The artists gathered for this co-created zine are four very curious people.
Art, natural patterns, and words intertwine in a collaboration between them.
The nature of art
Lee Moore Crawford, a floral designer and artist, once struck up a conversation about the Japanese art of ikebana when DK happened upon her arranging flowers at a coffee shop in Durham, NC, circa 2011. We never forgot it.
So when DK collaborated with another creative person who takes inspiration from nature to make the cover image of this issue (Dipika Kohli took the original photograph in Huế, then forwarded it to digital processing artist Nils don Sihvola in Finland), we wanted to ask Crawford what her feelings would be. Lots came of this interaction, including a short piece, ‘Bloom.’
To give the collection continuity, we then circled back to former culture editor Michael Bridgett, Jr., whose article, ‘Why I Art,’ opens yet another fresh perspective.
In the 2000s DK got to go to a lot of gigs since we were based at that time in Seattle. One of my favorite venues was the Baltic Room.
In the 2010s thanks to TH, an architect, DK got to rebrand that nightclub.
‘Design is making meaning’
Cool to see that they are still using our design….
T., after all, had referred us. She had been one of our first clients. A combination of: a shared aesthetic appreciation of the beauty of chance encounters, plus a common love of jazz (which is after all improvisation in space on the spot), was what led to us meeting T in the first place. ‘I’ve been looking for you,’ T had said. ‘To do the design for my new company. When I break out to do my own company, you’re my designers: I just know.’
And that’s how a thing starts, sometimes.
The Baltic Room rebrand was cool. Was fun to be a part of the process of seeing things update, and guiding the identity redesign by the usual process of ours. We just ask a lot of questions, at the start. It’s like 90% of the whole design project is happening at he start. You have to have that thrashing period so everyone can get the point where they can be honest and say what they really want to say instead of trying to please someone else at the table. Somewhere along the way there’s a harmony that you can find… I guess design is like music in that regard, too… it just comes into shape on the spot when the mood is right and the people are in the spirit of being ‘on,’ intellectually and creatively, to do the jam, together.
I want to give people a chance to think clearly and long-term, so they don’t have to redo everything later.
Thought of it for two reasons this week.
One: I’m working on a few more issues of S P A C E to round out our Autumn 2019 collection, which includes stuff from the Baltic States visit , and
Two: I always liked electronica but I kind of can’t get over this:
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.
Art, philosophy and aesthetics come into shape sometimes in a curious way.
Being here now
When BOSS suddenly said, ‘I don’t know where here is,’ I realized it was time to pop that right into the title for an October issue of S P A C E. What I mean is, that feeling. A feeling of being anywhere, anytime, and somehow finding your way towards a center. Without overthinking it BOSS just does.
First four guests to register will get a printed copy of one of the zines from our S P A C E collection.
Be a part of it
DK has hosted parties like S P A C E in Phnom Penh before, bringing a magic moment into shape.
There was also ‘Math & Jazz’ at Raffles’ Elephant Bar, plus a series of eight ‘Rooftop Philosophy in Phnom Penh’ events along with the first-ever ‘N’, our ‘theater of now’ big blind date party that you can read more about here. Don’t miss this chance ot catch DK on a short hop through Cambodia en route to Penang, Kuala Lumpur, and maybe further afield.
A great conversation set led to the creation of this issue of S P A C E.
Many thanks to Nils don Sihvola, whose cover art is featured here. The story is by Dipika Kohli.
NILS DON SIHVOLA
‘DIGITAL VISUAL arts-digital SLR and image processing-is my thing. In 2013 a friend sold me his Canon 500d digital camera. Instinctively and instantly, I knew that the digital camera would be my tool to make art. Art: something I’ve known since I was a child I wanted to make. Every year I practiced, and in 2017, went to study photography at Kymenlaakson opisto in Inkeroinen, Finland.
‘Ever since, I’ve wanted to investigate questions like, ‘How does form support content? What’s “balance” in a composition? What can an image say, in complement to, for example, a spoken message?’
‘In a world that relies on the flat 2d spectacle, rotating the axis to discover a fresh perspective can mean the difference between “love” and “pain.”’ Instagram: @nils_don_sihvola
Redesigning means revisiting some of your favorites ideas.
The story Briefly in Sheffield is one of those, for me. I’m happy whenever people read this zine of ours, in the real life context. I’m happy when they put it down and smile and say, That was a good story.
It’s short and sweet, much like the real life encounter that inspired this short story.
Often I hear, ‘I can really identify with the main character…’
Well, yeah. He’s quite a lark. Which is why I wrote this—so I could share the feeling of meeting and becoming curious about… ZM.
Art for art’s sake
‘Briefly’ is for ZM, one of the first people who challenged me to become fast on my feet in articulating a response, not hefty, when someone asks me something pointedly that I really don’t want to answer. Why that happens, how it rolls from that moment of questing through to the one where you find yourself in an unimaginably close-knit bond, in a short space of time, is the subject and delight of the young love that this story shines a light unabashedly upon.
I finished it in a jiffy, more than a dozen attempts since the late nineteen-nineties, and then, wham. There it was. Typed. Printed. Zined.
Like most situations, the impetus to figure out my way to the feeling came after meeting someone randomly, someone new. Whose shoes, which I remarked upon, and accent, which I remarked upon further, reminded me in every way of Z.
[I will skip the parts that didn’t, like that ridiculous potato-sack hopping thing that a lot of thirtysomethings were doing. I can’t deal with this kind of architecture ‘playfulness’ that this age group have, but whatever. I sat in the corner and mused about Z., watching the grown adults race in bags. But the peanuts. The peanuts were good. That was over Khmer New Year in Phnom Penh, in 2017. A new muse, a new poetry. A new beginning. And a new art.]
Jazzy, this one. With a clear understanding that this kind of thing can happen…
‘Shall we dance?…’
Cue ‘Shall we dance…’
Short stories and fresh writings
And now, here it is, reworked. A new cover design. I’m putting it over at the store for Kismuth.
Lots of reorganizing, around here, these days. Redirections. Reinventions. Sorting out the clutter, getting rid of the dead weight. Thank you most especially to AM, and a few others. Who have helped me very much in recent weeks come to some new understandings and insights; as I hope, I always hope this, I hope I did for them, too. And others, too, of course. Granted. Sure. Not a whole hell of a lot of others, but a handful, to be sure. Acknowledgements. Count.
Who, exactly? Coming soon. I have to write down the next things and then I’ll be able to understand who it is that has been here, with me, in the learning and sharing, int eh connecting and conversing, in the opening up and being around and telling it like it is and not-stopping, even if there’s a little space in the midst… space is natural… but meaning it.
Caring. Showing up. Is huge, for DK. And what we do, here. Making. Making things. Artworks come from this intention… meaning it.
Hugely important. For quality.
In search of Quality
Quality! Is all I really want to make more of, around here. And everywhere. Putting more beauty into the world. Forgetting my platform, there for a bit. Too distracted trying to make meaning with people who don’t know what that even looks like. Letting go. Clean, fresh openings.
Another country, soon. Another round and boisterous new start. I made a new personal website, too. Seeing. How it all feels. Writing and designing and zining and publishing, all in one spot here, was maybe kinda a bit… much. Enter podcasting and more stuff like that and yeah, even I’m kinda dazed. So let me simplify things. Let’s make this page all about the publishing of things. In Kismuth, or in S P A C E. I do like to include people in those conversations that lead to things, like co-created bits and pieces. I’m inviting people to join me, now, but in an invite-only kind of way. If you’re curious, get in touch somehow. We have a million channels.
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…
Went to some places. Came back. Not sure where is ‘here’ and ‘now,’ as I am in a post-Soviet place, that doesn’t like to talk too much about too many things in concrete terms. Wandering here since middle of April, running into people, discovering this curious and yet so-very-obvious notion that nothing is for sure and everything could change any moment is, well, bizarre. And in a way, that strangeness is what has inspired me to change it up with the things in the writing, try new adventurous and even experimental things, and get out of, well, the proverbial box. Even when you profess to be someone who loves to get out of boxes, sometimes a new place can spur you into a different kind of meander… which is new. And new… New and different. Is the thing we love most, around here.
TETHERS. Talked recently with MB in Phnom Penh, about being ‘untethered’ or ‘tethered,’ and it reminded me of an early conversation about that, back in the day. Knowing what you are tied up with, by choice or circumstance, is a big deal in many ways. I mean the knowing part. I mean… there’s a lot to talk about, here. I am learning, too, that the instagram-happy world (and I confess, I do have two accounts), is a place that doesn’t really know what this kind of ‘knowing’ is, I feel. Substance gets substituted for ‘interestingness,’ even if that is a thousand percent manufactured. So where does that leave us? On the quest to be real. Be sincere. Be… true.
‘PROFESSIONALISM.’ I gave a giant lecture, 55 minutes, roughly, so, seminar-length?, which was impromptu, yesterday afternoon at a cafe called Nice Place. Which is closing next week. Sad: I like this space. But yesterday I re-ran into someone I had been trying to meet up with for three weeks. My seminar to him was about ‘professionalism.’ This happened for lots of reasons, but, I think, mostly, because of that very moment, that instance, that sudden need to say a thing even if the words weren’t ready in their order yet (improvisation: that’s my thing, though, right?)… this feeling, this need to express the thing that had to be expressed. If someone is interested in things to make, I am interested in making with that person. But the second it becomes clear that this interestedness is not sincere, that is when I press a button in my head that is very similar, I think, to ‘delete.’ I have been told this is not a good way to go about things. I know that there are more mature ways to deal with the amorphousness of the Internet-era and things-not-certain. But yeah. Working it out. Starting to enjoy the new and different, again, and even let myself be led down that other path, of being introduced to the grotesque and uncomfortable, too. Hmmm. This is. Hard to write down, in a way that makes sense. But maybe the post postmodern style that I am waking up to here in Latvia is telling me something. Maybe it doesn’t make sense because there is no such thing as ‘sense.’ (People’s parents still remembering getting sent to Siberia, et al. Hoarding porcelain cups and saucers, and everything else, because… ‘It could happen again…’). What ‘makes sense’ in a world recovering from these memories?… In many ways, it reminds me of Phnom Penh…
These are the ideas, vague and training themselves to be okay with that, here in Riga, this week. I’ll be putting them together in more solid terms, I think?, in the coming days, and report back then. I hope it works into something cohesive and complete in itself, as an undefined and uncertain thing: is this an oxymoron? I’m curious what you would say, Leave a comment? Let’s converse…
Equal to equal. Conversations that meandered, that discovered new and surprising others, in a happened-to-be-in-the-same-place way. That’s what we learned in a catching-up call with Marine Ky about how it went on Saturday at Atelier S P A C E | Paris.
In case you’re curious how Open Space works, this is the link to the overview for it. It’s something that, combined with almost two decades of exploring and work life in design; journalism; making it up as you go; lots of listening to people play jazz and especially free jazz; and general conversations every which-a-way with others also trying to figure out how to make good work in the ways we can where we are with what we have… Well ! There is a lot. That has informed the way these S P A C E meet ups in real life and online circles of conversations now work. In short, DK love a good jam session where people can come and improvise, discover, and learn something they might not have ever have learned, about themselves, about each other, and more than anything, about the options ‘out there’ on how to run a thing.
To be continued, next week, in our online magazine, S P A C E.
Dear everyone who is reading this blog, whomever you are, wherever you may be, whether or not we have met in real life, or wherever you find yourself when you show up to be here, to read this: Hi. Happy Valentine’s Day. And: There is no perfect.
It has been a good morning, here. I have been to the place down the street that has the good people who work there, and families coming around, and people lingering. I have watched the way they serve the tea, fill up your glass, and don’t ask you for much in response. Unlike the fakery that emotional labor forced out of the people in the service industries in high-flying places commands and impels, these people are just there, just doing what they do, and they are neither overly fussy about it nor are they disingenuine. (The very genuine Nam Pham came by to meet DK for the first time in real life and where did we take him and his cousin? This place. The yellow flowers on their stems, he told me, symbolize the inviting of good luck for the New Year. Well. Isn’t that apt.)
The good stuff
I’m at this place that I’ve been going to for days in a row, now, and I will need to explain all the reasons for this, eventually, to anyone who is still reading by the time we get to the end of this paragraph, but yeah. I was pleased to get the second-last visit in to this place today, with the sun ashine, and the promise of so many good things ahead. The writing is flowing. S P A C E is almost done, for the first 12-volume collection, ‘A Philosophy of the Moment.’ It’s fitting to try to put my philosophy of *this* moment together, today, for the readers and subscribers of our online magazine. There are ways and means to join these things if you are so inclined, but, and I’m seeing more and more that every year I get clearer about this: it’s not for everyone. If you need me to ‘sell it to me, DK,’ then you’re just not our people. If you can’t see what it is, immediately, then maybe you’re not ready for something that challenges the intellect to be creative in unconventional ways. Easy to think of ‘creativity’ as ‘finger-painting,’ or some such, but it isn’t. If you’ve done this for years, even decades, then you’re getting close. And that’s who we are making S P A C E for. The aesthetically inclined, people who see the beauty, and know it when they do. And when I put together this page with the new updates for the ‘perks’ that you can get when you join the S P A C E programmes, well, I saw myself quickly mocking things up and getting flack from BOSS (who always seems to be reading over my shoulder, shouting little criticisms, well, so), and he says, ‘Get the rulers out and measure that stuff!’ and I’m like, ‘No.’ NO because there is no perfect.
Even if the JPG images don’t appeal to the Type A personality (like BOSS) who are out there, they’re who we are. Scruffy. DK are not gonna fix it all up and present it on a pretty plate. Not gonna do that. The imperfection is where you see the human hand… and that’s a clue, ladies and gentlemen… the human hand, and by extension the human heart… is where it is: where the art is in it.
THERE IS NO PERFECT. If you try to pretend there is, you’re just going to get stuck in a wheel of paralysis. You won’t ever be able to take a first step forward because of status anxiety, and its ugly brothers (overthinking, self-loathing, to be specific): the things that keep us from beginning a thing, imperfect as it is at the start, because it’s ‘too hard to know if this is gonna work.’ You don’t know. At the start. Maybe the work of making and making the efforts at making more and better work is the work. Like capital ‘W’ Work. Hmm.
Let me keep going with this thought, for a moment. The not-knowing jazz. Like good cooking. Like good poetry. Like good love. You don’t know at the start if it’s gonna ‘work.’ Don’t talk to me about relationships being ‘healthy!’ That is such a weird way to think about them, my goodness. But… that’s how people think about them… as if they’re projects. They’re not projects! There has to be art in them, for them to be any good. And if you wanna know what I mean by ‘art in them,’ you’re going to have to just show up for something in real life and meet some permutation of DK on the road, to find out, or maybe just go inwards and see the qs stillness and then, yeah, you’ll have a glimmer of it. And a glimmer of it is all I can promise, for now, here at the beginning, when there is no perfect, but there is the simple pleasure of routine and comfort, of people who smile and don’t want you to give them hundreds of accolades or reviews or even dollars, they just want you to be there, to be there fully, and be completely at ease int he being there, with them. Together.
This is the kind of space we are also making, in S P A C E.
S P A C E | ‘The Book of Red’
I’m keen to continue for the Spring, with a set of things in draft that’s called ‘The Book of New Things.’ Want to be a part of it? If the above is resonant, then you might like what you find. More on the way when I get to Hanoi, to host the mini party S P A C E | Hanoi, ‘The Book of Red.’ It’s invite only, I decided, based on the ongoing dialogues in small forums, conversations on email, and the oddball back-and-forth on instagram, when it happens. (Not often: I prefer email). Why are we doing this in this way?Long story. But it starts with the simple fact that I don’t need a lot of people to know about this, or care. I need the right people. The right people are the people who show up. The Open Space Technologies guy was right. ‘The people who come are the right people.’ I always liked that: it took the pressure off, trying to make S P A C E in the way that felt the rightest, to me, but having to wrestle with that irritating question, ‘And how does this solve my problem, DK?’
Solve your own problem.
NEXT STOP: HANOI. See you soon, in a small, inner circle of people I know well, in S P A C E, in Hanoi. You know who you are. See you there, and then, with the new things and the things that are starting up, next, too.
IT IS ALMOST ready to share, but not quite, but almost, which is better than not-at-all. The weekly publishing schedule is a wonderful and familiar rush, for me. I used to edit the Tuesday pages of a paper in Seattle, so putting together the weekly issue of S P A C E for release on this day is reminiscent of that time of my life. Copy writing, copy editing, sourcing new work, putting things together in a theme that makes sense as a work, as a ‘piece.’ My good friends Michael Bridgett, Jr. and Akira Morita, mostly, and a handful of others who came and went, were part of a giant conversation salon in a protected-page forum that was themed, ‘Strange Geometries.’
Which. Was. Awesome.
Art, work & meaning-making
In that place, we started getting very, very intriguing dialogues going and those were the things that informed the context within which this Tuesday we release S P A C E | Berlin, ‘Strange Geometries.’ Wherever did Berlin come in, you wonder, if you think we are still Cambodia-bound? Well. It’s a good story, if you want to hear it. But you can see the pictures: don’t they speak thousands of words, each, as they say? I’m not convinced they do, personally, unless they’re shot in a way that has the experience and discernment to see what you can see when you look and feel ‘the street,’ as the photographer Benjamin Nwaneampeh and I had discussed over this lovely conversation recorded for all those who want to know why instagram photography and real phtoography are different. Listen to the podcast, ‘Don’t just document, make art.‘
What is art?
What is value?
What is work?
What is the point of aesthetic moment-design?
Or making salons online in protected-page forums, even?
Or bothering about anything that requires actual time, actual caring, actual collaboration, and actual, well, Work.
That which has been discovered, shared, discussed (at some length), and reprocessed has been distilled into this set of short writings, collected fragments of other thinkers from The Past (who might surprise you), photographs from Berlin, and illustrations in a new graphic style that seems to be the zine-like ‘vibe’ that S P A C E is playing with, lately, here.
Here’s to the journeys, the new, the near, and the next.