E X P L O R I N G _ T H E _ A E S T H E T I C S
Times, shifts, curiosity about new people and new ways of thinking, and the general crisscross of emails and vague fragments of thoughts are what we write and share about in S P A C E Works are creative nonfiction short stories, co-created with members of Design Kompany’s team both in Phnom Penh and in the places where we have been, and connected meaningfully with others, through our two-year roving popup, Atelier S P A C E.
Many people have asked me about how I manage to ‘get so much done.’
The truth is, I really just focus a lot. On S P A C E, lately. To show the process–something that I am prone to do if and only if it feels like a good time to open the doors a little to the studio and share what’s gong on–I host events.
Occasionally, they happen in a way that’s 100% online, and the thing coming up is one of those.
So here we go.
This is the thing…
See how S P A C E works.
About this Event
A real-time conversation taking place–online. A DK-hosted synched space of connection, conversation.
Learn how S P A C E has changed since it started out as a working prototype in a ‘cojournal’ project by Dipika Kohli, who is the creative director of DK. DK has been publishing S P A C E every week since December 2018.
You’ll get to see how, in this experiential program, which will happen in digital space. For just 2 hours, on the day.
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.
This issue is Brooklyn, ‘Art 4 Art’s Sake.’ Why Brooklyn? Well, that’s where I went to art school for a scant semester–not my scene–but also where I started to ask questions about the point of art, and making it, and learning that you can find your way off to the sides of the places where people insist that you draw within the lines. There are no lines. But that’s just something you have to find out, if you’re inclined, as you go. Making things, trying things. Seeing what feels right.
It was in NY where jazz entered my life in an important way, because jazz and improvisational jam sessions taught me how to make art in a way that lets you leave room for ‘that which might yet emerge.’ All this time later, DK are working sometimes in innovation consulting, but also, experimenting with co-created mini-magazines in the Cloud. I know. Weird. HT MT.
A lot of stuff here to say but I’ll save it for another journey, another moment, and maybe if I’m lucky, find my way to another jazzy, understated, unpretentious, not-sleazy, international, intergenerational music venue. Hard to find, these days. Believe me. I keep looking…
Every so often, magic happens. Like in this issue. I’m really happy that I got to work with Michael Bridgett, Jr. and Paavo Heinonen on it. I love the quirky way it all came together. Landing in the canvas of a digital paper-space that let us talk, together, in an ambient, light, philosophical way.
Things have evolved for them quite a bit at NUK, I think they’ve moved on from our original design, but the ‘N’ is still there on the cups that DK’s Dipika Kohli drew.
Which is this:
I really like this story. Of how you start with ‘…’ and get to this design. It’s not a straight line. The creative process moves around and changes a lot, in the middle. It’s how it goes. It’s how we learn, and how we grow, too. Since DK had been doing branding work for more than a decade, it wasn’t hard. (These days we’re not doing branding work, by the way. More consulting. More experiential programs. Like these.)
Of DK’s founders hitting the road in 2013, going in search of ‘I don’t know what it even is yet’, and discovering the first team in Phnom Penh to give DK an open hand to design the way we know how to design. By asking questions. Listening. Learning. Gathering. Percolating. Generally: trusting the process. Why not? It’s worked for us for so many clients in the past.
Today and all the next few days and maybe even on into next week I am doing something I have not done for a very, very long time.
Okay, but besides that: file-cleaning.
Clearing the clutter.
Making the space.
I’m in charge of mashup for the next 12-set issue of S P A C E. It’s Autumn 2019’s series, ‘Trust the Process.’
I need to go through and find all the things that have helped me learn what this means. That means starting with… the records I have been floating about in the cloud since 2006 or something or maybe before that, even. Whenever it was that we got Dropbox, and other things, that let you place files ad hoc into ‘storage’ and you never ever think about them again.
It’s time to review.
Take stock, and delete the things that don’t fit the narratives that are emergent, now.
‘Flapping’, and then ‘diving’
I cannot remember why I don’t have good pictures of MAKE in Durham, when I had hosted that event right after returning to the Triangle after 10 years away. John Wendelbo, a bronze sculpture artist who likes math things like fluid dynamics and you can see that when you see his work, was one of my panelists and guest speakers. I loved what he had said, way back then, about how the creative process (which is what Make was about), is when you just fly around like a bird and you’re flapping, and you’re flapping, and for a hell of a long time you’re flapping, until, wham, you see something and as soon as you see that thing, you dive.
Returning to the Triangle was a mixed bag. After all, I’d been happily working on Design Kompany projects in Seattle for four years, and working as a newspaper daily reporter for two years in that city before that. And Ireland, of course. Was before all that. And leaving the Triangle had been a heckuva project, and then, why was I going back? Because… home. Seeking home. A nagging thing, with me.
[Long story deleted. Perhaps SLH will be able to relate.]
So yeah. Back I was, back in the Triangle (which, to those who are not familiar, is Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill NC which RK likes to say ‘has the highest PhD per capita in the United States’). This might be dated info, of course, because it was the eighties when RK said that. And now, NC seems to be a place I have a very, very hard time thinking about calling ‘home.’ So I just don’t think about it. And go on the road, continuously, instead. Looking for home, wanting to find comfort, solace, and solidity. Okay, fine. That’s not easy to build, or to expect. It’s what happens when you go to the places that you know, and that know you.
These are rare.
But one of them is Dropbox.
Sussing, staring, learning, and deletions
So now I have to go through and see what’s worth keeping. Revising. Sharing. Or getting rid of altogether in that permanent state of ‘never to be seen again, ever.’ Which I like. Those who know me well know that I don’t like to keep the boxes hanging around, indefinitely, all open and waiting for something ot happen. If nothing happens, nothing happens. Moving forward, moving onward, towards the shapes of spaces yet to be. That’s more interesting to me. So I get rid of stuff. And Im going through things and I’m looking around and finding some curious things like the jpg 9.jpg, which is part of a ‘zine’ I had made in Seattle, was it 2006? Something like that. I xeroxed it and showed it to JK, one of the more creative people I knew in that city, and he was like, ‘Okay!’ And I just… stopped zining.
Then it’s 2017, and guess what? I start up a zining thing that takes me to Europe and back to Asia like three times. Why? Zining must be important to me. The archives seem to tell me. Which means what. Which means getting rid of the other files in the archives that have no bearing whatsoever on the work I care about today.
Old bad poems, for example.
Old notes for books I’ve already published, as well.
Deletions, deletions. Make space for new things.
This graph one’s from a video of me talking about fuzzy logic and stuff, a video that you can find online, ‘Fuzzy Quantum Pop.’
I like it, even after seven years. I like it so much, in fact, aesthetically and philosophically because I haven’t wavered much on what I said here and still stand by most of it and this is why I am even where I am anyway and doing what I’m doing, in the first place. In fact, since it’s still valid, why reinvent the wheel? When they asked me to put a video link in to the crowdfunding page for Make | S P C, I used this one. Yup. I put it on the video link thing for our crowdfunding page for Make | S P C, the next and newest thing I’m up to, too.
I wonder if that’s something you can do if you have the video to a youtube that goes to a 7-year old video.
I wonder if it matters, anyway, what the rules are. Probably not. But anyway. You might like FQP.
If you do, then yeah, it’s a good sign that we’d get along in real life. Or online conversations that would develop, perhaps to the point of a collaboration, perhaps even in S P A C E. I care about that. I care about things growing and discovering stuff and learning together, and building something cool that is bigger than just you-and-me-met-at-a-party once and that was it.
Know what I mean?
The bigger story.
Us connecting. Deeply. Together, but also then, to others, too.
People who are curious.
Yeah. I hemmed and hawed about what video to put at the Chuffed crowdfunding page (‘does it have to be like everyone else’s? So many of them are just really terrible videos, probably costly, too… how the hell does that happen? F, f, f’)…
… and I don’t have any kind of video making skill after I got over making ‘Moving Pictures’ for YouTube when RV was 7. Ha ha. I wonder if RV will see that. You were like 7, dude. SEVEN. I was half kidding when I said that thing but you actually were in grade school.)
So why make a giant video abut S P C when it’s still emerging and all that. Better to just share my vision. Vision about ‘you don’t know what’s even gonna happen anyway so let’s just play, and enjoy it!’ Yeah.
To the journeys, then.
And to the things to come, with the new and different others, joining me this week in ‘Trust the Process.’ Join at our crowdfunding page, of course. Make | S P C… Link is this.
A great conversation set led to the creation of this issue of S P A C E.
Many thanks to Nils don Sihvola, whose cover art is featured here. The story is by Dipika Kohli.
NILS DON SIHVOLA
‘DIGITAL VISUAL arts-digital SLR and image processing-is my thing. In 2013 a friend sold me his Canon 500d digital camera. Instinctively and instantly, I knew that the digital camera would be my tool to make art. Art: something I’ve known since I was a child I wanted to make. Every year I practiced, and in 2017, went to study photography at Kymenlaakson opisto in Inkeroinen, Finland.
‘Ever since, I’ve wanted to investigate questions like, ‘How does form support content? What’s “balance” in a composition? What can an image say, in complement to, for example, a spoken message?’
‘In a world that relies on the flat 2d spectacle, rotating the axis to discover a fresh perspective can mean the difference between “love” and “pain.”’ Instagram: @nils_don_sihvola
Suddenly I learned today how to send encrypted mail that self-destructs. Boss showed me. Being able to do this (and the need for it, behind the fact that you can do it) together remind me of old action movies that I used to watch, in the days I used to watch things. These days, though, the jump-cuts are too severe and it does my head in, to borrow an Irishism.
There are more things to say, explore, and investigate. There is time, too. There is always time, if we make it. The question is for whom, in what sorts of designedspaces, and how. I think you figured out something, in the short time of exchange, about this very idea… I think it has always been a lingering thing for me, the notion that your time is valuable and better spent in places where your views are respected and valued, and your ideas are considered and weighed. Dialogue and the Art of Thinking Together is one of the books on the old shelf that I used to have, when I had a shelf. When I used to read things… also back in the day… before Krishnamurthi (see below) fell into my hands at an installation that we were doing in a faraway land, thank you JB, for the gift, way back then. From there I began to understand New Things and reprogram my brain to perceive in new ways… More to say. Perhaps in real life. Always the best channel. Cool that we wound up people watching, there at the end… thanks for that.
Two things to share , as sort of footnotes. Ready? Here they are. More next time. Meantime… enjoy the music…. and the rain…. –DK
1. Article 18.
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance. —Universal Declaration of Human Rights, UN, is described as ‘a milestone document in the history of human rights. Drafted by representatives with different legal and cultural backgrounds from all regions of the world, the Declaration was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on 10 December 1948 (General Assembly resolution 217 A) as a common standard of achievements for all peoples and all nations. It sets out, for the first time, fundamental human rights to be universally protected and it has been translated into over 500 languages.).
2. Reflective practice is the ability to reflect on one’s actions so as to engage in a process of continuous learning. According to one definition it involves “paying critical attention to the practical values and theories which inform everyday actions, by examining practice reflectively and reflexively. This leads to developmental insight”. A key rationale for reflective practice is that experience alone does not necessarily lead to learning; deliberate reflection on experience is essential.
“Reflective practice can be an important tool in practice-based professional learning settings where people learn from their own professional experiences, rather than from formal learning or knowledge transfer. It may be the most important source of personal professional development and improvement. It is also an important way to bring together theory and practice; through reflection a person is able to see and label forms of thought and theory within the context of his or her work.
“A person who reflects throughout his or her practice is not just looking back on past actions and events, but is taking a conscious look at emotions, experiences, actions, and responses, and using that information to add to his or her existing knowledge base and reach a higher level of understanding. —Wikipedia on Reflective Practice
Aesthetic Moment: a fleeting sense of unity through a profound respect for different voices in dialogue.
While the world goes by, with its strangenesses and difficulties, what is there to be done? Make more and better S P A C E. Recall aesthetic moments. Design for more of them. Or, at least, try. In which anything can happen, anything is possible, the kind of space in which the new and different can meet and connect. Meaningfully: not just idly or superficially, but… really and sincerely. Refer to Lila.
Meeting two members of Latvian band The Coco’Nuts was, for DK, when we were in Rīga, just exactly one of these aesthetic moments.
I wanted to share one of the songs I really liked, from discovering more after my return to Southeast Asia. I’ve had time to let things percolate. To recall the moments that most crystallized and helped me see the beauty there still is, where there still are people who care about beauty, anyway. So easy to chase the empty things, without really caring about the artful ones. Easy to say. Hard to pull off. I loved learning about how some people are actually making that happen, though, when I was there…
THE STORY IN A NUTSHELL. Going to different parts of the world, mostly Southeast Asia and Northern Europe, to discover the interestingness. And I mean, interesting to me. I look for the contemporary aesthetic, but also, what the people are telling me who are ready to share, honestly and from the heart, in very short impromptu bursts. (A very close friend of mine says what I do is have a series of ‘one-chat stands,’ which, I guess, is pretty accurate.) There is an intimacy there, but it is fleeting. Indeed, ephemera is one of the keywords of our weekly e-mag, S P A C E, which is up to 22 issues now, and all of them are in our online store.
Searching for the story
People tell me all kinds of things, you wouldn’t believe it. But it is not my goal to put their stories verbatim into text: that is boring, uncreative, and unoriginal. That is outdated. ‘He-said, she-said’ reporting bored me utterly when I used to work as a reporter, for about two years at a weekly and then two more at a daily. I wanted more. I wanted the earnestness and inspiration, the road, the journey, a bit of creative and artistic license, the travel (but not the instagram-porn kind) rather that which is learned when you spend time in a place (and which someone in Thailand once called ‘slow travel’ which I thought was a cool way to put it), and I wanted, more than all of those things: sincerity. Ergo: creative nonfiction, made in situ, on the spot, out of the collage that is real life (and paper, sometimes, too).
Richness and complexity aside, there was that magical element that was missing, all that time, when I was running around, floating, writing things, here and there, wanting desperately to hit a mark but not knowing which one or where in the hell it was even close to. But then, in 2017, I went to Battambang in Cambodia and stayed four nights and five days, offline, exploring the story. Decding I would compose something on the spot, based now whatever conversation happened to fall into my world, and whatever bits of paper, stories, books, or ‘miscellaneous’ wandered into my world. In this way I wrote, ‘Here Comes the Dance,’ a very short short about the Age of Anxiety and a thirtysomething I had met in a hotel common space who was very happy to talk at length and without pause about it, which I had welcomed, and the other things, bits from books, that found their way into that very first issue of S P A C E. I can talk more about that another time when I am not in a place with people taking lots of camera photos around me, this is my cue to cut this short and go now, I have to get some new pictures for new issues of S P A C E that are getting made now. Here in Latvia. A lot of things.
But suffice to say, the story is the journey, of discovery and. Much, much more. More soon. Oh, look at that. Right now, just now, starting… a parade? There is a flash mob going by me, now, with bubble-blowers.
My gosh. I love Rīga.
Photo: First zine made in Rīga, April 2019. Short post about arriving to this city is here. Picture taken by A. Spaice
THIS WAS ORIGINALLY going to be a protected-page post. I didn’t want to get all corny about this whole DIY publishing thing. The scene. The strange feeling of having a thing that you want to share, but realizing that no one is readily around to hear it. And wondering if you are really on to a thing, or just think you are, but then, when you hit ‘print,’ it just all kind of falls, click, into place.
Getting to the point where you know how you’re going to approach the first pitch if you’re a seasoned baseball player, for example, takes time. Takes practice. Takes knowing the sweet spot on the bat and how your own personal stance is going to work out so you hit that, more of the time than less. No one bats 1000 but you can sure try to get better if you know yourself, what works, and how you have felt when the homerun gets hit.
But getting here and printing this stuff out makes me feel good: like it’s easy to go to bat, now. These changes have come with experience. They have more to do with the approach to taking to a nomadic life, kind of, on the road, and before that, the call of the road, than I had realized: the creative process is an adventure unto itself.
You go where the feeling takes you, you work it out, you develop the idea or set of ideas that feel rightest, and then, you make the cuts when the thing is starting to take shape. The ‘thing’ being the theme, the concept. It’s not about writing into sentences and paragraphs and making sure it’s all correct. It’s about feeling your way towards what is the mood of that place, space, time, mode, journey, and conversation set. There are no rules to this stuff. I wish that when people want to start talking to me about writing and art that they wouldn’t go right into, ‘What have you published?’ if they’re themselves authors, or, worse, ‘Have you been published?’ As if that means something. (Ask me if I’ve made f–ing good art, and then we’ll have a party.)
Shall I write down the conversations from those kinds of jam sessions, somewhere?
Was thinking of doing that.
What I guess I am feeling as I look at the small set of things that I have brought to show and share here and there with people whom I have found through the internet or in moments, in real life, when the moment hits that I want to let someone read something I’ve written in the past (never current writing, that’s just… that’s difficult, since it’s still being worked out)… well… When I do get to see how people feel when they read, it’s nice. It makes me remember that writing isn’t writing for me: writing is for making a thing that I can share. And that the moment of sharing, that!, that’s the whole point of this journey for me, in S P A C E. Which is ticking along, more or less. Every week since early December 2018, there’s a 16-page PDF that goes out to a small set of people around the world who have been supportive from the start of this kind of project and intiative. Honestly, I don’t know why I won scholarships for studying in universities: the same money would be much better spent, I feel, backing me on these kinds of in-the-field reporting gigs (they’re not really gigs, they’re self-commissions, which is, I think, ‘art’, if, and only if, so iff, they land somewhere, there is resonance…. only then is it really art… and is art for art’s sake the point? I remember debating this when I was 24, in some fancy pants art school, and it was dumb, and not that much longer after that, I was packing up and driving away from the place towards the far, green pastures I knew would await me… somewhere… didn’t know at the time that was going to be, er, Ireland, but yeah…. )
Green pastures and the call of the horizon, the road in general, has always been a temptation for me. I can’t not go. I can’t not see, try, discover… sometimes when I find myself in places too long (Phnom Penh, for example, or Seattle), I get to the point where I wish I could just leave. I mean, leaving is nice, and I don’t have ‘jobs’ to attach to, or a ‘community’ that wants me to stick around. I used to wish I had those things, but I learned, for me, it’s much more interesting to keep it light. Keep ties to a minimum. I haven’t bought new clothes for a long time, and the last time was right before I had to meet some people I had not seen in five years, so my clothes definitely needed an update.
So what does this have to do with DIY publishing?
Contrary to popular belief, I do not write with a conclusion to walk you towards. In fact, most of this is just ad lib. All of it is, in fact. I do not pre-write blog posts, though I think that might help you see that I am, in fact, a serious writer, but I save my best stuff for articles for magazines, like over here, and also for the e-mag S P A C E. Those are the pieces I work out to my best. I give my whole heart to them, which is part of why, also, I publish in so few places. I don’t want things to get out of hand and I don’t care if the world knows about me or just 4 people. It’s fine. The art is the point, and the journey towards making better art is even more important. To me. I love it when I find artists and talk to them about things like this, and we are serious and we are happy to have found one another being serious also where they are, and when we talk about these things, rarely does it go into the specifics of the art-making itself. Rather, we are dwelling on a different cloud, one of possibility and range, one that invites newness, openness, the thinking outside gravitational forces and the usual G. Where it gets interesting is where we can jam, creatively and intellectually and playfully and thoughtfully but also in that spirit of collegial co-creativeness, where all are equal and welcome to the table. I think what I am writing is the exact mood I hope that S P A C E invites people to join in, when they come to events or read our magazines.
It’s getting tighter, better. Clearer, sharper. And it’s also going to end. One day, I know I’ll get bored of it, and want to go on to another project. Not sure what, not sure where. But like Seattle and Phnom Penh, I know I’ll want to move forwards from here. No wistful backwards glances anymore, for me… there are too many things ahead, and too much more to look into. I can’t describe this very well right now because some people are listening to some kind of phone-vid and the music in the background is much less interesting than it was when I got started on this post. But yeah. Things are okay.
I like it that whenever I pass a little cafe place, they have the telly on, and it’s almost always… ice hockey.
THIS ISSUE of S P A C E, set in Rīga, and titled ‘Drift,’ has been changed so many times on the digital page, it’s nuts. I have yet many more edits to do, too. ‘Drifting’ rather unintentionally in recent hours, for example, has led to new weird insights that I don’t think… it’s weird to try to write with 0 hours of sleep and it’s twenty to 8AM where I am. I’m tired. I’m really really tired. But I’m also… exhilarated. Life and the journey, drift and the shift… these are the discovering-ables that I am here for. This was a good morning. Tea and talking: learning the work of letting go of rigid thinking, and remembering how to laugh at the things that a more stern, serious version of yourself would have come up with 823,490 reasons to have gotten angry over. Well, well. Here we are.