IT IS TIME to go to Viet Nam again.
A lot of conversations in virtual space, lately.
About Ha Noi, and ‘N’, and what that is. And why we’re doing it.
‘You know, if you want people to be interested in what you’re doing, you should show that you are doing it because you get something out of it. That was the number one question I’d gotten, from N in Phnom Penh and Bangkok and in person when I was in London and Copenhagen, too. I wanted to get sixteen people together for a conversation salon, about a topic that would start with an N, and in cities that have N’s in them. That was the criteria. I thought it was a fun game. But you know what people wanted to know?’
‘What’s in it for you, DK?’
‘What the heck is the point of it all? Some were more vocal and opinionated than otehrs. But I think the point of it all is very obvious, to me, anyway. And then I find little bits and pieces that other, smarter people have written and posted about how as human beings what we really do well is connect in person, eye-to-eye, and when that happens we can normalize our own ideas about things and we can feel more lively, alive, you know?’
‘So I know to some it seemed like a social experiment. I got some really strong hate mail from the Phnom Penh person who professed to be a creative person but was totally irritated with me for trying to ask him to come to something and pay a whopping sixteen bucks… that was the first one, and you know, how in Phnom Penh everyone’s so ketchi, yeah?, Yeah. At first these notes used to make me really cringe inside, like I was doing it wrong. But then… then I found out from the OTHER people, the ‘whynotsayyes’ types, that it was a GOOD thing to be of an opinion. That it MATTERED to take a stand, take a side, and ‘push back on the culture of maybe.’ Oh, I want so much to go into the details here… how it got planned, designed, why I am going to be doing it in Ha Noi, and then back to Europe… Bologna…’
‘But what’s in it for you, DK?’
‘Yeah! I know, right? This is the stuff of living, if you ask me. Being around other people who are interested in big questions, but aren’t getting space to ask them because it’s uncool to talk about metaphysics and cool to talk about [DELETED], which has NO bearing on the quality of my life and has no way of adding to it in any way but seems to be the topic of interest not because it’s interesting but because it’s socially acceptable! MORES, and what’s ‘socially acceptable’ IS NOT WHAT IS GOOD FOR US, most of the time, because what’s SOCIALLY ACCEPTABLE is drudgery and ennui and living in a box of computing and digital messes and head games and disintegration of integrity and flakiness and banality and the Society of the Spectacle and media outlets that are buying up all the spaces so that the good stuff is getting drowned in the sea of irrelevance that Huxley talked about but OH, I can’t get all… I can’t do that… I can’t get all ENNUI and WOE IS US about HUMANITY, did you konw HUMANITY is ending? This month? That next month the theme for S. P. A. C. E. is swithing to KAIROS? It’ll be good for me to get out of this doomy gloomy spot where I think a lot of artists, writers, and scientists were back when they came up with the A-bomb, back when there was all that sadness around the fact that humanity had this thing to it, this streak, the sorrow… Krishnamurti’s eloquent take on it… the sorrow within us, and then that Dao stuff… I did a lot of research for this sequnce, you konw. I might need to put a little paper together summing it up, a PDF. I’ll do that. I’ll make it available to people who join me at N for Ha Noi, how about that. And maybe for the new subscribers to S. P. A. C. E., too. There is good stouff on the tables, for it… I’m looking forward to it… wow. I’m looking forward to the KAIROS. And N! N is about MAKING IT HAPPEN. Kairos. Framing the moment, designing rooms for great dialogue and connection. Celebrating the urgency of NOW.’
‘Dude. That sounds really esoteric and inaccessible.’
‘Well. That’s who I am. And this is the kind of stuff I make. And I am looking for 16 people who want to talk about a topic starting with N in Ha Noi when I get there. We’ll make it up, together. We’ll do this one differently from the other topic-setting ones. I will ask the people who are asking me, WTF is N, DK?’ And we will design it, together.
ARE YOU IN HA NOI? Want to be part of it?
‘MILLENIALS. I just…’
‘Can’t work with them.’
‘You know. People in their thirties, for example. Mostly those ones. They get all weirded out and want to investigate every opportunity in the universe. But they don’t actually decide on anything. And then, when they don’t, they can’t really… well, I don’t wanna judge or anything, but they seem… really… um… Well, it’s not nice but… confused. Or at least… something that… Hm. Let me put it this way. I wish people could just relax, you know? And notice that if you want less, you can experience more.’
But really I love millenials, I think
‘SO I’VE JUST DECIDED. I’M NOT GOING TO TALK TO THEM. Okay. Maybe that’s not fair.’
‘But really, what it comes down to, I think, what I’ve learned from 20 years of design, is that it’s about editing. What was that famous quote? About essentials?’
‘Simplicate and add lightness?’
‘No, no, the other one.’
‘Perfection is finally attained not when there is no longer anything to add, but when there is no longer anything to take away …’
‘But distractions get in the way. Other options are distractions. FOMO is a distraction.’
‘And phones. PHONES. What really kills me is the phone thing. How a phone becomes a kind of appendage and it’s weird, you know?’
‘I can’t do it anymore. They talk to you while they’re looking at screens. It’s so awkward. How can you have a quality conversation with that kind of stuff going on?’
(you don’t have to take my word. you wanna hear it from someone else? Like this famous white dude?)
‘I’m not saying they have to pay attention to me or anything, well, maybe I am saying that, but yeah. Okay. But I am saying… well, there is this other person sitting there and looking at you and giving you their whole attention and well, it’s just… it’s annoying. I think it’s a different kind of culture. Yeah, if I put it that way, it’s not personal. Anyway, I can’t be bothered.’
‘You sound like you’ve made up your mind.’
‘I think [Millenials] could use some simple framing. Simplicity-making. To get clarity on things. Anyway I like the new young people. The like, 22 year old and stuff ones. They don’t talk with their screens always on and poking at you, like it’s no big deal to call up a picture of someplace to illustrate with a digital thingy what they want to tell you. Like information is more important. Than eye contact. But the younger ones, they actually look at you. And listen. They listen! I’m…. I was really shocked when I met a few, this past trip to Europe. I met them and they listened. Like—without phone-checking.’
‘Phones. Bother you, huh.’
‘Yeah. I don’t have one.’
‘You don’t have a phone?’
‘… wait. How does that work?’
‘It’s not that complicated. It’s like the nineties, is all.’
Phoneless in Phnom Penh
‘YOU ASK THE YOUNG TWENTYSOMETHINGS simple questions and they don’t go all frenetic on you. You can be pointed. You can say, ‘What are you worried about?” or “What’s next?” You don’t have to worry that they’ll take it like you’re their uncle and interrogating them. They accept the challenge of it, and answer honestly. They really do. They entertain the questions and they are careful in their response-making. They don’t waste their breath or get all crazy about FOMO. They just don’t. I like that. I like these new people, coming up.’
‘So what are you going to do?’
‘Okay. Well,. I think I’ll do SELF.’
‘For the Millenials?’
‘Mostly. Yeah. Or for whoever thinks it’s cool to think about things slowly and work out what’s important to them.’
‘What’s it about?’
S P A C E.
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IN DENMARK I got to hear a pretty neat collection of intriguing bands at a weird and fascinating spot in Copenhagen called Mandags Klubben 5e. (More about them, another time—so fun.)
But for today I want to share an interview with someone intriguing I met, whose upcoming album is another thing I’d like to share about in a future post as it has a connection to one of our own pieces of work, The Book of Songs, in an abstract, tangential sort of way. Abstract and tangential, now that I think about it, is exactly what was awesome about being there on that day last autumn.
Let me expand.
Loved the sound of a young group called Gunslinging Bird Quartet, and started drawing in ball point pen and off the page—two new things for me, at the same time. I later asked trumpeter Erling Skorpen about the style of music he and his bandmates play, and why. Free jazz.
DK: Cool show, can you tell me about your band?
ES: Through years of playing and exploring different types of music, we all found a common interest in this type of jazz music. It’s merely a process—we might part ways with this aesthetic in one year or ten years. This is the music we all love, and which inspires us right now.
DK: What makes you happy?
ES: When we are playing music and it really works out. Drinking coffee. Pleasant surprises.
DK: How do you define intrigue?
ES: When you listen to a concert, and you notice that the musicians are really into what they’re doing. When you can feel the energy in the room, and there exists a special atmosphere there. That’s the feeling that best describes intrigue for us.
DK: How do you define quality?
ES: When music is honest and it connects with the audience. When you really hear that these people mean what they do.
MEMBERS OF the band are: Trym Daniel Rødvik – alto saxophone; Erling Skorpen – trumpet; Alex Riris – double bass; Amund Nordstrøm – drums & percussion.
Discover Gunslinging Bird online here: Soundcloud.com/gunslinging-bird.
Arts and culture, conversation and the story
IT’S NOT FOR EVERYONE, as Erling says and which is exactly why I enjoyed being there. Mainstream can get in the way of real connection, in my opinion. When you bumble into the unexpected and find intrigue, there is something *! that happens.
It’s delight these days, I’m convinced, that makes up the aesthetic of a new kind of ‘beautiful.’ And when I say ‘delight’ I don’t mean some user interface or an app. I mean, real life. What is the role of music in society? What is the role of poetry, of design? To make artfulness, I think. To meander, to open hearts.
But what’s your take? Comments welcome. —DK
This post originally appeared in the INTIMACY sequence of our eZine, S. P. A. C. E.