For this issue, DK’s creative director Dipika Kohli worked with A. Spaice and our newly budding creative team in Penang, Malaysia, in November, 2019.
Wrapping a year’s worth of reflections on the idea of growth, change, seedlings and new beginnings, it is a soft version of something that heretofore in our magazine has been rather geometric and angular, in style and attitude. Yet time and sharing, more and more, has opened us up a little more to ourselves, and to a very small section of our innermost hearts.
There, in the quietest places, something new is aloft. Seeds, seedlings and search for new grounds, fallow periods and more make their way into these pages, indirectly and perhaps abstractly, but with, we hope, a feeling that gives itself rather than asks you to pay attention to it.
Lots of conversations. Lots of back and forth. Lots of email, discussion, redirection.
All of it goes into the current week’s issue, S P A C E | Rovaniemi, ‘Blank Sky Checklist.’
Cover photo by BOSS.
‘Art takes time’
This week, we publish Issue #44.
It’s a cocreation between Alexis Jokela in Finland and Dipika Kohli, our creative director and editor of Autumn 2019’s S P A C E collection, ‘Trust the Process.’
DK had spent three months in the north of Finland in summer 2018. ‘The whole thing is getting kind of interesting now that the conversations are weaving over themselves and inviting new people to join them, too. That’s because, I think, it’s because, mostly, I love to keep things moving, keep things in progression, because it’s more fun than starting from zero. Art, like I wrote in A Place Called Home, art takes time.’ For DK, the best part is that things are starting to place themselves in such wonderful ways that people are meeting each other now. In person, even. This is beautiful. Connexion, at its best.
Order S P A C E | Rovaniemi, ‘Blank Sky Checklist’…
This week, the lead story is ‘Ch_cklist,’ by Alexis Jokela, who also is the author of ‘A Summer Love Story’. That was published in S P A C E’ | Oulu. Following similar threads, ‘Ch_cklist’ touches on the things we all go through when we manage to learn how to master our feelings, let things move and shift, and find flow.
S P A C E | Rovaniemi, ‘Blank Sky Checklist’ is published exclusively here in S P A C E. Download it all this here.
This issue. Has taken me more than a year to wrap my heart around. It’s centered around a brief exchange that I had in a blustering white night all-night escapade that began as a foray to Haapavesi.
‘You go to peculiar places!’ said a writer in Oulu.
Despitemy usual antisocial nature, I went. To… Haapavesi.
What I found is wrapped into a short story, which is the lead story for this collection. It, and the issue itself, are called ‘Proprioception.’
It’s a mashup of conversations from Finland over the summer in 2018, as well as more recently, in the cloud. Internet and real clouds… mixing and sharing and discovering and writing. Stories and poems. People give me so much to think about, and, I’m told, I do the same for them. What we discover when we make space to converse is, of course, the whole entire point of S P A C E. So I decided to share that very sweet, summer and lighthearted story today. Starry constellations and jazzy connections, but over karaoke, rounds in bars and ‘filled croissants’ at home.
And who is Soile? Well.
Let me think how to describe this… well, okay, it’s difficult.
Some things are for sharing.
Some things are for folding into art, and publishing, as zines.
Those who are used to my writing and creative nonfiction will not be surprised, but it’s pretty much a combination of three people. Soile… Whom I met on the bus, whom I met at a bar, and whom I met at somewhere I can’t say because this is a public post and not one of the protected ones. [Long stories deleted]
Order this issue of S P A C E
Today’s release has a bunch.
A new short story.
Two poems including ‘Step a little closer,’ from 2014, which I wrote about the work of art, mostly, in a collaboration with M.
Today, in S P A C E, we share S P A C E | Rovaniemi, ‘Arctic Circle.’ Discovery. Connexion. Recommencements. And starts. But most importantly: showing up for the I-don’t-even-know-what-it-is-yet.
‘Arctic Circle’ is heavily inspired by a conversation that had begun in a southeast Asian locale, in autumn of 2016, and moved around in cyberspace before recommencing in the north of Finland almost exactly, if my calculations are accurate (and they’re only perfectly accurate 4.85% of the time) two years thence. A very important thread, for me,
I’ll refrain here from too much wordage, as is my unwieldy, cumbersome and ‘getting murky with communicating, DK’ habit. That’s why for this issue, I made a fresh commission. This one, a photo essay. ‘Arctic Circle’ is a set of images that are interpretations of what I had shared with BOSS.
Including, but not limited to: zines, bits of leaf, some twigs, a large wooden button, thin strips of the trunk of a birch, Queen Anne’s lace (pressed, flattened), black tissue paper, words, glyphs, and… um. Moss. (I was worried they wouldn’t let me pass through immigration with this last.) His photos turned out to be more than I could have put together in any kind of series myself: owing to the fact that the new and different emerged. Fresh eyes. Listening.
Read more about the way this story came into shape, in the first place, or get a copy of the issue, S P A C E | Rovaniemi, ‘Arctic Circle’ at either of these links at the end of this post.
Special thanks to Sanna Upola at KärsämäkiLibrary for challenging DK to make this set of writings from Finland more interesting than it could have possibly been without your input. Atelier S P A C E | Finland benefitted greatly from our conversations, for sure.
After, I met more helpful people briefly at an intriguing section of art books at Korundi Art Museum, and amidst all the great natural lighting flooding insets where I could probably have stayed for years, quietly writing and reading and musing about Art and Design and Architecture, at the Rovaniemi City Library.
Wow, the famous Finnish architect Alvar Aalto‘s design has exquisite sunken insets and exciting natural lighting. No wonder a handful of architecture students whom I asked about what they were doing observing and making notes and documenting strangers with photos were up to, at first a little skeptically, then more convivially, chatting them all up and asking not to be photographed while also inquiring about natural ventilation. They’d come all the way from Japan, made the trip, specially, to study it. Thanks also to Arktikum for press passes to help DK research and find context to make Atelier S P A C E | Rovaniemi.
And speaking of putting a thing together after contemplating it, here’s how to get the issue itself… ‘Arctic Circle…’ It’s free for collaborators and current members of S P A C E. Also available as a single issue download (USD $7). Click this pic to below to order it at our online store. Delivers instantly.
Trying new things. Nurturing our community. Building something real. Together. In S P A C E.
Pictured is a zine, one of our limited-edition ones that DK had made over the summer of 2018 in the long days of light in northern Finland. A bunch were on display for a time on International Zine Day, at our new friend Eveliina Karsikas‘ Cafe Onni in Kärsämäki. I got to know her because of lots of things, starting promptly with a shared interest in bright colors. The place was brand new, and she was just getting going. Being me (but only when I find a place and person that I really enjoy chatting with), I offered a zinemaking workshop, not often done around there. Surprisingly people actually came, we had cake and coffee and made zines together, and colored into miniature zine-coloring-books while mostly just enjoying real life and real time, together.
THEN, the zine traveled with me, north to Rovaniemi.
Which was where I met Karoliina Erkinjuntti, of the curious and talented collective Alice in Northernland. Out of the blue, on a rare whim, I offered her a trade. Could I give her this zine, in exchange for some of her postcards?
She said yes.
So, cool. We were gonna trade our art pieces. I haven’t done that since artschool.
Or maybe writing all those letters, they were like little pieces of art, back in the day between a particular spot in North Carolina and wherever I was in the world. But that was… the 1990s. Still, from those early days of sharing mutually of ourselves and our expressions through our words and papers and collages and drawings, I know that whenever my artist friends trade things with me, we actually take notice of it, and then, it’s valued.
(Aside: Earlier in the summer of 2018 in Finland, another person, an artist from Belgium, a painter, had asked me what I do with all of the things I make because aren’t there sure a lot and I said yes and I don’t know really just keep ’em around mostly but try to share them if I can, too, and she said some other things and then something about burning the works. Burning them? That seems… awfully… well.)
In Rovaniemi, at that moment, in that spot, winding down from my journey through the experience of three very bright months in the most northerly place I’ve ever been, inspired and recharged, I remember it was nice. The feeling that we could get along in this world without something as crass to quantify our works as silly things like green pieces of paper. Or colorful ones, this being euros we were talking about, in Finland… I guess I got into that little argument mostly because of this feeling. That work is work: and money is not a quantifier of what makes something good. Money is just… oh, but that’s another jam.
So big. And we’re so brainwashed about so much of it. ‘Money’s value,’ work, art, that thing’s value… there is a lot to unpack here. I remember talking a lot about this when I first met Michael Linton of Open Money; he was a speaker at something in Seattle and later he and his team consulted with us about brand design, and brand messaging. Which was also a trade, I think, or maybe we just… well I think… it’s not like it matters… I learned a ton from his team. And on Open Money’s website it says it straight:
Money is just information, a way we measure what we trade, nothing of value in itself. And we can make it ourselves, to work as a complement to conventional money. Just a matter of design.
With that short proclamation, which drew sharp intakes and gasps from the hundreds gathered there, for me, the accumulation of green pieces of paper and that’s what I call them, you know, well, yeah, this stuff, which is what some of us have been programmed to think is what is desirable, became far, far less important, and going broke (or below) wasn’t such a big deal or even a point of shame, either. Despite what one might think. What is value, what is work, what is art? This coming Tuesday we’ll share in S P A C E | Brussels, ‘The Work of Art’ some of the gleanings from recent dialogues on the topic of value, work, and art.
Good fun. I’ll save the deeper discussions for the private spaces of our forums. Some of us are already well underway talking together in a forum called ‘Strange Geometries.’ In a small, inner circle of S P A C E. Which of course is what I had promised, at the end of 2018, when the earliest adopters of it joined DK in S P A C E.
A final note: of gratitude. Thank you Karoliina and Eveliina. For trusting me, and sharing your time and art. That’s it, isn’t it? That’s trusting the process. (If you see this, someday, know that I’ve not forgotten our exchanges. Maybe we can continue one day. I’m thinking of getting back to Finland for 2019…)
A poem, co-created with @reijovalta. Asemic writings. And the lead story, ‘Coat Check,’ inspired by a night of getting lost by design.
Asemic writing is a wordless open semantic form of writing. The word asemic means “having no specific semantic content”, or “without the smallest unit of meaning”. With the non-specificity of asemic writing there comes a vacuum of meaning, which is left for the reader to fill in and interpret. All of this is similar to the way one would deduce meaning from an abstract work of art. Where asemic writing differs from abstract art is in the asemic author’s use of gestural constraint, and the retention of physical characteristics of writing such as lines and symbols. Asemic writing is a hybrid art form that fuses text and image into a unity, and then sets it free to arbitrary subjective interpretations. —Wikipedia on ‘asemic writing’
Get the zine when you subscribe this week to S P A C E. To subscribe, go here.
The zine ‘Miia’ is set in Finland’s Tampere. A continuation of earlier writings by Alexis Jokela. Plus, new photography and poetry. This zine is co-created by collaborating teams at DK. Get it on January 1, 2019, when you subscribe to S P A C E. Subscribe here.
That was surprising and refreshing. I had no idea… that such a small, short question could launch us into, well, I like to call it, um, S P A C E. Designing it: that’s what I do, mostly, but it’s hard to talk about when you haven’t actually experienced it… the things we said, right? Life. The journey. Etc.
Yeah. Writing a blog post and writing a journal are similar, but I’ve turned this into something else… like, public-facing letters. This. This, too. It’s a letter. Like as if we could find a way back to those times we would send postcards (except, hey, mail gets lost… I’ve already heard that an envelope went awry because of floods in the southeastern United States and because of probably rules and things you can’t put into them towards Eastern Europe. Alas.)
But so? We have internet. So let’s use it. To connect. Say, maybe, this was a postcard, or written in pencil, maybe even cursive. (As you know, there are mostly keyboards around in the cafes here, these days).
The things we said yesterday
WELL, I SAID I’d write up what we talked about, didn’t I? Tell you what I heard, tell you as clearly as I can given the background noise (a large group of Ozzies, but they are family-oriented types, they seem to be having a very grownup conversation about whereabouts of the travels of the others; catching up). Mind, it would be easier to write if it was as quiet as when you were here and with far fewer distractions around. When it starts filling up, I feel like leaving a place. More about that to be reflected on, inwardly: when a place gets ‘discovered’ it’s time to move on. I had this short pice I wrote about Haapavesi, in Finland, and someone saw that and said, ‘You went to Haapavesi? Haapavesi!? You go to… peculiar places!’ (Oh. Do I? I guess… I’m looking for new things. And not the things that have already been written about, blogged about, instagrammed, blah blah.) Food coloring in my avocado in Bali. Food coloring so it would be greener. You know, for the instagram. (I returned it.)
Ahead. Well. Sure. Big topic. The things to come are what they are going to be, right? We talked about, in my words, ‘where the turn happened.’ Both of us, questing. Finding one another by sheer chance, in that magic moment that later in the day, I ran into K and he and I talked about that. Some more. And som either things about narratives, but it dived into something super fast-paced and multi-layered when that conversation shifted (place, moment) to another box of space, closer to BKK1, where M was waiting with an empty plate and a laptop and ready to talk. About. Everything. Which I love. And here we are again… S P A C E quests S P A C E, I’m starting to realize, and sometimes I bump into the likes of wonderful young women like you, O, and it reminds me that I have to keep writing towards you: and the others, who are probably, if you are anything like me, wondering what to make of ‘it all’ and how to plough forward into the rough seas of the darkness of not-knowing. A good question.
Forays and purple prose
THAT SHOULD be a book, really. A Book of New Things. Am working on it, with some friends, behind the scenes here, to be honest. (All kinds of meanders, wanders, forays into the field, but coming back, touching down, resonance-finding and discovering.) Recently, after asking for some advice about where to take DK in 2019, someone I don’t know well told me to get rid of, in a nice way, I mean, but to tone down all the flowerylanguage. Ornamental verse, and all. Someone else had said that, too. ‘Just say it straight, DK. If you start getting attached to all the decorative writing, it’s nice, and all, but they won’t understand and they’ll just shake their heads and if they’re talking to you say, nicely, ‘I like this but I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.’ Noted. But you know? When I talk all flowery in real life, it’s a different kind of a moment. It’s actually… sometimes… welcomed, in a way, I feel? Maybe because it’s so rare that someone wants to talk in a way that sounds like it’s being written as she talks. I guess. That’s just. How I am, sometimes. Purple prose: it’s cool.
O, YOU WERE RIGHT. It is like a journal. Yet, I get to say ‘thanks’ here, to you. For saying it like it is: if we are the type of person who thinks a lot about a lot, often, and I mean, like, really often, and we have no idea if what we’re thinking about connects to anything else that anyone else is thinking about, and then we find each other, thinking about things often and a lot and deeply and even to a pint, sometimes, of losing it a little, (yes, it’s a thing), then yeah. We can relax a little. ‘Because someone else is taking care of that part, and caring about it,’ and stuff like that. Co-creating the Work of Doing It All Better… More some other time. Leave me a note if you see this?… (I had more here but I realize I wanted to spend more time writing properly; so tired from the Water Festival traffic, heat, etc. Hope you found your way around town and that it’s all okay with the little bro, too.)
E X P L O R I N G _ T H E _ A R T
Times, shifts, curiosity about new people and new ways of thinking, and the general crisscross of emails and vague fragments of thoughts are what we write and share about in S P A C E. Works are creative nonfiction short stories, co-created with members of Design Kompany’s team both in Phnom Penh and in the places where we are going to discover new and different voices ‘out there,’ in the field..
Where are the new and unusual perspectives, hiterto underreported or cast aside as ‘ethnic?’ Let’s go find them. Let’s write them, share them, co-create them. In S P A C E Meet us there? Introductory offer: subscribe for just $4/week.
S P A C E posts every Tuesday at 7AM USEST. When. you subscribe, you’ll get it every week by email, plus these exclusive PDF zines, too. Themes change but the idea is that we get closer to the study of what it means to look, listen, discover, hear what we are able to piece together when we make a space for quieting, and noticing, both one another, and ourselves.
Into the Quiet
S P A C E | Kärsämäki, ‘ The Book of Slow Moment’
New photography by Dipika Kohli, in mostly black and white. All from the Atelier S P A C E series in Finland, and inspired by the amazing guests in DK’s concurrent online programme, ‘Slow Moment.’
That twelve-week sequence designed for people to connect and converge in S P A C E was about: slowing down to ‘see’, journal, note, and ‘be.’ Says DK: ‘How do you do that? Just start.’ Cover photo styled by artist Kathelijne Adriaensen. // DK 2018
PHOTOGRAPHY. DK’s creative director Dipika Kohli began her freelance career in 1998 with a gig for the then Raleigh newspaper, Spectator Magazine. The conversation with editor Stephen Wissink on that first popping in led to a yearlong photography assignment to capture restauranteurs’ best arrangements of plates of salad, desserts, light entrees, and fancy drinks. From there, Dipika continued to take photographs, but began to focus more and more on architectures, and cities. The urban landscape was always her favorite. Two grants from the Japan Foundation had led, in the 1990s, to a 500-picture series, ‘Japanese Lines’. Curating large collections of snippets of 3″x3″ prints, she exhibited these at the N. C. Japan Center. She co-founded DK in 2006 in Seattle, after working as a staff editor and sometime-photographer for the Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce. Special thanks: Kathelijne Adriaensen for artistic inspiration and Benjamin Nwaneampeh for the fun interview we got to do with him for ‘Don’t Just Document, Make Art’, the S P A C E podcast conversation about photography..
Midsummer in Finland is a magical time, and the author Alexis Jokela‘s ‘Kesärakkausjuttu‘, or ‘A Summer Love Story,’ celebrates this refreshing and remarkable time.
JOIN DK online from 6PM-6:30PM to be part of the reading, live, from the newest issue of S P A C E. This one, from Finland. We’ll be sharing the link to where you can join the conversation and listen and connect to others also interested in hearing the author, Alexis Jokela, reading from the new short piece. This will be conducted on the videoconference space, Zoom. Meantime, we’ll also gather in real life in Phnom Penh at a small location to be shared only with those who pre-order the bundle before 15 Oct. A very intimate gathering to partake of conversation about a very intimate subject. Love, relationships, sex, the story. We’re going to bring it all up, in this special zine launch, S P A C E | Kärsämäki, ‘Kesärakkausjuttu’.
What people are saying about S P A C E zines…
‘This is so my life!’ —J
‘So true.’ —K
‘Now I understand things better. Thank you for writing this.’ —S
‘Oh! I can so relate to this.’ —J
‘It’s about here. Here! I have to know more.’ —G
A Summer Love Story
This set of stories were made at Atelier S P A C E || Kärsämäki through programmes of Atelier S P A C E from June-August, 2018, it tells the honest and raw, real stories collected from people who shared openly, after some time, about their feelings about relationships, love, romance, and disconnection. It was a privilege to be able to hear these, and DK’s team worked to put the conversations together into a narrative that might be an easy read, something of depth and substance, yet short. For those who might be interested in discovering what it’s like to be in Finland and wonder about love. Stories of summer, stories of endings, stories of love, stories of beginnings. All told directly in an honest sharing through Alexis’ unique perspective on a city north of his own, in Finland, exploring and curious.
The lead chapter is called ‘Katsotaanpas sitten,’ or, ‘Let’s see, then.’
Here’s how it starts:
‘THIS WAS HOW IT HAPPENED.. This was the way my summer love affair with the one I cannot name came into shape, at first only as a theory, and then, with the flesh, in the way things go when we are able to let them, without overthinking the future, and disregarding the past.’ — Alexis Jokela, in Kesärakkausjuttu‘
ALKU ON VAIKEIN osa kirjoittaa. Aloittaminen, alku. Tunne, ettei tiedä, mistä asiat alkavat. Jos vain, jos vain. Kyllä kyllä. Kesä. Näen nyt. Yritän saada tunteita järjestäytyneeksi. Ei ole helppoa. Minulla ei ole aavistustakaan, mitä teen. (Mutta … ei ole näin, miten se alkaa, olen tuntenut hänet alle kymmenen päivää, onko se näin, se on, miten tällainen asia alkaa.) Onko kesä rakkaustarina. Minä en tiedä. Katsotaan.’ — Alexis Jokela, in Kesärakkausjuttu
Available in Finnish and English. Order the bundle here.
Earlier this year S P A C E | Sheffield (with the lead story, Briefly in Sheffield) and S P A C E | Kuala Lumpur (Kaunter Tiket) had launched, but yesterday, something new.
HELSINKI. This time, S P A. C E is both a print-edition zine as well as a PDF. But, seriously, a wallop of a PDF, this round. It’s a 30-pager, packed with photos and some creative nonfiction from the summer in Finland. Three months there, all told, to gather and write the feelings and conversations and make some kind of arc out of it. I am really pleased with the way this one turned out.
Why? Writing. Is fun. Relaxing. Coming to the places that are where I want to be, writing about them, sharing what I’ve learned, gathering other people’s voices along the way and co-creating short packed works of hyperlocal creative nonfiction, informed, of course, by local knowledge, experience, and the culture of a place. The work to bring these things into shape is lovely and rewarding and invigorating and hard. And it’s getting more complex and sophisticated, I think, this zinemaking journey—one year, so far. I started Atelier S P A C E over P’chum Ben in Battambang, here in Cambodia. This coming weekend, it’s P’chum Ben again. So that means I’ve got one more year in this 2-year, roving, popup, zinemaking atelier that is getting run mostly out of pocket, with the occasional contribution from ticket sales, zine sales, and, hey, people who just want to buy me a lunch or coffee because they like this idea and can’t think of why anyone would put their own expenses down to make it happen. But for me, it’s obvious. I want to do Atelier S P A C E because I love new people, new input, fresh and original and faraway places that are new to me, and of course, writing, publishing, and sharing. So it hits all the right keys. It took me forever to think up the idea, besides.
So once it was there, it was like, ‘Of course I’m going to do this.’ Battambang was not too terribly far from Phnom Penh, so over four days, completely offline and on my own, I found the story to write the lead piece, ‘Here Comes the Dance,’ which, wow, is really about the Age of Anxiety. I really love S P A C E | Battambang. Probably my best one, but wait, no. Helsinki. No, no. I love Sheffield. Chuffed, still, to have gone there to finish researching the story. And then, there’s Kuala Lumpur: a place that’s becoming home away from home (away from… home?) I’m not sure what this is all going to lead to but I’m excited to share more news, soon, about upcoming Atelier S P A C E programmes abroad. It’s gonna be great, in the words of M, there in Finland, who taught me how to let go of the hard things that relate to grudges and difficulties in getting over yourself in order to show up properly for others, and who, in part, inspired this edition of S P A C E. Massive learning, this trip. The conversations with Alexis Jokela, too. Good craic, as they say in Ireland. In case you were wondering why I have an Irish accent sometimes, just google ‘The Elopement’ and ‘Kismuth Books.’
There you go, then.
For the bigger story.
Kismuth was the prequel, I guess, to the stories ahead, in S P A C E. Creative nonfiction, but in first person, so they were talked about as memoirs. I got all into that whole idea, even though technically it was too soon, in some ways, to write memoir. Someone who wasn’t happy about me publishing anything had said, ‘Who would want to read anything you write?’ Can you believe that? Some people actually hate it when you do the things you really want to do. What did I do? Leave the country.
As always for me, it’s the process of getting lost in order to find center that is inviting me to share some of the stories from ‘the road’ in the series of zines. Curious? Download S P A C E || Helsinki instantly when you order over here.
Enjoy it with a nice cup of chamomile (or, if you prefer, vodka and gingerale) while listening to the track, a mix tape, sort of, Exit Vantaa. Here’s to the journeys, then. The new, the near, the now, and the next.
A zine. Printed, limited edition. Ready to share these with members of S P A C E who pre-order by 29 Sept. Don’t miss the chance to get a printed zine in the mail that tells the story ‘Julia Set’.
JOIN DK and friends at the launch of the zine, ‘S P A C E || Helsinki,’ a creative nonfiction short piece that will be distributed in very limited editions on the day. Your ticket comes with one copy of the zine, whose pages are filled with words and collages DK gathered in real life in Helsinki in June and August, 2018. The zine’s lead story is ‘Julia Set,’ based on a conversation with a mathemetician about possibilites and multiple dimensions, but there is also a more low-key dialogue in ‘Exit Vantaa.’ Find out more when you check out the related blog posts, liket ‘Exit Vantaa,’ DK’s music ‘mix’, at this page, and more is also online about DK’s zines in S P A C E.
THUNDERSTORM. But not as bad as it might become, and quickly. so I’ll stay where I am yet a bit.
Am thinking about the conversation just now.
Motion and formula
The one about going with the flow. About going out of where you’re used to, in order to see what else is there. Taking risks. Stepping out. Going. Going, is the point. I remember talking about the coefficient of static friction being greater than the coefficient of kinetic friction, once, on a very different journey, to try to put it into some kind of easy-to-understand visual. But of course that is eleventh (or twelfth, depending on where you grew up) grade physics.
(The inclined plane, anyone? The mass and the force of gravity and the normal force, equal and opposite reactions, Newtonian physics, etc, and so on?) Those things change when we get quantum, but hey, most of the people in charge of things are still, let’s face it, in some kind of denial that there re still Things Not Yet Explainable by these Modern Methods of Science. We have no idea. In other words. We have no idea. Still, Bohr told them then to ‘Believe in the Existence of Atoms.’ I guess there is always going to be someone out there doubting something, smearing the thing that is emerging as a kind of paradigm shift, because it’s uncomfortable. And here we go, back to friction.) I want to talk about ‘frictionless coexistence,’ like we did in The Mirror. I want to talk about inclined planes. I want to continue my conversation with PC iabout d-v-a-t formulas and then start a new one with KE and MV about imaginary numbers and string theory.
The journeys are alighting.
The rain is starting. Stopping. And starting up again.
Let me change tables. Sit outside a bit. Where there is more airflow; where there might be a new nugget of a kernel of an idea that inspires the ripple of a tug of a stone on the surface of the new lake. A lake, say, in the middle of northern Finland, where the sun sets as the moon rises, simultaneously, in the month of June.
Koivu, DK’s new book about the summer of ‘white nights’ in Finland, is set to release autumn 2018. Learn more.
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.
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.
Not sure why, but it sure seemed to come up a lot in conversations. And maybe that’s why the next word I learned was ‘maybe.’ Things are always, it seems, in a kind of flux. You just have no idea what’s going to happen. You live in a countryside town, and you’re a farmer, say, and the things that evolve in the day have nothing to do with what you might have imagined, at the start of it. Staying flexible and being open to things suddenly veering is part of the everyday mindset. It’s actually kind of beautiful: you let things happen, you don’t go in there with an agenda and a list of things ‘to do.’ Summer in Finland and these things became clearer and less intense; the idea that you have to ‘produce’ is somehow out the window. For better or worse. Some of the new people I had met told me how they feel like it’s a bit of a drag, sometimes, like not having ambition could be a way you perceive this lack of momentum or the lack of some kind of urge to ‘do something.’ Thinking about things sometimes substitutes for doing things, as I learned, on my last night, talking away to the last person of the series of many, many chance encounters that informed the conversations that led to the knitting together of a new narrative. I’ll tell you more about that, tomorrow.
Meantime, let me get the final edits done.
There are a lot of people I wish to acknowledge, people who contributed to the making of this series, and I had first mentioned them at this page. Doesn’t hurt to underscore my gratitude, I think, by sharing again. So here we go. Many warm thanks for the great conversations to: Eveliina Karsikas, Asta Sinerva, Sirpa Heikura, Simo-Sakari Niemelä, Fırat Taşdemir, Johan Engström, Maria Raasakka, Sanna Upola, Rastislav Somora, Seo Jin Ahn, Ana-Maria Ovadiuc, Charles Tirkey, Saarah Choudhury, Benjamin Nwaneampeh, Joanna Ohenoja, Paavo Heinonen, Reijo Valta, Eero Österberg, and Merja Vedenjuoksu.
IN THE 1990s, I used to make tons of mix tapes. I wish I could make one right now, but I don’t know how to do that easily so what I’m going to do is cue up a playlist for you. It’s inspired by the things I got to know a little bit about over the summer, a few inspiring soundbites that left me thinking and wondering and curious and open to learning more, in each of the different musical directions. (You’ll see, in a bit, what I mean, I hope, when you see the list.)
That’s how it is in S P A C E. Keeping an ear to the ground, walking towards the new. Seeking the opportunities, when the mood is right of course, not always. I’m not always looking for an ‘experience.’ But when I find one, hey. Let’s note it. Let’s make a blog post. This one kicked off my last night in Helsinki, when I went to a concert and heard the song ‘Kaksi Planeeta,’ which means, ‘Two planets,’ by Maagine. Of course I had to ask them, personally, some questions about it, and find out more, and discover things about the planets and so on because, after all, we are writing every day here in S P A C E about spacious things. This happened at a back-alley venue in Helsinki called Semifinal, which took me a bit of time to find, but I’m glad I did. (Special thanks to VK for inviting me to listen to the show, and for the good conversations, both in Helsinki and Kärsämäki. Conversation… my favorite-ever kind of jam.)
The mix tape is called ‘Exit Vantaa.’ Find it on Spotify here. Or check out the YouTube links, below.