Writing today. Just a small thing. With a few people, in the innermost circles. It’s hard keeping it all to myself in the quietest spaces, but I must. It’s that way, now.
Phew. Two years of Atelier S P A C E and 49 issues in our online store. That’s a big deal, for me, to finish something at 49. I will make one more. Fifty. A good number to close on, and get set to move on to other things. Which would be what exactly… Ah, but there’s yet time to muse and fuss and design, more on that process, in a bit. Meantime, there is still an intention here at DK to keep making something weekly, but… not in the form that I have done, so far… A thing has to shift, I think, for it to stay relevant and interesting (to me). Well, yeah.
So, you know what? I went back to look at the old design idea. I did this thing, just now.
I went to update the ol’ crowdfunding page, to see what I could do there to ‘make it clear’ and ‘tell people what you think they should hear,’ and ‘make it relatable,’ and ‘solve their problem,’ but then I got really really bored.
And when I pressed ‘refresh’ one time, this cool thing happened.
The screen went all funny. It did this:
Which, you know. Kind of says it all.
‘The Design is not the Design’ is a short essay I shared with maybe 5 people, in recent days. (Because they wanted to know more about what I was talking about when I said, ‘I’d like to invite you to Interactive Papers.’ Just five, yeah… Told you. Very opt-in, these days.)
Anyone who knows me personally knows that I love to move paper around, cut, collage, share, write, discover things with magazines I find, cut and collage again. I do this almost all the time. I can’t even help it. As I am writing this there is graph paper with a poem I scribbled onto it on a day train from the bottom of Poland to the seaside, and also, a flowchart in a blue-covered notebook that was a gift from Z. in Japan, thank you Z., and also some card readers for digital photographs that I still need to figure out what to do with, and some notes, lots of them one is an announcement of an art show that I wrote something on, this paper has been with me since 2007.
I like paper. What can I say?
But after messing around with it for all these years, how many? Decades, yeah, well, time to update.
‘Tech touch,’ is how IK had put it. ‘This needs your tech touch.’ We were talking about an issue of S P A C E that turned into one thing, then another, then quite a different animal, and now is what it is. I’m happy with the conversations that led to the discoveries, and here I am, putting everything I just learned, into application mode. Just like my father had taught me to do: ship, then test. Test, test. Iterate, redesign, rebuild when it’s a loss, and then, shift the game, pivot, relaunch. And so yeah. This is the thing, ladies and gentlemen. This is the thing that’s coming.
See, what happened was this. I. was referring to something else, when he said ‘tech touch.’ But it did the thing all chance encounters do when they are doing their thing, all the serendipity people like the QM physicists I met in DK and me and the composition people who write very modern music and I all love when this happens.
You go, ‘Whoa!’ And… so I added ‘tech’ as a category to my things at dipikakohli.com. And yeah. I think it pushed a weird new button. I got sort of free-jazzy about it, and then, I thought: ‘Tech touch… with paper.’
And here we are…
Playing with digital papers
Getting back to my five invitees. I really should thank them for taking me up on the suggestion, or, well, asking me more about it. To be honest, I imagine they were thinking, ‘WTF?’.. which yeah. Makes sense. Digital papers? That change? And go away? Time. Expiries
But they asked it nicely, like: ‘Tell me more, DK.’
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
IT TOOK SOME TIME–eight years–to wrap the ideas together for S P A C E | Mito, and find the story. But then, there was the moon.
The moon, the season. The season of the plum blossoms. The season of celebrating new things. Flowers…
Ephemera, the chance of having-been and the exceptional attentiveness to the very slim window of time in which you can see this, the full blooms, I mean: these kinds of sliding doors of the past segueing into the future are what I learned to recognize, to pay attention to, and to seek to get to know better when I first came to Japan.
Which was, let’s see… when… If I’m really honest, I can say that this Japangoing had gotten started when my father decided to bring me to this country as a little kid, saying to me and my brother that we just didn’t know anything about the Far East if we had those (ridiculous, unsubstantiated, completely made-up) kinds of ideas about what Japan ‘is’ (as quoted to him by us kids with those things quoted to us as per mainstream media programming). Without thinking twice about it, he got it in his head that he’d take his family to Japan. This was how I got to visit here, the first time. (In the years that followed I would come to Japan 10 times…)
Tokyo the first time was, for me—Hato Bus, Ginza, a white castle somewhere far away that you took a Shinkansen to get to, kimonos at the house and slippers, green tea, the works. I didn’t even know what those the names of those things or places were, at that time.
But I knew I was getting deeper into the layers of this place, every time, but not in an intellectual way… in an ‘I’m here and this I what I’m feeling’ kind of way. People tell me my writing is not direct, that I leave off subjects and verbs and put in a lot of air… must be the influence from my year in Kyoto… and subsequent visits for work of different varieties before settling into this trip’s: making Atelier S P A C E.
Good thing I got here when I was little, first. Before getting too attached to notions of what a place ‘is’ as defined by people not from there, I could check into it with my own eyes. Every one knows that children see things that adults can’t. And that children don’t bother trying to intellectualize it, they just internalize it. Perhaps it was that very first trip here that my father booked, mostly because his kids were ill-informed (and mis-informed). But it set things up for all that has evolved, since. Going and seeing. Talking to people. Discovering the story. Letting it make… itself. The way it wants, and how.
Language: Japanese is my second one. As I’d gotten curious about Japan, its mysterious layers and hard-to-pin-down ways of doing things that anyone from a foreign land arriving here sees right away, I decided to study this language. Eight years of it. Which included a pretty formal foundation, thanks in part to grants and initiatives and scholarships at that time from people who knew my style of learning and kind of invested in it… and so a formal education began. A year abroad in Kyoto, then an intensive summer of study at Middlebury in Vermont, followed by on-and-off short stints to work and live in Tokyo, mostly Chiba. Mostly off the Joban line. One summer I lived in Minami Kashiwa, another, Kita Kogane. This is getting awfully local. But in Tokyo… the Joban line from Mito down through Kashiwa and Kita Kogana and all the way into Tokyo, right to Ueno. As such, Ueno is my ‘hood. Walking there, in recent days, with BOSS, to see what I might remember and share with him, has called up a lot of things… Still processing much of it. I didn’t take pictures in Tokyo yet. It takes me a long time to warm up to a place or person to feel comfortable enough, like… I guess I feel as if I need to understand one or two small pieces of truth-approximation about that subject, in order to photograph. It’s important to me, to take the time. To gather the details, listen, respond in accordance when and if the time is ready. Maybe there will be a plum blossom. Maybe there will be something else. Maybe there will be nothing. All are possibilities, but you have to let things happen, right?
Cherry blossom fragrances by the light of the moon—a recurring motif in some old poetry (translated for us by the helpful if sometimes redundant placards at the Tokyo National Museum). Which was a stop on the recent pop-up, S P A C E | Tokyo, that I had hosted in Ueno (of course). Pretty neat to walk into a museum with very old things, one of them dating to 800BC… I spent most of my time with the scrolls, and then, the sutras.
Reminiscing and discerning
These kinds of things do the trick; art objects, like nature, can bring you into the present. Remind you that you are human, you are here, you are breathing… easy to get locked up in the world of oneself and lose sight of that broader perspective… you can get too focused on your narrow window of ‘this is me, this is here, and this is all there is.’ There’s more. Illuminating, to be back… back in Mito, back in Tokyo, back to the past, and back to the present.
You get talking about these specific things and you realize that you have internalized more than just the way it’s neat to watch the trains go by at Ueno. Or that you have layers upon layers revealed to you, one step closer, from ‘soto’ to ‘uchi,’ and, on the parallel track, from ‘tatemae’ to ‘honne.’ The more time you spend ingesting the things by osmosis, and mostly straight from your environment to the core of your heart, conveniently bypassing that big thing in your head so you can’t, you mustn’t, you simply do not get the opportunity, to process through the brain, but must feel your way towards some kind of feeling… whatever it is that’s your own take, that is, for you. Each blossom in the Kairakuen park that happened to be noticed, by someone passing by, was, in this way, also brought into that person’s day, that person’s world. Sure, I have my qualms about the overconsumption of images and that was why I took only one picture of the ume in bloom. One shot is good. One is enough, for me. Plus, I would hate to have my real life experience of the park (reportedly the second largest in the world among city parks, second only to that one smack in the middle of New York, where I remember once going for a walk and sitting on a bench beside a young man from Warsaw, whom I then invited, being spontaneous and idle, to wander through the sides of the park with me and talk about nothing for a few hours in the hopes he might feel better as he had been a little dour-looking—some silver spoons and a couple of fine saucers and teacups and a pot in a museum somewhere on either the East or West side, I’m not sure, seemed to do the trick (art objects, and nature—works) and we had parted company with smiles and gestures that had said, that was nice, that was good, good luck now with you, for those were the days of the pre-phone and pre-internet over communication-streams. I’ve let go of those, now. I’ve let go of a lot, in pursuit of the chance encounters that might lead to other journeys, connexions, discoveries, museums, old artifacts, like 800BC things in Tokyo or silver spoons in NY.
And the blooms of the ume–also short-lived, also quick to say hello and also, in the same breath, goodbye.
But to assign wistful nostalgia is to dilute the real experience: this is this, here and now. Time frozen is the same as infinite time. And so, we go, and so we are. Here, let me tuck myself into a small cafe for a bit, start chatting–
‘–and that’s why I’m here.’
‘A story? A newspaper article?’
‘Oh! Do you write for the New York Times?’
‘And you want to write about Mito?’ The man is in his late sixties or early seventies. I can tell he is a regular because when he enters, he is bewildered to see, I’m supposing based on context, that there are more than 0 people in the shop (he walks in and says ‘mezurashii,’ which means, ‘this sure is rare). It’s me, and an older pair of ladies, who are talking together about how cool it is to be in a place where they have been trying to go, for so long, though last Wednesday was a holiday, so–
‘Yes, I think I want to write about the Mito of today.’
He is joined by the shop’s owner, whose father I will meet in not that many days. Both are perplexed as to my choice of location to consider, deeply, for some kind of thought. ‘Mito doesn’t have anything here,’ says the older gentleman. ‘There’s just one road. That’s it.’
‘Well, we have the… let me see if I can find some information packets.’
I am tickled and humbled by their interest in helping me. I forgot. It’s been eight years since I was last in Japan. But the politeness of the society is equally as solidly in place as is the structure that guides one’s ‘how I need to be.’ Both got in the way, for me and for some of my good friends from here, of how to let go, be freer, more spontaneous, more scruffy, more comfortable int he moment, less concerned about the way society thinks you should be, and more interested in the next things than that which has been there forever. Tradition. Mores. It’s a long story, but one that I’ve been writing for 20 years, I know that sounds like a really long time, but it’s true, and will share sometime in a small circle of S P A C E in the issue, S P A C E | 東京, ‘幼なじみ’. Much to say, but I’ll save it.
Having been and being now
For today, just these things. Mito and its meanders showed DK a lot. Whereas Finland taught us how to just be, Japan is reminding us that there is a context to this. That one is to be, but also, that one has also been, and continues to become. To become your best self, to ‘become yourself,’ is really the work, isn’t it? A big kind of work. Putting it off and waiting for new seasons to come into bloom is to delay something that is more important than the coming-into-shape of one or five thousand blossoms. That something is starting, which begins with noticing, the noticing of the noticing is the beauty of the moment, that collection of attunements to the here-now is what, I feel, is poetry in a life… and in simpler terms, beauty… and art.
To the journeys, then. The new, the near, the now and the next.
S P A C E | Mito will be published on 9 July. This issue would not have been possible without the very helpful contributions of a few good people. DK would like to thank: Marita Morita, Makoto Takeuchi. But especial thanks go to Noriko and Izuru Morita along with Ravinder Kohli.
GOOD THINGS. New stories came together over the 20 Feb-14 March Atelier S P A C E project in Hanoi. It was part of our Spring 2019 conversations and real life gatherings so far, a collection of 12 zines in the making that together we call BoNT, or ‘Book of New Things.’
(HT Catherine J. Howard and Mai Phuong Nguyen for being the very first 2 members of S P A C E for Spring 2019, and whose contributions to our crowdfunding for S P A C E is directly helping make this happen. We are going where people are showing up, where people are supporting this work, and where we are finding resonance with our intentions to connect, and interconnect, new and different others so that we can make S P A C E, together. To learn, to discover, to co-create, and grow)
Four percent battery–what else to say? For those new to DK, ‘Come to something, say hi, see what we’re doing.’ For those who’ve known DK since Seattle, ‘Hey! We’re still at it.’ For those who wonder where we are going next and how this is all going to happen… *secret*. I’m not sure if this is clear to most people but I don’t really need a lot of people to know about us, what we’re up to, or what we’re making. Just a handful: usually very self-selecting. To say, ‘OK.’ More about that below. But for now, really, it’s a team effort. That team is not something that’s ‘yay let’s do this maybe!’, but rather, carefully selected and invited after several years of working on things in short bursts, to see how it goes.
Squaring up and making a go, we are now creating S P A C E.
HANOI. What a series. We started posting on instagram here and there because that seems to be where people read and connect, as irritating as that is to someone like myself who does not own a smartphone and relies on email and Zoom to communicate. [Long passage deleted]. We have finished the zine and it’s going to launch on 2 July in S P A C E. You can order a digital copy (USD 7), from our online store.
Exciting movement for things in VN, and more to share with those in our inner circles. S P A C E is a kind of journey, but S P A C E isn’t for everyone. I’m conversing more deeply in the protected-page forums. More there, very soon. Thanks for showing up at S P A C E | Miniparty HN. (You know who you are.)
MEET DK IN S P A C E.Subscribe to S P A C E the zine for USD 7/week if you want to be a part of things in S P A C E. (To keep things cozy, invitations for DK’s next programmes online and in real life through 2019 will be made through our membership list, only.) Less is more. Less helps us focus. On the people who are here, who are curious, engaged, listening, ready to try something new, to take a chance, to trust the process, to show up, and, hey. Magic carpet ride.
IT IS FORTY past five. I’m in Hanoi. The time is good to pause and write. ‘Trust the process’ I tell all our clients and the people who are signing up now, in a more personal way, to get ‘in’ on things we do around here behind the scenes. It’s not for everyone but it’s a lot of fun. I’m good. I’m well, actually, really well. Caffeinated, happy. Put the finishing touches on a piece of writing that has been in the works for two years. I know. THat’s a lot. sometimes you write real fast and publish (blogging, for ex, like this), and sometimes you stay with the story until it feels right enough, more or less, and wait for that magic to happen that says, ‘This. Is the kernel of it.’ Hemingway said to write true sentences, and to Fitzgerald he said to write a story based on a true sentence. As in, one true sentence to hinge the story around. BOSS and DK were reading ‘A Moveable Feast‘ and then DK fell kind of ill and had to lie in bed and was worried about dying and then BOSS said you’re fine and DK joked that this was like that scene in AMF, and you should call reception and ask for a thermometer. And then, no no, you should go down to the lobby and ask because probably over the phone ‘thermometer’ wouldn’t communicate—it’s not obviously a thing people ask for from the fifth floor, is it now. Then they laughed and rested and BOSS gave DK a lot of water (six glasses. Dehydration), and things were fine in the AM after quite a number of minutes of good rest. Rest can really help with so many things. And water. I guess this has nothing to do with Hanoi, or the process. Damn. I guess I’ll just get back to the story-writing, and story-finishing, so that I can share it in real life, here in HN, this Thursday. The true sentence, by the way!, is this: ‘No one really knows anything, for sure.’
Side note: if you are in North Carolina, keep up with the journeys of DK when you read ‘Kismuth & The Way’ each month in Saathee Magazine. They’re out of Charlotte–this time I’ll write about HN. HT: Samir Shukla & Jade Hotel Huế
Tuesday in S P A C E we publish the zine, S P A C E | Đà Lạt, ‘In the flowers’. This was a co-creation between Dipika Kohli and BOSS in January 2019. (So yes! Quite recently… just a few short weeks ago.) Something about making them up as we go, publishing while still in the vicinities that have inspired them, is a lot of fun. The energy is good. Momentum, too. We’re jazzed to open a new chapter in S P A C E, Spring 2019, ‘The Book of New Things.’ The title came from a very intriguing and cool, unexpected series of events that led to an unusual place, which is how all beautiful beginnings begin. Surprising new departures. More about S P A C E | Đà Lạt, ‘In the flowers‘.
I REMEMBER THIS. Spam comments. Requests for jobs at DK. This must be what happens when you start blogging again. I mean, like really blogging, not just writing the clickbait-y stuff that I think so many people who write blogs that are professional service company people with a ‘plus a blog with them’ do. I mean, it’s easy to get caught up in that. Writing isn’t easy. Writing is work. Writing for the sake of what end, you wonder, and so, like everyone else, you turn into a market-markety bloggy-blog. Which is terrible. Because it’s not just irritating to find silly ad-like links everywhere, it’s also bad art. Bad art isn’t acceptable, so let’s move forward.
Am reading about social capital. And how capitalism has taken what used to be stuff we did for each other because we’re human beings, and commodified it.
Social capital is, for example, when we take care of each other’s kids. When we help one another with homework, do the work that it takes to go out of our way to help someone else out with finding lost keys or getting to the next city or taking the right bus or whatever. Social capital is when someone kindly invites you to dinner when you know that all the restaurants are going to be closed because it’s a holiday, and nothing is open for five more days which means you’ll be stuck at the ‘mart’– which sells more processed garbage and smells, when you walk into it, like Capitalism.
[Long-winded side rant deleted]
And social capital is this kind of thing, the soft architecture of spacemaking: making space that is, for one another. To reflect, to share. All those old dialogue roundtables we did before, I remember some of them were very, very interesting, were a kind of ‘public space,’ the very sort that we need if we want to find ways to feel more connected. Like the things we are here for matter. Like we’re part of something more than just the day-to-day of churning out ‘stuff’ in exchange for our time. Selling our time, that is.
Being there, closely. Listening, and participating in the creative process of Life… Oh, no. I’m getting lofty again. (‘Come off the mountain, DK!’) Right, right.
I’m making this new stuff because I want to add more social capital to the pot of the ‘stuff’ that’s out there, now (which is largely boring, to me). I don’t go to networking events. Or weddings, if I can help it. I try to avoid all social chatter that revolves around ‘like-minded people are gonna be there’ because to me, ‘like-minded’ is an echo chamber I don’t wanna step into. I’m interested in the mix. The flow, the journey… But if you know me, you already know that. If you don’t, well. I guess I’m writing, at the moment, for the people who know me or potentially might—let’s see. The internet, asmuchas I give out about it, has made it possible for me to meet new people on the road in the very kinds of journeys that I’m also on… I don’t mean ‘like-minded,’ here… I mean, more of… the questioning, quest-y types… Not for everyone, of course… but. About 1 out of 100 will be reading this far. And looking for the ‘what do I do now that I’ve found you?’ call to action. (Is this you? It’s around, somewhere, I promise.) If it wasn’t for the internet, I’d probably still be thinking that my job at a daily paper was ‘creative.’
But through the process of trusting the process, I found out what is.
Okay, then there’s the whole thing about what to do when we start to charge everything for everything, like, you know, babysitting and homework help and stuff like that. I mean, sure, we all have to earn cash because that is what it’s about right now, cashy-cashy. Still, I think we can start trading in something that is more old school. The currency of trust.
Why? Because, despite the worship of those little pieces of paper that we give and take from each other (more and more facelessly than ever, sadly, I feel) it’s not like we really need cash to get things to happen. We need trust. Like old times. We need to know who we can count on, and for real. To do things. Make things. Move around. Discover. Make time for each other. Be. All of this is what leads to stillness and reflection. And that leads to better art. Design is only a means towards getting to the better art. Art, art, art, ladies and gentlemen. I am not talking about what someone decided was artistic and put into a fancy pants gallery, either. I’m talking about stuff that moves us. makes us sing, connect, feel, and even brings tears to our eyes because it shows us our own…. there’s too much to write here and if I’m writing in this public space, which it looks like I don’t see the reason to make this a protected page post because those are reserved for the conversation-continuing, not starting, and what I hope to do is maybe make a few new starts, here. Today or soonish. But they have to be good starts. They have to have art in them.
My parents told me that I shouldn’t study art, so I went to engineering school* and then I worked for some architects, and then two different newspapers (fortnightly, daily), and then I started a design studio, and here I am writing away about art. All of the past experiences have informed the ways to design structures in which we can most excitingly discover the concepts that lead to great works. That’s important. Scaffolding. For S P A C E for ex. I’ll need to talk about it, sometime, if you are one of the people who are wondering how to connect with us in a better way than just reading this blog sometimes. There’s real stuff, it really is cool. It’s working, it’s been working, and there’s… a new beginning. And more…
*Looking for samples of what different bridges look like? This is a cool site.
‘More of what, though?’
Existing more artfully, in the same exact time frame, means you get more. Experience something fully by focusing on it, while you’re in it, and not getting distracted by all the so-called possibilities and ‘options.’ Sorry. I just don’t. Get that. I like to go with it when I know there’s a beginning there, that feels right. That works me, challenges me, instructs and delights, and best of all, delivers—all that is ahead, for me, is the quest of this kind of ‘more.’ Not more stuff. Not more friends. Not even more… anything, really. So what am I after, then? What am I questing? Questions. And people who ask good ones.
So far I’ve been very lucky. There is… an ambient… community. Behind the scenes here there are a small group of us talking together in very intriguing, even intimate ways, even though maybe we’ve never met in real life. Real life is the best channel, of course, but when we can’t have that it’s nice to have this and then gear up towards having that, one day. It does happen. It’s great. S P A C E started in 2014. So. There’s that. And most importantly: there is trust. Trust is what we’re dealing in, like I said. Trust trust trust trust trust is what we human beings always went with when it came down to it: ‘Do I believe you? Are you reliable?’ Please don’t act like you’re interested in what I’m making when we first meet and then turn out to be a really flaky flake: that is a huge, huge pet peeve for me. Be real, dude. Just: be real.
Towards a better art
Art! So much to talk about. I did go to a fancy art school for like five minutes but dropped out because it wasn’t where the meaning was getting made, it was where old, dying ideas about what is ‘good’ were getting pushed on young people who would go on to do, what Banksy wrote in something somewhere, the kind of work that just isn’t art because (and I’m paraphrasing) the best minds went to work for people who used them up to get us all to click links and buy stuff we don’t need. I left art school to take up odd jobs and then go travel, and then, more stuff, but yeah, it was a lot of movement, there, fora while. To quest the artful. I used to have two big categories at this blog, before it got deleted accidentally (long story). The categories were: 1) In Search of Meaning and 2) In Pursuit of Beauty. Then I think there was Found and also Trust the Process. Mostly still probing in these four compass points, about a decade and a half later. Maybe we met in 2004 at something like Biznik. Maybe we met last week in Vietnam. Wherever you come from, wherever we’re going, we’re at this journey that I’m really excited about, that’s coming into shape quite nicely, in S P A C E. And since those four original points of query were so important then, is it any wonder, then, why we are talking together in online spaces in protected pages about existential philosophy, aesthetic moments, relational aesthetics (HT JB) the work of design, the meaning of art, the value of money, and much more related tangentially to these ideas?
So many philosophy magazines are a pile of junk, I think: they’re… well, let’s see… to put it bluntly?… they’re… just quoting the same old people saying the same old things, from a bygone era. (I have a habit of doing that sometimes, but some of us and I’m assigning myself to this role ought to be seeking up the new philosophers and publishing them: new voices, from the not-mainstream). Our real cool contemporary and updated modern philosophers are right here, amongst us here and now, talking, every day, about the way it all unfolds or doesn’t… I’m rambling. Oi. I’m going to stop now… Because. Art is the point. Not me making a point.I don’t wanna go down that silly path of logic-worship. Intuition is better. Intuiting the ‘rightness’ of things… and falling forward, towards them. Forward motions.
Such movements, after all, for S P A C E, are the point. So much to say. Will save it all up, for ‘Postmodern Nomads’, and the invite-only sequence ‘Strange Geometries II’. These new bits and pieces and unfolding meaning-making conversations to come in Spring 2019, with the launch of a new series in S P A C E, ‘The Book of New Things.’
S P A C E QUESTS S P A C E. All of this to say that you can join the conversations, but please note that you have to be able to add to what we are doing. Contribute ideas, words, time, show up for stuff, be there. Be part of the journey. Fiscally that’s fine, that’s one kind of contribution, but we’re wiling to take trades of all kinds. Always. That’s the new thing, around here; trade something for us, for S P A C E. It can be what you think makes sense. Bartering around the world, we are, lately. I’m serious. Banked on it; it’s working. Trust. All the conversations that have built up in meaningful ways to date over these last four years as we prototyped and pivoted, tested and scrapped dozens of failing directions in order to come up with the theme, the concept, the sequence, and the small team that is the right one for us here at DK, well it’s a lot. But yeah. They started with: showing up. And conversations that go somewhere.
Social capital. Is that, and so many other things, enfolded into its coat sleeves, pockets… places we’ve forgotten about as we chase the bigger kind of more prominent style of ‘more.’ (Fame, money, popularity, all that stuff). But… let’s be real: social capital, the good stuff that it brings to us, and the community it builds, is the most important kind of ‘capital’ there really is.
Feature illustration: By Dipika Kohli // Phnom Penh 2015
‘Art, at its best, is a conversation. One in which sender and receiver are locked in a timeless, wordless space, the quality of which only they can know:’ –Dipika Kohli, S P A C E | Palo Alto, 2014, in a conversation with the people who inspired S P A C E the zine.
As consultants, DK’s work is about discovering a strong concept of ‘why’ one does the work that one does. We use a lot of techniques to uncover that exact main idea, but the biggest tool we put into practice is dialogue. On a more personal note, DK’s founders and collaborators are generally curious, and interested in the art of conversation, so together we host events to gather in one moment those whose paths might not have otherwise crossed.
ART OF CONVERSATION. Central questions of identity, possibility, and search are the points from which DK’s inquiry takes its departure. Who are we becoming when we venture to places, and engage with cultures, the rules and shape of which we do not yet know? Dialogue is at the center of DK’s take on leveraging the best of the creative process, and it lies at the heart of all that we do. Whether we are in a client meeting or getting acquainted with a potential new friend, we are listening as best as we can. Through time, and sharing, there comes a moment when we arrive together at a conceptual ‘a-ha’. This is the breakthrough, and from here, the poetry of the connection becomes refined, nuanced, developed, and… more interesting.
DK was founded in 2004 in Seattle, WA, USA. Since that time, DK has worked with 100+ business owners of companies both large and small, as well as international development organizations. See what people say about working with DK.
Be a part of things to come
Are you ready to take part in something very new, and very much about exploring the ways to connect, and interconnect, new and different others? The best way to be part of DK is to support our work, first. To do that you can become a subscriber of S P A C E for USD $7/week, or make a donation, at our crowdfunding page. Or, show up in real life at any of our events. New projects ahead for 2020. KIT when you support this work to make more and better S P A C E.
In 1996 Michael Haerdter of Berlin’s Künstlerhaus Bethanien called artists ‘post-modern nomads’ or ‘wanderers between cultures’. Migrating artists, he said, ‘belong with the many transcultural messengers of a world whose keywords are nomadism and globalism.’ Goes on to say the fact that we see the invention (and spreading about) of residential art centers relates to the need of artists ‘to experience the world and its many environments and cultures, to realise in situ research and projects, to be temporarily part of creative communities, and to profit from the opportunity they offer for exchanging ideas and know-how.’
‘Postmodern nomads’: new salon
Let’s talk about it. Let’s meet, converse, connect and discuss, and get to places because of progressions and continuity, which can only come with a longitudinal axis of trust-building. Over. Time. Are you ready to begin this kind of trek with us? This one is a build on what we had begun in early 2018, with ‘Notes.’
It’s a special online salon about postmodern nomadism, or whatever else we want to talk about there. Note: eligibility; this open invitation is for those who are new to DK this year.
Starting in March, there’ll be much more to say. In online forums. These happen every week when I share prompts, in our online community, through email. It’s pretty straightforward and it works well, because it’s just a handful of us, for each conversation space. Curated because of the gut-feeling that ‘this works with that, I think,’ or ‘maybe so-and-so would enjoy meeting so-and-so,’ and that’s how t begins. In the style of ‘N’, and other of our events, workshops, ateliers, and gatherings, it’s about who shows up more than it is about what we each have to say… listening is the point. Seeing what emerges. That’s how each topic got started, in fact. Breakout sessions when a certain thread or strand was developing. Asking members and guests-who-could-enjoy-membership-if-they-let-themselves-make-time to weigh in with 2c bits and pieces. The new things are starting. It’s a lot of fun, already, in preconversation salons that are getting things into alignment.
Putting all the stories together in-situ, both for friends, for editors I know and whose work to help me make things better is very much welcome and valued, and for the guests who are part of our online forums and are subscribers to our online community, S P A C E.
Without S P A C E conversations, things wouldn’t develop or progress: we wouldn’t have richness and complexity, and continuity, without which stuff just stays superficial and boring and rah-rah ‘be like me’ style of blogging or lifestyle crud that doesn’t help anybody in any way at all, if you really look at it underneath the veneer. Who wants to read a blog or writing by someone they don’t know? Think about that. That’s why I’m focused *only* on writing my very bestest stuff for S P A C E. And friends. And, of course, collaborators.
Coming up to the middle of February and we’ll start sharing the on-the-road zine-making progress in real life at popup salons in cities and towns around Việt Nam.
First one is set for 19 February. Today I’m inviting a handful of curious people I’ve met in recent weeks, who are based the city of… well. You can click the link.
I’ll be editing and cutting, pasting and sewing, these into miniature books and sharing those out by postal mail—yes!—since the service is excellent here, at the end of my time in this country and before the next one. So as to make more and better—and different-er—S P A C E. Follow the story–and be a part of it (interactive forums starting soon)–when you subscribe and get our weekly zine.
WHAT IS ‘The Work of Art?” Conversations that began in an online forum, The Mirror, opened the discussions about this in early 2018.
After a year of ruminations, one key reflection is this.
If you don’t show up for the chance encounters in the places where you have no idea what’s going to happen, the art you make isn’t ever going to get to any place of real depth. Because it’s still in your own little bubble that you are working, and no one is going to make you ask the hard questions about it, to make it better.
A LOT OF PEOPLE talk about how you have to ‘get inspired’ if you want to write or make art. That’s not true. Anyone who does this in a serious way knows that it’s really about showing up and practicing, over and over. The whole ‘get away for a week and just write so I can finally get my novel written’ is so…’ [a segment of this has been deleted because it’s really personal and long-winded and not really a good idea to put in a public-facing post, erm]… optimizing for the things that you want. Knowing what those are. All that.
I had the idea to make ‘zines’ because I wanted to do something that would be short, sweet, made on the spot, and easy to put together and assemble and quickly share. I had this gigantic multi-tab spreadsheet and color codes, columns, sorted pages, unsorted pages, and so many exclamation points that I can’t even tell you how fun it was. My dearest friends know that it was, for me, a time of ‘crunching the data’ and seeing the ‘a-ha’ as and when it showed itself. You just can’t do it any other way. You have to get in there and muck around with a thing if you want it to tell you anything interesting. This is why we are doing ‘agile publishing.’ And ‘experiential writing.’ And, and, and. I wonder what F would say about all this.
But yeah. This thinking came after years of trying a lot of things (I do mean a *lot*) including salons, workshops, client gigs, lots of doodling about, some forays into showing art work, exhibitions at places that did open calls, artist residencies, actual 9-5 gigs for multiyear stretches (yes! not kidding!), and doing what people in agile development like to call ‘pivoting’ when it comes to regrouping and redesigning and adusting to market forces.
There are times when I wish that the market forces would evaporate and people would just see and know what ‘quality’ is, but then again, Robert Pirsig wrote all those bunches and bunches of words lamenting this same phenomenon and I can see that he only made peace with it when he accepted that just not all that many people in the world are gonna care about what you care about. Happily, I found Lila, his sequel to Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, in a guesthouse in Melakka in Malaysia, and toted it with me back to Phnom Penh, and now have it here, with me, in… *somewhere else*. Somewhere new.
(On the way from ‘before’ to ‘next.’ And then… Riga.)
IT WAS FORTUNATE and disappointing to discover that someone I had imagined would find it very interesting to read Lila had not picked it up from the place I had left it for him, a small lobby of a place with staff who were wondering why I kept popping in and out, bicycle-helmeted, in my falling-apart outfits, asking about an obscure hardcover book. But it is an important book to me. It is for sharing with the people who are interested in the things I am interested in and that Pirsig was. Quality. Seeking it, questing for it. And when something or someone comes along that lends you a new angle on how to approach it (books can do this, people, places, travel, the scent of fresh rain after a few days of humidity, all of that), you know that it’s the most imperative in the world thing to do to sit up and listen. At least, for me. I’m questing S P A C E. And S P A C E attracts S P A C E. It’s like that. Abundance. Et cetera. But for me, subtracting things also helps me make space. Editing out what doesn’t work helps me better see the picture of the more important substance that attracts more of itself to make the whole. That is pretty esoteric. I should ask PH to comment, somewhere. I will. In S P A C E.
Does everyone want to hear about these things? No.
Does it matter to me that they don’t? Hmmmmm. *conflicted*
What is the role of the artist? To make art, but then, what the hell is the point making it, all alone?
Choreography, S P A CE
Talking with Susan Yeung How Wah in Singapore, a choreographer, helped a lot with starting this new thinking. (I ran into her by chance in November 2017, after hanging around that city wondering if there was a way to really make a ‘go’ of Atelier S P A C E | Singapore. I was wandering about the city staring at my feet, wishing it could all work itself out like magic. Then, boom. Into my life walked the expression of magic, herself.
I managed to meet her by the by, and talk with for a full afternoon at La Salle’s Lowercase Cafe, because it was there, and so were we and why not, isn’t this the stuff of art and design and making? Conversation starts it all, doesn’t it?
So we made a time and we showed up.
That was when things began, in a large way, with setting the stage for the seeding of S P A C E. I’m dramatizing, of course, but she is really full of brilliance. I can tell. You always can, right?, when you meet rare gems amongst our lot who are also asking questions, going out on a limb, and showing up to try the experimental, and the new. (Thanks, SY!)
Who would know better than a choreographer about how to get people to work together artfully? The more we talked, the more I saw the beginning of a pattern I’ve been seeing now for a few years when I show up with a big list of questions and ‘ask the expert.’ Like it’s an interview or something. It never works like that, now. It turns into a conversation. I hear people say, ‘DK… This sure is… different. You’re doing something I’ve not seen, but it’s making me think.’
I ask for advice.
‘No, I don’t have anything. Keep going. That’s all I can say.’
NEW 2019 FORUMS BEGIN. Such conversation spacemaking is exactly what S P A C E is designed to invite. Curious? I was thinking we could talk about ‘Statics & Dynamics’ this coming month. Who wants to know more? Ask me through the form here. Or, just subscribe to S P A C E to get both our weekly digital zine + the passcodes to our ongoing forums. These are the active spaces.
Data are data. It is the intellectual framework which one deals with the data that is at fault. The fault is with subject-object metaphysics itself… what Phaedrus was saying was that not just life, but everything, is an ethical activity. It is nothing else. When Quality postulates they’ve done so because it’s better and that this definition of ‘betterness’–this beginning response to Dynamic Quality–is an elementary unit of ethics upon which all right and wrong can be based. When this understanding first broke through in Phaderus’ mind, that ethics and science had suddenly been integrated into a single system, he became so manic he couldn’t think of anything else for days.** The only time he had been more manic about an abstract idea was when he had first hit upon the idea of undefined quality itself. The consequence of that first mania had been disastrous, and so now, this time, he told himself just to calm down and dig in. It was, for him, a great Dynamic breakthrough, but if he wanted to hang on to it, he had better do some static latching as quickly and thoroughly as possible. —R. Pirsig
IT IS EVENING. I’m supposed to be finished. Packing. The things to come are already starting, and I can feel the pull of the magnet that is calling. Towards the next. Whatever it is. I remember this feeling: five years ago, I was writing about getting new passport pictures, for Charlotte, NC editor Samir Shukla‘s Saathee Magazine. This would have been in North Carolina, and this was the kind of Indian diaspora magazine that, really, never usually crossed my mind to write for, but I had queried about writing a piece and it had been an easy thing to pitch: ‘I’m going traveling: taking to the road. No idea what’s gonna happen. A story?’ I had a hunch my father would read it, if I got it sent in there. I figured, too, later, with the column that started there and then and went on for a year, then two, that I had a way, in this mode, to keep in touch with my dad.
Art and the story
That’s how it starts, doesn’t it? You have a person you want to write towards. That time, it was my father. The story, ‘Passport Pictures’, ran as the first of a series of a column that we called ‘Just Being Honest.’ I never expected the kinds of twists and turns that this series would take, or that I would expand into other stories and other features, writing another column, over at Assung Ng‘s Seattle-based community paper, Northwest Asian Weekly (a newspaper that DK rebranded on their 25th anniversary). That was called ‘The Village Report.’ In 2016, everything that seemed interesting to me from these conversations got somehow turned into the eBook, Breakfast in Cambodia (Kismuth Books // 2016).
Today I was thinking I should put it online, so people could read it. Download it. Not for $$$, but you know, for free. Because it’s not a bad story, I don’t think, and it sums up a lot of the feelings that someone who is on the road indefinitely for you-don’t–know-how-long, on their way from ‘not quite’ to ‘somewhere else’ but not sure what that looks like would have. I remember the feeling: people were like, ‘You’re going where? You don’t know? And you’re gonna do what? With no plan? OMG WTF you’re crazy.’ Despite the pull towards the status quo, in those days, I felt that there was something far more compelling in the ‘out there, wherever it is.’ I don’t know why. Was it because I had studied abroad in Kyoto, and in Ghana? Or taken my first solo trips to India and the United Kingdom in my early twenties all alone without predictable plans or a reason or something ‘to be done’ in those places? Or lived in Ireland for three years? If people could have gotten inside my head, maybe they would have seen that I was interested in ‘other people, other places, and other ways of thinking.’ I remember this. I remember that look: ‘but… why? And how will you make any money?’ Um. Right.
Next stop: wherever it is
Fast forward five years. I just got new passport pictures. My passport is back from the Embassy, a place I had avoided for the whole time I’ve been in Cambodia (four years). This time, I got my passport pictures done in Johor Bahru. I had no qualms whatsoever about the fact that I had been up until 3AM the night before on a very intriguing call across the world, or that my clothes were rumpled, or that I wasn’t gonna be wearing something that I picked out carefully because, hell, this was your passport. No. I just saw this place, went in. It was hot. It was air-conditioned inside. No big deal: got the pictures. Sized for the passport for the United States of America.
Today I got the first visa for the new passport. I’m gonna try to get longer visas this time so the book doesn’t fill up before it’s expired. It’s really amazing: the fresh feeling. I was reminded of ‘Passport Pictures’ and I compared my old self and my current one. Staring into the lens, this time, there is different person altogether. Not worried about ‘not knowing.’ And not caring one iota about who thinks what about it, besides. Because the going is the point of it; the transition happens there. I’m writing and talking with people I really admire, now, with the internet circle in S P A C E and the very close set of friends and collaborators who, along with me, have been on this wide quest. Towards quality: not just making something that works or turns around dollars, but something that opens the heart. I mean, it sounds crazy. But art. Is now. Actually. Needed.
The poets will help us get through this weird time of change and transition. Suffering: there are volumes written on coping, and dealing with the feeling of not knowing how to cope when things are abstract and far. There are egos. There is therapy. There are people who work on themselves, and get to a point where they are strong enough to share with close fiends how to grow. I remember thinking ‘grow’ was a funny word. I remember my cousin saying that Atlanta ‘really helped me grow.’ And I wrote four or five pages in my diary about that, about that whole idea. At that time, I had thought that growing was just about gathering more of something. More is more philosophy. But now, I think, growing is finding your way towards the things that really matter: to you. It’s subjective, of course. Looking inward, noticing deeply, attuning to what people around you feel and think and don’t-say, but which, if you’re awake enough, you can sort of read with a sixth sense… that’s important. That’s big work. I’m seriously writing this, now, on my blog?, I’m a little nervous about making this one public-facing. But yesterday and today I had one of those conversations that was like, ‘Whoa.’ Big thanks to my friends in Phnom Penh, who might not want to be called out publicly here, because… well, the kinds of conversations we have… are not the kinds that you want everyone to know about. But one day, when I’m ready, I will find a way to share back with them my gratitude and the layers and layers of learning that have come of our shared explorations. I hope we’re all growing and changing, all the time, as we all move through this thing: a kind of real time play, an improvisation that always moves, it’s an act but it’s the real thing, and like they say, there are no rehearsals.
Life. Is here. Is real. Is now. Where am I going?
I don’t know. I just know that tomorrow, my visa for Cambodia expires. That I have some vague outlines of things to do, elsewhere. That there will be people, I’m convinced now, along the way who will open me up more. I’m ready for that kind of trip. It’s a fissure: I’m no longer looking back (the ‘where I’m from’ question ceases to be relevant), nor up, into the infinite. I’m being here, right here. Now.
THIS WEEK IN S P A C E, we are sharing our unique co-created zine, ‘One Moment Cafe.’
Made with great attention to detail, because it’s set in Kyoto, and that city taught DK just what the aesthetics of caring about setting, placement, and exactitude can lead to.
Special thanks to artist Kan Tomizawa, whom I have been lucky enough to get to know these last three years in Phnom Penh, for the sort of art school-esque conversations that have led to our co-created piece. Some of his poetry and paper collage art features in S P A C E | Kyoto, ‘One Moment Cafe.’ We’ll have four copies of this to share in real life at the meetup, details of which I *just* posted to people who had checked, ‘I want to read stories!’ at the signup page for our 2019 news and updates.
It’s sixteen pages.
The story is set in Kyoto 1995, a time when DK had two semesters of college time to be there, learn the language, and of course wander aimlessly, and often, through the city. Almost always, DK had handy a Minolta X-375, and spare rolls of film. Accepting her proposal for a study of ‘Japanese Lines,’ the Japan Foundation had awarded DK two grants for photography. Several images from that collection are included in this zine, S P A C E | Kyoto, too, though with an update of the variety that those familiar with DK’s newer style will not be surprised to see. (Think vectors, lines, and sharpie art: think sparse, airy, and light on the eye.)
S P A C E | Kyoto, ‘One Moment Cafe’ is available this week only. It is a digital PDF, distributed online at S P A C E. To get it, subscribe to S P A C E. To subscribe, go here.
That was surprising and refreshing. I had no idea… that such a small, short question could launch us into, well, I like to call it, um, S P A C E. Designing it: that’s what I do, mostly, but it’s hard to talk about when you haven’t actually experienced it… the things we said, right? Life. The journey. Etc.
Yeah. Writing a blog post and writing a journal are similar, but I’ve turned this into something else… like, public-facing letters. This. This, too. It’s a letter. Like as if we could find a way back to those times we would send postcards (except, hey, mail gets lost… I’ve already heard that an envelope went awry because of floods in the southeastern United States and because of probably rules and things you can’t put into them towards Eastern Europe. Alas.)
But so? We have internet. So let’s use it. To connect. Say, maybe, this was a postcard, or written in pencil, maybe even cursive. (As you know, there are mostly keyboards around in the cafes here, these days).
The things we said yesterday
WELL, I SAID I’d write up what we talked about, didn’t I? Tell you what I heard, tell you as clearly as I can given the background noise (a large group of Ozzies, but they are family-oriented types, they seem to be having a very grownup conversation about whereabouts of the travels of the others; catching up). Mind, it would be easier to write if it was as quiet as when you were here and with far fewer distractions around. When it starts filling up, I feel like leaving a place. More about that to be reflected on, inwardly: when a place gets ‘discovered’ it’s time to move on. I had this short pice I wrote about Haapavesi, in Finland, and someone saw that and said, ‘You went to Haapavesi? Haapavesi!? You go to… peculiar places!’ (Oh. Do I? I guess… I’m looking for new things. And not the things that have already been written about, blogged about, instagrammed, blah blah.) Food coloring in my avocado in Bali. Food coloring so it would be greener. You know, for the instagram. (I returned it.)
Ahead. Well. Sure. Big topic. The things to come are what they are going to be, right? We talked about, in my words, ‘where the turn happened.’ Both of us, questing. Finding one another by sheer chance, in that magic moment that later in the day, I ran into K and he and I talked about that. Some more. And som either things about narratives, but it dived into something super fast-paced and multi-layered when that conversation shifted (place, moment) to another box of space, closer to BKK1, where M was waiting with an empty plate and a laptop and ready to talk. About. Everything. Which I love. And here we are again… S P A C E quests S P A C E, I’m starting to realize, and sometimes I bump into the likes of wonderful young women like you, O, and it reminds me that I have to keep writing towards you: and the others, who are probably, if you are anything like me, wondering what to make of ‘it all’ and how to plough forward into the rough seas of the darkness of not-knowing. A good question.
Forays and purple prose
THAT SHOULD be a book, really. A Book of New Things. Am working on it, with some friends, behind the scenes here, to be honest. (All kinds of meanders, wanders, forays into the field, but coming back, touching down, resonance-finding and discovering.) Recently, after asking for some advice about where to take DK in 2019, someone I don’t know well told me to get rid of, in a nice way, I mean, but to tone down all the flowerylanguage. Ornamental verse, and all. Someone else had said that, too. ‘Just say it straight, DK. If you start getting attached to all the decorative writing, it’s nice, and all, but they won’t understand and they’ll just shake their heads and if they’re talking to you say, nicely, ‘I like this but I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.’ Noted. But you know? When I talk all flowery in real life, it’s a different kind of a moment. It’s actually… sometimes… welcomed, in a way, I feel? Maybe because it’s so rare that someone wants to talk in a way that sounds like it’s being written as she talks. I guess. That’s just. How I am, sometimes. Purple prose: it’s cool.
O, YOU WERE RIGHT. It is like a journal. Yet, I get to say ‘thanks’ here, to you. For saying it like it is: if we are the type of person who thinks a lot about a lot, often, and I mean, like, really often, and we have no idea if what we’re thinking about connects to anything else that anyone else is thinking about, and then we find each other, thinking about things often and a lot and deeply and even to a pint, sometimes, of losing it a little, (yes, it’s a thing), then yeah. We can relax a little. ‘Because someone else is taking care of that part, and caring about it,’ and stuff like that. Co-creating the Work of Doing It All Better… More some other time. Leave me a note if you see this?… (I had more here but I realize I wanted to spend more time writing properly; so tired from the Water Festival traffic, heat, etc. Hope you found your way around town and that it’s all okay with the little bro, too.)