Jos vain, jos vain. Kyllä kyllä. Kesä. Näen nyt. Yritän saada tunteita järjestäytyneeksi. Ei ole helppoa. Minulla ei ole aavistustakaan, mitä teen. (Mutta … ei ole näin, miten se alkaa, olen tuntenut hänet alle kymmenen päivää, onko se näin, se on, miten tällainen asia alkaa.) Onko kesä rakkaustarina. Minä en tiedä. Katsotaan.
IN A FEW DAYS, I will be starting the salon in our protected-page space, ‘Slow Moment.’ It’s about slowing down. Recharging. Discovering yourself when you make time to show up… for you. No obligations, no ‘to-do’s, and scrapping the idea of ‘getting something accomplished,’ the idea of this particular programme is to let it flow. Flow. So important. I have been talking with people in online conversations for about four months now, setting things up for this special 12-week session. It’s our last online workshop, for the general public, as it just became obvious that for DK, making people be creative isn’t important. What’s important for DK is helping those who have already taken a step, of their own accord, towards some kind of transformative breakthrough. Of course you can’t have a linear path to breakthrough. Or transformative stuff of any kind. Of course it takes work, struggle, sloshing about, tackling vague ideas, throwing most of them away, and starting over, when you recognize that all the work so far has been ‘sketching.’ We call it P L A Y. Playing our way towards the new and the next is what we do around here.
Zining in Finland, Cambodia, et al.
ZINING HAS BEEN, for me personally, a way of slowing down. ZininginFinland, in particular. ‘This is Finland,’ said J., whom I met last night at the pub. ‘We just… be.’ Not bad. I really enjoyed our brief chat outside of the place; karaoke was on inside and it was a thin crowd. I cycled over there with my midnight ride in the pretty-bright-still-but-not-like-before light. Mist was out. Mist. This was what we talked about. Small town life. Passerby. Chance encounters. That’s the stuff of gathering the narratives that make S P A C E the zine; showing up to ask the questions and be prepared for anything is the jazzy jam that is Atelier S P A C E. (If I don’t show up for me, how can I ask others to show up for themselves? So I am living the practice. Go where you don’t know anyone. Find out stuff. Ask them things. Talk to people. Learn. Discover. Find a theme. Then, either with guests who are interested in joining in with you or without them, write a short 8-page zine that pulls together the best of that which you pick up, makes it contemporary, gives it a shape, and then, print some of them, and share them.)
Pubs are third places. They are where we convene. I know, I know. There is an objective, most of the time. Not me. I’m there for the conversations.
Here where I am about six hours north of Helsinki, things are quiet. Conversations are slow and easy. All around is nature—and it’s handy that you can cycle around to get the things you need. Foodstuffs. Provisions. Euros. It’s convenient, small, and just fine. I am not a stranger to small town life; and this stay has got me remembering all the things about Skibbereen and rural North Carolina that I used to really enjoy. End-to-end rainbows, for example. Which I talked about in the past, here on this blog, when ‘A Slow Moment begins’ got writ.
Poetry slams in S P A C E
WRITING MORE. Zining. Making poems with people around the world. ‘Whatever of philosophy is made into poetry is alone timeless.’ These words—I had quoted them in my TEDx talk, ‘There’s Not That Much Time Left.’ Something I haven’t admitted out loud anywhere on the public spaces of the blog is this: I was kind of winging that talk, there, at the end. You have to read your audience, right, and see where the feeling is going. You have to see what fits, what’s working, what’s not. It takes time to build up to that. It’s a long, simple crescendo. You get going and you start and you begin to get the feeling. Here is what’s the story. This is where we’re synching. It’s a jam session, to me—even me on the stage felt like that. I was laughing and enjoying myself with the people in the front rows who were laughing and enjoying themselves with me. (Afterwards, a ‘speechmaker’s consultant’ tried to pitch me, and said, ‘You really don’t want to laugh at your own jokes.’ But for me, for DK, for all he things that have become, since, S P A C E, if I don’t laugh, I’m not having fun, and if I’m not having fun, whatever the hell is the point?’ Of course I didn’t ask him to help me. In fact, that was the last time I got on stage, aside from one other time, in the same city on the same stage, in fact, for ‘Fuzzy Quantum Pop.’ Too fun.)
DG said it: ‘Throw away most of the stuff you write, because you know what? It’s bad. I did that. Do you do that? Throw away most of it?’ I nodded. He said, ‘Good.’ DG is a pianist. I get along with piano people, drummers. Maybe because they like to accompany… words. I am the vocals. I realize this now. Words are my thing. Pen is my medium. Whether lines in marker, or cut lines, or lines worked out somehow (it takes a long time sometimes, but other times comes in bursts, like now, unedited and uninterrupted—a story flows) into poems, or occasional ebooks, I make lines.
Slow moment? For me, bringing the lines into shape. Giving the scaffold in architecture blueprint to the ever-emerging shape of S P A C E. Something to say? Leave a comment, below. Comments are open, until the bots catch on.
DK is making S P A C E, a weekly interactive magazine and an online community for people who are highly engaged with the creative process.
DESIGN KOMPANY is celebrating International Zine Day in Finland with new friends. On the 21st of July, join us for a series of activities throughout the day at a mini-popup zine festival. This is made in collaboration with local retailers and an artist-run co-op. We are also launching a new zine in our international series, S P A C E. You an find out more about the photozine, S P A C E || Kärsämäki, here.
Author Dipika Kohli, co-host of Atelier S P A C E and a founder of Design Kompany, will read ‘Slow Moment’ to a small group. Dipika’s writings have appeared as columns in the Seattle paper Northwest Asian Weekly and in Charlotte NC’s Saathee Magazine. She was an editor for an alternative newsweekly in southwest Ireland and an environment editor for a Seattle daily before turning to publishing her own memoirs, in the series, Kismuth. She was invited to speak about her first book, The Elopement, live on air at NPR. Listen here. Today, Dipika hosts conversation salons in real life and online, working with others to develop dialogues that have centers, and not sides. She edited an anthology, The Mirror (DK // 2014) with others in the online circles that she convened, gathering each story that resonated into a compact collection. For photography, she won two Japan Foundation grants to document architecture in Kyoto and Tokyo.
‘Slow Moment’ is her first photozine.
This is an invite-only event for *just* those who pre-order the zine. It is USD $100. Make an online payment at this page.
Meet new people. Make a publication. Short, sweet, and on the spot. Join us at Atelier S P A C E || Kärsämäki.
DESIGN KOMPANY are hosting a popup workshop, Atelier S P A C E, at Kärsämäki in Finland.
This is a zinemaking atelier.
It will kick off on 21 July, which is International Zine Day. This is a family friendly event.
A zine is a short collection of images and words usually photocopied, in small quantities, and distributed by hand.
Here is why it matters.
Zine culture is making a comeback, as more people distrust the usual news media channels and turn their attention to what people they know personally, and whom they feel they can trust are saying, making, and sharing. That’s why social proof and social media are important. But there is the old, more traditional way of relating to people: in person. So let’s make time and come out for a real-life conversation series that gets us all talking together, with those we might not have met, in an unusual way. Working and collaborating to put something new into the world: a zine. It doesn’t have to be a big task, nor does it have to be ego-driven. Everyone knows what a pain it is to work with artists!
Art can connect us, but the specific kind of space that does it well needs to be designed. That’s where Design Kompany steps in. ‘I thought it would be neat to use the zine format to do the work of bridging silos,’ says DK’s creative director, Dipika Kohli. ‘Anyone who has ever worked in publishing knows how important the first few meetings are, where you simply brainstorm ideas together. That’s the fun part… seeing what others want to know more about, learn and discover in the world right around us. I remember doing that when I was in southwest Ireland, working with an alt newspaper there, very new, very fun, very loose, and very exciting. Given the times we are in now, we can try to engage people in ways that get us all talking, get us offline again, in public and semi-public spaces, to just simply be. Not work. Not home. Not the internet. But a place where you can just relax and talk with people about things that are going on. Conversation is important. Let’s make more of it, and then, let’s find a theme, and work together to make a zine.’
Atelier S P A C E uses the zine form to gather people’s voices, and interconnect those whose paths might not have crossed. The big idea is to make something new, together. Systems thinkers say that gathering people for spontaneous spaces that might lead to new insights is one way to begin the road to innovation. Breaking new ground starts with trying new things. Leaders in their fields recognize that finding a new way to discover is a real need. Creating opportunities for people to practice how to do that is one of the goals for DK’s ateliers. But so is good fun, and making something new, with people in a creative way.
‘Art, at its best, is a conversation,’ says Kohli, an author and artist who practices and studies relational aesthetics in her more recent work. ‘Making more space, and more quality space, for us to learn about and discover new perspectives, from new people, is what our ateliers, salons, and magazines are all about.’ Here’s how it works. ‘DK go to a new place, meet people and co-create something in a short, on the spot workshop that’s also kind of a performance art installation at times (when it happens in public space!). I think you can get a sense of it from our Instagram, dkompany. Generally, the idea is we’d make a piece with new writing and other visual elements for an 8-page zine, S P A C E. And add it to our collection of zines made in the same way in different cities.’
ABOUT DK. Design Kompany LLC started as a brand identity design studio in Seattle in 2004. In 2013, DK went on the road to practice the unknown, uncertain and different, which led to new connections, with new people, in new places. This set the stage for 2017’s and 2018’s intent to create zines, in the short spaces of time, while on the road looking for the chance encounter…. And folding it into S P A C E. Atelier S P A C E is a traveling zinemaking popup Atelier, designed in response to a new realization. People aren’t used to trying new things. People need space and time to get back to exploring, in a playful way, towards new approaches, and even innovations. Starting the tour in Southeast Asia in Sept. 2017, DK have created zinemaking ateliers in: Battambang, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Phnom Penh, and Bangkok. ‘The idea is to explore ways we can co-create hyperlocal, interwoven stories with new and different others who participate in the atelier’s salons. Through conversations, we find a theme. Together. It’s a collaboration to make a unified piece, and each issue of S P A C E highlights the conversations, places, and people we each discovered in the bounded box of either one, two, or 4-week ateliers,’ says DK’s Kohli. See the journey of S P A C E so far, at http://instagram.com/dkompany.
Special thanks to Kahvila at the campus of Kattilakoski Culture Cooperative. ✨
REQUEST INFO. We have limited seats for this event. Request more info by email to find out more. Here is how to connect with us:
IT IS 11.30PM and I am wide awake. In fact, the night is young, here in the north of Finland where it will not get dark for another two hours, then the light will dim a bit, then it will be almost dark enough to need to turn on the light, and then, voila!, the sun will pop back up out of just over there, about a twenty degree angle away from where it went down. Behind the trees. Beside the river. When the sky turns pink, you know it’s almost time. Then again it may be raining, in which case, wait a bit. It will be harder to spot, when the dark dip occurs.
In this post, I want to share a little bit about the design intent behind S P A C E, and how the architecture of it has come into form from the time it was first conceived, in a borrowed room in Delhi at the top of 2014. But I’ll start from yesterday.
My weekend has been packed with quiet moments. Slowing, stilling. Writing to the new guests who have just joined me in the online photo journaling conversation salon, ‘Slow Moment.’ It really is happening. That’s what’s awesome about design. You kind of start with a thing that you want to see in the world: you envision it. Then you backcalucate ways to make that happen.
Design is makingmeaning
WHAT IF I could block a full 12 weeks just to the exploration of a single question: ‘How can I slow down to see now?’ This was the start of how ‘Slow Moment’ got designed. Even better, what if I could invite some of the most talented photographers, writers, and friends I have met over the dozen or so years that we have been doing DK to be part of the emerging conversation? That’s what is going on, now. That’s what we are making. Together.
I am lucky to know these people, to have them be part of my circle of acquaintanceship and conversation partners in all things related to aesthetics, science, physics, life, poetry, the pursuit of beauty, the love of color, the search for meaning, politics and ideology, social justice, software design, engineering, architecture, and more.
You go around the world with your eyes and heart open, and magic happens.
People find you. They tell you things. You then learn to embed these things into your own fabric, weaving what sticks into the next. That’s collage and bricolage. That’s relational art. That’s… hell, that’s living. And I got the start of this design idea many times before: I wanted to have ‘mix it up’ parties, over and over again, from the time I was very young, to gather people and connect them, but not people of one stripe: people of many kinds of styles and accents, viewpoints, and experiences. That’s interesting, to me. That’s where we learn that we don’t have to agree on everything. So much variety: a vivid ecology of humanity.
‘Let’s talk jazz’
WHO WANTS TO BE BORING, I mean, really? Who wants to do the same thing with the same people all the time? Who wants to stay home and neverbudge? Who wants to insist on one way of thinking about things, and not be open to the possibility to be changed by what she or he might hear? If you’re happy with the status quo, this is as far as you should read. If you love improvisation and the interconnection and unexpectedness and surprise, let’s keep jamming. Because it’s about to get good.
In 2014, I tentatively made S P A C E. I cared about it. I still do.
I care about it a lot.
Not just because I’ve always wanted to run a magazine, but had a hunch that the kinds of topics I want to write and share about would never fly with mainstream audiences (the multiverse, anyone?… oh, wait. HL, hey! I see you there.)
S P A C E invites people from all kinds of places and walks of life–except the close-minded. It necessarily precipitates, by its very design, the kinds of individuals who are seeking and are curious, who want to discover, who are not yet so jaded they’ve checked out from life, who are ready for a different kind of jam. And it is a jam. If you know me, you know I love jazz in particular of all music genres because it invites improvisation and the jam.
That is why I am hoping to interview MA sometime soon. (M, if you are reading this, expect a call from me. Let’s talk Finland. Let’s talk jazz. Let’s talk about designing stages for magic moments, and how I can do that more artfully with a cultural awareness when it’s 21 July. Thanks for being in touch. I will follow up. I usually do, on the important things, and with the people whose thinking peppers new influences on my own. Paprika and mustard–speaking of flavors and accents–are kind of hitting the spot, lately, in the new cuisines I’m getting to sample. When I’m not just hanging out eating leaves and seeds and sprouts with rye bread, or muesli, or boiled eggs, and other things that are really about the simple basic ingredients and not a lot of flair.)
I GUESS that’s my style: use good quality materials, and make something out of them that has a personality to it all its own. ‘Your cooking style is like how you make the books,’ said YL, who was living in the house with us up until the end of June. I laughed when she observed it; she had really keen sensibilities and could see things clearly. But she was right. I make things out of what’s there. I collage with what’s at hand. I find people I really enjoy talking with, and I gather us, in the same spirit of collage, in instances, in S P A C E. The Mirror happened in this way. A Nomadic Existence. Those were online. The real life ones were too numerous to bring up here, but some highlights for me were: ‘Hello August’ in Phnom Penh, ‘Choices’ in Siem Reap, ‘Gather’ in Seattle, and ‘The State of Publishing’ in Durham NC.
All good mixes of people, all smatterings of happened-upon conversations that led to the conversation salons that got those of us who I imagined would enjoy connecting with one another into a space where they could then interconnect. Did you come to MAKE? Scale? The reception for ‘Today I Love You?’ Did you join us at Kornerhaus for ‘Flourish: What is the role of the artist?’ Or maybe one of the dessert parties–Sugar in Seattle, for example, or the same idea–bring yourself and a dessert–when we were in the southwest corner of Ireland? Those were the early days of beginning to understand that the drama is the conversation, that the eloquence is artful, that content is huge, but so, in many ways is something else: caring.
Every thing I learned about writing, I learned in County Cork
CARING ABOUT the subject. Caring about the audience. Caring about the people who will be there, say, in the pub with you if you are in County Cork waiting for the lads to arrive and the rounds to begin. Johnny Don’t Go to Ballincollig, Johnny Don’t Go to Carrigaline. Waiting is in and of itself a kind of drama. Waiting for Godot. Waiting for the moment. Waiting for the Book of Five Rings. Waiting for the slowing; stilling. The poetry. The artfulness of just being together, seeing the moment of now. I learned all of this from the people I bumped into, by chance or design, or luck, or work, in Co. Cork. That’s really where this all started. HT MO’B.
The West Cork Literary Festival, for example. Then, later, with others who were just hanging out with me in the intermissions of concerts, getting rounds. All kinds of good memories; it might be time to get back there again. Maybe next summer. Maybe with a group. Maybe to make Atelier S P A C E | West Cork. Let me try to pull that together. It always takes planning, of course.
But if you care about a thing, and you care damn hard, then yeah, people come around, they do, they come out and say hi and see what you are doing.
And take part. That’s important. Because I could throw all these salons and workshops and so on, but if no one came, there wouldn’t be a conversation. There wouldn’t be the possibility of being changed by what we hear. It would be… boring. It would be… staid. It would be, also, simply a vanity project. Too many of those, in these modern times. Too much self-published crap that gets passed off as ‘this is my book I wrote’ and not enough quality. Quality! And here we go. Back to where I started the Year of Uncertainty project in 2013, which led to the full-on leaving of one continent and going out into the big black yonder, to discover, who knew what, with whom, where, how, when, or for what aim: except, maybe… Quality. Reading ZAMM and practicing uncertainty. That really happened. It sure seems weird to think about, looking back.
No plan. No agenda. No income. No savings. No prospects. And plane tickets to nowhere in particular via RDU -> Hanoi, for a quest into the Unknown.
‘You wear your heart on your sleeve’
POSSIBLY BECAUSE OF THE ROOTLENSSNESS, I focused on ‘being a writer.’ So I wrote. Tons. Badly. Often. Mostly super long, long emails to practical strangers during that 2013-2014 timeframe when there really was nothing to report. Except, of course, for the feeling of swimming in a sea of doubt and aiming at nothing in particular. I guess that built something in me, though. Practicing how to write towards the thing that the sheafs of voluminous writings became: the short, hyperlocal series of zines popped out from that process. Instead of writing my own thoughts, what about creative nonfiction? Instead of just more philosophizing and intellectualizing, what if I just tapped my old skills as a reporter and did actual interviews to discover stories in situ? Ohhhh.
Yeah, I’m grimacing now, remembering sending all those emails. A little embarrassing, really. Emails that went to filters. Emails that went to junk. Emails that went into the void.
But some landed.
I mean, a few. They really did land. Square. Some of you told me. Some of you thanked me. Some of you bought my books, which was cool, and I appreciated that. Maybe there was resonance in simply showing up, was it weekly? Gosh. That was a lot of email. Sorry. But yeah. Trust and reliability come of showing up, don’t they? And sometimes, that hits the right note at the right time. In certain places, with certain readers. And those were the ones I kept in touch with, later, and whom I invited to my online circles, in S P A C E, in 2014, when the whole kernel of the gem of an idea started to burgeon: How can I gather people in quality conversations, in the way that we love to do in real life, using the two-way and indeed n:n stream that makes it possible to connect us in fascinating, high-quality ways?. Someone has to design for that. Design is making meaning. I’m used to this kind of work. I trained in engineering, after all. So that’s how it happened. How it came into shape: this, the architecture of S P A C E. Right. Enough nuts and bolts. Returning to poetry and philosophy, let me leave you with one of my favorite quotes from Rilke:
‘Be patient toward all that is unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves… Do not… seek the answers, which cannot be given to you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.’ —Rilke’s letters to a young poet
‘And the point is to live everything.’
(Question: But are you really living, or able to live the questions, if you don’t even see the now? And if you can’t find caring in your heart for the living of everything, then is it artful? I read somewhere that philosophy is a means of discovering our way towards living a more pleasurable life. That’s cool. And also, design is about making meaning. I asked my clients at DK, often, ‘What will be the legacy you want to leave? How will you find the way towards that?’ We know there’s not that much time left, so let’s get going.) Shall we?
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.
OOO. I LOVE THIS STUFF. Relational aesthetics. Will tell you in a second how I came to know about this term, ‘relational aesthetics.’ I am jazzed about it. Why? Because other people have also been interested in a thing that interests me.
Even if these are academic people, art critics, or, gaw, the Art World, (sets whom, normally, I would avoid conversing with because I never thought that what I’m into would be what they would see as artistic), even if then. I’m listening. Why? Because I’ve been wrong. There are others who have already been on this path. Which means there are signposts, if only I know where to look. In other words, the feeling is like this: Wow. It’s not that they thought it’s not artsy. They actually think it IS artsy. They’ve even named it. That means, it’s a thing.
I like that.
DISCOVERY. Because I studied math, physics, and applied math and physics, I didn’t even know about this stuff. No one starts in on making anything by following a prescription, though–it’s not like I said, in the 1990s, ‘I’m going to make relational art.’ That would be stupid. I just sort of bumbled my way towards something that a lot of other people also stumbled upon, and that means, there is more than just one of us. That means, we are something. dada. Surreal. You can call it something like that. Or… you could just enjoy knowing there are now whole volumes of things to learn about, things that those before you (who you can feel some resonance with) have done, seen, thought, written, drawn, painted, created, installed, and more.
AT DK, AND OUTSIDE of it, what I make is relational art. Read this post about interstitial space that might give you a feeling of what that feels like, in writing. This is newish, I’m gathering, from my limited conversations with new people who study art and so on. New is hard for people to get into. And mostly, sadly, I’ve noticed, many people are afraid of the new. There’s even a word for it. Fear of the new. ‘Misoneism.’ But this really gets in the way of innovation.
INVITING THE NEW. I care about new things. New input. New people. Part of DK’s goal with our new relational approach is to get in the face of that fear, and introduce people to others who are
(seemingly, but not really that) different, and meet up, in real life, and just connect.
It’s invigorating and feels great to see that there exists a philosophy of this kind of art, which means I can amplify the effort to move the dial in the direction that I feel is the best one for us. It’s been written about. People nod. That foundation has been lain. So much of the work has already been done.
So, DK are morphing from a design consulting studio into something more… arty. I didn’t mean for this to happen. But it has. Just looking back on things and reflecting, I see the pattern. If you check out DK’s projects in S P A C E that have been going on since 2014, you’ll see what I mean. Before S P A C E started, we were a design boutique. Straight up, clean lines, modern aesthetic, quality workflow, nothing got out of hand and we had a lot of happy clients. But now it’s… kinda different. Now we’re into stuff like conversation spacemaking. Salons. Ateliers. Gatherings. Workshops that get us all out of our boxes, mixing, discovering, and meeting others whose paths we might not have crossed, like, ‘16N‘ and similar. Oh, yeah. Speaking of that. ‘N’, and describing it to people, and sharing about what our studio was trying to do with it, that story I shared casually and randomly with two art students at a table next to me in Aarhus in a wintry streetlit cafe. They taught me.
Context and relevance: ‘What you guys are doing is relational art’
‘Relational art or relational aesthetics is a mode or tendency art practice originally highlighted by French art critic Nicolas Bourriaud. According to Bourriaud, relational art encompasses “a set of artistic practices which take as their theoretical and practical point of departure the whole of human relations and their social context, rather than an independent and private space.” The artist can be more accurately viewed as the “catalyst” in relational art, rather than being at the centre… The artwork creates a social environment in which people come together to participate in a shared activity. Bourriaud claims “the role of artworks is no longer to form imaginary and utopian realities, but to actually be ways of living and models of action within the existing real, whatever scale chosen by the artist.”… In relational art, the audience is envisaged as a community. Rather than the artwork being an encounter between a viewer and an object, relational art produces encounters between people. Through these encounters, meaning is elaborated collectively, rather than in the space of individual consumption.’
Designing space to share real life with new and different others
Well! So there are others, too, who want it to be about the party and not the artist!
The inkling of this being more interesting came to me for the first time when I was hosting the opening reception for the show, ‘Today I Love You.’ It was a solo show and happened in Durham NC USA in 2012 over the Valentine’s Day weekend. Why not? I got into it and made more than 100 pieces, all brand new. But those weren’t as interesting as the people who came: the chocolates and the champagnes, the conversations, the interplay between the people I never met and the ones I’d known for half my life. North Carolina, after all, is one of my homes. JL surprised me by showing up which was brilliant, as he was an early mentor. Then there was KEF. And pictures by the talented JD. And a visit from the younger RK. There was AM and BW, pictured, too.
Others, including SR, a videographer I had only met recently but who has a fantastic energy and whose tireless enthusiasm and collaborative bent really inspire me. I remember being super happy, seeing all these wonderful people together in one place. Kind of like other shows, in Seattle, or the conversation spaces, in other places in the world. I’m thinking of ‘BEAUTY’ in Phnom Penh. Of ‘Hello August’ in that same town.
Of so many, many moments where new and different others could find remarkable connexion.
That is after all what DK now exists to do. DK design that particular kind of S P A C E. Remarkable.
I love the space that gets made when people are connecting, interacting. Interconnecting. With the zines or art books, or reading something I’ve written, or looking at a piece, but what’s more interesting is the conversations that open as a result. So the pieces are just prompts, now.
They’re not the pieces of Art, to me. The people are; not just as individuals but in the collection of being there, together.
Sharing a moment. Making a space.
(And by the way!, you can experience it. Here’s how…)
The shape of S P A C E
A SHARED MOMENT. A once-only experience.
In case you were wondering, this relational approach and the interest in finding the beauty of interconnectivity, and interplay between new and different others whose paths might not have otherwise have crossed, is why I am helping design our studio’s 2018 suite of ateliers. If you have been in touch with DK, or want to try something new with us this year, this is a good time to give it a go. Something new. Something fresh. And then towards the fall we’ll turn away from the online salons and get back to making what we make best: zines.
DK and friends are together hosting a series of conversation salons in Kärsämäki, Finland, on the conversation topic, ‘Then & Now.’
Can we preserve an old way of life, or parts of it, as we move forward in time? How do we define ‘progress?’ What is important to keep, and how do we determine what’s okay to let go? What’s ‘culture?’ What is ‘preservation?’ What legacies do we want to leave for future generations, and what have we learned from past ones? Let’s meet. Let’s converse. When you arrive, you’ll get to know a few new and different others from this area. You’ll be able to participate in a new way of connecting that might be unlike anything else you’ve experienced. DK has been hosting conversation salons since 2006 in Seattle, bringing to the table a decade of experience in facilitating discussions that have a center, and not sides. Let’s meet, connect, and talk about ‘Then & Now.’
The venue will be Kahvila, a cafe just steps away from the local architectural gem, the Shingle Church (pictured), which as DK has learned was built in 2000 in response to the loss of an older church, using methods and materials respectful of a much earlier time. This is the beginning of a new series, ‘Hei Kesä,’ which will be held in coming weeks. These conversation salons are a hybrid of facilitation methods DK have adapted from Open Space hosting methods, years of design consulting work, and general curiosity about ways of gathering new and different perspectives.
Tickets inclusive of: 1 filled croissant + 1 tea or coffee, and 1 zine of your choice from DK’s June collection.
That’s the advice writers get when we are starting to write.
I think that’s pretty marvelous advice, except, um. We’re writing. So how do you ‘show?’
Well, it’s a good thing I brought the new camera. I’m borrowing it. From BOSS. It has a bunch of cool lenses and I’m enjoying the depth of field play, for the first time in many years. I don’t have an iPhone, so I don’t take camera pics. I don’t carry the old digital camera (the one you can put in your pocket) around because that means having to bring the battery charger and remember all the parts and figure out how to load up things to the computer. Of course I don’t bring around my old Minolta X-375, because… film. And where is it, anyway? I hope it’s in some box safely tucked away in one of the many, many attics and behind-the-staircase closets of friends and relatives on another continent, where I remember seeing it last. But this new camera. Is reminding me of the old one. Except, you don’t have to advance the film. And, it doesn’t make that oh-so-satisfying shutter click sound. But there are pros. I never have to worry about running out of film. I’m not the kind of person who constantly checks the picture to see how it looks, either, so I do really stay with the subjects when I’m with them. That’s just how I am. I feel pretty strongly about paying attention to the things you photograph, which might be why I’m always complaining about people talking selfies indiscriminately here and there and everywhere, or meeting someone for two seconds and wanting to grab a picture with them. Howcome? What is the emotion there? There isn’t any. It’s not going to make an artful picture. So what is the point of making it?
STRONG OPINIONS. If you meet me in real life, you will know that I talk about this a lot. About the lack of attentiveness to relationship-building. It has to start slow. Slow and steady. I feel. For it to last. Maybe not everyone wants a thing to last. But I don’t like this insta-pic culture, and I don’t like throwaway relationships, either. I like quality. I think I’ve been blogging those three words quite a lot in public and password-protected pages, here. I do. I want that. And for quality to happen, you have to build the space so that it is welcoming, inviting, comfortable. THEN you can get intimate. You know, I feel this way about the subjects I photograph, too. It’s not always portraits of people: sometimes it’s my zines. Or art books. Sometimes it’s butterflies, and lately, it’s birch trees. Koivu.
There’s a two-page spread coming together for the zine, about Koivu. I’ll be sure to write about that in today’s issue of S P A C E. But that’s for the inner circles, people who are members of this community, and whose monthly subscriptions make doing this work even possible. (Thankyou.)
I took some photos to mock things up, rapid prototyping being my favorite thing in the word. How is it going to look and feel? I need to sketch it out, quickly, to see if it’s actually worth doing. I think this one is. There were a lot of mini-tests in my first two weeks her win Finland, and I have a bunch of time before the International Zine Day event that will be the date I launch this new photozine. So I’m going to lay low, write some more, see if I can get a poem or two translated into Finnish.
This is my process. Thinking and jamming with people who are resonant with the things that are beginning to emerge. Letting go when the rapid testing shows, ‘Hey. This is a dead end.’ Getting over it. Being okay with it when your expectations fall short of the reality of a thing. Learning to enjoy the unexpected highs, like five-star cooking that appears every so often when you couldn’t possibly have imagined it, and it’s good, and what’s better, it’s warm. Friends, company. Learning, sharing. Making new kinds of books. Exploring needle and thread and improvising on bookbinding. Gathering more materials. Looking around. Walking outside. Talking to trees. Winston Churchill did that, I read once. It’s not crazy. Philosophy isn’t irrelevant, either. In fact, it’s the only thing that will get us out of this weird loop we’re in, of navel-gazing and anxiety-making, and othering, and line-drawing, boundary-making, political ensnarements, and the all around slap of ‘Really? This is the best we could do, as humanity, after all this time?’ But then I remember MB’s advice and conversations with him about this topic. Yes, this is the best it’s gotten. And it’s not all rotten. Remembering the slow moments. That’s the work, for now.
UPDATE. This is what the zine is looking like, so far. Not bad, huh? Now. Let’s get to writing. –DK