The artists gathered for this co-created zine are four very curious people.
Art, natural patterns, and words intertwine in a collaboration between them.
The nature of art
Lee Moore Crawford, a floral designer and artist, once struck up a conversation about the Japanese art of ikebana when DK happened upon her arranging flowers at a coffee shop in Durham, NC, circa 2011. We never forgot it.
So when DK collaborated with another creative person who takes inspiration from nature to make the cover image of this issue (Dipika Kohli took the original photograph in Huế, then forwarded it to digital processing artist Nils don Sihvola in Finland), we wanted to ask Crawford what her feelings would be. Lots came of this interaction, including a short piece, ‘Bloom.’
To give the collection continuity, we then circled back to former culture editor Michael Bridgett, Jr., whose article, ‘Why I Art,’ opens yet another fresh perspective.
Atelier S P A C E is a two-year roving popup zinemaking atelier. It’s a project of the boutique studio, Design Kompany (started in 2004 in Seattle – presently based in Phnom Penh). On the road since Sept. 2017 from: Battambang, Cambodia, Atelier S P A C E co-creates a weekly zine. This is done with people DK discovers on the spot, in the locations where the popup zinemaking workshops go. DK invite others to co-create the zines. So far, some of the places we’ve been to make zines with others in this way are: Sheffield, Helsinki, Hanoi, Berlin, Seattle, Kuala Lumpur, and Phnom Penh. Stop by. See what’s up. Be a part of the experience at Atelier S P A C E, where some of us will be on hand to write, print, collage and sew with some of you a fresh zine, to be made on the spot: S P A C E | Tokyo, ‘Osananajimi’. Learn more about DK’s Atelier S P A C E and couture zines at instagram.
S P A C E | Tokyo will be a ‘yomikai’ get-together for those who want to read what we create, together, at Atelier S P A C E | Tokyo.
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.
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.)
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.
LIFE. STORIES. Multiple, divergent, intersecting, and contradicting pluralities of narratives: the things we are pursuing here are not so much about gathering outcomes and publishing stuff that sounds and looks interesting (but has no content); rather, we want to invite into our innermost circles, in S P A C E, the exact kinds of new and different others who will show us, together, as we get going, in our conversations in the protected-page posts that constitute, as a set, the thing we call S P A C E, well yeah. All of it. Is a thing now. There’s a bulk to this that I can’t deny; a gravitas and a resonance that stays with people. They tell me this. ‘I really enjoyed that exercise you did; it was super relevant at the time, do you remember, you put us in groups, ‘Past,’ ‘Present,’ and ‘Future?’ asked my friend MR, whom I’d met at one of my events in Bangkok and who went on to join DK again at something called ‘16N‘ in that same city, the next year.
(Honestly, we didn’t recall that exercise or think much about what it might have meant to everyone; at the time, we were just hosting, and hosting means you’re talking to people and making sure everyone feels included, that her or his voice counts, that she or he is invited to all the conversations circling about, moving, changing, diving into other spaces, letting that happen.
Of course the afterparty for ‘N’ there had to be at a jazz club: improvising in collage and collaborating with jazZ happens! there, that was also very fun. With both, it’s a jam session: making it up as we go, but also, playing off what we learn, together, from one another. Most importantly, there’s no hierarchy. It’s flat. We’re talking, together, in dialogue. Round tables. Let me tell you a bit more about this idea, of circles. (SN, watching Akira Morita in action one time hosting a meeting, had called it ‘circle time.’ We love circle time, here at DK. Why? Lots of reasons.’)
Dialogues that are really good are the kinds ‘with a center, and not sides,’ as William Isaacs, had put it in his book, Dialogue. How lucky I am to have been able to reach out directly to Isaacs, ahead of my conversation salon series, ‘Modern Sikkim: What does it mean to be Sikkimese?’ which had happened in Gangtok, Sikkim–a part of India that my relatives in Delhi aren’t too familiar with outside of an image of ‘the snowy mountains’. Well, wow. There is of course Kanchenjunga, but before I go marveling about the miracles of the Himalaya, and daydreaming about going back there in November (yes: mark it! Atelier S P A C E || Gangtok is in the works), well, yeah, so what was I saying? Oh! This: I’m lucky, very, I could ask William Isaacs directly, over email, in 2013, thinking hard about the design of Modern Sikkim and how to collaborate well and whom I should contact to make a go of it and what we would do in the spaces-to-become, well, yeah. How I could make such a conversation salon series work well was important to me. Researching that. Learning what to do in the instance that someone tried to be overbearing (this happens a lot, in societies where there are hierarchies established from social class, economic status, or hey, let’s be real, male and female gender roles), all that normal stuff you have to figure in, and be ready to take on, when it does hit you, all that. And I remember the email coming back. What a good feeling, to get a note from the internet to say, Just do what you’re doing and here’s some more stuff to think about, more or less. Well. What a nice thing to feel reassured that no one knows what’s on the way, not ever, not fully, but that allowing things to pop up by hosting a space that is inviting, safe, comfortable, relaxing, and readied for the things-that-might-happen, well, that’s the work. And the art. So it began. A journey into making more and better such space, or, as I call it now, S P A C E. I’m the architect of it; we follow a checklist, it has 7 points, to do this in a way that works, in DK’s style. Which is what? Well, you can read my personal artist statement thingy at this website, if you’re curious about what interests me about gathering people in these ways. ‘I want people to relax. To feel air, space, and comfort.’ Find it in context at dipikakohli.com.
But in the meantime, there’s this.
Philosophy of the moment
GETTING SET. For our first-ever online salon, ‘Philosophy of the Moment.’ In which we’re going to share all of the best learnings and gathered notes from our decades-long pursuit of the big questions, ‘What are we doing here? What does it mean? What is ‘good’? What makes it remarkable? What does a meaningful life look like? How can I make changes so that I can better enjoy the life I have? What does it mean to love? How does it feel to let go? Where are the important notes to carry forward? What kind of legacy do I want to leave? Who am I? Who am I, apart from you? What is my role in society? How am I doing, and where I am going, and does it mean much to consider these questions, and besides, what is ‘time?”‘ What’s this all about? Find out.
ORIGIN: ‘What is fromness?’ is inspired by ‘Ask me where I’m local’ by Taiye Selasi: ‘When someone asks you where you’re from … do you sometimes not know how to answer?’ Selasi speaks for “multi-local” people. In other words, people who feel at home in the town where they grew up, the city they live now and maybe another place or two. How can I come from a country?, she asks. How can a human being come from a concept?’
Origin: What is ‘fromness?’ Join Design Kompany in an informal setting for a conversation salon, ‘Origin.’
We’ll be talking about questions that help us all reflect on self-identity, whereness, and the notion of ‘where I am from.’ The program is light, and a slight redesign of our 2014 Origin conversation salon in Phnom Penh, in which 16 people gathered for an unusual experience of talking with complete strangers about close-to-the-heart questions. Since then the event has also been seen in Bangkok and Hanoi.
Come meet people from a wide mix of backgrounds. People whose paths you might not have crossed. Who are interested in taking a good, honest look at questions like: Who am I? Where am I ‘from?’ Who is my family? Where is my home? Questions that, we learned in 2014, truly open the heart. And help us learn more about one another, as well as ourselves.
‘I never imagined I’d meet so many different people.’
‘I wish we’d had more time! Thank you.’
‘Weird and interesting!’
This event is for members of S P A C E and their guests. Learn more about how to become a member of S P A C E here.
DK AND FRIENDS TOGETHER co-host the zinemaking popup conversation salon and *happening* ‘Hei Kesä’ in Oulu. This is in collaboration with Kahvila Tuokio and Oulu Taiteiden Yö (Oulu Arts Night).
It was the delightful yellow bright interior of the cafe that got us thinking, ‘This would be a great place to host a zinemaking popup about summer, summer memories, summer stories, love, romance, all that kind of thing, and we’ll do it on 16 August to coincide with the citywide popup that is Oulu Arts Night.’
An idea. A chance encounter, or two, and voila. Special thanks to Paavo Heinonen for including DK’s event in the Oulu Arts Night programme and conversing with us about how to make it even better. A great collaboration like ‘let’s do this. Let’s make it really fun for people, and let’s talk about who would want to be there, and then, what we can do to design a magic moment.’
That’s what starts all this. Sparkly things like discovering people, places, and the brightness of a yellow interior that feels exactly like ‘Hi, Summer.’
Speaking of, big thanks to Anu Lakkapää at Kahvila Tuokio for offering
the space. DK loved meeting her and talking about her passion for making cakes. Plus, the espresso was really, really good. (A must for any venue DK chooses for our events, hah.)
A SERIES. Shout-out, too, to Eveliina Karsikas. Eveliina owns the cake and coffee place Cafe Onni in Kärsämäki, which is relatively new here. If I’m correct, it opened this very summer, and we happened to be in the same town, and found it. The colorful interior here drew our eye and that’s part of why we made a coloring-book to share along with our usual zines. Eveliina had kindly co-hosted this event, ‘Hei Kesä’, with us in that town earlier this summer, on International Zine Day. (See picture at left).
OULU. Now our team is looking forward to getting the popup installed, and opening up the new zine show on 16th. The first part of our programme is a workshop, and there are very limited seats. Tickets are €15, includes materials, plus coffee, for the zinemaking workshop. Here is our schedule for the day. We’ll have all of our new zines with us to showcase and share on the day, too. All were made in Finland this summer, the set we call our S P A C E || Finland collection. Here’s a picture:
16 A U G U S T
Zines. Coffee. Real life.
Oulu Arts Night
€15 (price includes materials, plus coffee) Ages 16+. Limited seats. Be sure to book in advance to confirm your spot: get tickets here.
Did a popup art installation here in Kärsämäki. Zines. Sketches. Magazines. Collage.
Three people put stuff together with DK’s zines and we made a tea room out of the front porch.
There are literally like 23,004 tea cups, saucers and related in the kitchen here. I think this place was originally the kind of spot you could stop in, whenever you felt like a chat or the need to unburden, and have a cup of tea.
The Pappila Popup was fun.
It looked like this:
This all started when about 4PM, I noticed a bunch of people beginning to turn up. Cars everywhere, suddenly it felt like the parking lot of some kind of a carnival. Then, there began a parade of *taxis*. Taxis out here in rural northern Finland are *giant.* They are bigger than minivans. They are serious things, elephantesque but black and yellow, that look like 12 people would be inside but then, only 2 emerge.
This whole thing was a ‘happening,’ as they say here in Finland. The actual happening happened to be a music concert. I’d heard about it since I got here–music, concert, August. But given the relatively small turnouts for most things I’ve been to now, I just had no idea there would be some 100+ people popping in. My hunch is that people
drove from far and very far (no big deal in Finland to take on long, long road trips, ‘Thanks for the offer to stay, but why would I need to overnight? It’s only 140km from here.’) They came to hear the music of Arja Korieseva — Elämäni Laulut. Glad to see so many people looking happy and enjoying themselves, the music, and the sun. And a few who popped in to say ‘hei’ and join us for tea. (Kiitos! You know who you are. Hyvää. Joo. HT Kaltio Magazine, At Johan’s, and Kattilakosken Kulttuuriosuuskunta.)
Secret event ‘Kesämuisto’ *happened* in Kärsämäki
Thanks! We had nice time and a private event. Come and view the zines on display through the end of August.
OUR TRAVELING series 16N is next stopping in Helsinki. It’s a big blind date for just 16 people. (Who will be there? That’s the whole magic of it. The thing is a giant *surprise*.) It’s by invitation. Ask us for an invite, when you follow the story, here: http://designkompany.com/16n
Meet new people. Make a publication. Short, sweet, and on the spot. Join us at Atelier S P A C E || Kärsämäki.
DESIGN KOMPANY are hosting a popup workshop, Atelier S P A C E, at Kärsämäki in Finland.
This is a zinemaking atelier.
It will kick off on 21 July, which is International Zine Day. This is a family friendly event.
A zine is a short collection of images and words usually photocopied, in small quantities, and distributed by hand.
Here is why it matters.
Zine culture is making a comeback, as more people distrust the usual news media channels and turn their attention to what people they know personally, and whom they feel they can trust are saying, making, and sharing. That’s why social proof and social media are important. But there is the old, more traditional way of relating to people: in person. So let’s make time and come out for a real-life conversation series that gets us all talking together, with those we might not have met, in an unusual way. Working and collaborating to put something new into the world: a zine. It doesn’t have to be a big task, nor does it have to be ego-driven. Everyone knows what a pain it is to work with artists!
Art can connect us, but the specific kind of space that does it well needs to be designed. That’s where Design Kompany steps in. ‘I thought it would be neat to use the zine format to do the work of bridging silos,’ says DK’s creative director, Dipika Kohli. ‘Anyone who has ever worked in publishing knows how important the first few meetings are, where you simply brainstorm ideas together. That’s the fun part… seeing what others want to know more about, learn and discover in the world right around us. I remember doing that when I was in southwest Ireland, working with an alt newspaper there, very new, very fun, very loose, and very exciting. Given the times we are in now, we can try to engage people in ways that get us all talking, get us offline again, in public and semi-public spaces, to just simply be. Not work. Not home. Not the internet. But a place where you can just relax and talk with people about things that are going on. Conversation is important. Let’s make more of it, and then, let’s find a theme, and work together to make a zine.’
Atelier S P A C E uses the zine form to gather people’s voices, and interconnect those whose paths might not have crossed. The big idea is to make something new, together. Systems thinkers say that gathering people for spontaneous spaces that might lead to new insights is one way to begin the road to innovation. Breaking new ground starts with trying new things. Leaders in their fields recognize that finding a new way to discover is a real need. Creating opportunities for people to practice how to do that is one of the goals for DK’s ateliers. But so is good fun, and making something new, with people in a creative way.
‘Art, at its best, is a conversation,’ says Kohli, an author and artist who practices and studies relational aesthetics in her more recent work. ‘Making more space, and more quality space, for us to learn about and discover new perspectives, from new people, is what our ateliers, salons, and magazines are all about.’ Here’s how it works. ‘DK go to a new place, meet people and co-create something in a short, on the spot workshop that’s also kind of a performance art installation at times (when it happens in public space!). I think you can get a sense of it from our Instagram, dkompany. Generally, the idea is we’d make a piece with new writing and other visual elements for an 8-page zine, S P A C E. And add it to our collection of zines made in the same way in different cities.’
ABOUT DK. Design Kompany LLC started as a brand identity design studio in Seattle in 2004. In 2013, DK went on the road to practice the unknown, uncertain and different, which led to new connections, with new people, in new places. This set the stage for 2017’s and 2018’s intent to create zines, in the short spaces of time, while on the road looking for the chance encounter…. And folding it into S P A C E. Atelier S P A C E is a traveling zinemaking popup Atelier, designed in response to a new realization. People aren’t used to trying new things. People need space and time to get back to exploring, in a playful way, towards new approaches, and even innovations. Starting the tour in Southeast Asia in Sept. 2017, DK have created zinemaking ateliers in: Battambang, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Phnom Penh, and Bangkok. ‘The idea is to explore ways we can co-create hyperlocal, interwoven stories with new and different others who participate in the atelier’s salons. Through conversations, we find a theme. Together. It’s a collaboration to make a unified piece, and each issue of S P A C E highlights the conversations, places, and people we each discovered in the bounded box of either one, two, or 4-week ateliers,’ says DK’s Kohli. See the journey of S P A C E so far, at http://instagram.com/dkompany.
Special thanks to Kahvila at the campus of Kattilakoski Culture Cooperative. ✨
REQUEST INFO. We have limited seats for this event. Request more info by email to find out more. Here is how to connect with us:
‘You’ve been everywhere, DK. You lived in… Japan, in Cambodia… where you wrote Breakfast in Cambodia, am I correct?, yes, I thought you had said that, and of course the places where you grew up, too. You have seen and done a lot. Now you have to make something out of that. For all of us to experience it, through your eyes.’
‘That’s a tall order!’
‘It is. But you can do it, DK. Show us. Show us the world.’
‘Art, right? Art can show us new perspectives? Isn’t that what you like to say, all the time? How it can make you stop, and think, in new ways?’
‘Um. This conversation isn’t going to be easy.’
‘I never said it would be easy.’
‘The world is right in front of us, but we just have to let ourselves see it.’
‘How do you do that?’
‘Slow down. Notice. Show up. Make time. Keep it real. Do no harm. All that.’
‘Like last night?
‘The tea party? Yeah! I didn’t know it was going to be such a warm, cozy affair. It was, though. We had just three, in the end. I had invited some people here and there around town, halfheartedly, admittedly, because I’m not one of those people who likes to throw a raging party, rather, I like small, quiet circles. Very small circles. Kind of like with the online projects: just a few of us, talking together. Quality, in depth. No superficial mumbo-jumbo and muscle-flexing and peacocking and so on. I hate that. You go out into the usual spaces where people mix and honestly, it’s a zoo. Why we get caught up in this dance of displaying something… facade-making… I have no idea about. I think it’s because people are incredibly bored.’
‘Which reminds me. I’m working on a new comic book. About Finnish, um, black humor.’
This is part of a series, 100 conversations. Made with the support of members of S P A C E.
For the writer, it’s been said that the best thing to do upon waking up is grab the pen… or at least the keyboard, and empty out all your earliest thoughts or journal away the sins of yesterday. It’s a great method for any artist that is meant to really help get into the right kind of artistic mindset for the rest of the day.
These days, first thing I’ve been reaching for is the cell phone.
I have this grand compunction to know what time it is, even though I have gone out of my way to do the kind of work that is not time sensitive. I don’t have a place to report to by a certain time, nor do I have any specific deadlines I’m trying to reach. “Knowing the time” on the clock does little to help me at all, yet I keep reaching over as soon as I’m awake. I’ve been here before… Instead of being on “world time,” the intervals of reality where events happen when they happen and people awaken and choose to move with their needs and their hearts; I find myself on “corporate time,” the time invented to create a schedule to move items by rail that would allow people 200 years ago to coordinate and make a lot of money.
DK and friends are together hosting a series of conversation salons in Kärsämäki, Finland, on the conversation topic, ‘Then & Now.’
Can we preserve an old way of life, or parts of it, as we move forward in time? How do we define ‘progress?’ What is important to keep, and how do we determine what’s okay to let go? What’s ‘culture?’ What is ‘preservation?’ What legacies do we want to leave for future generations, and what have we learned from past ones? Let’s meet. Let’s converse. When you arrive, you’ll get to know a few new and different others from this area. You’ll be able to participate in a new way of connecting that might be unlike anything else you’ve experienced. DK has been hosting conversation salons since 2006 in Seattle, bringing to the table a decade of experience in facilitating discussions that have a center, and not sides. Let’s meet, connect, and talk about ‘Then & Now.’
The venue will be Kahvila, a cafe just steps away from the local architectural gem, the Shingle Church (pictured), which as DK has learned was built in 2000 in response to the loss of an older church, using methods and materials respectful of a much earlier time. This is the beginning of a new series, ‘Hei Kesä,’ which will be held in coming weeks. These conversation salons are a hybrid of facilitation methods DK have adapted from Open Space hosting methods, years of design consulting work, and general curiosity about ways of gathering new and different perspectives.
Tickets inclusive of: 1 filled croissant + 1 tea or coffee, and 1 zine of your choice from DK’s June collection.
Is it April 30? Happy International Jazz Day. Many thanks to Herbie Hancock and the United Nations for making IJD. Thanks to this year’s organizers for including DK’s first Kuala Lumpur event, STAMMTISCH, in the International Jazz Day global events listings. To celebrate, we made you a kind of mix tape. A visual mix tape, out of the jazzy images we’ve made over the years here at Design Kompany.
S P A C E
J A Z Z
A G A L L E R Y
Music? Music can save us. We’re not musicians, but we love music, and I, personally, love the improvisational music that is J A Z Z. Sometimes I like to make word-poems, like ‘The Good Stuff,’ with my team (listen on SoundCloud), but I’m mostly an appreciator. I like to go to shows and draw jazz with pens, some of those pictures are below, and sometimes, I just like to cut-and-paste while the music is playing. Live. It’s neat. It’s fun. It’s a good conversation. And it’s getting even better. Every year we meet new people, new artists, and we grow to learn more about the ‘how’ and ‘howcome’ of making Art and also making S P A C E. For now, here we are.
And here you go. May I present…
The gallery, ‘J A Z Z.’
The A side
ART x THE JAM. It’s funny. I just went to a jazz club and met some pianists who played ‘free jazz’ and ‘bebop’ and that was exactly what I wanted to hear. It is hard to come by this kind of thing, here in Asia, and in the middle of a streak of long, beautiful, meandering conversation jams I found myself boarding a bus away from KL to process everything and just kinda thinking, ‘Huh. It’s all right, then. Do the thing you want to do. Make it happen for you.’ Advice I’ve been given before, in the 1990s. By, none other than someone who introduced me to the late-late night sets of live jazz, wouldyoubelieve. More about that to come, later, in S P A C E for the members who have been part of these internet and interconnective conversations for the last four years. (Thank you).
The B side
At No Black Tie Wednesday night in KL, I met Aya Setine and Don Gomes. Talked art. Design. Writing. Engineering. Chatted away with for a long series of minutes about everything, including the good Loston Harris, whose work I really love and wish more people knew about. (Check out his cover of ‘Shall we Dance?’)
At the show, I came over with my usual supplies for the ‘Book of Songs’ series, which is an impromptu set compiled from whatever falls to hand in the moments-just-before. This time, I had my pens, paper, indexcards, and a knife. For no reason, really. But a knife for paper-cutting. Just in case. Ball point pens, in this moment. And yeah. No clipboard this time. The ball point pen worked all right. (It didn’t leak. I have been in situations where it leaks, all over, embarrassing, but kinda fun, too, because yeah, like paint to canvas, pen to paper. Flying around. Getting into it. This is the jam.)
The whole thing.
POETRY. Quickly, a shout-out. Next day, after the jazz show, there was more conversation about /the art of art/ and related tangents and suchmuch. Continuing the jamming, as there was, for me, a feeling of ‘anything is possible.’ And a conversation on Thursday. That came organically and easily, and in real life, the blind date that DK had with the poet Saarah Choudhury; wow. Look her up, ladies and gentlemen and watch this space: @eastwest_nomad, on insta. So good to meet her. And we are going to do a Q&A soon, so watch out for that, in S P A C E. (Join us, see link below for how to become a member). All of these threads got me singing in the shower again. And also, they sent me straight back to the very beginnings of this creative-life story, and the early 1990s, a time when I started writing, drawing, making it up. It’s really funny: most of the things I do are not for commercial use now. I used to do that. Day job in newspapers; illustration art (not a lot. I never managed to be any good at commission-getting with that). Not a problem, though. I let it evolve, because I needed to see where it would go. Big warm hugs to Patti Rieser, too, who taught me the ‘jazz step’ to dance to, a little bit of a square, but nothing at all squarish.
JAZZ DAY. DK are excited today to participate in a world event that brings people together to improvise, and play. Celebrating jazz, and for DK, listening out for new jazz in Southeast Asia, specifically. We’re looking forward to seeing more new voices coming out strong from this part of the world, and hoping to also make more stages (formal and informal) for all of us to get out of our regular confined melodies and play a little more !*…. What is ‘!*’? It is this. A very particular quality of space, one in which everyone is participant.
A jazz violinist, MT, got us started on this, talking about gravity and stars and constellations, so vacuous and expansive.
And a pianist, TE, inspired more, and over the years, DK happened to stumble into clubs where I found trumpet players ES (with whom we conversed with in a short Q&A here) and HG, and others, and there have even been conversations resumed from decades-old threads that started in those United States, a place called Brooklyn. Thanks, photographer Yamini Nayar, and architect IK. More recently, I am jamming on these art esoterica notes with musicians MD and GL. Talking. At length. About why we make, why we make art, and why we make space for making. These are big topics! I can expand, another time, in S P A C E.
MEET US IN S P A C E. Two last notes! For how to be part of DK’s programmes, workshops, salons amd othet things we are making, sharing, doing, delivering, conversing about, and generally designing more and better S P A C E for. The jam. (There are a whole bunch of people to mention, as I think about the life and all the jazz I’ve gotten to know, bit by bit, over the years. Bebop. Free. Let me know where that’s going on, and I’m so there. With my pens, clipboard, and a bunch of paper.) See you in the up.
REPORTING TODAY from a secret location in Malaysia. For a bit of space, to reflect and connect, with some whose paths I’ve crossed very recently, and with those who are still engaged with DK through our mailings in [S P A C E 2018].
‘New starts’, part LXII
I love starting over. I really do. It’s like when you open a new sketchbook and you’re just like, ‘Wow. Here we go. Where, though? Let’s go find out.’ I told some people in recent days I was in art school for like 10 minutes. It was way too early to be there, or really, it was way too wrong, for me, even then, even then I had a gut feeling about it… that style of making is just like production-oriented other schooling (commercial arts), and while I’ve no problem whatsoever with artmaking for a client (heck, that’s how I’ve lived these last 10+ years), I don’t think we should mess around with the ‘art of art.’ I will love to talk more about that in S P A C E when I get to interview someone whom I am sure you will adore meeting. I certainly have.
Anyway! This kind of quick-and-dirty art-for-the-sake-of-fame is just… not what I feel like real art is about. Real art is about experience, to me. About life, and about connexion-making. Not just you know, the usual kinds (love, work, blah blah), but about unusual and remarkable connexion. People whose paths might not have crossed, intersecting in fascinating new ways.
You know what most people say when I talk about this? ‘But, why, DK? Whatever is the point?’ These are the people who will never believe that I haven’t held a day job since 2005. The beginning half of the conversation with this set of people tires me. I stopped. I only talk now in S P A C E and with people I think would get into S P A C E aesthetically. It’s really weird. But anyway. Really, I should answer.
Why? Because quality. A pursuit of beauty that means we are noticing each other, for real. Not just superficially, gosh. Really? Come on, like how many of your ‘friends’ are going to show up for you when you ask them to come around to your show, or meet for a beer because someone just died, or something? Come on, be real about it. Ask yourself. Is all that stuff where you want to be spending your time? Not me.
Someone asked me for my facebook yesterday. I said I don’t have one. I don’t think he believed me. Then he asked for my number. I don’t have one of those, either.
Just being honest about it… about how I really… don’t collect people. I share, and interconnect, I hope, when it’s working that’s what happens, when we are all showing up for that kind of thing. It’s not arbitrary and it’s certainly not for everyone. The reason you have to get tickets for stuff we are hosting is because I want to filter out the people who are just bored and looking for something to fill their time. I want people to show up who want to show up for this kind of jam. New. New and different. New and different others, seeking meaning in a distracted world. Shall I add, an indifferent world? Because certainly this work we are up to at S P A C E and DK in general is morphing away, and very quickly, from simply being bored with boring (which is how it started, as a design studio), and catapulting headlong towards being intentional about noticing people who are not like you. Does this make it political? Possibly. I don’t know how this happens; wherever I go, I get involved somehow in things related to ideologies that move towards human connexion that builds, together, something interesting. Self-governance or maybe just art.
I’m not sure. Is it the same? Does one necessarily fertilize the other? What precludes these things? Is where we are going as a global society something to talk about, more? I wonder. (I’m just riffing here. Let’s talk, if you want to: there’s a form at this page.)
(Side story: ‘I studied the philosophy of art. A guy named __.’ ‘Oh yeah! What did he say??’ ‘It was a long time ago. I can’t remember.’ ‘…’ ‘…’ ‘…’ ‘Are you bored?’ ‘YES.’ <—- This is why I don’t go out, often, to the ‘normal’ places where it’s socially encouraged to mingle. And the exact reason I made S P A C E.)
I’m bored, of course, (of course? Is it a given, really?) with the status quo. Always have been. Always will be. The status quo is where stuff gets sucked into the pockets of mediocirty, the whole ‘We’ve already run that kind of a story,’ thinking or, ‘This is just how it has always been, DK, can we just go back to the way we’ve always done it?’ Me: Please, no. Please, let’s try something new. Can we? No? You don’t want to? Well, okay. Goodbye. How many times have I been stuck? 61. I counted. And now, let’s move forwards. Let’s go to Malaysia. Let’s go see who’s around, and what we can experience, together. Ready, set.
‘Well, you know I can’t really judge. I’ve been doing the same thing all day.’
‘I mean, if it was ten years ago, and MA and I were hanging out having our meetups on Tuesdays like we used to, all those many lovely weeks, I think… we would have turned it into something similar. Co-worky and everything. I’m sure of it, actually, now that I think about it. But we didn’t because we didn’t have that technology. Instead we talked. A lot, really. And those were memories I treasure from those days.’
‘You guys did that regularly. Every..’
‘Tuesday at ten. At Vicky T’s. I really got to know her over those chats. Something about showing up, regularly, over time. All those weeks, those doodling sessions, conversations, just letting things come up as they wanted to. Not forcing it.. .making the time for one another. Just us, that was nice. It’s actually the only thing I miss about Seattle. And JB, of course. JB, for sure.”
‘And yeah, now that I think about it… it IS weird. Co-worky office-y over dinner with laptops, phones, and wine, and food, and phones, and phones and laptops and texts…’
‘Sometimes I’m just glad I was born when I was. But then again, like I said, I did do the whole computing thing all day. So I can’t judge.’