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I am on the road. I was writing and thinking, taking it in, slowly. The things. The very many things. It has been some time but I have circled to places I have been before, and been recognized, quite surprising, this, on the street, at the bus station terminals, you wouldn’t believe it. But the thing is that no matter we go, and whom we meet, whatever distances we travel, however worn our shoes, the truth is, and this is really starting to become a shining star in the sea of black: people smile.
People smile when they see someone they haven’t seen for a while. ‘I remember you’ is there, sometimes in words, sometimes in gestures, or a great wave, like the one I got a few days ago, from someone who likes to sit at a bench at a particular place in a particular street at a particular time of day. In a city I had not been in for two full years. Yet there we were. Chance got me back there, or something. In this moment, exactly this one, with his very genuine smile, authentic and wide and almost like he wanted to get up and hug me because isn’t that what you do, when you see one another again?, in this lonely, large existence?, it was just right there and then with the humidity all a glut and yet!, there and then, I woke up, seeing all this, to the beauty there is in all of humanity. Which centers on this:
We are curious.
About each other. We make way when we are in the way. We give and we learn, and we pay attention to the traveler-teachers, whose ways are those that remind us there are still journeys ahead for all of us. I’m writing this today for AW, but also, for CW (C, I think I lost the note). Same ‘W’. I wonder if they will read.
But it doesn’t matter.
This is what I’ve learned, writing Kismuth, along The Way.
Well, that sounds like something to expand on. Maybe it’s time to write another book. [I’m 32% finished: HT F.]
Many people have asked me about how I manage to ‘get so much done.’
The truth is, I really just focus a lot. On S P A C E, lately. To show the process–something that I am prone to do if and only if it feels like a good time to open the doors a little to the studio and share what’s gong on–I host events.
Occasionally, they happen in a way that’s 100% online, and the thing coming up is one of those.
So here we go.
This is the thing…
About this Event
A real-time conversation taking place–online. A DK-hosted synched space of connection, conversation.
Learn how S P A C E has changed since it started out as a working prototype in a ‘cojournal’ project by Dipika Kohli, who is the creative director of DK. DK has been publishing S P A C E every week since December 2018.
You’ll get to see how, in this experiential program, which will happen in digital space. For just 2 hours, on the day.
Lots of conversations. Lots of back and forth. Lots of email, discussion, redirection.
All of it goes into the current week’s issue, S P A C E | Rovaniemi, ‘Blank Sky Checklist.’
Cover photo by BOSS.
‘Art takes time’
This week, we publish Issue #44.
It’s a cocreation between Alexis Jokela in Finland and Dipika Kohli, our creative director and editor of Autumn 2019’s S P A C E collection, ‘Trust the Process.’
DK had spent three months in the north of Finland in summer 2018. ‘The whole thing is getting kind of interesting now that the conversations are weaving over themselves and inviting new people to join them, too. That’s because, I think, it’s because, mostly, I love to keep things moving, keep things in progression, because it’s more fun than starting from zero. Art, like I wrote in A Place Called Home, art takes time.’ For DK, the best part is that things are starting to place themselves in such wonderful ways that people are meeting each other now. In person, even. This is beautiful. Connexion, at its best.
Order S P A C E | Rovaniemi, ‘Blank Sky Checklist’…
This week, the lead story is ‘Ch_cklist,’ by Alexis Jokela, who also is the author of ‘A Summer Love Story’. That was published in S P A C E’ | Oulu. Following similar threads, ‘Ch_cklist’ touches on the things we all go through when we manage to learn how to master our feelings, let things move and shift, and find flow.
S P A C E | Rovaniemi, ‘Blank Sky Checklist’ is published exclusively here in S P A C E. Download it all this here.
I MUST BE GETTING PLACES. I have been conversing in real time and also asynchronously in the cloud. With amazing people who inspire me.
To keep going.
To keep doing this thing where we show up, see what happens, and put together an issue, somehow.
Arts and letters
I really can’t quite believe I am talking and making poetry with IK, jeez I’m lucky. I can’t give you all the details now because that would be too much, but suffice to say, it’s a fascinating jam session and I’m delighted to be able to explore it.
Cell memory, poetics
A living poet. Light with words, light with the style, letting me approach and say, ‘Shall we do this?’ A conversation in S P A C E, too many words already. I will stop here.
The things are evolving.
Which is good.
What would DK be if it didn’t change every so often completely?
What is that thing about how your cells renew, every seven years?
Unstuffy, unpretentious, realness
I did go to a couple of stuffy literary conferences and festivals in my life, but not a single one of the people I met really felt like they were doing anything truly creative, if you want to know my honest opinion.
They just kinda… seem to get caught up in the recognition-seeking thing. Not innovating in the form. Which, to me, is far more exciting. And takes effort to go to the edge, look and, well… leap. Status quo-happy people like to hug the mainstream lines. Art can’t be art, though, if you ask me, if you do that. Just, no.
Which is exactly why the people who are actually exploring and experimenting… well, they catch my ear, and eye.
This post is for SY and IK
I had written ‘Just Being Honest’ for a year or so for Saathee when I had first gotten going on the road, in 2013, then took a break to write Breakfast in Cambodia which came out of those columns and another one, ‘The Village Report,’ that ran for two years under different editors at Seattle’s Northwest Asian Weekly. Subsequently, I got the idea in my head to do other things like conversation salons that led to things and people and smart, cool moments that reminded me the poetry of writing isn’t in the shaping of words and sentences, but in the connexion that comes of the spontaneous interactions that come up out of nowhere when you just make yourself open to receive them.
Such thinking opens worlds of doors. And luckily, I got to examine a few of them.
That made me do the next thing. Work with a very small team of people who helped me understand this better, clarify it, (thank you!), and then conceptualize the making of our mini-mag, S P A C E. Couldn’t have done this without the new inputs from people I have met since leaving the United States, and discovered on the road, but also, in Cambodia, and learned to be a part of conversations that are longitudinal, carry more weight with the history and time that gives and gives, reminding us that we are not alone but a part of something bigger, after all, even if the struggle to define that exactly becomes unwieldy and eventually falls into a thing that I now understand is ‘post post modernism,’ ie the tossing of definitions themselves, altogether. This is coming into focus for me, in yet another new place, another new country: Latvia. More about that for the next column, of course.
POLITICS x ART. I was going to write more here about how there are political events that are happening right now that are disturbing and upsetting, especially in countries that don’t even care about human rights (including my own country of birth). But I realize that I’m not informed enough to be able to comment on those things. Still, the state of the world and the oppression of voices of illuminating people who could be the ones who bring humanity towards a better, more equal place is upsetting to me, as it might be to many others who are, at heart, poets. I’m writing from a wild, wacky place right now in Latvia that’s fancy and has ‘Poet’ in its title, like for real. Where, there is one very chatty person who has been asking me a torrent of questions about why I write, how I decided to be a poet (does one decide?), whether I believe in knowledge (nope), what I think about my home country (which is where, again?) and what I might do to sell my books (‘I don’t sell’). Ask me about the boiled egg. It’s too funny.
Funny things are going on, around me, left and right, and reminding me of the absurd that I clung to for so long in my writing, and comics-making, at some point, during the late 2000s when I wanted to try my hand at ‘visual artist’ as, say, a job title. That was short-lived, soon as I found out that the reception for the art show, where people met one another in real life because there I was hosting the show and people were there because of the show, but for me, what I found out, for example at the reception for Today I Love You (2012, was it?) and later, the launch party for Breakfast in Cambodia (2016), it was the mix that was most intriguing to me. Real life. The stage of being there,e together, in a framed moment… a box, kind of, a box of ‘where’ and ‘when’…
Which was how I hit on the idea of framing the moments, altogether discarding the art show, the books, etc. Let’s have parties. Let’s call them S P A C E.
Hosting one tonight, in Latvia.
Here we go.
Off to the new chapters, discovering and running into the next.
War, climate, politics, fear mongering… these things are there. News is bad, people don’t care about each other, the modern world is one of disparity and ennui and disruption of the harmony that can come when we are able to enjoy each other’s differences, instead of parrying one another for no reason other than to fill a void, internally, that could have been prevented if we had had better parenting. Societies begin there, right? Good parenting. And here I am, opining. I don’t mean to do this, really.
But really. I can go on and on and on…
But I’ll spare you.
To the work of making art, which is the only thing, I think, that a poetically inclined person can do in this era to stay sane…
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.
Request more info about either event…
Tuesday in S P A C E we publish the zine, S P A C E | Đà Lạt, ‘In the flowers’. This was a co-creation between Dipika Kohli and BOSS in January 2019. (So yes! Quite recently… just a few short weeks ago.) Something about making them up as we go, publishing while still in the vicinities that have inspired them, is a lot of fun. The energy is good. Momentum, too. We’re jazzed to open a new chapter in S P A C E, Spring 2019, ‘The Book of New Things.’ The title came from a very intriguing and cool, unexpected series of events that led to an unusual place, which is how all beautiful beginnings begin. Surprising new departures. More about S P A C E | Đà Lạt, ‘In the flowers‘.
Order S P A C E | Đà Lạt…
Order the zine…
THIS POST is for N.
N. Cool. I left you a note. I hope you get that, and this. I’ll see you in Riga, maybe. (One hundred percent serious).
I have to hold myself back from going into advice-giving mode, but I can’t help but write that thing the way I wrote it, and also, this:
There are good people running about in the world also asking questions, as you are. Don’t worry: we’ll find some of us, some of each other eventually, and then it won’t seem so daunting and crazy and big and hard. At least, that’s what I’ve noticed.
You left a great impression on me: thanks for that.
Lately I’m finding a string of chance encounters with young women who are reminding me of my earlier goal to put together a body of work designed to help teens, mostly, figure themselves out… or rather… to begin to frame the space that lets you discover yourself fully and completely and not quit in the middle because of some pressures to conform to some things that when you really think about it (as I see you are) really run counter to that. We are taught to be something, a certain way, a certain style, without investigating our way towards something… that we don’t even know what it is yet. Letting the journey come towards us… I remember my friend P in Durham NC saying to me that there’s a Native American tradition that says when a woman turns forty she chooses a name for herself…
Will do more thinking about what we said when I take the time this week to get away from ‘it all’. Or, wait. Maybe just not-think for a spell…
To the journeys, the new, the near and the next. See you in the up.
Update: S P A C E members are invited to weigh in at this page.
TWO PEOPLE will know what the title of this post is about. Two. Just two. I met them yesterday. A and T. The question I posed to elicit these answers is a private one, something I won’t share outside of my innermost circles. (That’s just a handful of people, around the world, with whom I connect deeply and talk about ideas with regularly, over time. For progression and depth. More about that in a second. But together, we call this journey, a foray into S P A C E). For now, I need to say thanks. To A and T.
Thank you both for being there, on the rootftop, for sharing with me and admiring as we, who are tenderhearted and questing, the view of the half-moon beneath the clouded, darkened, past-dusk, and past-nine polluted skies and the redness of that lunar orb: vague and yet, alluring.
For the last few years, I’ve been focusing so much on how to ‘design’ for these kinds of moments. So much, that I forgot how to just let the universe lead me straight into them. Which, of course, is how I first started. Running into this: the magic. The art. Oi, but it’s getting big. Already. That’s okay. That’s where the good stuff is.
INTRIGUE. There was the mystery of it that drew me to that exact spot, to contemplate it for a bit. But also: stopping. Standing still, for a moment. Atop the world, there, or, at least, atop Phnom Penh. I’m not much of a going-out type of person, but I’ve made a pact with myself to ‘try new things’ more often, especially in the town that’s been where I’ve been lucky enough to stop for a while and take stock of the things that, for me, have been sieved out to be the clear, wide understandings that say, together, ‘This counts.’
Like I said, there was another moment, in another bar, on another roof, in the same town, on the same topic that you and I, A and T, together, explored. Because I’m a sort of nerd about relational art, I have to bring it up: I have to think about how that thing that was rests next to this thing that is. (Is this reality?) More about that another day, maybe when we all get better acquainted.
Continue reading “Reality and trust”
YESTERDAY. S P A C E | Helsinki went out in the world.
HELSINKI. This time, S P A. C E is both a print-edition zine as well as a PDF. But, seriously, a wallop of a PDF, this round. It’s a 30-pager, packed with photos and some creative nonfiction from the summer in Finland. Three months there, all told, to gather and write the feelings and conversations and make some kind of arc out of it. I am really pleased with the way this one turned out.
Why? Writing. Is fun. Relaxing. Coming to the places that are where I want to be, writing about them, sharing what I’ve learned, gathering other people’s voices along the way and co-creating short packed works of hyperlocal creative nonfiction, informed, of course, by local knowledge, experience, and the culture of a place. The work to bring these things into shape is lovely and rewarding and invigorating and hard. And it’s getting more complex and sophisticated, I think, this zinemaking journey—one year, so far. I started Atelier S P A C E over P’chum Ben in Battambang, here in Cambodia. This coming weekend, it’s P’chum Ben again. So that means I’ve got one more year in this 2-year, roving, popup, zinemaking atelier that is getting run mostly out of pocket, with the occasional contribution from ticket sales, zine sales, and, hey, people who just want to buy me a lunch or coffee because they like this idea and can’t think of why anyone would put their own expenses down to make it happen. But for me, it’s obvious. I want to do Atelier S P A C E because I love new people, new input, fresh and original and faraway places that are new to me, and of course, writing, publishing, and sharing. So it hits all the right keys. It took me forever to think up the idea, besides.
So once it was there, it was like, ‘Of course I’m going to do this.’ Battambang was not too terribly far from Phnom Penh, so over four days, completely offline and on my own, I found the story to write the lead piece, ‘Here Comes the Dance,’ which, wow, is really about the Age of Anxiety. I really love S P A C E | Battambang. Probably my best one, but wait, no. Helsinki. No, no. I love Sheffield. Chuffed, still, to have gone there to finish researching the story. And then, there’s Kuala Lumpur: a place that’s becoming home away from home (away from… home?) I’m not sure what this is all going to lead to but I’m excited to share more news, soon, about upcoming Atelier S P A C E programmes abroad. It’s gonna be great, in the words of M, there in Finland, who taught me how to let go of the hard things that relate to grudges and difficulties in getting over yourself in order to show up properly for others, and who, in part, inspired this edition of S P A C E. Massive learning, this trip. The conversations with Alexis Jokela, too. Good craic, as they say in Ireland. In case you were wondering why I have an Irish accent sometimes, just google ‘The Elopement’ and ‘Kismuth Books.’
There you go, then.
For the bigger story.
Kismuth was the prequel, I guess, to the stories ahead, in S P A C E. Creative nonfiction, but in first person, so they were talked about as memoirs. I got all into that whole idea, even though technically it was too soon, in some ways, to write memoir. Someone who wasn’t happy about me publishing anything had said, ‘Who would want to read anything you write?’ Can you believe that? Some people actually hate it when you do the things you really want to do. What did I do? Leave the country.
As always for me, it’s the process of getting lost in order to find center that is inviting me to share some of the stories from ‘the road’ in the series of zines. Curious? Download S P A C E || Helsinki instantly when you order over here.
Enjoy it with a nice cup of chamomile (or, if you prefer, vodka and gingerale) while listening to the track, a mix tape, sort of, Exit Vantaa. Here’s to the journeys, then. The new, the near, the now, and the next.
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.
Pre-order S P A C E || Helsinki here.
TODAY I AM CONTINUING to think about the creative process. It’s a follow-up from two things:
- Yesterday’s post about the creative process. (Will people leave comments there? I hope so. But let’s see.)
- ‘Sharpen and heighten,’ one of our favorite Q&A interviews, with science podcaster Jai Ranganathan.
Exploring without knowing
THE CREATIVE PROCESS itself was the subject of two conversation salons in Durham, NC: MAKE and MAKE II. ‘What is the creative process? Who uses it? What changes as a result?’ We had a dozen guest speakers at those two events; and a crowd. I can’t believe it, still, thinking back, that when I first returned to the Raleigh-Durham region after a decade away to throw the ‘do that we called MAKE how almost 100 people drove in from far and near vertices of the Triangle to connect, converse, listen, and learn.
Was just marvelous, that time, so we hosted the same event a year on.
MAKE and MAKE II were occasions, to me, the kind that I wouldn’t forget. I had no idea at the time that relational art would become my kind of party, that the being-together was the whole show. That awareness came way later, probably the night I read from the chapter ‘Blankslate’ at a cafe in Phnom Penh–the first chapter of Breakfast in Cambodia, to the group who had gathered that night–‘I know this street, I know that feeling, I know, because I”m here!’–that was the feedback.
And we were. Together, there.
In the moment, in the place that was written in the pages.
Diving in and out of S P A C E.
Yes. There’s a lot of philosophizing I could do here, but I’ll get back to the story of MAKE.
BEING THERE. I still remember JW, a sculptor and guest panelist at the first MAKE, talking about birds and the beautiful metaphor he gave us that day about how the creative process is like a flight. I can’t properly fit the whole feeling here… I couldn’t eloquently state it here; you simply had to be there, that’s what these salons are for, after all—the real life, real time experience. A co-created improvised play, which happens on the spot, and which ends in rather no time at all. Ephemera and the heightened moment of the urgent, sequestered ‘now.’ Oh, no. I’m getting philosophical. Well, let me save that sort of talk for another day. Perhaps this one, in Phnom Penh.
EVERY SO OFTEN, and this happened just last night, someone says something that reminds me of the existence this video that someone made, animating radio host Ira Glass‘ thoughts on the creative process. Of course any mention of IG makes me remember JK‘s story about picking the man up from the airport and getting starstruck–too funny. JK, what are you up to where you are? What are you making lately? Questions I would foist your way, if we were in good e-communciation. I’m still around to talk about these kinds of things, you know. Hopefully in a comment thread to come, over here. But yeah. The video.
Here it is:
FILE UNDER ‘RESOURCES.’ Personally, I just like to ‘do’ the creative process. Instead of just diving in and making something, which is my usual habit when I have this kind of focus time, today, I’m writing to people around the world whose work I think is curious, and whose perspective I’d love to hear when it comes to questions about the creative process, why we make anything, and what we’re doing this for. It’s a big question, of course. The point is not to get ‘popular,’ for me, anyway, or ‘rich.’ I just want to make good art. Did you see that video, ‘Make Good Art?’? SK had sent it to me, right before I left the States. I must say it was a contributing factor to the decision to get going on the road, indefinitely, without a fixed income, savings, or a plan. But yeah. I found a link. Here’s the YouTube video:
For further reading?
Anyone have further resources to add?
Please leave a comment with your link. Really would be great if you could point me to some people who aren’t white men, hey. I’ve been looking but it’s tough–women and people who aren’t white tend to just simply not get the spotlight as often. Imagine! But it’s true. That doesn’t mean that they aren’t there, with things to say. Help us find the important stories? Connect with me or just leave a comment below. I love the interactive part of writing this whole blog thing, because it’s not a flat space, we’re evolving it as we add to it. The geometry of a space is the set of all points within that space. And: S P A C E changes because you’re there. It’s kind of fun to think about physics and space, spacemaking and the fourth dimension. I can talk more about that, sometime. Let’s get to know each other, though, a bit first.
Thanks! Comments are open for a bit.
This post and other stories are made possible by support of members of S P A C E. Discover more here.
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!’
- ‘Refreshingly honest.’
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.