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:
Things have evolved for them quite a bit at NUK, I think they’ve moved on from our original design, but the ‘N’ is still there on the cups that DK’s Dipika Kohli drew.
Which is this:
I really like this story. Of how you start with ‘…’ and get to this design. It’s not a straight line. The creative process moves around and changes a lot, in the middle. It’s how it goes. It’s how we learn, and how we grow, too. Since DK had been doing branding work for more than a decade, it wasn’t hard. (These days we’re not doing branding work, by the way. More consulting. More experiential programs. Like these.)
Of DK’s founders hitting the road in 2013, going in search of ‘I don’t know what it even is yet’, and discovering the first team in Phnom Penh to give DK an open hand to design the way we know how to design. By asking questions. Listening. Learning. Gathering. Percolating. Generally: trusting the process. Why not? It’s worked for us for so many clients in the past.
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
Found something really cool today at the website ThirdCultureDesign.blogspot.com, by self-identified ‘Third Culture Kid,’ or TCK, Gerrit J. Hoppe. I think it was about 2011, if I’m reading and understanding correctly, which is interesting. Why is this old, underpopulated site, coming up on page one of a search about ‘cross cultural design?’ Hmmmmmm.
Oh! But this is the thing. Identity, right? Identity and culture. Between-ness. And design. And uncertainty. And knowing that you have to trust the process. And being okay with more than one answer existing at the same time, even if those answers cancel each other out. This is no-brainer stuff for people who are international… people who cross cultures all the time, and that doesn’t mean just nation-boundaries (who needs those?), but other ones. The way we grow up. What a certain word means to us. Whether or not we believe that orange and chocolate are a classic combination or not and if we don’t we can argue about it for hours and hours if we are the type to do that, TCK-type types, I mean.
That’s a side thing.
An inside joke, thing.
Hrm. Should I be writing inside jokes into serious blog posts about culture, identity, politics, resp0nsibility, ethics, and design?
[Long story deleted]
Focus, focus, focus
I am writing, again, behind the scenes. In protected-page posts. About design. Culture. The open road, uncertainty, trusting the process. And much, much more. It is a journey of change and discovery, it is an important time of learning and reflection. Especially given all that is developing and unfolding in a world that doesn’t know how to cross cultures intelligently.
I think some are uniquely positioned to write, share and publish about the how of this. About noticing. About listening. About engaging. And I want to find those people. And interview them. And write more, and make a podcast, “S” is for Sincerity, is the working title. I really need to do this work but I don’t know how this is going to actually happen, given that it takes hours and hours of time, and like the article I was talking about (link, coming up) before going into this long-winded side story says, you have to immerse to get into a space, place, and moment to really say something worthwhile. Am I there, yet, by now, to be the interviewer? I don’t know. I want to try to keep learning, but it’s also important to hit ‘go’ sometimes, before we’re even ready, because, you know, Greenland is melting.
What design can learn from crossing cultures
“The term cross-cultural design has become popular lately. Nobody designs in a vacuum, and we rarely design for people in the same life situation as ours. These days, it’s almost effortless to talk to and work with people all over the world. This is a fantastic development, and I think it’s really helped broaden people’s horizons. As a designer, though, it means we now have an extra set of responsibilities. The term “cross-cultural” implies that designers remain in their home culture and survey others from afar, designing from a distance. This isn’t enough.
I think it’s important to engage in intercultural design instead, in terms of how we think about problems and then act upon them. “Intercultural” implies more immersion and personal engagement.” —Smitha Prasadh
As Prasadh hints, the key element to intercultural design is immersion, but as immersion into a new culture takes up large quantities of time, it has been nearly impossible to accomplish in the past…. Read the full piece here.
Today, when the world is growing ever smaller through the spectacular development of the Internet and the increasingly rapid flow of economic interchange, we find ourselves in a pressing situation whereby, like it or not, our very survival depends on our ability to exchange cultural methodologies on an equivalent basis. To turn toward a stance of national exclusivity, regionalism, or fundamentalism, in which nations become isolated politically, economically, culturally, or religiously could bring about unimaginable dangers on a worldwide scale. If only in that sense, we novelists and other creative individuals must simultaneously broadcast our cultural messages outward and be flexible receptors of what comes to us from abroad. Even as we unwaveringly preserve our own identity, we must exchange that which can be exchanged and understand that which can be mutually understood. Our role is perfectly clear.
—Haruki Murakami,2006, in an introduction to the collected stories Rashomon and others, by Ryunosuke Akutagawa
THE STORY IN A NUTSHELL. Going to different parts of the world, mostly Southeast Asia and Northern Europe, to discover the interestingness. And I mean, interesting to me. I look for the contemporary aesthetic, but also, what the people are telling me who are ready to share, honestly and from the heart, in very short impromptu bursts. (A very close friend of mine says what I do is have a series of ‘one-chat stands,’ which, I guess, is pretty accurate.) There is an intimacy there, but it is fleeting. Indeed, ephemera is one of the keywords of our weekly e-mag, S P A C E, which is up to 22 issues now, and all of them are in our online store.
Searching for the story
People tell me all kinds of things, you wouldn’t believe it. But it is not my goal to put their stories verbatim into text: that is boring, uncreative, and unoriginal. That is outdated. ‘He-said, she-said’ reporting bored me utterly when I used to work as a reporter, for about two years at a weekly and then two more at a daily. I wanted more. I wanted the earnestness and inspiration, the road, the journey, a bit of creative and artistic license, the travel (but not the instagram-porn kind) rather that which is learned when you spend time in a place (and which someone in Thailand once called ‘slow travel’ which I thought was a cool way to put it), and I wanted, more than all of those things: sincerity. Ergo: creative nonfiction, made in situ, on the spot, out of the collage that is real life (and paper, sometimes, too).
Richness and complexity aside, there was that magical element that was missing, all that time, when I was running around, floating, writing things, here and there, wanting desperately to hit a mark but not knowing which one or where in the hell it was even close to. But then, in 2017, I went to Battambang in Cambodia and stayed four nights and five days, offline, exploring the story. Decding I would compose something on the spot, based now whatever conversation happened to fall into my world, and whatever bits of paper, stories, books, or ‘miscellaneous’ wandered into my world. In this way I wrote, ‘Here Comes the Dance,’ a very short short about the Age of Anxiety and a thirtysomething I had met in a hotel common space who was very happy to talk at length and without pause about it, which I had welcomed, and the other things, bits from books, that found their way into that very first issue of S P A C E. I can talk more about that another time when I am not in a place with people taking lots of camera photos around me, this is my cue to cut this short and go now, I have to get some new pictures for new issues of S P A C E that are getting made now. Here in Latvia. A lot of things.
But suffice to say, the story is the journey, of discovery and. Much, much more. More soon. Oh, look at that. Right now, just now, starting… a parade? There is a flash mob going by me, now, with bubble-blowers.
My gosh. I love Rīga.
Photo: First zine made in Rīga, April 2019. Short post about arriving to this city is here. Picture taken by A. Spaice
Make a ‘zine’ with DK. Get to know more about the DIY-style of publishing a mini-magazine. Techniques, templates, samples and demonstrations are all part of this short, sweet creative workshop that has been traveling Southeast Asia and N. Europe since 2017.
Discover S P A C E, the conversations and the zines. Make, take, converse, and enjoy. Learn more about DK’s Atelier S P A C E and couture zines at instagram.
Workshop fee: €15, includes workshop materials + 1 coffee or tea.
THIS WAS ORIGINALLY going to be a protected-page post. I didn’t want to get all corny about this whole DIY publishing thing. The scene. The strange feeling of having a thing that you want to share, but realizing that no one is readily around to hear it. And wondering if you are really on to a thing, or just think you are, but then, when you hit ‘print,’ it just all kind of falls, click, into place.
Getting to the point where you know how you’re going to approach the first pitch if you’re a seasoned baseball player, for example, takes time. Takes practice. Takes knowing the sweet spot on the bat and how your own personal stance is going to work out so you hit that, more of the time than less. No one bats 1000 but you can sure try to get better if you know yourself, what works, and how you have felt when the homerun gets hit.
But getting here and printing this stuff out makes me feel good: like it’s easy to go to bat, now. These changes have come with experience. They have more to do with the approach to taking to a nomadic life, kind of, on the road, and before that, the call of the road, than I had realized: the creative process is an adventure unto itself.
You go where the feeling takes you, you work it out, you develop the idea or set of ideas that feel rightest, and then, you make the cuts when the thing is starting to take shape. The ‘thing’ being the theme, the concept. It’s not about writing into sentences and paragraphs and making sure it’s all correct. It’s about feeling your way towards what is the mood of that place, space, time, mode, journey, and conversation set. There are no rules to this stuff. I wish that when people want to start talking to me about writing and art that they wouldn’t go right into, ‘What have you published?’ if they’re themselves authors, or, worse, ‘Have you been published?’ As if that means something. (Ask me if I’ve made f–ing good art, and then we’ll have a party.)
Shall I write down the conversations from those kinds of jam sessions, somewhere?
Was thinking of doing that.
What I guess I am feeling as I look at the small set of things that I have brought to show and share here and there with people whom I have found through the internet or in moments, in real life, when the moment hits that I want to let someone read something I’ve written in the past (never current writing, that’s just… that’s difficult, since it’s still being worked out)… well… When I do get to see how people feel when they read, it’s nice. It makes me remember that writing isn’t writing for me: writing is for making a thing that I can share. And that the moment of sharing, that!, that’s the whole point of this journey for me, in S P A C E. Which is ticking along, more or less. Every week since early December 2018, there’s a 16-page PDF that goes out to a small set of people around the world who have been supportive from the start of this kind of project and intiative. Honestly, I don’t know why I won scholarships for studying in universities: the same money would be much better spent, I feel, backing me on these kinds of in-the-field reporting gigs (they’re not really gigs, they’re self-commissions, which is, I think, ‘art’, if, and only if, so iff, they land somewhere, there is resonance…. only then is it really art… and is art for art’s sake the point? I remember debating this when I was 24, in some fancy pants art school, and it was dumb, and not that much longer after that, I was packing up and driving away from the place towards the far, green pastures I knew would await me… somewhere… didn’t know at the time that was going to be, er, Ireland, but yeah…. )
Green pastures and the call of the horizon, the road in general, has always been a temptation for me. I can’t not go. I can’t not see, try, discover… sometimes when I find myself in places too long (Phnom Penh, for example, or Seattle), I get to the point where I wish I could just leave. I mean, leaving is nice, and I don’t have ‘jobs’ to attach to, or a ‘community’ that wants me to stick around. I used to wish I had those things, but I learned, for me, it’s much more interesting to keep it light. Keep ties to a minimum. I haven’t bought new clothes for a long time, and the last time was right before I had to meet some people I had not seen in five years, so my clothes definitely needed an update.
So what does this have to do with DIY publishing?
Contrary to popular belief, I do not write with a conclusion to walk you towards. In fact, most of this is just ad lib. All of it is, in fact. I do not pre-write blog posts, though I think that might help you see that I am, in fact, a serious writer, but I save my best stuff for articles for magazines, like over here, and also for the e-mag S P A C E. Those are the pieces I work out to my best. I give my whole heart to them, which is part of why, also, I publish in so few places. I don’t want things to get out of hand and I don’t care if the world knows about me or just 4 people. It’s fine. The art is the point, and the journey towards making better art is even more important. To me. I love it when I find artists and talk to them about things like this, and we are serious and we are happy to have found one another being serious also where they are, and when we talk about these things, rarely does it go into the specifics of the art-making itself. Rather, we are dwelling on a different cloud, one of possibility and range, one that invites newness, openness, the thinking outside gravitational forces and the usual G. Where it gets interesting is where we can jam, creatively and intellectually and playfully and thoughtfully but also in that spirit of collegial co-creativeness, where all are equal and welcome to the table. I think what I am writing is the exact mood I hope that S P A C E invites people to join in, when they come to events or read our magazines.
It’s getting tighter, better. Clearer, sharper. And it’s also going to end. One day, I know I’ll get bored of it, and want to go on to another project. Not sure what, not sure where. But like Seattle and Phnom Penh, I know I’ll want to move forwards from here. No wistful backwards glances anymore, for me… there are too many things ahead, and too much more to look into. I can’t describe this very well right now because some people are listening to some kind of phone-vid and the music in the background is much less interesting than it was when I got started on this post. But yeah. Things are okay.
I like it that whenever I pass a little cafe place, they have the telly on, and it’s almost always… ice hockey.
IT IS REASSURING and heartwarming to get the news today that there are readers following Dipika Kohli‘s new column, Kismuth & The Way, in Charlotte, NC USA-based Saathee Magazine. Here is the link to the first article for Kismuth & The Way.
If you started reading Kismuth as an e-letter in 2014, well, you might be surprised to see how things have updated. Practice. Can do wonders. The changes in writing are due to a medley of factors. First, a lot of conversations about how to slow down. Plus, an awareness now from some of the best of those that a written story isn’t so much about the observations or how well they’re relayed, but rather how the readers will feel to be taken on a journey. (HT J, and S).
This is good. The work is just beginning, however, to continue to write and design and narrate and most importantly, share the real, raw, honest and genuine stories. Real people. Real places. Made in-situ, right where they are. Together, most often, in conversation parties and one-on-one random connections that turn into strings that start to organize themselves in lines, sort of, and then, make a story. It’s starting to get interesting around here.
It’s part of our new work, to gather stories in real life on the spot made and shared around the world, at cities where we are finding them by talking to people every day who happen to cross our paths (or social media feeds) and designing the themes together. Currently in: Latvia. Discover more about S P A C E, the idea behind this work, and how you can support these efforts: at our crowdfunding page.
I KEEP DOING THIS. Showing up at major holidays, busting in with big plans and finding everything shut.
I was in Việt Nam at Tết, which means the whole place closes for a month, right?, then Thailand for Songkran just a minute ago, and in Latvia (said I’d go, didn’t I? and now here I am)—smack in time for… Easter.
Right. Europe. I’d forgotten. Owing to my six years and counting life in Southeast Asia, I suppose. Khmer New Year is high in my consciousness, of course it is, but I totally forgot… Easter. Flashbacks now, to Ireland. (Heya, M’OB). Still, even with things mostly feeling like they’re gonna close in five minutes, I feel pretty great about being here. Making the most of it. (HT: Mav)
HOLIDAY. As with the countries in Asia that I just went by to make issues of S P A C E (Bangkok, Hanoi) I’m encountering the usual stumbling blocks like highly-booked places on the internet especially at the weekends, the bizarre sensation that all restaurants are going to be closed for a few days and that means, if you’re not good at cooking (and I am certainly not), then you should stock up on something like crackers. I guess I still have the peanuts from the airplane. Uzbekistan. Well, well. A new feeling: cool weather. I have missed this. I saw some snow on the way. Snow ! Like the old days, in Michigan, playing outside with my little brother, getting called in by our parents, being asked how was it all, in a jolly way, by my Dad. Snow is part of me. Snow has been missing, these six years in Asia, except, wait, for that time in Nepal…
Yet I’m having a ball.
Nice, trying this.
For a change.
I’m going to credit Rīga. Hello, Rīga.
So nice, to finally meet you.
Soon, I’m going to start sharing this page with a handful of my internet friends from around here. When that happens, this form should work to get in touch.
Atelier S P A C E is a two-year roving popup zinemaking atelier. It’s a project of the boutique studio, Design Kompany (started in 2004 in Seattle – presently based in Phnom Penh). On the road since Sept. 2017 from: Battambang, Cambodia, Atelier S P A C E co-creates a weekly zine. This is done with people DK discovers on the spot, in the locations where the popup zinemaking workshops go. DK invite others to co-create the zines. So far, some of the places we’ve been to make zines with others in this way are: Sheffield, Helsinki, Hanoi, Berlin, Seattle, Kuala Lumpur, and Phnom Penh. Stop by. See what’s up. Be a part of the experience at Atelier S P A C E, where some of us will be on hand to write, print, collage and sew with some of you a fresh zine, to be made on the spot: S P A C E | Tokyo, ‘Osananajimi’. Learn more about DK’s Atelier S P A C E and couture zines at instagram.
S P A C E | Tokyo will be a ‘yomikai’ get-together for those who want to read what we create, together, at Atelier S P A C E | Tokyo.
For the spring of 2019, DK and friends are co-creating the zine series, ‘The Book of New Things.’ Everything that we made so far in S P A C E has been a collaboration with people who have *shown up* for: events, ateliers, online programmes, and conversation parties—for at least two years. It takes time to develop. To progress. To build trust, rapport, and find continuity in a theme and give it enough space to grow. We learned through trial and error about this, because sometimes things go really well (but that’s just 1% of the time). And by ‘really well’ we have a pretty high bar: you have to be able to feel great about the collaboration, which means, being able to trust each other and say ‘this isn’t working, let’s improve it?’ and not worry if that means they’re going to get annoyed, offended, cry, spit at us, or go away. But of course those things happen too. Including spitting. Yes. Sometimes people just really don’t like it that you are doing your own thing, impolitely going against the grain and bucking the status quo. They really have a problem with that: and you know what? It’s not our problem. Frankly, it’s, well…it’s drag. In basic high school physics we learn about the coefficient of friction. Kinetic friction, static friction, whatever it is, it’s friction. And drag. Letting go is a thing. Letting. Go.
Lighter load, quicker step
ATTENTIVENESS. With this attitude, especially of late, I have personally lost a number of acquaintances and ex-friends along this journey: mostly due to a lack of alignment in vision. We are seeking S P A C E and quality, connexion and meaning-making, discovery and much, much more–see the ‘why’ in the outline below. But sometimes you have to let go of things in order to invite the new and next. FOMO has an opposite: I will be sharing about that, when up to 16 guests will join us, for the orientation session for ‘The Book of New Things.’ Starts 5 March. Read more about how to get started.
‘Let’s make something’
S P A C E MAKERS. Some of the people we co-created with to make Atelier S P A C E and the 12-set zine collection ‘A Philosophy of the Moment’ are acknowledged on our contact page. Many special thanks also to all of our fiscal supporters, whose names are at our crowdfunding page. To KIT with DK about co-publishing books, join this mailing list for a short overview of what’s coming up this year.
MOVEMENT. New and different. Fresh and original input. Wide perspectives. As DK continue to find out more about new places, new people, and unearth as best we can the very stories that connect us all, we are ready to invite new guests to join in the co-creation journey. But… one step at a time. This is why we’re starting to invite new and different others to connect with us in a meaningful way, and this new project is a light first step towards doing that. It’s called ‘The Book of New Things.’
Here’s how it works.
WHAT IT IS. A digital mini-magazine, published every week and shared with DK’s international network of creative people in the community called S P A C E. The idea is to create a platform for a self-selecting, highly motivated set of people to work on: developing a piece of writing; finding a way to connect with editors, photographers, illustrators and designers; networking; working in collaboration under the artistic direction of Atelier S P A C E at DK in order to create a finished piece that has real depth, complexity, meaning, and… art. An example of something co-created in this style is the poem about New Year’s in Vietnam, which you can read (in Vietnamese only) at this page.
WHERE. This is an online conversation.
WHEN. The online conversations begin on 5 March 2019.
MEMBERSHIP IN S P A C E. For those interested in developing a 1:1 conversation with DK’s creatitve team for advice, customized feedback, and tailored direction and consultation as we go, we invite you to become a member of S P A C E. The membership signup page is a crowdfunding one, and you can find it here.
WHO WE ARE. So far the creative team and co-hosts have been an international set of people that love to converse, connect, and talk over time to get to know each other and to find introspective moments, both individually, and together, too. Big thinking, big picture. You’ll be invited to any real life events taking place near you (we will be in Tokyo, Hanoi, and Riga). Here is the contact page at DK that tells you more about our team and collaborators.
WHY. Because some of us are still interested in depth, quality, conversation, connexion, and… meaning-making. Because some of us can see through facades and are bored with them. Because some of us love collaboration, whereby something better than we each could have made together gets made… in S P A C E. To KIT with DK about co-publishing books, join this mailing list for a short overview of what’s coming up this year.
‘The whole is something other than the sum of its parts.’
S P A C E | Singapore, ‘The Prospect of Beauty’ launches today in S P A C E, our crowdfunded, no-ads, member-supported weekly digital zine. Since we’re almost finished with our first 12-issue set, ‘A Philosophy of the Moment,’ it’s a good time to take a pause and try to grasp what the issues have been about. So far: new photography, new poetry, co-created works with people far and near, and the essay style that sometimes bleeds into metaphysical explorations that we like to do with people we know, and know well, in very small circles. It’s a story that really I could elaborate on, but only if the right moment came up, in the right place and time, and if I felt like it. That’s the mood, generally, with these small issues, too. They’re snapshots: captures, in a way, of the way it felt to be there, then, and with the people who happened to pass through our porous boxes of S P A C E. It’s fun, light, and sometimes revelatory. Because when we make space together, we learn more… about ourselves. Funny how that works. But yeah. I like it. I’ll take it. Next series, S P A C E | Spring, 2019, ‘The Book of New Things,’ is now scheduled and the list of what you can expect to see is at this crowdfunding page.
‘What is S P A C E, DK?’
I remember when this was getting going, and people were like, ‘But what IS it?’ And I was like, ‘Who the hell knows at the start of a thing what it’s about? You just have to get a ticket, book that thing, get on the bus, and get going.’
With the help of a stellar and carefully invited editorial and creative team, who co-created with me and through patient meanders into the ‘what it could be’ dimension as well as playful brainstorms in sketches, drafts, and various iterations of a thing that was beginning to become something, a great instance of conception took place. That’s just the creative process, isn’t it? Mucking around until you hit on the ‘a-ha.’ Then, you’re getting started.
Architect friends and I love to talk about this, the charette. Jazzy friends and I share a love for the jam session. Chess players call this ‘the big game.’ Travel companions I spend more time with than others also love the ‘getting lost in order to find center.’ The artist in me loves this exploration and discovery phase. The designer in me is ready to stop that once the concept gets settled, hit the ground, and build a box.
That box is S P A C E.
Inside the box
What’s inside is not something that I need to write down and tell people who don’t know me well. It’s just… not that kind of thing. It’s a party, it’s an invited space, it’s warm, and its goal is to welcome and include those who commit to making time and space to show up. This happens. In real life, in small magic moments, in shared online circles of conversations that move, and occasionally, on the spot, when it feels like becoming a thing. S P A C E is a jam session, in a big way, to design the aesthetic moment.
Not for everyone, of course.
But then, so what?
It is what it is. And that’s it.
‘The Prospect of Beauty’
It’s a very limited edition one, this time. Just for members of S P A C E, and our handful of collaborators in S P A C E, too. This edition was co-created by BOSS and DipikaKohli. This issue is made with great care, and it’s dedicated to my father, Ravinder Kohli. It’s a long story, but we put it down in a poem, ‘Bluely,’ which I think says it all.
INSIDE. ‘Bluely’ puts that long-awaited moment of reconnexion into words better than my other written pieces, I feel. It’s a different way of saying the things that I have said to many people across timezones and who hold vastly different worldviews. In sum: doing what you have to do to be true to who you are. Long story. But… maybe there will be resonance. Maybe you will know what I mean, if you’ve ever had to do something very hard, so very hard that it made you turn away from the people you loved, especially the very person who most taught you to do what your heart called you to do, and who, knowingly or un-, had gone on to inspire you to become an artist. Who showed by example that you can’t sit still, because there’s way more out there to look at, explore, experience, and discover. It’s about that capacity to still stay open, despite gaining in years, to choose to still be curious, to continue to self-develop in order to keep learning new things. And to learn to love learning… And that the going and seeing is a big part of living. And that if you don’t… well.
A NEW ART. Despite the differences, in philosophy and style, and despite five years of stubborn silence, this happened… in Singapore, ‘The Prospect of Beauty.’ Special thanks, too, to the people whose paths we crossed quite by accident, whose counsel and friendly advice then informed the direction this very special issue of S P A C E then took. I would list them here but that might be a little awkward. Then again, people like being acknowledged, right? Maybe I’ll put them in the zine. People don’t know, sometimes, how much their words can really mean. And like Max Planck said, ‘When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.’
Let’s talk about ‘The Resistance.’ A conversation party and zine reading. DK and friends in Hanoi invite you to be a part of this very limited-edition popup, S P A C E | Hanoi. Save the date for 14 March. Hosted by A. Spaice, who was last in Hanoi to make ‘N’ Hanoi: NARRATIVE.
For S P A C E | Hanoi, ‘The Resistance,’ taking place on 14 March, the time and place will be shared *only* with guests who RSVP. This helps us keep the conversations small in scale and limits it to those who are interested, only. We’re excited to be back in the city after such a long time, and to connect and reconnect, but even better, to interconnect, new and different others whose paths might not have crossed. As per usual: in S P A C E.
I REMEMBER THIS. Spam comments. Requests for jobs at DK. This must be what happens when you start blogging again. I mean, like really blogging, not just writing the clickbait-y stuff that I think so many people who write blogs that are professional service company people with a ‘plus a blog with them’ do. I mean, it’s easy to get caught up in that. Writing isn’t easy. Writing is work. Writing for the sake of what end, you wonder, and so, like everyone else, you turn into a market-markety bloggy-blog. Which is terrible. Because it’s not just irritating to find silly ad-like links everywhere, it’s also bad art. Bad art isn’t acceptable, so let’s move forward.
Am reading about social capital. And how capitalism has taken what used to be stuff we did for each other because we’re human beings, and commodified it.
Social capital is, for example, when we take care of each other’s kids. When we help one another with homework, do the work that it takes to go out of our way to help someone else out with finding lost keys or getting to the next city or taking the right bus or whatever. Social capital is when someone kindly invites you to dinner when you know that all the restaurants are going to be closed because it’s a holiday, and nothing is open for five more days which means you’ll be stuck at the ‘mart’– which sells more processed garbage and smells, when you walk into it, like Capitalism.
[Long-winded side rant deleted]
And social capital is this kind of thing, the soft architecture of spacemaking: making space that is, for one another. To reflect, to share. All those old dialogue roundtables we did before, I remember some of them were very, very interesting, were a kind of ‘public space,’ the very sort that we need if we want to find ways to feel more connected. Like the things we are here for matter. Like we’re part of something more than just the day-to-day of churning out ‘stuff’ in exchange for our time. Selling our time, that is.
Being there, closely. Listening, and participating in the creative process of Life… Oh, no. I’m getting lofty again. (‘Come off the mountain, DK!’) Right, right.
I’m making this new stuff because I want to add more social capital to the pot of the ‘stuff’ that’s out there, now (which is largely boring, to me). I don’t go to networking events. Or weddings, if I can help it. I try to avoid all social chatter that revolves around ‘like-minded people are gonna be there’ because to me, ‘like-minded’ is an echo chamber I don’t wanna step into. I’m interested in the mix. The flow, the journey… But if you know me, you already know that. If you don’t, well. I guess I’m writing, at the moment, for the people who know me or potentially might—let’s see. The internet, asmuchas I give out about it, has made it possible for me to meet new people on the road in the very kinds of journeys that I’m also on… I don’t mean ‘like-minded,’ here… I mean, more of… the questioning, quest-y types… Not for everyone, of course… but. About 1 out of 100 will be reading this far. And looking for the ‘what do I do now that I’ve found you?’ call to action. (Is this you? It’s around, somewhere, I promise.) If it wasn’t for the internet, I’d probably still be thinking that my job at a daily paper was ‘creative.’
But through the process of trusting the process, I found out what is.
Okay, then there’s the whole thing about what to do when we start to charge everything for everything, like, you know, babysitting and homework help and stuff like that. I mean, sure, we all have to earn cash because that is what it’s about right now, cashy-cashy. Still, I think we can start trading in something that is more old school. The currency of trust.
Why? Because, despite the worship of those little pieces of paper that we give and take from each other (more and more facelessly than ever, sadly, I feel) it’s not like we really need cash to get things to happen. We need trust. Like old times. We need to know who we can count on, and for real. To do things. Make things. Move around. Discover. Make time for each other. Be. All of this is what leads to stillness and reflection. And that leads to better art. Design is only a means towards getting to the better art. Art, art, art, ladies and gentlemen. I am not talking about what someone decided was artistic and put into a fancy pants gallery, either. I’m talking about stuff that moves us. makes us sing, connect, feel, and even brings tears to our eyes because it shows us our own…. there’s too much to write here and if I’m writing in this public space, which it looks like I don’t see the reason to make this a protected page post because those are reserved for the conversation-continuing, not starting, and what I hope to do is maybe make a few new starts, here. Today or soonish. But they have to be good starts. They have to have art in them.
My parents told me that I shouldn’t study art, so I went to engineering school* and then I worked for some architects, and then two different newspapers (fortnightly, daily), and then I started a design studio, and here I am writing away about art. All of the past experiences have informed the ways to design structures in which we can most excitingly discover the concepts that lead to great works. That’s important. Scaffolding. For S P A C E for ex. I’ll need to talk about it, sometime, if you are one of the people who are wondering how to connect with us in a better way than just reading this blog sometimes. There’s real stuff, it really is cool. It’s working, it’s been working, and there’s… a new beginning. And more…
*Looking for samples of what different bridges look like? This is a cool site.
‘More of what, though?’
Existing more artfully, in the same exact time frame, means you get more. Experience something fully by focusing on it, while you’re in it, and not getting distracted by all the so-called possibilities and ‘options.’ Sorry. I just don’t. Get that. I like to go with it when I know there’s a beginning there, that feels right. That works me, challenges me, instructs and delights, and best of all, delivers—all that is ahead, for me, is the quest of this kind of ‘more.’ Not more stuff. Not more friends. Not even more… anything, really. So what am I after, then? What am I questing? Questions. And people who ask good ones.
So far I’ve been very lucky. There is… an ambient… community. Behind the scenes here there are a small group of us talking together in very intriguing, even intimate ways, even though maybe we’ve never met in real life. Real life is the best channel, of course, but when we can’t have that it’s nice to have this and then gear up towards having that, one day. It does happen. It’s great. S P A C E started in 2014. So. There’s that. And most importantly: there is trust. Trust is what we’re dealing in, like I said. Trust trust trust trust trust is what we human beings always went with when it came down to it: ‘Do I believe you? Are you reliable?’ Please don’t act like you’re interested in what I’m making when we first meet and then turn out to be a really flaky flake: that is a huge, huge pet peeve for me. Be real, dude. Just: be real.
Towards a better art
Art! So much to talk about. I did go to a fancy art school for like five minutes but dropped out because it wasn’t where the meaning was getting made, it was where old, dying ideas about what is ‘good’ were getting pushed on young people who would go on to do, what Banksy wrote in something somewhere, the kind of work that just isn’t art because (and I’m paraphrasing) the best minds went to work for people who used them up to get us all to click links and buy stuff we don’t need. I left art school to take up odd jobs and then go travel, and then, more stuff, but yeah, it was a lot of movement, there, fora while. To quest the artful. I used to have two big categories at this blog, before it got deleted accidentally (long story). The categories were: 1) In Search of Meaning and 2) In Pursuit of Beauty. Then I think there was Found and also Trust the Process. Mostly still probing in these four compass points, about a decade and a half later. Maybe we met in 2004 at something like Biznik. Maybe we met last week in Vietnam. Wherever you come from, wherever we’re going, we’re at this journey that I’m really excited about, that’s coming into shape quite nicely, in S P A C E. And since those four original points of query were so important then, is it any wonder, then, why we are talking together in online spaces in protected pages about existential philosophy, aesthetic moments, relational aesthetics (HT JB) the work of design, the meaning of art, the value of money, and much more related tangentially to these ideas?
So many philosophy magazines are a pile of junk, I think: they’re… well, let’s see… to put it bluntly?… they’re… just quoting the same old people saying the same old things, from a bygone era. (I have a habit of doing that sometimes, but some of us and I’m assigning myself to this role ought to be seeking up the new philosophers and publishing them: new voices, from the not-mainstream). Our real cool contemporary and updated modern philosophers are right here, amongst us here and now, talking, every day, about the way it all unfolds or doesn’t… I’m rambling. Oi. I’m going to stop now… Because. Art is the point. Not me making a point.I don’t wanna go down that silly path of logic-worship. Intuition is better. Intuiting the ‘rightness’ of things… and falling forward, towards them. Forward motions.
Such movements, after all, for S P A C E, are the point. So much to say. Will save it all up, for ‘Postmodern Nomads’, and the invite-only sequence ‘Strange Geometries II’. These new bits and pieces and unfolding meaning-making conversations to come in Spring 2019, with the launch of a new series in S P A C E, ‘The Book of New Things.’
S P A C E QUESTS S P A C E. All of this to say that you can join the conversations, but please note that you have to be able to add to what we are doing. Contribute ideas, words, time, show up for stuff, be there. Be part of the journey. Fiscally that’s fine, that’s one kind of contribution, but we’re wiling to take trades of all kinds. Always. That’s the new thing, around here; trade something for us, for S P A C E. It can be what you think makes sense. Bartering around the world, we are, lately. I’m serious. Banked on it; it’s working. Trust. All the conversations that have built up in meaningful ways to date over these last four years as we prototyped and pivoted, tested and scrapped dozens of failing directions in order to come up with the theme, the concept, the sequence, and the small team that is the right one for us here at DK, well it’s a lot. But yeah. They started with: showing up. And conversations that go somewhere.
Social capital. Is that, and so many other things, enfolded into its coat sleeves, pockets… places we’ve forgotten about as we chase the bigger kind of more prominent style of ‘more.’ (Fame, money, popularity, all that stuff). But… let’s be real: social capital, the good stuff that it brings to us, and the community it builds, is the most important kind of ‘capital’ there really is.
Feature illustration: By Dipika Kohli // Phnom Penh 2015
‘Art, at its best, is a conversation. One in which sender and receiver are locked in a timeless, wordless space, the quality of which only they can know:’ –Dipika Kohli, S P A C E | Palo Alto, 2014, in a conversation with the people who inspired S P A C E the zine.
As consultants, DK’s work is about discovering a strong concept of ‘why’ one does the work that one does. We use a lot of techniques to uncover that exact main idea, but the biggest tool we put into practice is dialogue. On a more personal note, DK’s founders and collaborators are generally curious, and interested in the art of conversation, so together we host events to gather in one moment those whose paths might not have otherwise crossed.
ART OF CONVERSATION. Central questions of identity, possibility, and search are the points from which DK’s inquiry takes its departure. Who are we becoming when we venture to places, and engage with cultures, the rules and shape of which we do not yet know? Dialogue is at the center of DK’s take on leveraging the best of the creative process, and it lies at the heart of all that we do. Whether we are in a client meeting or getting acquainted with a potential new friend, we are listening as best as we can. Through time, and sharing, there comes a moment when we arrive together at a conceptual ‘a-ha’. This is the breakthrough, and from here, the poetry of the connection becomes refined, nuanced, developed, and… more interesting.
DK was founded in 2004 in Seattle, WA, USA. Since that time, DK has worked with 100+ business owners of companies both large and small, as well as international development organizations. See what people say about working with DK.
Be a part of things to come
Are you ready to take part in something very new, and very much about exploring the ways to connect, and interconnect, new and different others? The best way to be part of DK is to support our work, first. To do that you can become a subscriber of S P A C E for USD $7/week, or make a donation, at our crowdfunding page. Or, show up in real life at any of our events. New projects ahead for 2020. KIT when you support this work to make more and better S P A C E.