Lots of conversations. Lots of back and forth. Lots of email, discussion, redirection.
All of it goes into the current week’s issue, S P A C E | Rovaniemi, ‘Blank Sky Checklist.’
Cover photo by BOSS.
‘Art takes time’
This week, we publish Issue #44.
It’s a cocreation between Alexis Jokela in Finland and Dipika Kohli, our creative director and editor of Autumn 2019’s S P A C E collection, ‘Trust the Process.’
DK had spent three months in the north of Finland in summer 2018. ‘The whole thing is getting kind of interesting now that the conversations are weaving over themselves and inviting new people to join them, too. That’s because, I think, it’s because, mostly, I love to keep things moving, keep things in progression, because it’s more fun than starting from zero. Art, like I wrote in A Place Called Home, art takes time.’ For DK, the best part is that things are starting to place themselves in such wonderful ways that people are meeting each other now. In person, even. This is beautiful. Connexion, at its best.
Order S P A C E | Rovaniemi, ‘Blank Sky Checklist’…
This week, the lead story is ‘Ch_cklist,’ by Alexis Jokela, who also is the author of ‘A Summer Love Story’. That was published in S P A C E’ | Oulu. Following similar threads, ‘Ch_cklist’ touches on the things we all go through when we manage to learn how to master our feelings, let things move and shift, and find flow.
S P A C E | Rovaniemi, ‘Blank Sky Checklist’ is published exclusively here in S P A C E. Download it all this here.
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.
In the last few days, we began to ask a couple of people if they were curious about talking together in an online forum, on the topic of W O R K. Enough said ‘yes’ to make it *happen*. So…
This week, we have begun the journey in a set of protected pages, on this website. That’s what all the protected page posts are, if you were wondering. We’re talking together, but not in public forums, because we want to keep the circle small, cozy… intimate. You talk about the things that matter the most, and you don’t want to blab to the whole wide internet about them.
Read about ‘work‘, the online dialogue, and how come we started it.
What makes for good, quality ‘work’?, this began with. In some really fascinating threads over the last three years here (behind the scenes, in protected-page posts), I have learned one hell of a lot about this, and especially, what my guests and partners in these conversations have had to say.
Things go back a ways, for example, when we were in Durham NC, DK’s Akira Morita had hosted a conversation forum that was called re (WORK).
Here’s a pic.
While it’s great and awesome to be able to get together in real life for conversations, sometimes people are just in very different parts of the world whom we are interested in gathering together in space. So that’s why we do the online conversations. We want to connect, and interconnect, a very wide range of perspectives so that we can learn from each other and discover new inputs.
What is ‘work’?
Well let’s just get right to it, shall we?
What is work, anyway?
That’s the focus.
This exact, narrow query.
‘What is the future of work, that’s a different question, and a favorite of some of the people whom I used to know, back in Seattle, when we sat around with our super remote and super design-your-own-day style of working, whether over Belgian beers at Stumbling Monk at Designers’ Korner, say, or over coffee at Top Pot on Summit Avenue, which was just down the street from one of the offices I used to rent, on Olive Way. It was so good, those days of being in the space of playfulness and learning, together.
‘I still remember when LS came by to one of the ‘Dream Kitchen’ lunch sessions. I remember how he said some things that really resonated with me, and had heard about the event, somehow, I think through the newspaper maybe or some other spot, I swear, I have no idea, but then, years later, sitting in a house in the north of Finland, I suddenly remembered it.
‘How it felt to receive new people from ‘the internet’ to my office, welcome them to the conference room table, share coffee or tea or whatever, and then just… talk. We talked then in that session about what our dreams were outside of work. It was… great. To have a chance to hear out what people were feeling and thinking, but just for a time, and then everyone went along on their own, separate journeys. I wrote to LS out of the blue, more than a decade later, hoping I spelled his name correctly and hoping he was the only one who had that gmail address. Surprisingly, I got through. He wrote right back and asked me what I was thinking, where I was, how I was doing, and I did the same. Our journeys went in many directions, of course, in separate phases, but hell, what a cool thing it was to have heard someone say, ‘I remember that conversation.’
‘But: come to think of it, I remember, too. Which is exactly why the words ‘Hit the high note’ came back to me, all these years later. LS said, on the call that we had, that they weren’t his words, but he was quoting. Didn’t matter: the feeling of wanting to raise the bar never left me, and ‘hit the high note’ expressed it so very clearly, so very well.
‘I remember a lot of them. Not all, of course. And I get to hear so many of them, day by day, because of the design intention that it took all these years to crystallize. Optimizing for the ‘a-ha’ moment–I can tell you more about this.
‘I have a lot more to say.
‘And so do our guests, I imagine, too.
‘Let’s get to it.
‘I’m gonna share more when I’m ready, about the new things beginning, thanks in large part to SJ. It’s cool. I’m jazzed. It’s… flowing.’
Be a part of the conversations
We’re going to get started soon. I’m sending the pre-start homework out this weekend. Ask us anything, if you are curious, through the form at the end of this page. If there’s enough interest, we’ll do a real-life version of this, somewhere in Vietnam, in the early part of September.
Read about’work‘, the online dialogue, and how come we started it.
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
‘We are now faced with the fact, my friends, that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late.
‘Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked, and dejected with a lost opportunity. The tide in the affairs of men does not remain at flood—it ebbs. We may cry out desperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is adamant to every plea and rushes on. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residues of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words, “Too late.” There is an invisible book of life that faithfully records our vigilance or our neglect. Omar Khayyam is right: “The moving finger writes, and having writ moves on.”
‘We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent coannihilation. We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for peace in Vietnam and justice throughout the developing world, a world that borders on our doors. If we do not act, we shall surely be dragged down the long, dark, and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.
‘Now let us begin. Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter, but beautiful, struggle for a new world. This is the calling of the sons of God, and our brothers wait eagerly for our response. Shall we say the odds are too great? Shall we tell them the struggle is too hard? Will our message be that the forces of American life militate against their arrival as full men, and we send our deepest regrets? Or will there be another message—of longing, of hope, of solidarity with their yearnings, of commitment to their cause, whatever the cost? The choice is ours, and though we might prefer it otherwise, we must choose in this crucial moment of human history.’
BOSS is reading Sherlock Holmes. (I’ve never read it). BOSS has read ‘The Merchant of Venice’ and a number of other Shakespeare pieces*, which he remarks upon from time to time, saying random things like, ‘That’s just blank verse.’ I, for my part, am amused and bewildered that someone with his capacity for ingesting volumes at a time of words should be my partner in ateliers on the road, here, while I am in Việt Nam. Yes, those are the accurate feelings. Wildly curious, and like a leaf that’s fallen in autumn without any idea of how it got there. (Hat tip, S P A C E guests who might have seen that page in ‘Vakt.’)
*BOSS: ‘Isn’t it Shakespearean?’
Look: making things that people want to read is not easy. making things that are artful is not marketable. But why not keep going? The road is where we are, at the moment. Hanoi. Then Tokyo. Then, ?, and ?, and ?, and then Riga. To connect. Together, in S P A C E. Designing and discovering, but learning in the short stops and the long spans in the moments of *a-ha*. He who doesn’t love the creative process will not engage with us, to be sure. But if you read and detect and find the clues, which don’t show up by stumbling upon them by chance, as BOSS says, but by reasoning your way towards the things that make themselves line up in a way that says, ‘There! That is the direction to go!’ then yeah. Look for more from us.
‘Thwarted by a woman’
BOSS: ‘The reason I like The Scandal of Bohemia better is because he was thwarted.’
Me: ‘Who’s he? Whose plans?’
BOSS: ‘Sherlock. Holmes’.’
BOSS: ‘Because his plans were… thwarted by a woman.’
..And that was how a great scandal threatened to affect the Kingdom of Bohemia, and how the best plans of Mr. Sherlock Holmes were beaten by a woman’s wit. He used to make merry over the cleverness of women but I have not heard him do it of late. And when he speaks of Irene Adler or when he refers to her photograph, it is always under the honorable title of the woman. —‘The Scandal of Bohemia,’ in The Best of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Wordsworth Classics: London, 1925)
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
Trying new things. Nurturing our community. Building something real. Together. In S P A C E.
Pictured is a zine, one of our limited-edition ones that DK had made over the summer of 2018 in the long days of light in northern Finland. A bunch were on display for a time on International Zine Day, at our new friend Eveliina Karsikas‘ Cafe Onni in Kärsämäki. I got to know her because of lots of things, starting promptly with a shared interest in bright colors. The place was brand new, and she was just getting going. Being me (but only when I find a place and person that I really enjoy chatting with), I offered a zinemaking workshop, not often done around there. Surprisingly people actually came, we had cake and coffee and made zines together, and colored into miniature zine-coloring-books while mostly just enjoying real life and real time, together.
THEN, the zine traveled with me, north to Rovaniemi.
Which was where I met Karoliina Erkinjuntti, of the curious and talented collective Alice in Northernland. Out of the blue, on a rare whim, I offered her a trade. Could I give her this zine, in exchange for some of her postcards?
She said yes.
So, cool. We were gonna trade our art pieces. I haven’t done that since artschool.
Or maybe writing all those letters, they were like little pieces of art, back in the day between a particular spot in North Carolina and wherever I was in the world. But that was… the 1990s. Still, from those early days of sharing mutually of ourselves and our expressions through our words and papers and collages and drawings, I know that whenever my artist friends trade things with me, we actually take notice of it, and then, it’s valued.
(Aside: Earlier in the summer of 2018 in Finland, another person, an artist from Belgium, a painter, had asked me what I do with all of the things I make because aren’t there sure a lot and I said yes and I don’t know really just keep ’em around mostly but try to share them if I can, too, and she said some other things and then something about burning the works. Burning them? That seems… awfully… well.)
In Rovaniemi, at that moment, in that spot, winding down from my journey through the experience of three very bright months in the most northerly place I’ve ever been, inspired and recharged, I remember it was nice. The feeling that we could get along in this world without something as crass to quantify our works as silly things like green pieces of paper. Or colorful ones, this being euros we were talking about, in Finland… I guess I got into that little argument mostly because of this feeling. That work is work: and money is not a quantifier of what makes something good. Money is just… oh, but that’s another jam.
So big. And we’re so brainwashed about so much of it. ‘Money’s value,’ work, art, that thing’s value… there is a lot to unpack here. I remember talking a lot about this when I first met Michael Linton of Open Money; he was a speaker at something in Seattle and later he and his team consulted with us about brand design, and brand messaging. Which was also a trade, I think, or maybe we just… well I think… it’s not like it matters… I learned a ton from his team. And on Open Money’s website it says it straight:
Money is just information, a way we measure what we trade, nothing of value in itself. And we can make it ourselves, to work as a complement to conventional money. Just a matter of design.
With that short proclamation, which drew sharp intakes and gasps from the hundreds gathered there, for me, the accumulation of green pieces of paper and that’s what I call them, you know, well, yeah, this stuff, which is what some of us have been programmed to think is what is desirable, became far, far less important, and going broke (or below) wasn’t such a big deal or even a point of shame, either. Despite what one might think. What is value, what is work, what is art? This coming Tuesday we’ll share in S P A C E | Brussels, ‘The Work of Art’ some of the gleanings from recent dialogues on the topic of value, work, and art.
Good fun. I’ll save the deeper discussions for the private spaces of our forums. Some of us are already well underway talking together in a forum called ‘Strange Geometries.’ In a small, inner circle of S P A C E. Which of course is what I had promised, at the end of 2018, when the earliest adopters of it joined DK in S P A C E.
A final note: of gratitude. Thank you Karoliina and Eveliina. For trusting me, and sharing your time and art. That’s it, isn’t it? That’s trusting the process. (If you see this, someday, know that I’ve not forgotten our exchanges. Maybe we can continue one day. I’m thinking of getting back to Finland for 2019…)
N. Cool. I left you a note. I hope you get that, and this. I’ll see you in Riga, maybe. (One hundred percent serious).
I have to hold myself back from going into advice-giving mode, but I can’t help but write that thing the way I wrote it, and also, this:
There are good people running about in the world also asking questions, as you are. Don’t worry: we’ll find some of us, some of each other eventually, and then it won’t seem so daunting and crazy and big and hard. At least, that’s what I’ve noticed.
You left a great impression on me: thanks for that.
Lately I’m finding a string of chance encounters with young women who are reminding me of my earlier goal to put together a body of work designed to help teens, mostly, figure themselves out… or rather… to begin to frame the space that lets you discover yourself fully and completely and not quit in the middle because of some pressures to conform to some things that when you really think about it (as I see you are) really run counter to that. We are taught to be something, a certain way, a certain style, without investigating our way towards something… that we don’t even know what it is yet. Letting the journey come towards us… I remember my friend P in Durham NC saying to me that there’s a Native American tradition that says when a woman turns forty she chooses a name for herself…
Will do more thinking about what we said when I take the time this week to get away from ‘it all’. Or, wait. Maybe just not-think for a spell…
To the journeys, the new, the near and the next. See you in the up.
LIFE. STORIES. Multiple, divergent, intersecting, and contradicting pluralities of narratives: the things we are pursuing here are not so much about gathering outcomes and publishing stuff that sounds and looks interesting (but has no content); rather, we want to invite into our innermost circles, in S P A C E, the exact kinds of new and different others who will show us, together, as we get going, in our conversations in the protected-page posts that constitute, as a set, the thing we call S P A C E, well yeah. All of it. Is a thing now. There’s a bulk to this that I can’t deny; a gravitas and a resonance that stays with people. They tell me this. ‘I really enjoyed that exercise you did; it was super relevant at the time, do you remember, you put us in groups, ‘Past,’ ‘Present,’ and ‘Future?’ asked my friend MR, whom I’d met at one of my events in Bangkok and who went on to join DK again at something called ‘16N‘ in that same city, the next year.
(Honestly, we didn’t recall that exercise or think much about what it might have meant to everyone; at the time, we were just hosting, and hosting means you’re talking to people and making sure everyone feels included, that her or his voice counts, that she or he is invited to all the conversations circling about, moving, changing, diving into other spaces, letting that happen.
Of course the afterparty for ‘N’ there had to be at a jazz club: improvising in collage and collaborating with jazZ happens! there, that was also very fun. With both, it’s a jam session: making it up as we go, but also, playing off what we learn, together, from one another. Most importantly, there’s no hierarchy. It’s flat. We’re talking, together, in dialogue. Round tables. Let me tell you a bit more about this idea, of circles. (SN, watching Akira Morita in action one time hosting a meeting, had called it ‘circle time.’ We love circle time, here at DK. Why? Lots of reasons.’)
Dialogues that are really good are the kinds ‘with a center, and not sides,’ as William Isaacs, had put it in his book, Dialogue. How lucky I am to have been able to reach out directly to Isaacs, ahead of my conversation salon series, ‘Modern Sikkim: What does it mean to be Sikkimese?’ which had happened in Gangtok, Sikkim–a part of India that my relatives in Delhi aren’t too familiar with outside of an image of ‘the snowy mountains’. Well, wow. There is of course Kanchenjunga, but before I go marveling about the miracles of the Himalaya, and daydreaming about going back there in November (yes: mark it! Atelier S P A C E || Gangtok is in the works), well, yeah, so what was I saying? Oh! This: I’m lucky, very, I could ask William Isaacs directly, over email, in 2013, thinking hard about the design of Modern Sikkim and how to collaborate well and whom I should contact to make a go of it and what we would do in the spaces-to-become, well, yeah. How I could make such a conversation salon series work well was important to me. Researching that. Learning what to do in the instance that someone tried to be overbearing (this happens a lot, in societies where there are hierarchies established from social class, economic status, or hey, let’s be real, male and female gender roles), all that normal stuff you have to figure in, and be ready to take on, when it does hit you, all that. And I remember the email coming back. What a good feeling, to get a note from the internet to say, Just do what you’re doing and here’s some more stuff to think about, more or less. Well. What a nice thing to feel reassured that no one knows what’s on the way, not ever, not fully, but that allowing things to pop up by hosting a space that is inviting, safe, comfortable, relaxing, and readied for the things-that-might-happen, well, that’s the work. And the art. So it began. A journey into making more and better such space, or, as I call it now, S P A C E. I’m the architect of it; we follow a checklist, it has 7 points, to do this in a way that works, in DK’s style. Which is what? Well, you can read my personal artist statement thingy at this website, if you’re curious about what interests me about gathering people in these ways. ‘I want people to relax. To feel air, space, and comfort.’ Find it in context at dipikakohli.com.
But in the meantime, there’s this.
Philosophy of the moment
GETTING SET. For our first-ever online salon, ‘Philosophy of the Moment.’ In which we’re going to share all of the best learnings and gathered notes from our decades-long pursuit of the big questions, ‘What are we doing here? What does it mean? What is ‘good’? What makes it remarkable? What does a meaningful life look like? How can I make changes so that I can better enjoy the life I have? What does it mean to love? How does it feel to let go? Where are the important notes to carry forward? What kind of legacy do I want to leave? Who am I? Who am I, apart from you? What is my role in society? How am I doing, and where I am going, and does it mean much to consider these questions, and besides, what is ‘time?”‘ What’s this all about? Find out.
A LONG TIME AGO, I used to blog here every single day. This was at a time when WordPress was just coming out, facebook wasn’t a thing yet, and no one had an inkling of what instagram would do to us. Twitter was there, but it was still just for the geeks, and when you wrote the blog, people actually went to it, and left comments. Those were fun times. In fact, the blog was where we found most of our new clients: people somehow, I think, felt that they could trust our open style, and what someone called ‘your transparency.’ Is that what it is, when you write what you mean, and say what you feel, directly? I think it must be. So many facades out there. So many ways of tricking people into clicking something or buying something that doesn’t really fit with their needs, or even add up to what they imagined it would be. We have so many—too many, I feel—ways to be influenced by something we think is one way and want desperately to believe in, but in fact, turns out to be a dud. Why does this happen?
I think I’m learning a little bit this summer about why it happens. I think, for one, we fall in love with a projection of something we feel a lack of, in ourselves. So the marketers are so clever they make it like what they are selling is what you need, exactly. Much like horoscope writing, what they say lacks specificity and the terms are so big and vague and one-size-fits-all-ish that anyone might believe in what they are being told. You try to and come up with something that has real quality to it, and you try to tell people that, and my goodness, you are looked at like you are some kind of Martian. Why? Because people are so used to being sold to that they want, well, they want you to sell it to them. Whatever ‘it’ might be. Every so often, someone says it to me: ‘You need to sell this better, DK,’ for example. I find myself feeling like I did when I wore black jeans, black shoes’ and black t-shirts and zipped around New York City’s Manhattan up and down the roads at my fastest on my very dark green, almost-black bicycle. What the hell do I need to sell it to you for? Look at the damn thing. But no. Not these days. These days it’s, ‘You need a speech.’
Do I need a speech?
‘No, I don’t need a marketing spiel.’
NO. Not for the people I want to connect with. Not for my audience. My audience is people who read long blog posts, like, even this far. They aren’t going to complain to me about how it was ‘TLDR.’ They like quality, they like good thoughtful considered points of view that come out when one is also interested in good, thoughtful, considered points of view and has listened to many others words and wisdoms. I mean, wow. The world. Order. Is so weird now. I feel. I am writing a narrative in my head, though, aren’t I? I’m connecting dots based on a projection of what I feel. That is just as bad as the whole being duped by marketers. Feckin’ hell, really. I mean, we cannot let ourselves get caught in the trap of letting our minds race around in a whirlpool, so fast, so quick, so off the mark from reality, that they consume us and keep us from seeing what’s, in fact, right in front of us.
The pursuit of beauty has, for many, many years been one of the recurring things in this blog that I loved to write about. Back in those days of daily posts, for example, I would write a whole series on this. Or, ‘In Search of Meaning.’ So yeah. ‘In Pursuit of Beauty’ and ISOM became my favorite categories. (Oh. If you’re wondering what happened to the old blog–so am I, kind of. It was downloaded to a laptop so we could refigure what we were gonna do in Asia with DK, and then, wham, that laptop got stolen. And no, the backup… isn’t with us or in the cloud, but some old bits and pieces are probably on some CD somewhere at a friend’s house somewhere, at least, I hope so.)
Our IT lads say the CD is not going to last forever, that the archives that we left will also fade away. Here I could write some kind of poetic soliloquy on ephemera, but I’ll save it for S P A C E guests of ‘Slow Moment‘. (I am blogging publicly, here, but saving my best stuff for S P A C E. Better. We talk in the comments. It’s way more relational that way. A real conversation. Instead of… I don’t know. What is this? Blogging. Erm. One to many.)
I don’t like that. I don’t like… the whole… lurker thing. I mean, if you’re reading and you like this stuff, and you want to say, just say hi!
Here is a form. I will continue this another day. I’m feeling a little corny right now, listening to Finnish pops on the radio and kind of starting to recognize some of the repeating artists. What I always get a kick out of is when the songs come on from the 80s and 90s. Roxette, for example. Look Sharp! I remember! And so much Phil Collins. And Michael Jackson. And Tina Turner. Then there’s A-Ha, which is lovely, and more stuff. The Finnish rap is fun, too. I am enjoying all of this bundling of various; it’s refreshing, and a change from where I usually live. Which is, uh. Currently: Destination Unknown.
‘I know! It’s wonderful. I have space and time to write anything. Anything at all. And it feels good, getting better.’
‘Yes. Also, without the pressure of having to produce something for the market.’
‘The market drives things.’
‘But the market doesn’t know what a good thing is. It just knows what a thing that people want is.’
‘And a thing that people want is made up by the stories and illusions that marketers make so that people talk themselves into wanting those things. Look at sillybands!, is that what that craze was called? Look at diamond rings! Did you see that spoof of the diamond thing, on YouTube? That was so hilarious.’
‘I saw that! Ohmygod. That was so funny.’
‘What about though, the fact that we’re just so damn distarcted now. We can’t even deal with something that’s more than 200 characters long to read. It makes us tired. Overwhelmed. What about that?’
‘You want people to pay attention. To think.’
‘Well, that’s hard.’
‘You want people to notice each other. And to be able to pay attention to the beauty in the space around, and within. Right? That’s what you said? Something about gems and beauty and aura?’
‘That’s what I said, all right.’
‘And you’re in a sort of despair. Because of that stupid novel.’
‘That stupid novel! I couldn’t believe it! I opened it to study about how to you know, look at characters, set up dialogues, setting, stuff like that, see how other people do it, the bestsellers, and my gosh, it’s just pure shite. I’m gonna stick to classics, now. But you know, I was really disappointed because… It was an Irish author, so I had better expectations from the things that I got, but what I saw was a piece of crap. Made for the market. Made for people who simply want to escape from the monotony of their day to day lives.’
‘Isn’t that what novels are for? Aren’t you being overly critical of someone else’s art?’
‘No! Novels and books, short stories, poems, music of all kinds… the kind that I love is the kind that shakes it up. Makes you think about things in a new way. And you know what? It wasn’t art. It really, really wasn’t. Not according to my definition: which is where, you know, it’s more about the universal truths and relating to that which is all of ours, not just some casual throwaway cheap thrillers about suburban love trysts. Fucking boring.’
‘You want stuff that changes people’s thinking, a little. I think that’s what you’re saying. You want stuff that makes… well… Says… “look at that.”’
‘Yes! And I keep running into people who challenge me to do that, too. To look at things in new ways, around and around, from varying perspectives. This is the fun of it, the discovering and the journey.’
‘You’re talking a lot about moving around and seeing things and shaking it up. But what about practically? How do you pay for all this?’
‘That’s a good f’ing question, mate.’
‘But how do you?’
‘No, seriously. I need to know.’
‘Pay attention to the things I am saying, and I’ll start paying attention to your questions. Until you become part of my circle, I don’t know you. The invitations are there. All the time. But if you just can’t be bothered participating, what am I supposed to do? Follow up on everything? Hope that you’ll come on board? I finally shortlisted my list of contacts. I found myself realizing I simply don’t care about most of the old ones. Just don’t. Just can’t. Too many people! I can’t keep up. Do I want to keep up? No. I can’t do that, without compromising. And I don’t want to compromise. That’s why I’m not writing porn for the masses, or sci fi for the geeks, or ‘be like me’ crap for the life coach-y. I hate that stuff. I want to make art, mate. Art! Not art for the sake of art, for me, or whatever, and by the way, did you see the film Posthumous?, that, and yeah, not art for self-expression in a ditch of a hut off to the side of the woods forever or anything like that, but art because… the conversation is the art. The noticing of one another. The being-here-now. I am learning all the time, of course, but it’s time to start practicing, sharing, making S P A C E for more than just me. I can’t do this thing alone. Someone told me yesterday…’
‘You told me. That “artists are supposed to be starving.”’
‘I told you? Yeah. What a load of bollix.’
‘But didn’t you meet that marketing person who said he wanted to be a publicist for you?’
‘Oh, him. I can’t even tell you what a bunch of irritating movements I had to suppress during that short, awkward talk. I wanted to run. I didn’t want to talk about making myself into a spectacle for the internet to feel like they could relate to. My gosh. If there’s anything that I care about, it’s making spaces for real life and real conversations that are real. That means awkward, too, that means just… showing up, to see what happens, because you don’t know. And that’s okay. The point is not to be perfect! I don’t even care! You can just try, that’s what it’s about, right? Staying home and watching Netflix. That’s the biggest competition I have when it comes to S P A C E-making, that is to say, events and hosting them, for sheer learning and practice, but it’s… okay. If people want to stay home, fine! I don’t need to be cool or persuasive. I just want to find the people who are interested in being found, invited, and brought to the spaces where we can really talk. About stuff. Real stuff. I keep saying this! Why is it so hard, now? Why is real life so intense? Why is it hard to make an appointment? Why does it take six months to meet again? Why does it have to be that calling someone requires 52 emails? Why do people cancel? Why does this happen? I can’t deal. I just shut down, really. But I also know that this is a way of avoiding everything; the same exact issue I’m trying to attack. We can’t get so bored and distracted, so lonely and unhappy that we forget about the very miracle of being here. Simply just being! Think about it. All that… stuff of 50 billion years of evolution? Did you read what Einstein said about that? I could quote it here. I could! I could make something like a ‘80 ways Einstein gave us Pause to Reflect’ post and try to get clicks and stuff, but whatever. I don’t care. I don’t think clicks matter. I think people matter. People. Matter. Why is this so hard to get across, now?’
‘Hm. You’re bringing up some hard questions, now. Why do you think people don’t like you making your art?’
‘I dont care about them~!’
‘But… Don’t you think that the system wants you to starve?’
‘I think some people in the system, the ones who are joining me in S P A C E, for example, well, they recognize that if artists starve, then we all suffer, ‘cause we lose the light.’
‘You’re a poet.’
‘So what are you working on now?’
‘Editing Briefly in Sheffield for my good friend, Karin Malhotra.’
‘I know. Not famous. Writes from the heart. Not popular.’
‘How’s it all going? Isn’t editing hard??’
‘Yeah, but for goodness’ sake. I’ve been editing since the eighties. So yeah. Practice. And it’s going super. I’m really excited about keeping things short, and sweet, and a zine is a way to do that. There are three sections to it. Three… acts, kind of. So you get to discover the 1998 story in England, plus the more recent, 2016 update. It’s pretty neat, I think.’
‘Is publishing fun?’
‘Yes! Skipping over all the mainstream market and starting this S P A C E the Z I N E series has been really good, so far. Some people are truly supportive and I’m getting great feedback from S P A C E || Battambang’s story, Here Comes the Dance. Which is about the Age of Anxiety. Good to talk about. In fact, brilliant.’
‘Tell me more.’
‘Well, I’ve got some really great people helping me with getting the dialect right, for Yorkshire, and understanding the landscape of the city of Sheffield, which some of us went to visit and suss out in person in 2016, just so this would be more… real. More honest. You can’t write about something if you don’t go and see it. This is why I can’t get excited about most travel stories, they’re just concocted from bits and pieces gleaned from internet research. And we all now the internet is not the place to trust stuff. It used to be cool and fun, to connect with others, far away, about things you care about. Now it’s just… hard. But you asked about the new zine? ‘Briefly?’ I did a Q&A with Karin, it’s here.’