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.

S P A C E | Helsinki, ‘Coat Check’

A poem, co-created with . 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.

 

 

 


S P A C E | Helsinki, ‘Coat Check’

A song for Jean Rhys, a letter from Rilke

FIVE OF US. Wrote a poem together.

And I’m going to send it to just the five of us, and that’s it.

It’s called A Song for Jean Rhys.

Jean Rhys inspired the work, in a big way, of hosting The Mirror.

Writing needn’t be about mass producing, or selling, or convincing, or debunking. Sometimes, writing can just be about sharing. Making a quiet space, and letting that be enough. Enough. Letting things slow and experiencing this here, this now, is enough… What if that could be a philosophy?

Asia for five years now. You let go a little bit of the old programmes. I know I’ve written that somewhere before, but it isn’t a bad thing to underscore it. Letting go of the programmes. To see, finally, when we can make space, to be together for a time, to listen and to share, that’s neat. That’s being here, being here now. Some people who have mentored me have shown me the ways to try to include the quiet spaces in my everyday, and indeed, to let them take the center stage. Stillness. Quieting. I’m living next to temples. I’m learning to stay the journeys now, without abruptly quitting a person, time, or place. But… Selectively. The small poem is ‘A Song for Jean Rhys.’ It isn’t for sharing here, but there, in our closed circle, where things have gone from small and simple maybe things to wow, this is good, this is right things. Is this intimacy?… is this beauty? Is this the whole thing of Art?

SOME DISTANT DAY. Big questions, but we don’t have to resolve anything. Rilke said, to the young poet, don’t ask so many questions, but let yourself live your way toward the answers… Of course he said it better, but it’s past midnight and the scrap of paper I had written it on is, oh, no, wait! I typed it! In Cameron Highlands! Here… Indexed, searched…  found:

Be patient toward all that is unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves… Do not… seek the answers, which cannot be given to you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.’ —Rilke’s letters to a young poet

A Q&A with author Michelle L. Stephens: ‘Venturing into the unfamiliar’

[Update: Before Design Kompany became a roving atelier to gather people’s stories on the spot in real life, we were gathering perspectives in our online community, behind protected-pages at this blog. This post was originally an exclusive for a forum, ‘The Village,’ on work, life, and relationships.]

TODAY I INVITE you to read a short email conversation with Michelle Lynn Stephens, a poet I’ve been in touch with since the time we met at a fun open mic. We share roots in Durham, NC, and recently reconnected when I hosted a tweet chat about self-publishing. That opened a space for an entirely new conversation, in which I got to know more about where things have gone for Michelle since we met. Here’s our interview, which took place over email through the spring of 2017. This piece was originally published as an exclusive for our online community, S P A C E.

 

Venturing into the unfamiliar

DK: We talked in our email conversation about journeys. And leaving, and how that can inspire us. Can you talk about this a little bit?

Michelle L. Stephens

MS: How interesting that you should ask this question, as I met you at the beginning of my open mic journey! I am definitely the adventurous type. I love trying new platforms and traveling to different venues. I have met so many wonderful people who have been very supportive and eventually became my creative village.

DK: Can you tell us about what you’ve written, so far?

MS: My book is The Divorcée Chronicles. And I co-authored an anthology, Single Mama Dating Drama.

DK: OK. Besides writing and traveling, I think we also talked about family. And… dating? 

MS: The sequel to Diary of a Divorcée Diva is all about dating, but nowhere near finished. There is a tad bit of dating adventure in the first book and my short story in the anthology is about getting back out there after divorce. The anthology is focused on single mothers, so that may be where you are remembering the parent thing.

DK: But then, there is the massive adventure of parenting right? The ultimate adventure into the unknown? 

MS: Kids are fun and inspiring! The only downside is losing sleep sometimes when they are young and finding courage to let them go off own their own when they are older… While my toddler is my only biological child, I have had a plethora of little ones in my life and don’t feel particularly new to parenting. I have always taken care of children and it feels very natural to me.

My mom tells me that I wanted to do whatever she did with my baby sister, such as feeding her, combing her hair, rocking her and such. I took care of my baby cousin, I have several godchildren who call me ‘Ma’, I volunteered at daycare and after school care programs as a teen… I once had stepchildren who I adored and I take my niece and nephews around with me quite often.

DK: After we met in Durham, where have the journeys taken you?

MS: My circle in Durham encouraged me to share my talents with so many others. I may have been afraid to venture back out after my California dreams faded into the working world, if it were not for my arts experience in Durham. It is a place that embraces and supports the arts tremendously. The path from Durham led me to the next town over, then to major cities like Atlanta, Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia to share my words. I gained the confidence to submit my work to some heavy hitters in African American literature and became a part of a book project that turned into a #1 National Bestseller. My territory is ever increasing and I dream of seeing my work on the big screen someday, but I would also like to remember where I came from and remain a part of the circle that started me on my way.

DK: On your way… to where? Curious.

MS: I have back and forth from the DMV area often, as my significant other takes on mostly government contracts. I love the arts up there as a spectator, but unfortunately have not been able to participate much as an artist. I have no support system there, as far as babysitting goes. There’s always a book festival, library event, or museum to stop by in DC and the scenery is quite inspiring…

DK: Venturing out seems important to you.

MS: I am a firm believer that venturing out into the unfamiliar serves to strengthen your creativity. It opens your eyes to things you have never seen and expands your worldview. I have not traveled as far as you have, but testing the waters up and down the East Coast has been very fulfilling. Even before I began doing poetry and publishing, I was off to California and exploring the performing arts world. I experienced being among the best performers, in the audience of great theaters, in studios, filming for television on Hollywood sets, at casting and modeling agencies and briefly attempted to form a singing duet. My time there was amazing and continues to influence my writing and stage performances today. There is, however, a time for stillness when it is time to gather your thoughts on the page.

DK: Who are your favorite artists?

MS: My favorite artists are two alumni of North Carolina Central University, my late aunt, educator Barbara Tuck Ebron and the incomparable Ernie Barnes, a Durham native.

DK: Art venues?

MS: My favorite museum is the Smithsonian American Art Museum. They have very diverse exhibits with everything from presidents to Native American experiences to African American musicians and writers on grand display.

DK: Can we share an excerpt of one of your books?

MS: Yes…

From The Divorcée Chronicles: Diary of a Divorcée Diva… 

I never felt so free as I did on that flight to LAX. The sky was the limit and I was literally on top the world, looking down on it from Cloud Nine. No one could tell me anything would ever go wrong ever again at that moment in time. After chatting it up with Darren a little bit about my hopes and dreams as always, he suggested that maybe I should look into moving to Cali, too. It would be the perfect place to start a totally new path in life and get away from all my troubles. I daydreamed myself about it right on to sleep.

“Good evening, passengers. This is your Captain speaking. I hope you have enjoyed your flight. We are approaching our destination and fully expect a safe and uneventful landing. Thank you for joining us. Have a good night.”

Waking up to stare out the window at the stuff that dreams are made of was surreal. The view of the Concrete Jungle, with all that water surrounding it, was amazing. I saw nothing but miles and miles of highway and bright lights! I had on my cute little sleeveless cotton dress that was hit just above the knee and got a rude awakening when I stepped onto the tarmac. The cold, sweeping air hit me right in the face.

“Whoa!! How can it be freezing in California in the middle of July?!”

“Kay, this ain’t Cackalacky. Ain’t none of that humidity out here. Don’t you know this is the desert?” Darren was always so thorough in his ex-planation of everything. Always had been, even back in the days when he was trying to tell me why we needed to break up and just be friends.

“You gone love the way it feels outside tomorrow when the sun is out, though. I’m telling you, Kay. The wea-ther is addictive.”

“Ok, I’m just gonna have to trust you on that one ‘cause it’s just freezing my legs off right about now!”

That night as I looked out the 12th-floor window of the hotel at all the lights that put the dark, tree-lined streets back home to shame, I was hooked and my mind was made up. If the rest of Cali was like the view from here, I was gonna call it home and soon.

The next day, Darren and I headed out to paint the town. He was right about the weather being gorgeous and we checked out the usual tourist traps like the Hollywood Walk of Fame and the Chinese Theater, then watched the many talented hopefuls acting out at Venice Beach. We toured the star homes and rode past all the famous places like Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles, Capitol Records, and the Hollywood sign. We even checked out South Central and in the words of Ice Cube himself, I gotta say it was a good day.

“Tomorrow we’ll go look at the apartments I found online”, Darren said.

“If you decide to move here, you can just find something when you get to town because people move in and out around here all the time. It’s not like back home.”

DK: Thank you! Last question: What’s the best advice you ever got?

MS: Never give up!

All Things Are Governed by Atoms

‘THE ATOMIC POEMS and the philosophy of naturalism espoused by Margaret Cavendish were influenced by Epicurus.’ Says the internet. Epicurus and the internet sometimes give us intriguing tidbits, indeed. Things that philosophers in this modern era might be heartened to read, because we sometimes get railroaded into thinking that what counts is what can be counted (but we know it isn’t always the case, right? Anyone who has listened to a great poem read aloud to her, one on one, for example, and especially if it’s very personally pointed in her direction, can attest to that.)

Cavendish’s poem, ‘All Things are Governed by Atoms’ is below.

Like I said, I found it while reading about Epicurus’ ideas.

These, specifically: that we should be able to spend time with our friends; be free of the need or anxiety that comes with having to make a living the usual way in our day and age; and also, the feeling that we gotta spend some time analyzing life. Epicurus has inspired us quite a lot here at Atelier S P A C E and I’m looking forward to revealing more as we go, in the journeys ahead. Meantime, find the poem and more about Cavendish posted at the page here.

But for the moment, here is All Things are Governed by Atoms

All Things are Governed by Atoms

Thus life and death, and young and old,
Are as the several atoms hold.
Wit, understanding1 in the brain
Are as the several atoms reign,
And dispositions good or ill                                
Are as the several atoms still.
And every passion which doth rise
Is as the several atoms lie.
Thus sickness, health, and peace and war
Are as the several atoms are.