Stories

‘Don’t just document: make art’: photographer Benjamin Nwaneampeh

One of my favorite photographers in the world agreed to talk with me about the art of making street photos, back in 2018. I loved that conversation. It was so, so fun and delightful.

S P A C E makes space for that kind of conversation–it meanders, flows, and is a sort of exchange that you wouldn’t have any way of guessing what the outcome would be, from the start. I met the artist whom I got to know over instagram then in person, then I asked if I could talk with him for a bit and maybe even record it. It was my first foray into ‘podcasting’. I didn’t get too far, to be honest. I felt less and less interested in hearing my own voice but yeah, the people that I’m lucky enough to get to meet, wherever I go in the world (or surf online) are quite fascinating, at moments like the one in this conversation you can see… how… artists… think. Wait. Think is the wrong word. Feel. [deleted]


In this frank conversation between Design Kompany’s Dipika Kohli and portrait photographer Benjamin Nwaneampeh, we talk about how to get started, the culture of wanting things *now*, equipment, style, the city, and the art of peoplewatching.

‘Forget what people are telling you what street photography *is*,’ says Nwaneampeh. ‘Just go out and take photographs. If you like your pictures, and you feel you’re maturing, you’re growing in it, then just keep doing it. Just keep shooting.’


[deleted] … and then I think… yeah. It’s mostly about that. Mostly about art, itself. Why it isn’t just documenting whatever. Why it’s about seeing. Seeing seeing. And what that means, to each of us. In conversation: that’s where you find things out. At least, that’s where I do.

This one, we recorded together.

You can listen to it.

Here’s a link.

https://soundcloud.com/designkompany/make-art-1

Thanks;)

Interviews · Stories

‘In the Margins’

DK Director Dipika Kohli & Napisa Leelasuphapong talk art, design, and curation, in light, honest and easygoing conversations at the library and garden spaces of the privately funded contemporary art space, Bangkok CityCity Gallery, Feb. 2020.  

This is an excerpt from one of our 2020 issues of S P A C E, which was called S P A C E | Bangkok, ‘The Last Copy is for Reading Here’. Find it in our online store, here.



In the Margins


Words Dipika Kohli
Editing A. Spaice
Photography Napisa Leelasuphapong

A friend of mine who studied narrative ontology once said, ‘There are two kinds of stories. Someone goes on a trip, and, a stranger comes to town.’ In Bangkok in February, I think we had both, in one sitting.

I, a stranger, came to town, but with the help of people who got me started thinking newly, we all sort of went on a new trip. Together. That is what happens, sometimes. Especially in S P A C E.


 


The setting: mid-afternoon, hopping off the MRT for Lumphini Park and strolling through the expensive-looking neighborhood to the place I had arranged to meet the team of Bangkok CityCity Gallery, which is a privately-funded contemporary art space.

It’s the kind of place you don’t really know about unless you specifically are looking, but if you go once, then you probably go reguarly, to see what’s changing. I found myself changing, on this trip. Here’s why. Professional, long-time Bangkokian curators who’ve spent their careers on the work of bringing art to the public, super cool, and I, got to chat, together, about what exactly that even means. A show called ‘The Last Copy is for Reading Here’ was about to close at the time of my visit.


‘If I don’t put myself into it,’ says Napisa Leelasuphapong, the Bookshop Library Manager, who put together the show, ‘then it’s not that interesting.’


Talking was easygoing. Simple. The mostly-empty table where we sat was by the window. A glass of water was offered. A pitcher of ice water reflected all the lights. The shadows of the decal of the title of the show fell on the surfaces, floor, edges, chairs, tables, anything, through the shift of time. An afternoon went by, like this, and I took these kinds of visual notes, while we listened to each other and asked questions that made us all think. And pause.

At these obtuse angles, I was reminded all over again of why I love relational aesthetics. Us, in the room, together. Us, with this show. The show, with us: the copy on the table, the title of this show. Shadow. Light. Exciting, just recalling it, reporting it here. (‘Last Copy’ was, curiously, the first show in the library space. Following our fun, light, and agenda-less drift of conversations, I left the last copy of DK’s limited edition set of four issues of S P A C E | Rīga, ‘Drift’ with Leelasuphapong.)

A leafy neighborhood


The gallery is in a leafy neighborhood that is quite easy to walk around in, which is nice, when you are in Bangkok. So, getting back to my just-for-this-week home, which was a 10-minute walk from there, I thought it over. Sitting on the balcony of the second-floor room, in this wooden guesthouse that is built around a giant tree in a tiny courtyard, and run by an elderly couple who gave me a semi-deal, I really went through the feelings.

What it was, was the same kind of thing that happens when you go very far from home, and come back, and look at it all, again. Sitting there, on that nice outdoor spot poking out into the limbs of this very sturdy, old, and wise tree, I again considered what was around me, relationally.

(The couple, their story about coughing and how, no, no, it’s not the virus, ‘He just went to Phuket, see, and smokes, and drank too much!’, so no need to fret about ‘coronavirus,’ as we all were calling it back then.) Did I fret? A little. Did it matter? Not that much, in the end, fortunately. Sure, I did have a slight fever and a sniffly nose, but I slept for two days and it got better. It was hot. Very.

 

Focus


If I don’t put myself into it, then it’s not that interesting, she had said. I kept going back to that. Wondered if I could talk to her some more about the show itself, and not just generally about art and curation, this time. Could we?

In Open Space, which is my favorite style of hosting dialogue roundtables, you can have ‘breakout’ spaces when you want to dive deep into a specific topic. You just arrange another time, another place, and set the theme. So we did.

This time, we talked in the garden, continuing exactly from where we’d left off. Students of design, aesthetics, and art, like us, tend to veer towards the philosophical quite naturally, I think.


‘I studied for a master’s degree in Visual Arts, major in Graphic Design in Belgium,’ Leelasuphapong explained, after first finishing a bachelor’s in industrial design, in Bangkok.

‘The class in which the teacher asked, ‘What moves you as an artist?’ that I mentioned was an optional class. Most of the students joined in the class were from [the] art department. I’m a graphic designer who’s interested in art. :).’


I could relate.

Discover the full story

Read the full story when you order the issue from our store.

Here’s a link.

http://gum.co/space-bkk-lastcopy

Thanks:)

Desk Notes

S P A C E is changing. Of course it is.

Special thanks to Hanoi-trained and Ho Chi Minh City-based product and food photographer Thắng Chu, of Uncle Photography, for the series of images that he took for us of our magazine, S P A C E. A few of them are below and also at our crowdfunding page.

What is the point of S P A C E? Design and discovery. Putting together the highlights of what we uncover, by simply inserting ourselves into the world, asking questions, and not giving up on the idea that you learn more when you learn more together. Here’s us, doing the jam, still. Discovering, and co-creating, as we go. Together, in S P A C E. Even when it’s a pandemic. Even when we’re not sure who’s around. Who’s interested. Who’s not blocking themselves from becoming better. Who’s okay with looking at something in a new way. In a country that doesn’t like to do that, it’s been one hell of a trick. Still, we keep doing our work, we keep making S P A C E. Boring or depressed foreigners aside, we’re looking for the people who are looking for the new. That’s it. That’s the whole thing. It always was, I just didn’t know it.

For the very curious

More about this project is at our newly updated crowdfunding page.

Here’s a link.

http://chuffed.org/project/spacethezine

Thanks.

Also, be sure to check out the work of photographer Thắng Chu at his site: www.thangchuphotos.com. Also see Instagram: @thangprofoto

Watch this space:)

Dipika

PS Reflecting on the 2020 year of change and stuff, I realize it’s time to say a thank-you. Special thanks to those who have supported S P A C E since the start. A lot of you donated anonymously to the campaign so I won’t call you out here. But you know who you are. I appreciate it. The best is yet to come, and I feel amazingly lucky to have the support from so many talented, smart and creative people in my sphere both near, and far. We are making it happen. Sharing the journey, one designful moment at a time. But you already knew I could deliver on that, and I appreciate it that you kept showing up for me, even when the showing up (for you, for me) was not easy. Thanking you. I read on a website somewhere that courage isn’t having the strength to go on. Courage is going on, even when you don’t have the strength…S P A C E was born in the waning hours of 2018. Today, it’s starting to start… naturally, a baby takes time to learn how to find its footing. #readyset #outofthecave2021

 

 

Desk Notes

Issue #115

DK’s internet-based conversation in one of our online circles is happening, and it’s about ‘Beauty.’

In our innermost circles of S P A C E we explore together topics like: the Japanese idea of ‘shibui’; everydayness; street museums; simple materials; and, of course, the meaninglessness and absurdity as well as profundity of being-here, itself.

20 Nov | Short course, ‘Slow Moment’

This is a photographer’s journaling short course. It’s all prompts in email. It will be 100% virtual, and asynchronous. You’ll have the chance to meet new people in a forum but it’s very much about who wants to do that and there is no obligation to take part in that way. Show up if you want for yourself each week, and make time to discover what you most care about, visually, artistically and maybe even… personally. ‘Slow Moment’ was designed and delivered online as a workshop in the Summer of 2018, when DK was making Atelier S P A C E in the north of Finland and got inspired to… sit still.

Discover it.

This course is free for people who have been members S P A C E for at least six months. For nonmembers,  it’s USD 120. There is no online support or calling. You’ll get a one-page report summarizing the findings from what DK has learned, based on whatever you choose to share with us during the 12-week program.

See what making S P A C E can reveal to you about… you.

'S' is for Sincerity · Found in the Field · The Muse

Issue #96


Watching, listening. Looking, sharing time. This issue’s one of my favorites, from this year. It’s a photo essay from a recent walk that members of our team in HCMC shared, together, discussing as they went along meandering the things that detail… nothing in particular. As per usual. Looking at the collected images that came back from that outing, I thought of space, time slowing down, and the kinds of large and lofty philosophies that come into shape when one is ‘drifting,’ (ref. Situationists).

In this issue, which is called S P A C E | Sài Gòn, ‘Street Museums’, Atelier S P A C E | HCMC collaborates with artist-poet Ilyas Kassam, who lives in London. DK’s project, Atelier S P A C E | HCMC, is a crowdfunded effort. It’s led by our team members in that city, who are Văn Trần and Dipika Kohli.

Ladies and gentlemen, without further paragraphs of text, I give you Issue #96.

S P A C E | Sài Gòn, ‘Street Museums’.

Here’s a link.

http://gum.co/space-saigon-streetmuseums

Thanks!
;)


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Publisher's Diary

Issue #92

This week, a fresh co-creation in S P A C E. This is in collaboration through extraordinary conversations with photographer Văn Trần.

He is the feature artist for our 15 September issue of S P A C E.

DK had bumped into him while on the road in one of our usual quiet moments, reflecting quietly and apart from the hubbub of noise and people, in Đà Lạt, Việt Nam. He told us he enjoys cooking and traveling, and, we soon found, also investigates philosophical questions. This is where we found rapport. Like many things in S P A C E, this particular issue was designed, and re-designed, added to, informally printed, tested by sharing it with others to see if there was resonance, and finally, came into the shape that it is today. More specifically, some poetry. A remarkable set of photos. Mix that with a pinch of metaphilosophy, and you have this edition of S P A C E..

‘Some people say my photos are sad, but I don’t think they get it,’ says Trần, defiantly. ‘These are my photos. I love them. They tell my stories.’

Instagram @huyvan.ne

You can get this issue, print it, fold it, and make it a little bit your own. Here’s a video, made by DK’s close collaborator in Melbourne Nicki Duncan. You can see how it works when you take the PDF, and print it, to make S P A C E wherever you are in the world.

S P C | Sài Gòn • Một Buổi Tối Mát Nẻ / A Cool Evening

Where do you get the PDF for S P C | Sài Gòn • Một Buổi Tối Mát Nẻ?…

In our store…

Here’s a link.

http://gum.co/space-saigon-ace

A Philosophy of the Moment · Publisher's Diary

Issue #83

Starting next week in S P A C E, we are going to press ‘pause’ for a bit. I’ll be updating some issues like this one, Issue #83 is a re-work of an earlier one about our jaunt to the High Tatras in Slovakia. The Slovakia side of these mountains was much, much more interesting than the Poland side, gotta say. Quieter, more relaxed. I took a lot of pictures. Some of them are in this issue. And a story, too, ‘A Walk in the Sky.’

Issue #83

Meantime, DK is going to be doing some fundraising.

Help us continue the effort to make more and better S P A C E.

Make a donation or check out our’ perks’ at our crowdfunding page.

Here is a link..

http://chuffed.org/project/spacethezine

Thanks!

Publisher's Diary

Issue #75

Today, we share the newest issue of our weekly zine, S P C. It is Issue #75, S P C | Bangkok, ‘The Last Copy is for Reading Here.’

Our feature artist this time is Napisa Leelasuphapong.

Her photography is on the cover, and inside pages, too.

#75

Photography, cultural identity and S P C

About the photography: ‘It talks about the way Thai elites in the period of colonisation borrowed the Western coloniser perspective,’ explains Leelasuphapong, ‘in looking at native villagers as ‘the others’; identifying them as barbarians to negatively identify themselves as civilised persons.’

She is referring to an academic article, ‘The Other Within,’ by Thongchai Winichakul. Getting more and more curious, we reached out to the author, who helped us learn more about the idea of place vis-a-vis a nation’s identity. You can find a Q&A with Winichakul about his 1993 article ‘The Other Within’ inside this issue,

The lead story is by DK Director Dipika Kohli, and is a first-person account of the experience going to Bangkok and discovering, on the spot, ‘In the Margins.’ Ahead of the publication, the conversations on email were very interesting and fun and also made us really get focused on what S P C is, and aims to be ‘So far, S P C has been about discovery–going to the field, seeing what we find, whom we meet, and finding ways to “create aesthetic moments, together”… which just means, did something cool happen.

‘Conversations with depth, exchanges of value… it doesn’t always turn into anything—occasionally places feel uncomfortable, or unsafe, or unwelcoming!–but we can take what we feel from discovering, deeply, not trivially, and investigating in one spot for a time and turn those feelings into issues of our zine. A few favorites for me are  S P C | Brooklyn, ‘Art for Art’s Sake’, which was a great co-creation, and S P C | Aarhus, ‘Janteloven’–one of the early ones. It’s still figuring itself out, of course, but more and more, it’s designed to invite and include *new* and *different* others to connect, and interconnect us, in remarkable moments.’

To be really honest, not that many people read our zine, or subscribe… we had a big idea about ‘meet the world’ in our crowdfunding campaign a few years ago, but I think… we were idealistic. That’s okay. Still managed to continue making it, and publishing every week, too. Made an instagram, some people seem to like that, instagram.com/dkompany... More to say if you want to hear more. Ask us.

S P C | Bangkok, ‘The Last Copy is for Reading Here’

You can find the zine in our store.

Here’s a link.

http://gum.co/space-bkk-lastcopy

Thanks ;)

 

A Philosophy of the Moment · Experiments in Expression · Publisher's Diary · The Muse

Issue #38: S P C | Riga, ‘This is This’

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

 

DIPIKA KOHLI

‘Art, to me, is a great conversation. I design space for that.’ [website | instagram: @dipikakohli]

 

 

Order it here >

A Philosophy of the Moment · Miscellany · Publisher's Diary

S P C | Singapore, ‘The Prospect of Beauty’

 

‘The Third Place’, a zine made at Atelier S P A C E | SG, 2017

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.

S P A C E the zine

 

‘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.

Atelier S P A C E | Singapore, 2017

‘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 Dipika Kohli. 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.

Singapore, 2014

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.’

Get ‘The Prospect of Beauty’ when you join us this week in S P A C E.