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.
In the 2000s DK got to go to a lot of gigs since we were based at that time in Seattle. One of my favorite venues was the Baltic Room.
In the 2010s thanks to TH, an architect, DK got to rebrand that nightclub.
‘Design is making meaning’
Cool to see that they are still using our design….
T., after all, had referred us. She had been one of our first clients. A combination of: a shared aesthetic appreciation of the beauty of chance encounters, plus a common love of jazz (which is after all improvisation in space on the spot), was what led to us meeting T in the first place. ‘I’ve been looking for you,’ T had said. ‘To do the design for my new company. When I break out to do my own company, you’re my designers: I just know.’
And that’s how a thing starts, sometimes.
The Baltic Room rebrand was cool. Was fun to be a part of the process of seeing things update, and guiding the identity redesign by the usual process of ours. We just ask a lot of questions, at the start. It’s like 90% of the whole design project is happening at he start. You have to have that thrashing period so everyone can get the point where they can be honest and say what they really want to say instead of trying to please someone else at the table. Somewhere along the way there’s a harmony that you can find… I guess design is like music in that regard, too… it just comes into shape on the spot when the mood is right and the people are in the spirit of being ‘on,’ intellectually and creatively, to do the jam, together.
I want to give people a chance to think clearly and long-term, so they don’t have to redo everything later.
Thought of it for two reasons this week.
One: I’m working on a few more issues of S P A C E to round out our Autumn 2019 collection, which includes stuff from the Baltic States visit , and
Two: I always liked electronica but I kind of can’t get over this:
This issue is Brooklyn, ‘Art 4 Art’s Sake.’ Why Brooklyn? Well, that’s where I went to art school for a scant semester–not my scene–but also where I started to ask questions about the point of art, and making it, and learning that you can find your way off to the sides of the places where people insist that you draw within the lines. There are no lines. But that’s just something you have to find out, if you’re inclined, as you go. Making things, trying things. Seeing what feels right.
It was in NY where jazz entered my life in an important way, because jazz and improvisational jam sessions taught me how to make art in a way that lets you leave room for ‘that which might yet emerge.’ All this time later, DK are working sometimes in innovation consulting, but also, experimenting with co-created mini-magazines in the Cloud. I know. Weird. HT MT.
A lot of stuff here to say but I’ll save it for another journey, another moment, and maybe if I’m lucky, find my way to another jazzy, understated, unpretentious, not-sleazy, international, intergenerational music venue. Hard to find, these days. Believe me. I keep looking…
Every so often, magic happens. Like in this issue. I’m really happy that I got to work with Michael Bridgett, Jr. and Paavo Heinonen on it. I love the quirky way it all came together. Landing in the canvas of a digital paper-space that let us talk, together, in an ambient, light, philosophical way.
This issue. Has taken me more than a year to wrap my heart around. It’s centered around a brief exchange that I had in a blustering white night all-night escapade that began as a foray to Haapavesi.
‘You go to peculiar places!’ said a writer in Oulu.
Despitemy usual antisocial nature, I went. To… Haapavesi.
What I found is wrapped into a short story, which is the lead story for this collection. It, and the issue itself, are called ‘Proprioception.’
It’s a mashup of conversations from Finland over the summer in 2018, as well as more recently, in the cloud. Internet and real clouds… mixing and sharing and discovering and writing. Stories and poems. People give me so much to think about, and, I’m told, I do the same for them. What we discover when we make space to converse is, of course, the whole entire point of S P A C E. So I decided to share that very sweet, summer and lighthearted story today. Starry constellations and jazzy connections, but over karaoke, rounds in bars and ‘filled croissants’ at home.
And who is Soile? Well.
Let me think how to describe this… well, okay, it’s difficult.
Some things are for sharing.
Some things are for folding into art, and publishing, as zines.
Those who are used to my writing and creative nonfiction will not be surprised, but it’s pretty much a combination of three people. Soile… Whom I met on the bus, whom I met at a bar, and whom I met at somewhere I can’t say because this is a public post and not one of the protected ones. [Long stories deleted]
Order this issue of S P A C E
Today’s release has a bunch.
A new short story.
Two poems including ‘Step a little closer,’ from 2014, which I wrote about the work of art, mostly, in a collaboration with M.
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.
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.
THIS ISSUE of S P A C E, set in Rīga, and titled ‘Drift,’ has been changed so many times on the digital page, it’s nuts. I have yet many more edits to do, too. ‘Drifting’ rather unintentionally in recent hours, for example, has led to new weird insights that I don’t think… it’s weird to try to write with 0 hours of sleep and it’s twenty to 8AM where I am. I’m tired. I’m really really tired. But I’m also… exhilarated. Life and the journey, drift and the shift… these are the discovering-ables that I am here for. This was a good morning. Tea and talking: learning the work of letting go of rigid thinking, and remembering how to laugh at the things that a more stern, serious version of yourself would have come up with 823,490 reasons to have gotten angry over. Well, well. Here we are.
GOOD MORNING FROM Phnom Penh. Quiet reflection, at DK World HQ, here at the turn of the year. Three issues of our ‘A Philosophy of the Moment’ collection for Winter 2018-19 are ‘done and dusted,’ as we used to say in print. Except these are digital. So ‘done and filed’, I suppose. And much more is ahead, thanks to good work and great people whom we’ve bumped into and who are challenging us to explore, experiment further, and push the envelope.
WORLD TRENDS. Because now more than ever, the work to bring us together instead of drive us apart is obvious to everyone who is trying to collaborate meaningfully across divides of all kinds. Or even just take note that there do exist huge chasms that keep some from being heard: on purpose. Looks like with our programmes to make zines with people near and far by gathering us in very small circles to really pay attention to each other and learn, DK and our teams are riding the wave of a worldwide trend. A wave which includes many things that we’re still discovering about, just now. Political theory, for ex. Relational dialectics. Intersectionality. And more.
NEW STARTS. These first S P A C E issues, (pictured above), are set in Finland and Cambodia. They will be part of a larger collection of co-created zines designed and put together for DK’s Winter 2018-19 S P A C E collection. It’s called ‘A Philosophy of the Moment.’
Thanks to new crowdfunding support, DK are able to give our full creative attention in early 2019 to the making of new zines in this co-creative manner.
As in the past, what we’ll make from now on, too, will be put together in new places, with people whose paths in those locales might never have crossed. Gathering. Connecting. Interconnecting. Sharing: in real life, on the spot, in the moment.
Dialogue. Design. Making meaning. Aesthetic moments. Self discovery. Showing up. Conversation and connection and space for real life.
Collaborating teams at DK are making S P A C E.
To hold all of this.
ZINERY. At first, it might look like just pieces of paper. But the zines make it possible for us to discover each other and give time to get to know new perspectives, and flesh out our own ideas, too. So that’s why, once you get to experience it, you find out that zine-making and our ateliers offer more than just paper productions. Experiences. And much, much more. Hard to describe. Hard to claim. But if you’ve been there, you know.
ATELIER S P A C E. Looking back on the work to gather and connect people for hyperlocal, high-quality moments of dialogue and co-creation to make ‘zines,’ there’s a lot that is becoming clear to us. All these years of designing for clients and you get to know when to pay attention to the emergent pattern: the inklings that become the height of the ‘a-ha’ apogee and the sudden awareness that yes, here it is, this is the thing, the concept, that here we are, OMG WTF, that this is really it.
OUR TEAMS at DK are, as per usual, talking. Processing. Sharing. Learning, through dialogue, across chords of a circle that stretches the globe. In this way we are practicing ‘aesthetic moment’ design. Which is what I wanted to talk about here, today.
The different places we’ve been have brought us close to new populations of ideas, new kinds of query-making. Forays of a variety that are vast and have a particular kind of beauty; not knowing that these were there, because you can’t ever know, we trusted the process. Going where we don’t know anyone, seeing what we can learn, and trying new things, in real life, on the spot. Together. It’s been 5 years since this all started, with the ‘Year of Uncertainty’ project. (No agenda, no plan, no income, no savings, no contacts, and airplane tickets to a city in Southeast Asia we’d never been to… round-trip tickets that we’d only use half of. All that led to lots. Learning, meeting people, quality, more. But the upshot of it is something I can’t encapsulate here, in the public-facing blog. It is, however, something that we can elaborate on in our eZine.)
More about the learnings on ‘relational aesthetics,’ ‘relational art,’ and ‘relational dialectics’ vis-a-vis systems thinking, ahead for those who are with us, starting from January and through the year. Links at the end of this post, if you’re curious about how to get on board.
Aesthetic Moment: a fleeting sense of unity through a profound respect for different voices in dialogue.
Certainly it takes time to get to know an outfit as weird and crazy as us lot, here at DK. But yeah. We love a great party, and the online stuff is pretty fun. Feel free to sign up to get email to get to know us better. Or, jump right in to a part of the conversation when you subscribe to S P A C E. Subscribe here. More on the way.
A happy New Year from all of us at DK.
Thanks for reading, for connecting, and for inspiring us when we have had the chance to meet in person and talk deeply about so many, many things.
ONE OF THE FUNNEST things about being in the middle of Finland all summer is listening to Radio Nova. I’m not kidding. I really like it. I don’t know. I think it’s because of all these 1990s songs, hit songs, stuff I haven’t heard since… well… then. I don’t listen to the radio much except when I’m in places that are otherwise rather remote or quiet or just the sound of the new language is interesting to hear. Pieced between the many announcements, often about ‘summer,’ because I am beginning to pick up a few words (‘Friday,’ ‘good,’ ‘let’s see then, maybe,’ ‘thank you,’ and ‘mind peace’), there is stuff like A-Ha. I’m listening to’ Take On Me’ Great video–do you remember that? I remember that. I remember being very, very intrigued. Drawing and animation and this song. This song. I’m listening to it right now. I was going to link to the YouTube but you know what, they have these stupid ads now, and they have tracking, and it’s annoying–and—wow that’s a high note—and it’s been… really interesting to hear how people listen to songs like Roxette‘s Listen to Your Heart and Sinéad O’Connor‘s Nothing Compares 2 U. Plus that one that’s been playing all summer and is ‘oh, you don’t need to know the words, it’s like all the Finnish songs, about being sad and lonely and depressed and wanting to commit suicide…’
BLAST FROM THE PAST. Nineties music. Nice to hear it all. Zining while listening to this stuff reminds me of something else.
Mix tapes. Collaging. Curating. Sharing. Now you just queue things up on Soundcloud, in a playlist. Or?
Thinking about all that, all those things. Listening to the ‘Hot 9 at 9’ back home. One of the places that used be home, but isn’t now, I guess, would be more accurate. Talking about Home in one of our online forums. Talking about Arrivals. Talking about Slow Moments. Talking, talking, writing, writing. Listening to the radio and drinking coffee at 11:25PM and wondering where the sun went. It is the first time this summer that I’ve needed to turn on the lights.
Bicycling home last night from karaoke, too. First time I had cycled in the dark.
Next, I’m pretty sure, Radio Nova will play us some Michael Jackson. Annie are you okay…
Is it April 30? Happy International Jazz Day. Many thanks to Herbie Hancock and the United Nations for making IJD. Thanks to this year’s organizers for including DK’s first Kuala Lumpur event, STAMMTISCH, in the International Jazz Day global events listings. To celebrate, we made you a kind of mix tape. A visual mix tape, out of the jazzy images we’ve made over the years here at Design Kompany.
S P A C E
J A Z Z
A G A L L E R Y
Music? Music can save us. We’re not musicians, but we love music, and I, personally, love the improvisational music that is J A Z Z. Sometimes I like to make word-poems, like ‘The Good Stuff,’ with my team (listen on SoundCloud), but I’m mostly an appreciator. I like to go to shows and draw jazz with pens, some of those pictures are below, and sometimes, I just like to cut-and-paste while the music is playing. Live. It’s neat. It’s fun. It’s a good conversation. And it’s getting even better. Every year we meet new people, new artists, and we grow to learn more about the ‘how’ and ‘howcome’ of making Art and also making S P A C E. For now, here we are.
And here you go. May I present…
The gallery, ‘J A Z Z.’
The A side
ART x THE JAM. It’s funny. I just went to a jazz club and met some pianists who played ‘free jazz’ and ‘bebop’ and that was exactly what I wanted to hear. It is hard to come by this kind of thing, here in Asia, and in the middle of a streak of long, beautiful, meandering conversation jams I found myself boarding a bus away from KL to process everything and just kinda thinking, ‘Huh. It’s all right, then. Do the thing you want to do. Make it happen for you.’ Advice I’ve been given before, in the 1990s. By, none other than someone who introduced me to the late-late night sets of live jazz, wouldyoubelieve. More about that to come, later, in S P A C E for the members who have been part of these internet and interconnective conversations for the last four years. (Thank you).
The B side
At No Black Tie Wednesday night in KL, I met Aya Setine and Don Gomes. Talked art. Design. Writing. Engineering. Chatted away with for a long series of minutes about everything, including the good Loston Harris, whose work I really love and wish more people knew about. (Check out his cover of ‘Shall we Dance?’)
At the show, I came over with my usual supplies for the ‘Book of Songs’ series, which is an impromptu set compiled from whatever falls to hand in the moments-just-before. This time, I had my pens, paper, indexcards, and a knife. For no reason, really. But a knife for paper-cutting. Just in case. Ball point pens, in this moment. And yeah. No clipboard this time. The ball point pen worked all right. (It didn’t leak. I have been in situations where it leaks, all over, embarrassing, but kinda fun, too, because yeah, like paint to canvas, pen to paper. Flying around. Getting into it. This is the jam.)
The whole thing.
POETRY. Quickly, a shout-out. Next day, after the jazz show, there was more conversation about /the art of art/ and related tangents and suchmuch. Continuing the jamming, as there was, for me, a feeling of ‘anything is possible.’ And a conversation on Thursday. That came organically and easily, and in real life, the blind date that DK had with the poet Saarah Choudhury; wow. Look her up, ladies and gentlemen and watch this space: @eastwest_nomad, on insta. So good to meet her. And we are going to do a Q&A soon, so watch out for that, in S P A C E. (Join us, see link below for how to become a member). All of these threads got me singing in the shower again. And also, they sent me straight back to the very beginnings of this creative-life story, and the early 1990s, a time when I started writing, drawing, making it up. It’s really funny: most of the things I do are not for commercial use now. I used to do that. Day job in newspapers; illustration art (not a lot. I never managed to be any good at commission-getting with that). Not a problem, though. I let it evolve, because I needed to see where it would go. Big warm hugs to Patti Rieser, too, who taught me the ‘jazz step’ to dance to, a little bit of a square, but nothing at all squarish.
JAZZ DAY. DK are excited today to participate in a world event that brings people together to improvise, and play. Celebrating jazz, and for DK, listening out for new jazz in Southeast Asia, specifically. We’re looking forward to seeing more new voices coming out strong from this part of the world, and hoping to also make more stages (formal and informal) for all of us to get out of our regular confined melodies and play a little more !*…. What is ‘!*’? It is this. A very particular quality of space, one in which everyone is participant.
A jazz violinist, MT, got us started on this, talking about gravity and stars and constellations, so vacuous and expansive.
And a pianist, TE, inspired more, and over the years, DK happened to stumble into clubs where I found trumpet players ES (with whom we conversed with in a short Q&A here) and HG, and others, and there have even been conversations resumed from decades-old threads that started in those United States, a place called Brooklyn. Thanks, photographer Yamini Nayar, and architect IK. More recently, I am jamming on these art esoterica notes with musicians MD and GL. Talking. At length. About why we make, why we make art, and why we make space for making. These are big topics! I can expand, another time, in S P A C E.
MEET US IN S P A C E. Two last notes! For how to be part of DK’s programmes, workshops, salons amd othet things we are making, sharing, doing, delivering, conversing about, and generally designing more and better S P A C E for. The jam. (There are a whole bunch of people to mention, as I think about the life and all the jazz I’ve gotten to know, bit by bit, over the years. Bebop. Free. Let me know where that’s going on, and I’m so there. With my pens, clipboard, and a bunch of paper.) See you in the up.
THIS MONTH in S P A C E, DK are sharing the new collection, Circumference. It’s a selection of short articles DK had first shared in our eZine S P A C E. The pieces were written from January through December, 2016, the ‘Year of the Circle.’ During that time, DK explored big questions with our members in S P A C E, together delving into ideas about what it means to become part of ’round and not square relationships.’
What came out of that is what is inside these pages. You’ll get to enjoy a Q&A with a software designer in Leipzig who gave us the rundown on ‘How to start anything,’ plus ‘Remarks on Noteworthiness,’ a miniature report from behind-the-scenes of what it was like to create the space for ‘N’ London: NOTEWORTHINESS, which asked 16 strangers to convene at the National Theatre on a cold day on November 2016 to talk about ‘What’s remarkable? Why do we think so?’ Streams of consciousness from Kismuth Books. And a note about things found, and lost, in Phnom Penh. A medley, culminating with the new kind of writings to emerge in 2018: a transmission from the fourth dimension, ‘20804d.’
Generally, the series in ‘Year of the Circle’ pursues this line of query: What are some ways that we can do our work better, together?