A great conversation set led to the creation of this issue of S P A C E.
Many thanks to Nils don Sihvola, whose cover art is featured here. The story is by Dipika Kohli.
NILS DON SIHVOLA
‘DIGITAL VISUAL arts-digital SLR and image processing-is my thing. In 2013 a friend sold me his Canon 500d digital camera. Instinctively and instantly, I knew that the digital camera would be my tool to make art. Art: something I’ve known since I was a child I wanted to make. Every year I practiced, and in 2017, went to study photography at Kymenlaakson opisto in Inkeroinen, Finland.
‘Ever since, I’ve wanted to investigate questions like, ‘How does form support content? What’s “balance” in a composition? What can an image say, in complement to, for example, a spoken message?’
‘In a world that relies on the flat 2d spectacle, rotating the axis to discover a fresh perspective can mean the difference between “love” and “pain.”’ Instagram: @nils_don_sihvola
Not that I wanted to become a column-writer, it just… naturally happened. I always like to write in the way that I write, (without bending to conform to someone else’s ideas of what I ought to write, I mean, a stance that will not earn you very many writing gigs, *cough*, but then again, who cares?).
Meanwhile if an editor is willing to help me make it better, cool. I’ll go with it. (HT SS.)
But what is really intriguing, to me, is that sometimes when I just write a thing, just write it, you know, without really thinking much, it turns… real. Countless examples here, but one of them is this story, this very issue of S P A C E that launches in our online store, today. I had no idea… that I would show up somewhere unexpectedly quiet and overpriced and difficult and pretentious, mostly looking to get into my head and away from the tourist throngs of Old Town, and instead, hide, so as to be able to put words down… instead, the thing that happened was… well, as I had written in another place, in another time, I found myself on a stage. Of sorts. Instead of, you know, a writing studio… A stage? Yes. A stage.
Readers, writers, designers, artists, curators, and publishers: this is S P A C E.
At this once-off event, you can meet Design Kompany and the friends here whom we have discovered while in Rīga for the last six weeks.
You’ll be able to: learn about self-publishing, and tap into DK’s 20+ years of writing and working independently. Ask questions. Discover. DK travels to cities of Southeast Asia and Northern Europe to make issues of the weekly mini-magazine, ‘S P A C E.’ This party is to launch the recently created new issues in our series. They are: S P A C E | Rīga, ‘Sunny Side of the Street,’ S P A C E | Rīga, ‘Drift,’ and S P A C E | Rīga, ‘The Weather Report.’ DK aims to create a safe, welcoming space for new and different others to connect & interconnect, one conversation at a time. This is the work of Atelier S P A C E, mini-parties, salons, installations, and our weekly magazine. As such, we’ll read from the the stories we’ve been writing and publishing since mid-April, which are set right here. Especially popular, so far, are: ‘Sn_wfall’ and ‘Love is Boring’. You’ll have a chance to read them.
Here is a light schedule for the evening…
S P A C E | Rīga
. 7PM ‘Do-it-yourself’ Philosophy. A conversation on: DIY publishing, travel, nomadism, concepting, art & design.
. 8PM Reading from part of ‘Sn_wfall,’ the lead story of S P A C E | Rīga, ‘The Weather Report’
. 9PM Gifts and closing comments
S P A C E | Rīga will be hosted by Dipika Kohli and A. Spaice.
You’ll have a chance to experience what others in Copenhagen, Hanoi, London, Phnom Penh, Bangkok, and Helsinki have already experienced in similar small circles. Discover it. Experience it.
29 MAY | S P A C E | Rīga. This Wednesday, DK will be sharing the printed copies of this issue (and the three that precede it, all made while here in Latvia. in the last six weeks). We have been getting to know the scene by wandering around in the city, looking at buildings, picking some spots that have a feeling about them that resonates with us, staying a while, revising, meeting people, meeting them again, getting deeper into the conversations, selecting themes, writing poetry, writing plays, writing and photographing, co-creating with people we have met, discovering the feeling that the place gives us, and wrapping them up in this set of issues. But, as we always do before we close out a stay in a new city, we will gather those whom we have built some kind of genuine connexion with. In a party setting. Just once. For the journeys to be described too much would be to offend them: the unexpected is what we are expecting, at this gathering. Those who inspired the stories. This who shared. Those who welcomed DK. Those who gave time, and cared, and shared with us. Are invited. I’m excited about this, and will look forward to seeing M, I, S, and T, at least, and a handful of others who might decide to RSVP with us. Very limited seats. Advance bookings only. For those who want to experience this, I invite you to RSVP by getting a ticket. Tickets are 12 euro.
How we made S P A C E in Latvia
WORKING OUT OF cafes, borrowed living rooms, and kitchen tables since April 16, 2019, DK and friends are making S P A C E stories in photo essay, illustration, collage, and creative nonfiction. There will be four issues of our international zine collection that will be set right here in Rīga.
For this collection, the works were created by a unique international team: Dipika Kohli, A. Spaice, Zafar Imran, Alexis Jokela, and BOSS. Special thanks for creative consultation with: Nils Don Sihvola (ig)and S P A C E contributing editor, Mike Dynamo. Big thanks also to Zina Olehnoviča for co-hosting ‘Art of Conversation’ with DK in real life at her shop Tortik Time, and to Samir Shukla for commissioning new writing from us, writing about Latvia, for our ongoing column for Saathee Magazine. Also to D, north side of town, like, way, for showing me around and telling it like it is. Don’t know if you’ll see this and know this ‘D’ is you, but wow, you really helped me get going on this project. Couldn’t have made this without your frank comments, dark humor, and other flat and honest sideways observations.
Order the zine, S P A C E | Rīga, ‘Lūdzu’…
Meantime, here is where you can order S P A C E | Rīga, ‘Lūdzu’…
The exhibition, with the contribution of the creative agency and printed magazine Honeymoon High, will be focused on the self-image in the post-internet age, attempting to define online and offline conditions.
The title of the exhibition has been based on the idea expressed by American curator and one of the magazine Art in America editors Brian Droitcour. In his essay The Perils of Post-Internet ArtDroitcour writes that the relationship between art and the “post-internet” age can be compared to the relationship between pornography and sex: “Post-Internet art does to art what porn does to sex—renders it lurid.” The right angles, effusive facial expressions and postures, bodies balancing on the border of body perfection and deviation – all this is needed for us to believe in each aestheticized orgasm. Likewise, the art, too, lives in images – in perfect white-box contrast and saturation of colours.
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
Update: In the fall of 2019, DK and a new team of friends and co-creators will be posting and sharing about ‘cross cultural design’. The ways we communicate when we are in places where we do not yet know how to articulate ourselves eloquently, for example. A summer 2019 stop in Latvia was, for example, one of these ‘lab’ explorations. We want to update this post to reflect a little bit about how it felt to be there, grasping for meaning, in a world so very different from DK’s own (‘post-Soviet’, et al).
YESTERDAY I HAD the pleasure of meeting a smattering of very creative, industrious people at a publisher’s ‘conference’ organized by some people who have ‘conversations’ in their name. Now, if conversations are in their name that means something. So of course, us being conversational types, DK had to go and show up. The first presentation was so dull that DK had to go outside, and pretend to be getting a smoke, in order to pass so many people so obviously, but the slight rain and fresh air helped a lot to take the edge off of what was an ostensible advertisement.
Having the impatience to not go through advertising things in captivity, DK went outside for that phantom smoke. And met… M. (Hi!). And M’s girlfriend, soon thereafter. Both were very kind and looked over our zines from Riga and I hope they will read ‘Janteloven’ from Aarhus because it is pretty good. I gave them the e-link and stuff to get it, and it should be downloadable as a gift, with that, if I got it right.
Lately more gift-giving. More about why, below. After this next section, about Photomonth.
Discovering Rīga Photomonth
While bored with the first presentation, I did what Dan Savage used to do when the Seattle International Film Festival rolled around in Sea-town. I did a ‘DK’s picks’ kind of a thing. Borrowed some scissors and rudely cut loudly while the conversation was dead and lecturing at us, and made a shortlist of things I want to go and check out with the wonderful set of options for Riga Photomonth, next week.
The opening week is scheduled for 13-18 May, but the official opening will take place on 15 May at the Museum of Occupation of Latvia.
S P A C E investigates, with our field notebook, these events, and so I will show up, I think, personally, to see what I can see. Needed to put them into this calendar, so I have a way of knowing where I should be when, because these programs can be overwhelming to use, and sometimes, when the information design isn’t quite… well, isn’t easy to get a hold of because I think some major things are omitted, here and there, which I only learned because I went t the website to see what things were there and then, yeah, I had to make my little shortlist because who has time to do everything? And I want to see this selfie thing, ‘Lurid Self’ by Honeymoon High, the most. I so do. But also the opening party. That’s gonna be where I start, I think. But yeah. You can find the events in our ‘events’ section that DK picked, or you can just go to the website for Rīga Photomonth, and browse the many, many options and pick something for yourself. But we all know how hard it is to make decisions, so I did the above shortlisting for those who like the aesthetics of DK and will probably like what we had a first-glimpse impression of and said, ‘Yeah, that.’
More about the event. Here is what the organizers say:
Rīga Photomonth is an international photography festival that takes place in the capital of Latvia since 2014. Rīga Photomonth explores and shows photography from Northern and Eastern Europe. The festival’s public programme includes exhibitions, artist talks, workshops, lectures and film screenings. In addition Rīga Photomonth hosts portfolio reviews and workshops for professionals.
Let’s see what happens.
Gift-giving and gift-receiving
Why give gifts? Because wow. What goes around comes around, sure. And in recent days, I got three lovely gifts, myself, here in Riga, since I landed. First, a comic book. Next, a painting. By Z. Amazing work. Then, some purple flowers on a simple stem, the very ones I was admiring earlier that day, and they were given to me without any hint of shyness whatsoever (how refreshing) by a young lad who could look DK in the eye. That was sweet. I put them in water, as he instructed, and got off at my floor. The work is coming into shape, too. The presents are making me more present, if you will. I like writing when I am drinking a lot of things: water, milk, and coffee at the moment. I am also in the throes of a new book. I haven’t been this inspired to write in flow like this since 2015 when I was at work at the French house (not really a French house, but occupied, and I do mean occupied, by five Parisians, which was a headache, for me, personally, in that they didn’t get it that one who writes stays home to write when everyone else is leaving and doesn’t have time to run errands because ‘you look like you have so much free time,’ ahem), well, yeah. Okay, rant aside this is the story about Rīga, right?
So yeah. Yesterday. Was good. I met so many people I wrote a bunch of notes and promised myself I would do a complete writeup on the outpourings of wonderful feelings that come when you show up in a place that is ready to receive you, ready to entertain your wacky suggestions of conversation salons (like that time I tweeted to P, ‘I have an idea’), and things get to happening when you get responses. (If you don’t get responses, you have to stop taking it personally, I learned, and move on to where you get them. In this entire country, jazzy as it is without knowing that, or how post postmodern it is, and teaching me what the hell that even is, by simply being it, and cool about it, so cool in that it doesn’t even know it, or profess to be anything, which I think, ‘undefined’ is the whole thing about PPM. And we did have some weird converstions int he salon, ‘Postmodern Nomads,’ but they dwindled to a natural ending and I left them there, closed that door, opened this one, and whoa.) I’m in the world of things that are new and spirited, at least to the underinformed eye. With this eye, I take the pictures, and put them into S P A C E. The third issue in the series S P A C E | Latvia is almost done. I wrote the story last night, and today, and tomorrow, and probably the whole week to come, I’ll work on it more and more until it’s ready. But then, another week, and another issue. Such is the life with a weekly e-mag. Shazam!
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.
Meet DK in real life for conversation about whatever we discover about one another, when we make time for real life. And some really incredible cakes. Join DK for this short and sweet real-life popup conversation party. Small. Cozy. Relaxing. No need to prepare anything, come with an open mind and a story to share. Your ticket includes one cake + coffee or tea + a surprise mini-gift like the small book, ‘The Book of New Things,’ pictured below.
Explore, together, the lost art of conversation. If you are creatively inclined, come to the event and while you are here ask us about opportunities to be published in our weekly magazine, S P A C E. Currently writing a series of fresh issues each week, which are set in Latvia. You can learn about this work to make a mini-magazine every week, at our website. Questions? Get in touch wtih us through the form at our contact page.
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.
If you know me, you know I like quiet, off to the side places, where not that many people go, and if they do, they’re super regular and super local. This discovery of what I feel, personally, makes a great space (ie S P A C E), is something that I understand now is a particular thing and not a general thing. A few people, an immersion in the moment, the conversations being the focus and not the other jazz that distracts from that. Hours can go by. But we will budget two. For the real-life popup in the city of Latvia that DK will be in on 7 May to host ‘Art of Conversation.’ Details. Free for members of S P A C E, else, there’s a small cover but it includes a drink + cake + a mini-gift from DK.