The artists gathered for this co-created zine are four very curious people.
Art, natural patterns, and words intertwine in a collaboration between them.
The nature of art
Lee Moore Crawford, a floral designer and artist, once struck up a conversation about the Japanese art of ikebana when DK happened upon her arranging flowers at a coffee shop in Durham, NC, circa 2011. We never forgot it.
So when DK collaborated with another creative person who takes inspiration from nature to make the cover image of this issue (Dipika Kohli took the original photograph in Huế, then forwarded it to digital processing artist Nils don Sihvola in Finland), we wanted to ask Crawford what her feelings would be. Lots came of this interaction, including a short piece, ‘Bloom.’
To give the collection continuity, we then circled back to former culture editor Michael Bridgett, Jr., whose article, ‘Why I Art,’ opens yet another fresh perspective.
A great conversation set led to the creation of this issue of S P A C E.
Many thanks to Nils don Sihvola, whose cover art is featured here. The story is by Dipika Kohli.
NILS DON SIHVOLA
‘DIGITAL VISUAL arts-digital SLR and image processing-is my thing. In 2013 a friend sold me his Canon 500d digital camera. Instinctively and instantly, I knew that the digital camera would be my tool to make art. Art: something I’ve known since I was a child I wanted to make. Every year I practiced, and in 2017, went to study photography at Kymenlaakson opisto in Inkeroinen, Finland.
‘Ever since, I’ve wanted to investigate questions like, ‘How does form support content? What’s “balance” in a composition? What can an image say, in complement to, for example, a spoken message?’
‘In a world that relies on the flat 2d spectacle, rotating the axis to discover a fresh perspective can mean the difference between “love” and “pain.”’ Instagram: @nils_don_sihvola
Redesigning means revisiting some of your favorites ideas.
The story Briefly in Sheffield is one of those, for me. I’m happy whenever people read this zine of ours, in the real life context. I’m happy when they put it down and smile and say, That was a good story.
It’s short and sweet, much like the real life encounter that inspired this short story.
Often I hear, ‘I can really identify with the main character…’
Well, yeah. He’s quite a lark. Which is why I wrote this—so I could share the feeling of meeting and becoming curious about… ZM.
Art for art’s sake
‘Briefly’ is for ZM, one of the first people who challenged me to become fast on my feet in articulating a response, not hefty, when someone asks me something pointedly that I really don’t want to answer. Why that happens, how it rolls from that moment of questing through to the one where you find yourself in an unimaginably close-knit bond, in a short space of time, is the subject and delight of the young love that this story shines a light unabashedly upon.
I finished it in a jiffy, more than a dozen attempts since the late nineteen-nineties, and then, wham. There it was. Typed. Printed. Zined.
Like most situations, the impetus to figure out my way to the feeling came after meeting someone randomly, someone new. Whose shoes, which I remarked upon, and accent, which I remarked upon further, reminded me in every way of Z.
[I will skip the parts that didn’t, like that ridiculous potato-sack hopping thing that a lot of thirtysomethings were doing. I can’t deal with this kind of architecture ‘playfulness’ that this age group have, but whatever. I sat in the corner and mused about Z., watching the grown adults race in bags. But the peanuts. The peanuts were good. That was over Khmer New Year in Phnom Penh, in 2017. A new muse, a new poetry. A new beginning. And a new art.]
Jazzy, this one. With a clear understanding that this kind of thing can happen…
‘Shall we dance?…’
Cue ‘Shall we dance…’
Short stories and fresh writings
And now, here it is, reworked. A new cover design. I’m putting it over at the store for Kismuth.
Lots of reorganizing, around here, these days. Redirections. Reinventions. Sorting out the clutter, getting rid of the dead weight. Thank you most especially to AM, and a few others. Who have helped me very much in recent weeks come to some new understandings and insights; as I hope, I always hope this, I hope I did for them, too. And others, too, of course. Granted. Sure. Not a whole hell of a lot of others, but a handful, to be sure. Acknowledgements. Count.
Who, exactly? Coming soon. I have to write down the next things and then I’ll be able to understand who it is that has been here, with me, in the learning and sharing, int eh connecting and conversing, in the opening up and being around and telling it like it is and not-stopping, even if there’s a little space in the midst… space is natural… but meaning it.
Caring. Showing up. Is huge, for DK. And what we do, here. Making. Making things. Artworks come from this intention… meaning it.
Hugely important. For quality.
In search of Quality
Quality! Is all I really want to make more of, around here. And everywhere. Putting more beauty into the world. Forgetting my platform, there for a bit. Too distracted trying to make meaning with people who don’t know what that even looks like. Letting go. Clean, fresh openings.
Another country, soon. Another round and boisterous new start. I made a new personal website, too. Seeing. How it all feels. Writing and designing and zining and publishing, all in one spot here, was maybe kinda a bit… much. Enter podcasting and more stuff like that and yeah, even I’m kinda dazed. So let me simplify things. Let’s make this page all about the publishing of things. In Kismuth, or in S P A C E. I do like to include people in those conversations that lead to things, like co-created bits and pieces. I’m inviting people to join me, now, but in an invite-only kind of way. If you’re curious, get in touch somehow. We have a million channels.
HERE’S A SNIPPET of a short, direct story that I found refreshingly honest.
I read it today in my email box.
Find it, just below.
(It comes from the jazz club Smalls, which is in New York, and which is one of the first places I used to frequent when I lived in that city. Ages ago. I am on the mailing list in part because I always wonder who’ll be there, when and if I make it to that town again, for the sounds. Mostly, wanted to keep an ear out for if TE is there. That would be fun, to show up with my pens.
We don’t know each other, but I read your words, SW–thank you for sending this along and sharing your story)…
Running these clubs stripped me of my need to prove myself and took me away from self-analysis. Who has the time for all that?
Becoming a father has made me understand what value in living really is. Who has time to be concerned about a “career”? Music, I realized, is a children’s game – to be played with wonder and joy, not ego and career-mindedness…
It took me an entire lifetime to realize this… Sometimes it takes a lifetime to just get started! —Spike Wilner, Smalls
I love this.
I love the honesty of it. I love the way it flows, from some heartfelt place. I write and draw and stuff, so I get it, what this is trying to say, I think.
I remember when the feeling came to me, too, that there are some things you just push out and publish just because you don’t have enough of yourself in one space to get all the details perfect.
You just have to say the thing that you know has to be said. It’s a thing.
You share, and something cool could happen.
But sharing. Wow. Is hard work. Mmmmmm.
Another topic, for another thread.
To trust the process.
The importance of opening to possibility
DESIGNERS, writers, poets, architects. Engineers, conversationalists, philosophers, leaders. All of us, really. All of us who make things that society will use. People. Everywhere. We have to hear each other… better. Infrastructure, or the softer things like how we relate to one another… being aware… of the need to listen. Is huge.
Reading so much news, and feeling so… many things.
I’ve been talking a lot, here, about me. I’m ready to listen, now. But how? We’re so… far away and disconnected now from each other.
It’s hard to know how to move together, in a way that flows, and adds to things, instead of just feels like… random blips.
Right? Am I right, or?…
We have to be able to be open to the whole of it, the potentiality of whatever might fall into the picture, right?
If we want to explore to the best-of edge, then we have to be open to the possibility of being changed by what we might hear.
That of course, is the very definition of listening. Enter J. Krishnamurthi here.
Maybe that’s why I like this kind of music. But I’ve taken a break from it, to be honest, to find my way back to other things, like pop stuff, and old stuff, and things that people share.
Flux is there.
Celebrating ‘just let’s see what happens!’
I remember when Mathias Aspelin and I co-hosted something called ‘Math & Jazz’ at Raffles’ Elephant Bar in Phnom Penh. (See pic, just above).
That was a lark—a bunch of philosophy people, artists, musicians, and the band members themselves came to the bar to talk with me and whomever showed up about the things that M&J have in common. This was nice. This was unexpected. And improvisations in making it up just kept going, for me, from there… I could talk more about it. But here, for now, I’ll let things slow.
I wonder if VJ remembers running into me right here in this lobby, ahead of the event. It was cool to be friends, there, for some time, when we were in synch.
Suddenly I learned today how to send encrypted mail that self-destructs. Boss showed me. Being able to do this (and the need for it, behind the fact that you can do it) together remind me of old action movies that I used to watch, in the days I used to watch things. These days, though, the jump-cuts are too severe and it does my head in, to borrow an Irishism.
There are more things to say, explore, and investigate. There is time, too. There is always time, if we make it. The question is for whom, in what sorts of designedspaces, and how. I think you figured out something, in the short time of exchange, about this very idea… I think it has always been a lingering thing for me, the notion that your time is valuable and better spent in places where your views are respected and valued, and your ideas are considered and weighed. Dialogue and the Art of Thinking Together is one of the books on the old shelf that I used to have, when I had a shelf. When I used to read things… also back in the day… before Krishnamurthi (see below) fell into my hands at an installation that we were doing in a faraway land, thank you JB, for the gift, way back then. From there I began to understand New Things and reprogram my brain to perceive in new ways… More to say. Perhaps in real life. Always the best channel. Cool that we wound up people watching, there at the end… thanks for that.
Two things to share , as sort of footnotes. Ready? Here they are. More next time. Meantime… enjoy the music…. and the rain…. –DK
1. Article 18.
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance. —Universal Declaration of Human Rights, UN, is described as ‘a milestone document in the history of human rights. Drafted by representatives with different legal and cultural backgrounds from all regions of the world, the Declaration was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on 10 December 1948 (General Assembly resolution 217 A) as a common standard of achievements for all peoples and all nations. It sets out, for the first time, fundamental human rights to be universally protected and it has been translated into over 500 languages.).
2. Reflective practice is the ability to reflect on one’s actions so as to engage in a process of continuous learning. According to one definition it involves “paying critical attention to the practical values and theories which inform everyday actions, by examining practice reflectively and reflexively. This leads to developmental insight”. A key rationale for reflective practice is that experience alone does not necessarily lead to learning; deliberate reflection on experience is essential.
“Reflective practice can be an important tool in practice-based professional learning settings where people learn from their own professional experiences, rather than from formal learning or knowledge transfer. It may be the most important source of personal professional development and improvement. It is also an important way to bring together theory and practice; through reflection a person is able to see and label forms of thought and theory within the context of his or her work.
“A person who reflects throughout his or her practice is not just looking back on past actions and events, but is taking a conscious look at emotions, experiences, actions, and responses, and using that information to add to his or her existing knowledge base and reach a higher level of understanding. —Wikipedia on Reflective Practice
Aesthetic Moment: a fleeting sense of unity through a profound respect for different voices in dialogue.
While the world goes by, with its strangenesses and difficulties, what is there to be done? Make more and better S P A C E. Recall aesthetic moments. Design for more of them. Or, at least, try. In which anything can happen, anything is possible, the kind of space in which the new and different can meet and connect. Meaningfully: not just idly or superficially, but… really and sincerely. Refer to Lila.
Meeting two members of Latvian band The Coco’Nuts was, for DK, when we were in Rīga, just exactly one of these aesthetic moments.
I wanted to share one of the songs I really liked, from discovering more after my return to Southeast Asia. I’ve had time to let things percolate. To recall the moments that most crystallized and helped me see the beauty there still is, where there still are people who care about beauty, anyway. So easy to chase the empty things, without really caring about the artful ones. Easy to say. Hard to pull off. I loved learning about how some people are actually making that happen, though, when I was there…
BEEN READING. The news. Mostly breaking news at AlJazeera. But, feeling a burst of wonderment, dismay, consternation, and all the things that go along with that which happens when someone who grew up thinking that every cumulative year we add to the human species means that we are going to make ‘progress’ instead of slide into the things that we are seemingly sliding into, well there’s so much to say that people who have read more about politics and other things can say here, but hell, I’m writing this blog, and I’m writing from the point of view of someone watching from very, very far away, and, frankly, very… [deleted].
… the canonical lessons of World War II and the Cold War, above all the tendency to equate compromise with so-called appeasement, will no longer apply. A radical commitment to dialogue should become a signature of American statecraft, with force once more a last resort. Ostentatious threats of violence, with “all options” seemingly always “on the table,” should cease…
Diplomacy is hard. It requires persistence and flexibility along with clarity of purpose. Yet at this juncture, can anyone, apart perhaps from the present national security advisor and a remnant of neoconservatives, possibly fancy that war is easy? —Andrew Bacevic, The Boston Globe, in the recently published article, ‘An alternative to US world dominance
‘Diplomacy is hard.’
I wonder if anyone will remember the things we wrote here, on this blog, around 2012, related to that very idea. That blog is gone, now, because of lots of reasons, but I wanted to bring back some of the important points. Tomorrow, I’ll share more in our online mag, S P A C E.
Found something really cool today at the website ThirdCultureDesign.blogspot.com, by self-identified ‘Third Culture Kid,’ or TCK, Gerrit J. Hoppe. I think it was about 2011, if I’m reading and understanding correctly, which is interesting. Why is this old, underpopulated site, coming up on page one of a search about ‘cross cultural design?’ Hmmmmmm.
Oh! But this is the thing. Identity, right? Identity and culture. Between-ness. And design. And uncertainty. And knowing that you have to trust the process. And being okay with more than one answer existing at the same time, even if those answers cancel each other out. This is no-brainer stuff for people who are international… people who cross cultures all the time, and that doesn’t mean just nation-boundaries (who needs those?), but other ones. The way we grow up. What a certain word means to us. Whether or not we believe that orange and chocolate are a classic combination or not and if we don’t we can argue about it for hours and hours if we are the type to do that, TCK-type types, I mean.
That’s a side thing.
An inside joke, thing.
Hrm. Should I be writing inside jokes into serious blog posts about culture, identity, politics, resp0nsibility, ethics, and design?
[Long story deleted]
Focus, focus, focus
I am writing, again, behind the scenes. In protected-page posts. About design. Culture. The open road, uncertainty, trusting the process. And much, much more. It is a journey of change and discovery, it is an important time of learning and reflection. Especially given all that is developing and unfolding in a world that doesn’t know how to cross cultures intelligently.
I think some are uniquely positioned to write, share and publish about the how of this. About noticing. About listening. About engaging. And I want to find those people. And interview them. And write more, and make a podcast, “S” is for Sincerity, is the working title. I really need to do this work but I don’t know how this is going to actually happen, given that it takes hours and hours of time, and like the article I was talking about (link, coming up) before going into this long-winded side story says, you have to immerse to get into a space, place, and moment to really say something worthwhile. Am I there, yet, by now, to be the interviewer? I don’t know. I want to try to keep learning, but it’s also important to hit ‘go’ sometimes, before we’re even ready, because, you know, Greenland is melting.
What design can learn from crossing cultures
“The term cross-cultural design has become popular lately. Nobody designs in a vacuum, and we rarely design for people in the same life situation as ours. These days, it’s almost effortless to talk to and work with people all over the world. This is a fantastic development, and I think it’s really helped broaden people’s horizons. As a designer, though, it means we now have an extra set of responsibilities. The term “cross-cultural” implies that designers remain in their home culture and survey others from afar, designing from a distance. This isn’t enough.
I think it’s important to engage in intercultural design instead, in terms of how we think about problems and then act upon them. “Intercultural” implies more immersion and personal engagement.” —Smitha Prasadh
As Prasadh hints, the key element to intercultural design is immersion, but as immersion into a new culture takes up large quantities of time, it has been nearly impossible to accomplish in the past…. Read the full piece here.
We all inhabit interior landscapes & these are mediated to us through language. It might be said that we are the thoughts we are thinking. What engages the writer/ poet is the individual’s response to the “situation”—what she or he makes of it. That is the essence of the human drama, & why imaginative literature is so much deeper, more intense, & more memorable than objective history with its impersonal perspective. —Joyce Carol Oates, as quoted at this site which interviews people about their creative process.
Logic in all its infinite potential is the most dangerous of vices. For one can always find some form of logic to justify his [or her] action and rest comfortably in the assurance that what he [or she] did abides by reasoning. That is why, for us brittle beings, intention is the only true weapon of peace.
—Ilyas Kassam, author of Reminiscence of the Present
Listening itself is a complete act; the very act of listening brings its own freedom. But are you really concerned with listening, or with altering the turmoil within? If you would listen, sir, in the sense of being aware of your conflicts and contradictions without forcing them into any particular pattern of thought, perhaps they might altogether cease. You see, we are constantly trying to be this or that, to achieve a particular state, to capture one kind of experience and avoid another, so the mind is everlastingly occupied with something; it is never still to listen to the noise of its own struggles and pains. Be simple … and don’t try to become something or to capture some experience.