Sometimes people circle back into your life in unexpected ways, and yesterday was one of those days, for me.

We held Atelier S P A C E in real life in Phnom Penh, and that was it. The moment of connection.

Always a good feeling: when it works, it works. And after gathering people for a long time now, about 20 years, or maybe more, if you count my old attempts in early youth to do this, I can wing it a bit and improvise. Like a jazz jam session, if you like jazz, it’s that kind of a party.

Making S P A C E every week. Why do you do it, Dipika? This is the question that came up. It was a showcase of the works to date and why I made these zines and what I got out of doing it, and so on. I mean, ‘so on,’ for example, what I did that worked and didn’t work.

Hm, why.

 

Why make S P A C E?

‘It was a pure pursuit of wanting to know things and finding things out, by researching online or asking questions of people who would be able to talk about those particular subjects. I wanted to do it because I wanted to.’ Some people might call that ‘art’, as in, ‘art for art’s sake,’ and sure, there is an element of that, to it.

But I think it’s a reaction. A¬†resistance to mass consumerism.

There is a kind of purity to it. It’s a zine, so it’s 4 double-sided pieces of paper, not a glossy expensive thing you have to special order from a design shop somewhere far. In Cambodia it costs about 400 riel to make an issue in print. That’s roughly ten cents. I have been wanting to see this ‘take off’, but it won’t be easy. The bookshops do not carry zines and if they do I think you have to kind of be a big shot or something. I don’t have the energy to go and work on becoming that sort of online persona, for the sake of making zines. Zines are made because zines want to get made.

With people, or, if I’m not finding people to create with, with myself. I’m enough company for myself to make S P A C E, and I got to really get lost in the zone of it when I was ‘stuck’ in Viet Nam waiting for the pandemic to ‘end.’ I think on it now. All that waiting and wondering when I could finally leave. All the angst of it, the sheer not-knowing, like many of us, in many places, getting through the hard parts by focusing on the routines. Today I will study X, or talk to that person, or maybe get an orange juice from the lady who talks to me in regularly-paced Vietnamese because she seems to like it that, weirdly, I sort of understand her, by now. I will go there and have a chat. Or, well, a listen. These kinds of stories: they became the vignettes for me for S P A C E in the Ho Chi Minh City chapters. Before that? Latvia, Finland, Poland, Slovakia, and, um, other places. I was running around too much, though, I think. Escaping from ‘here and now.’

I have so many things to say about that, but I will save them for the conversation spaces that are more relaxed and comfortable, in those every-so-often zoom calls with people I know or discover through the exact effort of seeking ideas, perspectives, and… connexion. It’s nice when it works. It’s… human.

 

Here and now

I’ve come full circle, now, though. Back exactly in the place where I began, with the first-ever issues printed out and still here, with me. I have let go o the ones that are ‘bad art’ because we certainly should let go of those things instead of holding on to them; you can’t make room for new ideas if you keep every single thing you’ve ever done. We have all been there, of course, not wanting to throw things away. But I have been deleting whole ‘rolls’ of digital pictures from the Europe tours. Why keep them? I’ve enjoyed them and now I don’t need them. I should make more. More pictures, more drawings. More stories. More podcasts. I want to do that.

Yes, that’s it. The wanting to keep pushing the edge of how we ‘create’. How we ‘make.’ It isn’t a product. It’s an experience.

A love of learning. The enjoyment of play. Playful people co-creating, seeing that happen together, and enjoying the making of that kind of a stage. Again: together. it’s always, always us together. We are ‘us’ in the moments of S P A C E. Agendaless, non-religious, and no sponsors, no big need to press something. No one is here but the people who opt in to be here. This is Open Space Technology stuff, which, honestly, was a major inspiration for the ‘doing’ of making this kind of S P A C E.

Before that, it was ‘dialogue’, studying how to create opportunities for people to talk in a way that had a center, and not sides, as W. Isaacs puts it in Dialogue and the Art of Thinking Together. I had emailed W. back in 2013, to ask about that. how to do it in a new cultural context (Gangtok, for ‘Modern Sikkim: What does it mean to be Sikkimese?’ I was grateful for the reply; and these exchanges give me so much rich, tied-to-the-world-right-now sorts of inputs. All of this process of discovering informs what I do to this day.

Keep asking. Keep learning. Keep pushing past the edges. Keep investigating what’s possible, in the Next. So manyothers also inspired me. Everyone who ever came to any of these workshops, for example, changed the shape of S P A C E by participating and interacting with, and within it. I made S P A C E weekly because I love layout, I’ve gotten to the point where I can create an issue in InDesign in an hour, if I have to. (Most of it is white space on those days, because, S P A C E is fine with it if you have page 2 and page 15 completely empty: the inside cover pages, and no one is really going to come up to me and say, ‘Why do you not have more content in this?’ In fact, the opposite has been true.)

A moment, a workshop, an experience. I love this. The artifacts are the issues of S P A C E.

A contributor, I., once put it like this:’When you put something into the world, it’s like you add lightness.’

I like that.