A 1,000 year-old Japanese joinery technique that does not require nails or glue pic.twitter.com/atKE0WGeUJ
— Vala Afshar (@ValaAfshar) September 25, 2019
Life is a public performance on the violin, in which you must learn the instrument as you go along. —E.M. Forster
I had written ‘Just Being Honest’ for a year or so for Saathee when I had first gotten going on the road, in 2013, then took a break to write Breakfast in Cambodia which came out of those columns and another one, ‘The Village Report,’ that ran for two years under different editors at Seattle’s Northwest Asian Weekly. Subsequently, I got the idea in my head to do other things like conversation salons that led to things and people and smart, cool moments that reminded me the poetry of writing isn’t in the shaping of words and sentences, but in the connexion that comes of the spontaneous interactions that come up out of nowhere when you just make yourself open to receive them.
Such thinking opens worlds of doors. And luckily, I got to examine a few of them.
That made me do the next thing. Work with a very small team of people who helped me understand this better, clarify it, (thank you!), and then conceptualize the making of our mini-mag, S P A C E. Couldn’t have done this without the new inputs from people I have met since leaving the United States, and discovered on the road, but also, in Cambodia, and learned to be a part of conversations that are longitudinal, carry more weight with the history and time that gives and gives, reminding us that we are not alone but a part of something bigger, after all, even if the struggle to define that exactly becomes unwieldy and eventually falls into a thing that I now understand is ‘post post modernism,’ ie the tossing of definitions themselves, altogether. This is coming into focus for me, in yet another new place, another new country: Latvia. More about that for the next column, of course.
POLITICS x ART. I was going to write more here about how there are political events that are happening right now that are disturbing and upsetting, especially in countries that don’t even care about human rights (including my own country of birth). But I realize that I’m not informed enough to be able to comment on those things. Still, the state of the world and the oppression of voices of illuminating people who could be the ones who bring humanity towards a better, more equal place is upsetting to me, as it might be to many others who are, at heart, poets. I’m writing from a wild, wacky place right now in Latvia that’s fancy and has ‘Poet’ in its title, like for real. Where, there is one very chatty person who has been asking me a torrent of questions about why I write, how I decided to be a poet (does one decide?), whether I believe in knowledge (nope), what I think about my home country (which is where, again?) and what I might do to sell my books (‘I don’t sell’). Ask me about the boiled egg. It’s too funny.
Funny things are going on, around me, left and right, and reminding me of the absurd that I clung to for so long in my writing, and comics-making, at some point, during the late 2000s when I wanted to try my hand at ‘visual artist’ as, say, a job title. That was short-lived, soon as I found out that the reception for the art show, where people met one another in real life because there I was hosting the show and people were there because of the show, but for me, what I found out, for example at the reception for Today I Love You (2012, was it?) and later, the launch party for Breakfast in Cambodia (2016), it was the mix that was most intriguing to me. Real life. The stage of being there,e together, in a framed moment… a box, kind of, a box of ‘where’ and ‘when’…
Which was how I hit on the idea of framing the moments, altogether discarding the art show, the books, etc. Let’s have parties. Let’s call them S P A C E.
Hosting one tonight, in Latvia.
Here we go.
Off to the new chapters, discovering and running into the next.
War, climate, politics, fear mongering… these things are there. News is bad, people don’t care about each other, the modern world is one of disparity and ennui and disruption of the harmony that can come when we are able to enjoy each other’s differences, instead of parrying one another for no reason other than to fill a void, internally, that could have been prevented if we had had better parenting. Societies begin there, right? Good parenting. And here I am, opining. I don’t mean to do this, really.
But really. I can go on and on and on…
But I’ll spare you.
To the work of making art, which is the only thing, I think, that a poetically inclined person can do in this era to stay sane…
TODAY WE ARE SHARING the last of the 12-week set of zines in the S P A C E | Winter 2018-19 collection, ‘A Philosophy of the Moment.’ This was created with new and different others in our digital zine project, S P A C E. The last zine in this set is S P A C E | Malmö, ‘Vakt.’
A new series, S P A C E | Spring 2019, ‘The Book of New things,’ is set to begin on 5 March. This is thanks to crowdfunding support. No ads. 100% member-supported. No endorsements, no BS. Learn more about S P A C E and how to subscribe, as well as see our schedule of upcoming issues to be co-created in S P A C E through June, at our crowdfunding page, here.
S P A C E | Malmö, ‘Vakt’
‘Trust the process’
Special thanks to Joji Minatogawa, a very creative person and an architect. I just added him to our contact page under ‘mentors,’ after clearing it first with him over the phone. I really am glad we can still call around the world and see what people are up to, and let them know that we are still here, still curious, still interested, and very much appreciative of the old conversations that went places. Because now, together, here we are. Some of us are still at it: asking the big questions. Questing one another, and the ideas that might come out for a very special, very quiet, very intimate sort of dance. Now, learning to quietly add the right bits and take out the wrong ones, until further getting that good stuff, the good stuff that’s left. Refinement. I am noticing, reading, listening, and still curious. Thanks for the conversations so far. It’s getting really good, now.
‘Design is making meaning. Art is making connexion:’ A. Spaice
Feature photo: ‘Internet I Hate You’ popup installation by Dipika Kohli, at Noir Kaffekultur in Malmoe, November 2015
Best part of making S P A C E is the chance encounters, stories-in-the-field, and finding out of things that happen when you simply create a bounded box of ‘where’, and ‘when.’ To show up. And see. What the things that are there (and also within, and so many more things to say about this), can tell you. ‘See what making S P A C E can reveal to you about… you.’ That’s what I had once written and shared on a website page that existed far away from this one, in another time, another moment, when I still believed that most people want to do the hard work of reflection. And trust me to help them do that. But what I found is it’s far too hard to do this, let alone subscribe to someone else’s method, and when all that happens, you also have these moments of deep metaphysical questioning, and sometimes that gets a little tricky because we have a lot of things to bring up and some of the time it’s not comfortable.
Talking about business and talking about ‘tasks’ and talking about ‘things to do in order to reach success’ are more often toted into the public spaces of conversation. (Which I find terribly boring.) Rather, what if we could make more S P A C E for connexion, on a different level. Talking about ‘purpose,’ for example. ‘Values,’ and ‘drive.’ Where this picture was taken is where for a little more than two weeks Design Kompany designed, hosted, dialogued about, and conversed deeply about things related to these latter. Who we are and why things matter most to us, in these instances of sharing in the bounded box of time and space, for the Atelier S P A C E that invites us to look at things but also to let go of the looking, and just engage and enjoy whatever falls into the space, too…
This one was really good. I’m going to write about the things we uncovered in a future zine, set in the town where this picture was taken, and made in this very space. Writing. Designing. Editing. And most importantly, thrashing ideas about. But then, letting go of them, too, and feeling the way towards the rightness of the things to share. Sharing.
More is awaiting. In the ateliers to come. And in the conversations shaping up through the online zine S P A C E, and its attendant small circles of communities too. To the journeys, then. The near, the now, the next.
READING, today, stories about #deletefacebook, and find myself nodding every time someone talks about how the social fabric is getting ripped apart because people are addicted to pings and hits and likes.
For example, I found these quotes in one of the first articles you get to on google if you search ‘delete facebook’… They are:
And that means that we need to sort of give you a little dopamine hit every once in a while, because someone liked or commented on a photo or a post or whatever. It’s a social-validation feedback loop … exactly the kind of thing that a hacker like myself would come up with, because you’re exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology. The inventors, creators — it’s me, it’s Mark [Zuckerberg], it’s Kevin Systrom on Instagram, it’s all of these people — understood this consciously. And we did it anyway. Sean Parker — Former Facebook President
I feel tremendous guilt. It literally is [at] a point now, where we have created tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works. That is literally where we are. The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops that we have created are destroying how society works. No civil discourse. No cooperation. Misinformation. Mistruth. And it’s not an American problem. It’s not about Russian ads. This is a global problem. Chamath Palihapitiya — Former Facebook VP of User Growth
Of course we can argue about the good things and the not-so-good things about technology. But don’t think you have to have it if you want to live a meaningful, connected, or creative life: you don’t. I don’t have Facebook, not a personal one anymore, and though I’m on the fence about what to do with instagram. But okay, it’s fine. I don’t have WhatsApp, or even a mobile phone.
I should repeat that last one.
I don’t have a mobile phone. Or even a non-mobile phone. Today I’m borrowing one of the latter, though, to meet up with some people in Phnom Penh who might be wondering what the hell I’ve been doing on the northern side of Finland all summer, and something about Malaysia, and yeah.
HONEST. I used to have one, in the mid 2000s, when I was living in Seattle and had ‘a business,’ which of course was DK in its first iteration—solid brick and mortar shop, complete with $800 laser printer, fax machine, cool phones that I still kinda miss because of their button design, giant computers, a reception area, a conference room, swivel office chairs: the works. But what I didn’t know then that I know now is that none of it was that important. Social media presence? Not a big deal, because DK sold itself through one-on-one interpersonal interactions in real life. We got gigs in Seattle. More, later, elsewhere, too. But not because of the online stuff, or the appearances of something big. By being good. Really. That’s how it works. But being good is only part of it. You also have to be easy to work with. Not that easy to work with and not that good? Forget it. (Unless, of course, you’re cheap, and fast. But who wants to work with people who are just trying to penny-pinch and don’t care that much about the quality of the output?)
More thinking. More reading. More turning the clock back to think about where we’ve been and what we were doing. I am glad to say that it’s through the building of relationships that we are here, where we are, and continue to develop. Not that I’m the greatest at this, in fact, I’m pretty shite at it. It’s DK’s Akira Morita, who took the time to build the networks and keep in touch with the people here where I am writing from (Phnom Penh) in order to begin that lattice-formation that has come to be one of the most important things we’ve ever had in our orbit. Social orbits are big: I was writing and thinking about these things quite a lot in recent days, conversing in S P A C E forums and real life and on voice calls. Less email. Less writing short. And the next podcast (!) will be about the internet—about the love-hate relationship with this thing that connects us (and keeps us from truly connecting, at the same time).
True connection starts, I’ve found, with showing up. Commitment to a person, idea, or project, or a job, well, commitment is what leads to trust. Trust is huge. You have trust, and you have all you could possibly ask for in a relationship. Trust the process, sure, but trust other people. Sure. It’s hard. Of course it is. Relationships are work. Did you see that thing I put here about George Vickers? How about Moominpappa? I feel like here at DK, Akira is the former, and I’m the latter. We’re interested in relationships, but he’s better at that, and I”m interested in possibility, and exploring to the edges: scouting the new and the next. Together, we’re still at it, officelessly and houseless-ly. We’re moving around the world looking for people who are ready to try new things, be they NGO-sector officials, small businesses, innovation-minded larger groups, individuals, or colleagues, or co-creators, or even friends. Are you ready to try to get to the next, whatever, or whatever, it turns out to be? Then that’s it. Talk to DK. Let’s play.
Reclaiming space for real life
I’LL LEAVE YOU with this bit from the Guardian article, ‘Be a pioneer — delete Facebook’, by Jaron Lanier. And comments are open, if you’d like to say ‘hi.’
… these deleters are indispensable. They should be celebrated. We all benefit from them.
The primary value of a boycott in this case is not mere protest to damage Facebook, but to invent what life can be like today without the social network.
A deleter must reconsider how she holds her social life together. She will therefore rethink what a social life is.
Is having a publicly broadcast number of associates a good thing, or does it foster a meaningless sense of social competition? Does Facebook’s method, which combines user tracking with stimuli calculated to foster addiction and behaviour modification, really reveal the most beneficial options for her? Does an experiential feed constructed by algorithms serve her, or other people who are paying to modify her behaviour? Are the components of the Facebook experience severable or not? Can you have a modern social and professional life without the manipulation? Is it even conceivable? Who will ask? Who will find out? The deleters will!
And they already have. Making space for real life interfacing, for remarkable human connexion: that’s the whole thing, for some of us, writing, connecting, meeting, sharing, and, hey, living. Online is fine. I’m online to post this. Online is fine, but online isn’t the only place it’s at. Real life is out there. Let’s go get it.
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.
NEW THINGS. Starting again. In S P A C E. In very small circles. Trusting the process and enjoying the adventure, creating the design for hosting and engaging some of us, some of us who are still curious, still open to the possibility of being changed by what we hear, and still ready to learn, from any chance encounter: as did the people I met at the N. Bohr Institute in Copenhagen when on a visit there, or in the corners of philosophy classes after the teachers left and texts were closed in my high school summer at Governor’s School East in Laurinburg NC, or in the empty moments just being on the edges of the world, for all the edges are at the edge, are they not?, in Nagarkot, Manali, Kyoto, Berlin, wistful piazzas in Bologna, the drone and hum and boisterousness of the throng of the West Village in 1990s New York, and more, and, other, and, more recently, in S P A C E. Here’s to the journeys, the new, the near, and the next. Ready for the 8 Oct thing. Ready, set.
The opposite of a profound truth may be another profound truth. —N. Bohr
TODAY I WILL OUTLINE, in a short but detailed note, the creative process that happens when one is writing a book. A book, not a blog. A book, not some clickbait links that someone is going to pay you a lot of money for because you work as a copywriter at a fancy ad agency. A book, because books are where we have a moment to really get deep and moody, and write, not because the writing is for a purpose (to sell something, for ex, which is most often the goal it seems with a capitalistic system ruling everything nowadays), but because the writing conveys something stronger: emotion. I could talk a little here about the mourning that happens when one realizes how cheap things have become, and how transactional (as F. has just pointed out in a recent comment on this post, ‘Trust the Process.’)
But I will refrain from editorializing.
I know that writing in first-person is mostly just editorial, okay, fine. Admitted. But still.
There are times when certain pitfalls are there, and I have this weakness for falling into them. Pitfalls that, for example, are really just one’s own projections on things that one feels importantly committed to. Things like how X or Y is just so unfair, and how Z and T ought to be installed, instead. But you know what? That’s just more dogma. And dogma is getting us in trouble, in this world. Righteousness and an insistence on sticking to a thing and not budging, not a bit, no matter how educated you are or what you have built—staying unwilling to open to new ways of thinking and new points of view is going to be the thing that, in the end, makes it hard for you. (Yeah, editorializing and saying it ‘like it is.’ Must find a way to suggest my thought in a less black-and-white insistent way, but that is what we are trained to do, isn’t it, those of us who grow up on Western eduaction systems that love to be abolute and ‘right’ about what they think? Mmm-hmmm. Oi.)
FLASHBACK. Thinking specifically about a conversation in Durham, NC, with an old friend of mine; a conversation that became a sort of philosophical sparring. I put the best chunks of it, from memory, into Breakfast in Cambodia (Kismuth Books // 2016). Because that insisting that I recall, an insisting that insisted that her way was better than my way, for whatever reasons, reasons undisclosed, but there it sat, the whole thing: the righteousness and dogma, that one way supersedes by default another, that did it. That sent me packing. I was on the road not many months after that, uprooting the American Dream or whatever and setting foot out into the unknown. Well, Hanoi. The traffic, my gosh. That was then. That was 2013. Now, I’m used to Asia and its ways of moving around vehicularly. I just got to the place I’m typing you from by crossing illegally maybe four crosswalks, including one that was rather huge—a four-lane freeway cut in the middle by the thing that ran above it, the monorail. I’m in Kuala Lumpur. The city is saying ‘hello’ after a long summer away, writing and photographing for the book. Oh, right. I was going to talk about that, wasn’t I? The way it starts. The way you get started on a thing. Or at least, how I have managed to get started and in so doing, completed a series of books, so far. None of them are ever as good as the one that’s current, though, when you’re writing a lot. And so I’m going to put all my chips in on Koivu, probably my best one, of them all. Of course I would say that. I’m still writing it, so you know. I get to say that.
The creative process of writing a book
THREE FOUR STEPS, for me.
Part 1. Material.
Part 2. The thread. The thread is important. Because it’s the thread that makes the necklace. Finding it can take a lot of looking through things, but also, letting things go. Pieces of paper, unwritten bits, written things that don’t fit the story. Not talking about the arc or the narrative. I know some people have more of a system that is linear, like that. Go with the outline, build each piece. Sequentially, maybe even. Not me. I’m a bricolage artist. So I go with what’s in front of me. What falls to hand. If someone right next to me starts to talk to me about a thing, guess what? That thing almost always informs where I go creatively that day. Today, I’m thinking about righteousness. (Can you tell, based on the above?) This morning someone told me that X was X, and not otherwise, and not listening, not a bit, to any falsifying evidence to the contrary. He was stubborn, and wouldn’t budge. Insisting. That’s why I brought up the story about my old friend and I arguing in the tea shop. She was really mad about things. I was less mad than stunned. I still remember the feeling, dry-mouthed and almost gaping. I had had, until then, quite a lot f respect for her. After all, she is well-schooled (more degrees than me, or most people I know), but… there was no scope for play. For improvising. For making it up as you go. For listening out for a new kind of angle. That, to me, was deafening. How could I stay put in a country where what’s valued is the insistence on being right, instead of the openness to dreaming outwardly and openly towards whatever might make itself apparent, and emerge? No wonder I loved the N. Bohr Institute, in Copenhagen. Guess what? I just walked in, the front door, just followed a PhD student inside, followed her to Auditorium A, I think it was, the famous one, listened to WS and GJB and others talk about dark matter and gluons. And then, to write about those things, of course, in that story that I was compiling in those days, at that time. Of course. Because part 2 of the process of writing a book is to find, and follow, the thread. Don’t second-guess yourself, when you seem to sense that you’ve got it. When you’ve got the thread, you’re mostly done.
Part 3. Framing and sequence. Now is when you add things to the thread. The details, the scenes, the story makes itself to you. It’s easy to start with a bunch of notes and feel like you’ve done your work already, and that’s where I am today. But you know what? I left all of them at home. I’m out into the space where I can start to remember things, instead of report them. I want to remember things as they come to mind so I can thread the necklace. Because this cookie is going to be good, I can tell, and I want to let it come forward naturally and organically, not in a too-formal way. If I was too insistent on making it into ‘a piece,’ with too much of too much, I think it would punch through the soft underbelly of this thing. It is delicate and unformed, as yet. I’m happy to be in this spot, writing and thinking and going through the photo archives from June, July, and August, as I work out the stuff of Koivu. Which means, ‘Birch,’ in Finnish. Did I tell you? I’m learning Finnish? Yeah, well. Kind of.
Part 4. Sharing. This part is where I think most people see what I’m up to. I’m all about ‘Hey! Lookit!’ but I forget to share the process, as in, steps 1-3 above. The process is where, though, the working-it-out happens. Sure, it’s really personal stuff, too. Writing about it even in this third-party style is a little strange, to me, in some way. But I’m changing these days. I’m going to share more about where things go, how they get to those places. Travel is like the creative process. You go out into the world looking for whatever might emerge, and that’s one way to travel. And that’s my way. And not most people’s, sure, but so? There are still a handful of us who are curious and seeking and going to the edges, like I talk about a lot here on this blog, and in real life, a lot. I mean, a lot. But I’m not interested in knowing all of what’s to come ahead of time—I remember this couple in Seattle who had downloaded the menus of the restaurants they were going to go to in Paris before they took their trip there. And they did this months ahead of time. They also had been to those restaurants before. They had these things in a clear sleeve folder. I think that was my first inkling that, well, DK and our style of making and doing and traveling and going around discovering was very much against the grain from what mainstream America thinks is kosher. Having a plan. Knowing what you’re doing. Knowing where you’re going. Knowing, instead of feeling.
And here we are, back to the start.
Writing with feeling.
Writing with heart.
Not for everyone, of course. But for the people who are seeking and curious, like some of us here in these online circles behind-the-scenes, well. For us, it’s all that matters. For us, this being open and curious and wandering around and seeing what might happen is, honestly, the whole thing. Is all there really is.
IN THIS POST, I will share with you some of the current thinking behind ‘At rest while in motion,’ but also, walk you through the actual in-the-moment journey of how one goes about trying to figure out the vague answer to the superlative question, ‘What am I doing?’
This last because it is a question that pops up a lot in the conversations I have with people in a very short space of time: ‘DK, tell me what to do now. You seem to have things figured out.’ Er. Hardly.
Those who know me personally know that I’m hardly well put-together; behind-the-scenes, I am a bundle of bits of paper, slips of notebooks that go in boxes, some of which I’ve lost track of, and all of which are existing in perhaps dusty, surely disquiet collections in patches, tucked away in the nooks and apartment closets, houses and spare rooms of very nice people (and sometimes relatives, wow), who take them in and hold them for me, indefinitely, until it is time to revisit with the old material and see how it fits with the new.
I guess I have something figured out, though, if I’m honest about it. Since 2013 I’ve been ‘on the road, indefinitely, with no fixed income, plans, or savings.’ And DK started in 1994, and then became an LLC in 2005, which was the last time I had a 9-6 day job. So, what does that mean? Well, when it comes to answering one question I think I have a thing or two to say. The question being, ‘How to take a step out, when you’ve no idea where you are going…’ Mmm-hmm. Story. Of my life.
But wait. I’m getting off on some random tangent. Let me talk about the creative process. Let me start with material.
MATERIAL IS THE FIRST thing that I am looking at, right now, when I am considering the first thing to do now that I am in one spot, for a time, with the bookings made through at least the end of the weekend, which, in our new state of ‘nomadic drift’, which isn’t new at all, really, but this time, there really are no flats or monthly rentals to contend with nor people who are there to say hello to every day, but rather, the flux. The flow. The movement. I like this, but I also have a lot of stuff with me. Stuff that moves in packs with me; the suitcases are not as heavy as they were in 2013 (left one in Delhi, left one in Bangkok), but they still are there. Taking up room. What to do with all this material? What to keep, what to let go? There are snippets from the deep past, somewhere in a box in Cambodia, there are things from even further back, well before that, art show leftovers in rolls in Raleigh-Durham. I always wondered what I would do with all that stuff. Stuff. So much of it. Might explain why somewhere along the way, I switched from doing print work to going digital only. This is coming around again to the world of somewhat limited edition and very custom, very one-of-a-kind printed stuff, but again, it’s stuff, and that means, ‘What do I do with this?’ It’s been neat sending some things off in the postal service, through the S P A C E || Finland page in our online store. It’s been nice to share things with people in real life, people I’ve just met, people who say, ‘Those are nice. Wait, are you selling them? Great. How much? Okay, that’s fair. I’ll take one of those.’ It’s like giving away kittens, I think. You have a lot of offspring and you don’t know where they’ll go; but you don’t want to just leave them around. You want to find them good homes. And that’s what’s happening. The rest?… the rest is with me. I’ve got an extra bag now. It’s got Moomintroll on it. After all, this was the summer of stuff I made in Finland. But it’s also… good material. For zining. On into the next. I like it when bits and pieces from the last place make their way into the current works. And so, now, I should talk a bit about the creative process.
‘Trust the process’
FOR THE FIRST TEN years of DK, I would always start with a few things with every new client. First, I’d ask for a book recommendation: ‘What book sums the story of you? I’ll go and read it.’ Then, I’d ask for them to have a look at this slideshare, because it’s really quite simple to read through and puts a lot of stuff in perspective. Lastly, I’d ask them to ‘trust the process.’ To trust me, really, to guide the way towards some kind of breakthrough.
That’s not an easy thing to sign up for, but sign up a handful of people did, each year from 2004 until now, which means that’s why DK is still here, existing, making space and now S P A C E (online magazine) and Atelier S P A C E to gather us for short-run weeklong or four-week-long stints of time so as to delve into the exact style of the foray into the creative process that DK had delivered to clients in Seattle, Raleigh-Durham NC, and more recently, in Phnom Penh.
Because I myself am in the midst of a design overhaul here at DK, not unusual because we like to reinvent quite a lot around here, well, I’m taking stock of the materials gathered and looking ahead to 2019. Where shall we take things with DK? Who wants to collaborate with us, who wants to connect in S P A C E? Does S P A C E want to become something different from what it is, right now? Or is it working, as it is? Even in very small circles (which is my personal preference), there are moments of real and true connexion, you can feel it, it’s not just me saying that, and then we get philosophical and talk life and meaning and sometimes about life plans but not in the usual terms, more in… the kinds of words that one allows oneself ot speak when she or he feels at ease. I remember this from a past life, a longago summer, this wild and crazy time of just being, just hanging out, with friends. Before the era of justifying your existence through the use of social media channels, there was just us being around each other talking late into the night maybe with some music going in the background or someone with a guitar, but always, always, always, there was that ease and comfort when you felt like you could just hang out, just chill, just be around people, just be. A long time ago, yes, that I felt that was the norm. Now, what happened? We are distracted and I forget to get back to the work of making S P A C E. At the Form/Space Atelier show I was invited to put together in Seattle (thanks again PP), I remember writing the artist statement and saying something about BTFL SIMPL. Which was: ‘I want people to relax. To feel air, space and comfort.’ That has not changed.
S P A C E for play. S P A C E for conversation. S P A C E for slowing down. S P A C E for the easygoing ‘third place.’ There is so much to talk about. That’s because… there’s so much material. The work now is to sift through all of this and see what makes sense to keep, what to let go. Editing is this. Editing is being aware of the thread that makes the necklace, and letting the string sing while the gems and pearls add to the vocals, rather than distract and detract. The vocals matter. The vocals. Erm. Ah. I sound like DK is some kind of a band. I talk a lot about jam sessions. I talk about jazz. Chords. I guess, in a way, I’m kind of the vocals around here. I’m looking for the baseline, the guitar, the horns, someone bring a triangle, and whatever else you’ve got. Come out and play with us, with the people who are here and ready. Jazzy, light. It’s okay. I don’t have to overthink this. I don’ have to intellectualize. Either you get it, and you want to try it, or you don’t.
And that’s fine. Because, like ES had put it once, it’s not for everyone.
And like RKP had said, ‘Find the art and magic.’
Art of not knowing
WHERE IS NEXT? I HAVE NO IDEA.
And that’s okay.
It’s okay to say, ‘I don’t know.’ Just ask N. Bohr (you’ll have to go to Copenhagen and find his grave at Assistens). But for the moment, at the top of the journey of a parabola upon which a ball is tossed upward, there is a spot where the velocity is zero. That means, we’re at rest. That we’ve stopped moving. For that moment, you have the view. The vista, the zenith. Take it all in; look around. See what’s what. But don’t try to put meanings to things that you’re looking back on, and don’t investigate too deeply into what’s next. Because the moment is here, is now. And we are at zero velocity.
Well, from the near-distance view, I see on the horizon: Phnom Penh. For Atelier S P A C E || Phnom Penh.
But… the zenith. The quiet in the height. That’s… to me… that’s beautiful.
That’s where the art begins. Noticing.
Can you dig it?
Comments open, for a bit.
OUR TRAVELING series 16N is next stopping in Helsinki. It’s a big blind date for just 16 people. (Who will be there? That’s the whole magic of it. The thing is a giant *surprise*.) It’s by invitation. Ask us for an invite, when you follow the story, here: http://designkompany.com/16n
IN A FEW DAYS, I will be starting the salon in our protected-page space, ‘Slow Moment.’ It’s about slowing down. Recharging. Discovering yourself when you make time to show up… for you. No obligations, no ‘to-do’s, and scrapping the idea of ‘getting something accomplished,’ the idea of this particular programme is to let it flow. Flow. So important. I have been talking with people in online conversations for about four months now, setting things up for this special 12-week session. It’s our last online workshop, for the general public, as it just became obvious that for DK, making people be creative isn’t important. What’s important for DK is helping those who have already taken a step, of their own accord, towards some kind of transformative breakthrough. Of course you can’t have a linear path to breakthrough. Or transformative stuff of any kind. Of course it takes work, struggle, sloshing about, tackling vague ideas, throwing most of them away, and starting over, when you recognize that all the work so far has been ‘sketching.’ We call it P L A Y. Playing our way towards the new and the next is what we do around here.
Zining in Finland, Cambodia, et al.
ZINING HAS BEEN, for me personally, a way of slowing down. Zining in Finland, in particular. ‘This is Finland,’ said J., whom I met last night at the pub. ‘We just… be.’ Not bad. I really enjoyed our brief chat outside of the place; karaoke was on inside and it was a thin crowd. I cycled over there with my midnight ride in the pretty-bright-still-but-not-like-before light. Mist was out. Mist. This was what we talked about. Small town life. Passerby. Chance encounters. That’s the stuff of gathering the narratives that make S P A C E the zine; showing up to ask the questions and be prepared for anything is the jazzy jam that is Atelier S P A C E. (If I don’t show up for me, how can I ask others to show up for themselves? So I am living the practice. Go where you don’t know anyone. Find out stuff. Ask them things. Talk to people. Learn. Discover. Find a theme. Then, either with guests who are interested in joining in with you or without them, write a short 8-page zine that pulls together the best of that which you pick up, makes it contemporary, gives it a shape, and then, print some of them, and share them.)
Pubs are third places. They are where we convene. I know, I know. There is an objective, most of the time. Not me. I’m there for the conversations.
Here where I am about six hours north of Helsinki, things are quiet. Conversations are slow and easy. All around is nature—and it’s handy that you can cycle around to get the things you need. Foodstuffs. Provisions. Euros. It’s convenient, small, and just fine. I am not a stranger to small town life; and this stay has got me remembering all the things about Skibbereen and rural North Carolina that I used to really enjoy. End-to-end rainbows, for example. Which I talked about in the past, here on this blog, when ‘A Slow Moment begins’ got writ.
Poetry slams in S P A C E
WRITING MORE. Zining. Making poems with people around the world. ‘Whatever of philosophy is made into poetry is alone timeless.’ These words—I had quoted them in my TEDx talk, ‘There’s Not That Much Time Left.’ Something I haven’t admitted out loud anywhere on the public spaces of the blog is this: I was kind of winging that talk, there, at the end. You have to read your audience, right, and see where the feeling is going. You have to see what fits, what’s working, what’s not. It takes time to build up to that. It’s a long, simple crescendo. You get going and you start and you begin to get the feeling. Here is what’s the story. This is where we’re synching. It’s a jam session, to me—even me on the stage felt like that. I was laughing and enjoying myself with the people in the front rows who were laughing and enjoying themselves with me. (Afterwards, a ‘speechmaker’s consultant’ tried to pitch me, and said, ‘You really don’t want to laugh at your own jokes.’ But for me, for DK, for all he things that have become, since, S P A C E, if I don’t laugh, I’m not having fun, and if I’m not having fun, whatever the hell is the point?’ Of course I didn’t ask him to help me. In fact, that was the last time I got on stage, aside from one other time, in the same city on the same stage, in fact, for ‘Fuzzy Quantum Pop.’ Too fun.)
DG said it: ‘Throw away most of the stuff you write, because you know what? It’s bad. I did that. Do you do that? Throw away most of it?’ I nodded. He said, ‘Good.’ DG is a pianist. I get along with piano people, drummers. Maybe because they like to accompany… words. I am the vocals. I realize this now. Words are my thing. Pen is my medium. Whether lines in marker, or cut lines, or lines worked out somehow (it takes a long time sometimes, but other times comes in bursts, like now, unedited and uninterrupted—a story flows) into poems, or occasional ebooks, I make lines.
Slow moment? For me, bringing the lines into shape. Giving the scaffold in architecture blueprint to the ever-emerging shape of S P A C E. Something to say? Leave a comment, below. Comments are open, until the bots catch on.
DK is making S P A C E, a weekly interactive magazine and an online community for people who are highly engaged with the creative process.
‘TELL THEM in a relatable way, DK, why this is interesting, and how it will make their life better.’
‘You have to. If you want people to connect.’
‘I don’t know if… spelling it out… is really my thing.’
‘Well, if you want people to understand, then you have to. You’ve heard this before. It’s so esoteric. It’s inaccessible. You are like.. on cloud nine all the time. Far, far away. It’s like… you could be anywhere. Your imagination is… running around in a tornado. And we’re all like, ‘Where… where is DK?’
‘I’m right here. I’ve always been right here.’
‘But, I mean. Email? Who does email?’
‘Email is for work.’
‘Email is for me.’
‘Do you know how hard it is to compose an email? It’s like… it’s like… a task. A to-do.’
‘I remember meeting someone who talked to me about this before, telling me I need to have some social media thing or something. That I should have that, that he uses it, that he loves being able to message friends anywhere, anytime, and just go, “What’s up?” And I’m like… I don’t want people to message me anytime anywhere to just go, “What’s up?” And so I was like, but is that a conversation that actually goes somewhere? He said, if it’s getting to be like, a paragraph, or really serious or something… and I nearly jumped out of my chair! A paragraph is serious? OMG. I bet people all around the world are thinking I’m trying to get really serious with them. But I’m not. I’m just sending a feckin’ email.”
‘This was at a restaurant. In Malaysia. Their pick. We were eating dosas and they were terrible. I should have taken him and his friend to this other place I knew, that was way, way better, family run and some of the best roti I’ve ever eaten, serious, except for maybe Chandigarh and those alupanrantha nashta’s, wow, and out of the way from the tourist square. This was in Tanah Rata. This was in Cameron Highlands. This was one of my favorite little spots in the whole of Asia, but yeah, I loved meeting people every day and talking to them about Philosophy and Life and so on. Kooky stuff, at times, like the fourth dimension, but mostly, just a lot of talk about freelance life which people are fascinated by—my last day job was 2005—and I like to talk about the way I feel people should just do what they want and creatively could explore past the usual boxes if they were really interested in doing so—here is where their are hands raised and objections given like how do you do that when you need to be responsible and what society wants and your parents tell you and expectations and and oh but I have a family and la la la and I begin to grow exceedingly bored and so on, but occasionally they stay with me and keep asking, especially if they are in the age range of, say 22-27, because past that they are all about their option-hunting and don’t even care about actually producing something of value I feel but rather showing that they are attempting to make something of impact, whatever that means and it’s such hot air and leads to nothing concrete or useful, again my opinion, but yeah, the younger ones, they stay with you, they listen, I am thinking about that time I went to Kampot on my own and discovered this (lookin’ at you, AP), but yeah, that was the first time there was an inkling of a glimmer of a hope that we, We as in Society, are not all done for yet because the younger ones are there and inquisitive and alert and smart and curious and yeah, the best part, they care about quality, or at least, they know what it looks like when it falls into their laps—and they ask it questions, like, ‘What does this mean? And they don’t get distracted by bleeping things on the table, because their *!*& phones, wherever they are keeping them, are not on their minds or on the table thank goodness when they’re conversing with me. They listen. They really, do. They can hold eye contact. And yeah, when this happens and the stage is set for what I like to call S P A C E, then yeah, things are about to get really fun. Because then it gets weird and big and expansive and heady and that’s the stuff of the real heart of DK, what gave us our ‘this is who we are’ stuff when we were freelancing in Seattle, and what landed us in the new contracts and gigs and stuff on the road, even, for these five years. Weird, right? The road and freelancing, and better yet, consulting. I mean, this is really… fun. But yeah. This lifestyle choice and living it interests people; the ‘how’ of it, for some, which is really boring for me to relate, but the ‘why’ of it for others which is far, far more extraordinary. Of course, most people aren’t ready for that conversation—I fought with WH about it, once, weirdly–so we just dip in to basics: the writing process, the characters, the narratives, the interweaving, and so on. It’s all right. Fine. This is what it means to share yourself with others, isn’t it? You go into the smalltalk and you answer their questions. Et cetera. I’m not really a hermit, you know. That time I was telling you about. That was good, too. I think we talked for like 8 hours. I’m pretty sure I’ll never hear from either of them. Because this is why. At like 3AM or something, I said that if they want to reach me, there’s an ‘about’ page and a contact form on my website, which hey, let me just say it now and you can see if you can remember it, and that form, if you find it, and use it, that should do quite nicely. For continuing. If continuing is of interest. Which for me, well, it’s up to you. I’m cool with whatever–I meet people every single day, all the time, all over the place. Mostly in public spaces. Third places, just google it, or here is ‘third place’ on wikipedia, when I’m in the mood for them. Cafes. Libraries. Airplanes. But yeah. They were like, “A form? Email?” And then it was all this resistance about email! And I was like, ‘But if you actually do it, then I know you’re interested in conversing. And I’m only interested in conversations that go places, that take a little effort, you know? They have to mean something. I’m not interested in collecting you, or your friend here, or anyone. I don’t want a collection of people I never talk to for real about anything real. Know what I mean? So email me. Or don’t. I can see that you won’t. In which case, this is enough, right? This right here, right now, shared moment. Is. Enough. Good luck.’
‘But… it’s hard to use email now.’
‘It’s easier to use social media.’
‘I don’t care.’
‘You’re not easy to get to know.’
‘Of course I’m not.’
‘I like my friends that I already have. I like the people who I’m meeting and connecting with in S P A C E. I like the new friends I am making in the places where I go, in real life, on the ground. For example, here in Finland. So unlikely that I would make actual friends here, but wow, it happens. I mean, black humor, for example, meshes really well with my comics. I put the new ones, ‘Midsummer Magic,’ and ‘I’m So Lonely,’ into the new zine installation that’s on display right now and will be up through the weekend because Saturday is International Zine Day and everything, and yeah, it’s a lot of fun because they get it, the way I write it. People here, I mean. Have the same wry humor. And appreciate my comics. So I’m making more of them in August.’
‘About what, may I ask?’
‘Certainly. About mental disorders.’
‘You can ask me about it. Email me, maybe? Here’s a form.’
This is part of the series ‘100 Conversations’, sponsored by members of S P A C E.
IT IS 11.30PM and I am wide awake. In fact, the night is young, here in the north of Finland where it will not get dark for another two hours, then the light will dim a bit, then it will be almost dark enough to need to turn on the light, and then, voila!, the sun will pop back up out of just over there, about a twenty degree angle away from where it went down. Behind the trees. Beside the river. When the sky turns pink, you know it’s almost time. Then again it may be raining, in which case, wait a bit. It will be harder to spot, when the dark dip occurs.
In this post, I want to share a little bit about the design intent behind S P A C E, and how the architecture of it has come into form from the time it was first conceived, in a borrowed room in Delhi at the top of 2014. But I’ll start from yesterday.
My weekend has been packed with quiet moments. Slowing, stilling. Writing to the new guests who have just joined me in the online photo journaling conversation salon, ‘Slow Moment.’ It really is happening. That’s what’s awesome about design. You kind of start with a thing that you want to see in the world: you envision it. Then you backcalucate ways to make that happen.
Design is making meaning
WHAT IF I could block a full 12 weeks just to the exploration of a single question: ‘How can I slow down to see now?’ This was the start of how ‘Slow Moment’ got designed. Even better, what if I could invite some of the most talented photographers, writers, and friends I have met over the dozen or so years that we have been doing DK to be part of the emerging conversation? That’s what is going on, now. That’s what we are making. Together.
I am lucky to know these people, to have them be part of my circle of acquaintanceship and conversation partners in all things related to aesthetics, science, physics, life, poetry, the pursuit of beauty, the love of color, the search for meaning, politics and ideology, social justice, software design, engineering, architecture, and more.
You go around the world with your eyes and heart open, and magic happens.
People find you. They tell you things. You then learn to embed these things into your own fabric, weaving what sticks into the next. That’s collage and bricolage. That’s relational art. That’s… hell, that’s living. And I got the start of this design idea many times before: I wanted to have ‘mix it up’ parties, over and over again, from the time I was very young, to gather people and connect them, but not people of one stripe: people of many kinds of styles and accents, viewpoints, and experiences. That’s interesting, to me. That’s where we learn that we don’t have to agree on everything. So much variety: a vivid ecology of humanity.
‘Let’s talk jazz’
WHO WANTS TO BE BORING, I mean, really? Who wants to do the same thing with the same people all the time? Who wants to stay home and never budge? Who wants to insist on one way of thinking about things, and not be open to the possibility to be changed by what she or he might hear? If you’re happy with the status quo, this is as far as you should read. If you love improvisation and the interconnection and unexpectedness and surprise, let’s keep jamming. Because it’s about to get good.
In 2014, I tentatively made S P A C E. I cared about it. I still do.
I care about it a lot.
Not just because I’ve always wanted to run a magazine, but had a hunch that the kinds of topics I want to write and share about would never fly with mainstream audiences (the multiverse, anyone?… oh, wait. HL, hey! I see you there.)
S P A C E invites people from all kinds of places and walks of life–except the close-minded. It necessarily precipitates, by its very design, the kinds of individuals who are seeking and are curious, who want to discover, who are not yet so jaded they’ve checked out from life, who are ready for a different kind of jam. And it is a jam. If you know me, you know I love jazz in particular of all music genres because it invites improvisation and the jam.
That is why I am hoping to interview MA sometime soon. (M, if you are reading this, expect a call from me. Let’s talk Finland. Let’s talk jazz. Let’s talk about designing stages for magic moments, and how I can do that more artfully with a cultural awareness when it’s 21 July. Thanks for being in touch. I will follow up. I usually do, on the important things, and with the people whose thinking peppers new influences on my own. Paprika and mustard–speaking of flavors and accents–are kind of hitting the spot, lately, in the new cuisines I’m getting to sample. When I’m not just hanging out eating leaves and seeds and sprouts with rye bread, or muesli, or boiled eggs, and other things that are really about the simple basic ingredients and not a lot of flair.)
I GUESS that’s my style: use good quality materials, and make something out of them that has a personality to it all its own. ‘Your cooking style is like how you make the books,’ said YL, who was living in the house with us up until the end of June. I laughed when she observed it; she had really keen sensibilities and could see things clearly. But she was right. I make things out of what’s there. I collage with what’s at hand. I find people I really enjoy talking with, and I gather us, in the same spirit of collage, in instances, in S P A C E. The Mirror happened in this way. A Nomadic Existence. Those were online. The real life ones were too numerous to bring up here, but some highlights for me were: ‘Hello August’ in Phnom Penh, ‘Choices’ in Siem Reap, ‘Gather’ in Seattle, and ‘The State of Publishing’ in Durham NC.
All good mixes of people, all smatterings of happened-upon conversations that led to the conversation salons that got those of us who I imagined would enjoy connecting with one another into a space where they could then interconnect. Did you come to MAKE? Scale? The reception for ‘Today I Love You?’ Did you join us at Kornerhaus for ‘Flourish: What is the role of the artist?’ Or maybe one of the dessert parties–Sugar in Seattle, for example, or the same idea–bring yourself and a dessert–when we were in the southwest corner of Ireland? Those were the early days of beginning to understand that the drama is the conversation, that the eloquence is artful, that content is huge, but so, in many ways is something else: caring.
Every thing I learned about writing, I learned in County Cork
CARING ABOUT the subject. Caring about the audience. Caring about the people who will be there, say, in the pub with you if you are in County Cork waiting for the lads to arrive and the rounds to begin. Johnny Don’t Go to Ballincollig, Johnny Don’t Go to Carrigaline. Waiting is in and of itself a kind of drama. Waiting for Godot. Waiting for the moment. Waiting for the Book of Five Rings. Waiting for the slowing; stilling. The poetry. The artfulness of just being together, seeing the moment of now. I learned all of this from the people I bumped into, by chance or design, or luck, or work, in Co. Cork. That’s really where this all started. HT MO’B.
The West Cork Literary Festival, for example. Then, later, with others who were just hanging out with me in the intermissions of concerts, getting rounds. All kinds of good memories; it might be time to get back there again. Maybe next summer. Maybe with a group. Maybe to make Atelier S P A C E | West Cork. Let me try to pull that together. It always takes planning, of course.
But if you care about a thing, and you care damn hard, then yeah, people come around, they do, they come out and say hi and see what you are doing.
And take part. That’s important. Because I could throw all these salons and workshops and so on, but if no one came, there wouldn’t be a conversation. There wouldn’t be the possibility of being changed by what we hear. It would be… boring. It would be… staid. It would be, also, simply a vanity project. Too many of those, in these modern times. Too much self-published crap that gets passed off as ‘this is my book I wrote’ and not enough quality. Quality! And here we go. Back to where I started the Year of Uncertainty project in 2013, which led to the full-on leaving of one continent and going out into the big black yonder, to discover, who knew what, with whom, where, how, when, or for what aim: except, maybe… Quality. Reading ZAMM and practicing uncertainty. That really happened. It sure seems weird to think about, looking back.
No plan. No agenda. No income. No savings. No prospects. And plane tickets to nowhere in particular via RDU -> Hanoi, for a quest into the Unknown.
‘You wear your heart on your sleeve’
POSSIBLY BECAUSE OF THE ROOTLENSSNESS, I focused on ‘being a writer.’ So I wrote. Tons. Badly. Often. Mostly super long, long emails to practical strangers during that 2013-2014 timeframe when there really was nothing to report. Except, of course, for the feeling of swimming in a sea of doubt and aiming at nothing in particular. I guess that built something in me, though. Practicing how to write towards the thing that the sheafs of voluminous writings became: the short, hyperlocal series of zines popped out from that process. Instead of writing my own thoughts, what about creative nonfiction? Instead of just more philosophizing and intellectualizing, what if I just tapped my old skills as a reporter and did actual interviews to discover stories in situ? Ohhhh.
So I changed it up. And now I’m making these.
So that’s how it evolved.
Yeah, I’m grimacing now, remembering sending all those emails. A little embarrassing, really. Emails that went to filters. Emails that went to junk. Emails that went into the void.
But some landed.
I mean, a few. They really did land. Square. Some of you told me. Some of you thanked me. Some of you bought my books, which was cool, and I appreciated that. Maybe there was resonance in simply showing up, was it weekly? Gosh. That was a lot of email. Sorry. But yeah. Trust and reliability come of showing up, don’t they? And sometimes, that hits the right note at the right time. In certain places, with certain readers. And those were the ones I kept in touch with, later, and whom I invited to my online circles, in S P A C E, in 2014, when the whole kernel of the gem of an idea started to burgeon: How can I gather people in quality conversations, in the way that we love to do in real life, using the two-way and indeed n:n stream that makes it possible to connect us in fascinating, high-quality ways?. Someone has to design for that. Design is making meaning. I’m used to this kind of work. I trained in engineering, after all. So that’s how it happened. How it came into shape: this, the architecture of S P A C E. Right. Enough nuts and bolts. Returning to poetry and philosophy, let me leave you with one of my favorite quotes from Rilke:
‘Be patient toward all that is unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves… Do not… seek the answers, which cannot be given to you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.’ —Rilke’s letters to a young poet
‘And the point is to live everything.’
(Question: But are you really living, or able to live the questions, if you don’t even see the now? And if you can’t find caring in your heart for the living of everything, then is it artful? I read somewhere that philosophy is a means of discovering our way towards living a more pleasurable life. That’s cool. And also, design is about making meaning. I asked my clients at DK, often, ‘What will be the legacy you want to leave? How will you find the way towards that?’ We know there’s not that much time left, so let’s get going.) Shall we?
Oh! It’s getting dark!
The dark dip… Right now. Good morning, Midnight!
This post is for all members of S P A C E–thank you for your support these last four years. Couldn’t have come this far without you. And now, it’s about to get good.
ARE YOU IN FINLAND? Great.
Join Design Kompany and new friends in Kärsämäki for a once-off event, a Festival of The Zine. Celebrating International Zine Day, this will take place in various venues on Saturday, 21 July.
What are zines?
Zines are independently published periodicals. They are not fancy, nor are they mainstream. Rather, zines are part of the “indie, DIY (do-it-yourself) culture” that shares its spunky style with punk and other subcultures. With a zine you can express yourself freely, without the need for an editor. You can make as many or as few as you like, and you can decide who gets to read them, if anyone. Unlike social media and sharing of digital streams, zines are hands-on, and they’re shared in real life, with real people. You get to have a conversation. You get to see how people respond. It’s much more about the exchange and the quality of the connection, we feel, than it is about ‘producing’ for the sake of making ‘content’ for the masses. In an age where the internet can confuse and lie to us, zines give us a tangible grip on the here, and now, and remind us that at the end of the day, we get to create and write our own stories. The stories of our lives. The stories that remind us who we are.
Click the pic below to read the full programme for the day.
CONTINUING. To make. Zines, mostly, in June. July looks different. July has a different feeling to it. The flowers are changing. The fragrances, too. I feel like I’m a teenager again: staying up really late, talking to people about everything, joking, cutting up paper and sending little notes out into the world, writing letters, sharing the time with friends, and generally being curious about ‘what’s going to happen today.’ Slow moment. Slowing. Noticing. Making things is a way to do that, of course. You put something together with your time, focus, and your craft. You make a thing that, after some time, begins to take shape.
This zine (pictured) was one of the first ones I made here, when I got to the residency and started obsessing about ‘producing stuff.’ It was a limited edition of just 3. Two of them went out into the world to new people I’ve met. One is left. It’s the favorite of the ones that people peruse, when they examine the three dozen or so little books that I’ve made since I’ve been here. I’m in a conversation with someone who is going to maybe help me put together a little exhibition, at the end of July, so we can share them in a giant popup style installation with the general public. It would be very DK. Come as you are, have a read if you want, put something back, take a look, enjoy the books, talk to each other, ask me anything. More and more, I’m realizing the books and art pieces are just conversation-starting prompts. They invite some query, sure, introspection, even. But like everything I make and do, it’s the conversation I care about most. The giving and receiving, the interconnection, the sharing of S P A C E, and of course, time. Art, at its best, is a conversation. Something I find myself saying over and over again, including yesterday evening upon parting with my new possible collaborator in the making of installation art here in, um, Kärsämäki. Finland, like. Who knew.
Friends and new acquaintances. Guests in ‘Slow Moment.’ Members of S P A C E. All of you are always welcome, to meet me in the aether, the forums, the real life spaces, the public squares of our lives and disconnect from the internet world, where there are only facades and cropped pictures of the things that are really real. But go to a lake or down by a river, look at a rainbow or find the moon and the sun together in a bright white sky, and there is no way to capture or record that feeling. The smell, the people, the ambient nature of it—you cannot put that into a square photograph and expect it to be received the way you’re receiving it. The scene, I mean. And that means… here it is, the crux of it, the thing I wanted to say, that means, when you just document for the sake of it without paying attention to where you are and who you’re with and the things that are being said with words and gesture and the blank space that convey far more than either, then you’re not really there. You’re not sending something cool and interesting into the world if you’re just shooting a quick pic and blogging it or microblogging it somewhere. You’re just… looking for attention or validation. Let’s admit this. Social media is about validation-seeking. Isn’t it? And you know what? That means–you’re not fully there when you’re presenting something to someone. What you send is vague and tattered, what’s received is even more so. That said, I’m concluding that this is probably the major reason I don’t have a mobile phone or trade texts with anyone or even use most social media these days. Why? It’s not a great conversation. And if conversation and dialogue is what I care about most–and it is, making great space for remarkable connexion and interconnection—then I better find the channels and media that work best to do just that.
Real life, for example.
Real life is best.
DK hosts ateliers in S P A C E in real life. Next up: Atelier S P A C E: Kärsämäki on 21 July.
DK and friends are together hosting a series of conversation salons in Kärsämäki, Finland, on the conversation topic, ‘Then & Now.’
Can we preserve an old way of life, or parts of it, as we move forward in time? How do we define ‘progress?’ What is important to keep, and how do we determine what’s okay to let go? What’s ‘culture?’ What is ‘preservation?’ What legacies do we want to leave for future generations, and what have we learned from past ones? Let’s meet. Let’s converse. When you arrive, you’ll get to know a few new and different others from this area. You’ll be able to participate in a new way of connecting that might be unlike anything else you’ve experienced. DK has been hosting conversation salons since 2006 in Seattle, bringing to the table a decade of experience in facilitating discussions that have a center, and not sides. Let’s meet, connect, and talk about ‘Then & Now.’
The venue will be Kahvila, a cafe just steps away from the local architectural gem, the Shingle Church (pictured), which as DK has learned was built in 2000 in response to the loss of an older church, using methods and materials respectful of a much earlier time. This is the beginning of a new series, ‘Hei Kesä,’ which will be held in coming weeks. These conversation salons are a hybrid of facilitation methods DK have adapted from Open Space hosting methods, years of design consulting work, and general curiosity about ways of gathering new and different perspectives.
Tickets inclusive of: 1 filled croissant + 1 tea or coffee, and 1 zine of your choice from DK’s June collection.
To confirm your spot, RSVP through this form:
Photo courtesy Kattilakoski Culture Cooperative