Author Archive


Suno Deko - Week 2


Residency is a two-part journal entry brought to you by one of our favorite creatives.

This week, Living Spaces – Baltimore‘s Suno Deko wraps up his two-week stay with a reflection on his time spent in India in his early twenties.

souls are birds devouring light

For my second and final residency entry, I wanted to write about the time I spent in India in my early twenties, mostly because it is a time of my life in which I underwent a great deal of emotional turmoil and subsequent growth, and until now have put a tight seal against any excavation of it. But also because the name of my current project, which comes from the Hindi words for “listen” or “hear” (suno), and “look” or “see” (deko), reminds me that this time in my life continues to have a great significance on who I’ve become. In many ways I see now that it is a true marker of my passing some unseen threshold into adulthood.


India has always been a part of my life. My father first went in 1964, fresh from college and catching India just before the first wave of hippies flocked to its colorful and chaotic shores seeking enlightenment. He is a recently retired professor of religion, and has spent his life studying Hinduism. My childhood home was filled with statues and paintings of Hindu deities. Regal statues of Ganesh, lord of obstacles, menacing figurines of Shiva, the destroyer. Paintings of Jagganath with his wide, cartoonish eyes. My father would bark Hindi at us to get us moving (“Juldi chello! Let’s go, hurry up!”). When I was fifteen, I spent the spring semester of my sophomore year in high school at an international school in the foothills of the Himalayas while my father did field research for his book on ritual widow self-immolation, a practice called sati. I returned to India in 2009 after teaching English in northern Thailand for a year to work for a figurative painter named Jatin Das as a studio assistant and archivist for his fifty-year career of painting, drawing, sculpture, and poetry, as well as his vast collection of traditional Indian hand fans, or pankhas, which number near ten thousand.

It ended up coinciding with, or perhaps being the catalyst for, that time in my life, which I feel every person goes through at some point in their early to mid twenties, where it seemed my entire universe was collapsing. Maybe you’re in the middle of this time? Romantic ideals and expectations about the way things should be crash and crumble, and there is a supreme surrender that must occur to move beyond it. I have a few people in my life going through this. No doubt the circumstances of my living situation and the stresses of my job were strongly contributing factors to my continual state of exasperation and creative self-laceration, but I experienced a loneliness and alienation far beyond what I thought was possible for the human spirit. Maybe that’s a bit dramatic, but let’s just say I was sad.


I’ve kept a daily journal for the past five years, which began when I did the Artist’s Way during my time in Thailand. Over the past few days, I’ve revisited those pages I wrote while in India, which I’ve been unable to do before. It’s difficult to face a past self so carefully preserved. It’s a time warp. You’re transported so fully back into the you that existed in those pages, and when revisiting what at times felt like a living nightmare, you can’t help but reassume the entirety of that self. The truth is, it wasn’t a nightmare. It was only a period of intense loneliness and isolation. It’s a pretty normal reaction to flinging one’s self into the great wide world alone, especially a place as intense and unforgiving as India. But my twenty-four-year-old self had something to prove. I wanted to push myself as far as I could go to better know myself. The real truth is that I wanted to run away from myself, and India was the farthest place away. As you may know, the geography can change, but the self remains. I was actually more intensely faced with myself because I lived alone in a foreign place with little to do besides work and turn my thoughts over in my own mind.

I arrived just a week after my twenty-fourth birthday, in the oppressive heat of mid-June in Delhi. The opportunity to work with Jatin came on the heels of very nearly being scammed out of almost a grand by a fake English teaching agency, who promised me a yearlong teaching job for a Spanish diplomat’s family, all of which proved to be a very clever fabrication. I’d already bought my ticket, and through a Delhi writer who was a friend of my dad, the job with Jatin came. I didn’t know what else to do and somehow felt like not going would be defeat, so I threw myself at it. I still remember vividly the feeling of dread I felt as I descended down through the midnight haze of the Delhi, my heart pounding as the airplane pitched and jolted in the humid air. I was young and resistant to everything. I wanted a million things I had no way of naming.

David's Pictures 150

I lived in a working-class neighborhood of south Delhi called Shahpurjat, which was crammed with clusters of concrete apartments, within which an infinite labyrinth of courtyards and side alleys twisted and braided, slung with blossoming yellow and magenta bougainvillea, laundry drying on clotheslines, tea vendors (chaiwallas) and vegetable sellers (subsiwallas) with steaming pots of sweet milky tea or colorful displays of plump mangoes, spiky bitter gourds, zucchini, tomato and okra, screeching their personalized calls into the thick, humid afternoons. My neighborhood was bordered by a large wall that separated it from a more affluent neighborhood and green space on the other side, and against this long, twenty-foot-high stone barricade, every few blocks would be a massive pile of trash that some impossibly dirty person was inevitably always combing through, which leaked strange florescent blue liquid and swarmed with flies and crows. India is an unwavering and torrential paradox. The most vivid and colorful place on earth, and also the most chaotic and dirty. Smells you’ve never imagined. Every moment contains the entire range of human experience and emotion, beauty and pain, suffering and joy. Every landscape contains a slice of every period of history. A man on his bicycle talking on his cellphone, riding by a woman pulling water from a ditch to use for cooking into which a man is peeing, next to a crumbling fifteenth-century palace, while nearby a team of men is attaching a leecher wire to a transformer to steal electricity and minutes later it explodes into flames. My favorite anecdote from the time I lived in India in high school was watching two men ride bicycles one in front of the other down a steep mountain street carrying an extension ladder on their necks, to which my mom said, “I feel like this country was designed by Dr. Seuss.” There is an incessant barrage to the senses, and when I arrived, added to that was the oppressive heat. The apartment that Jatin procured for me was modest and had no air conditioning. The highs then were in the 120s. It was never cooler than 100 degrees inside my place. I awoke daily to a crust of salt and minerals on my forehead, heat rashes on my arms. My clothes clung to me. The power would cut on and off intermittently, killing my ceiling fan, and the stifling heat would begin creeping across my body. Candle flames would slowly appear in the windowsills of the neighborhood, soft voices and song, wild dogs always barking.

I had long nights there, especially in the heat. I was in pursuit of a deeper self; I wanted to remove familiarity and comfort from my life to uncover a more elemental self, to know who I was beyond the protection of family, home, and friends. I was an ascetic. I was on a vision quest. I wanted to outgrow parts of myself I was unsatisfied with. In a way, I did accomplish this. I put myself in the most isolated environment I’d experienced, the only white person in a neighborhood of Indians, who stared at me relentlessly as I walked the streets and back alleys to work. Despite how innocuous staring is in Indian culture, to me it was a daily reminder of how little I belonged to that place, to myself, or to anything.


It’s been strange and powerful to watch myself change in the pages I’ve been reading. It’s a bit of a mind fuck to be immersed in those pages and look up realizing I exist presently in this much different (and happier) life. Like I can track my dreams of being a famous writer slowly ground into the dust that coated everything in Delhi. But in the end, now looking back five years later, I see that it was a time of intense growth, and at the very core, a time of surrender. Despite my friction with Jatin, who was in many ways impossible—manic, demanding, monomaniacal, childish—looking back, there was much he taught me about being an artist. I was so sure of what I thought I wanted and who I thought I was, but only by having most of those ideas stripped away, only by finally surrendering to the loneliness and sadness, and inhabiting it like a room, did I find a deeper way into myself. And it took years to see, to understand that by surrendering you enter more fully into your own experience. Nothing is lost by surrender; everything is gained. There were times where I became so immersed in my solitude and sadness that I started seeing subtle differences, changes in its colors. And in those moments, the world seemed to open up to me. I could lose myself in the swaying curtains, drawing the sun in and crowding it out of my bedroom, the light growing and dimming, the slow moan of car horns and voices careening off the walls outside. I felt an undefined longing, whose lack of place in the world made its existence even more confusing. I didn’t even long for home, or for Thailand, where I’d found a loving and supportive community. I longed for something I couldn’t name, for some fulfillment of a feeling I couldn’t define or place. I think now perhaps that longing was either for love, or a steady and fulfilling creative practice. I wrote a lot there, but I never allowed myself to enjoy it, or be okay with what I was making. I wrote a lot of emo poems and bad songs. As an artist I was too fragile, and too hard on myself. And always the long nights, my head a block of stone from the hash, the headlights of passing cars making ghoulish shapes on my ceiling through the bars of the windows, packs of stray dogs barking and growling, the call of food vendors and jingling of bells, and the asthmatic caw of the massive black crows that scavenged the trash.

During my time there, I went to the eastern state of Orissa (which recently changed its name from the Anglicized spelling to the more phonetically accurate “Odisha”), where Jatin has founded a museum in his name, and where he was born and most of his family lives. On the train ride back to Delhi from my first visit there, an interminable 31-hour ride through the colorful Indian countryside, I had an experience that still returns to me. I borrowed a book from Jatin called The Religion of the Artist, by Rabindranath Tagore, one of the most influential writers and musicians in Indian culture, who was the first non-European to with the Nobel prize for literature. As I was sitting alone on a dark train hurtling through the opaque Indian countryside at night, reading this book, I came upon a passage that struck me like lightning. Tagore likens a man’s inability to be aware of everything around him in his present existence to a man sitting in a lit train car with the night outside; the man knows the countryside is there, but he is only focused on what is happening in the car. This became a metaphor for my entire mental state up to that point—that I was so focused on the suffering that I was creating for myself, that I was failing to see how much beauty was thrumming and moving all around me. Tagore goes on to say that the restless ambition, or that feeling of longing for a place I couldn’t name or know, that I had been thinking so much about, is actually just the self trying to find a piece of itself that can attain a kind of permanence in the world. And for artists, making work and putting something that comes through the self into the world is the closest we can come to that permanence. There have been times since where a piece of art or writing has struck a chord with me, but few that have been so otherworldly. I was literally sitting in a lit train car at night, reading about a man sitting in the exact same situation, and found an explanation for this strange hollowness that I was trying too hard to define or understand.

David's Pictures 009

I would love to say that was my spiritual awakening, and from thenceforth I was totally happy, but the truth is I continued to struggle. I made it through, and by the end had learned a way to enjoy myself. I was blessed with the friendship of my first friend there, Simar, who I connected with on many levels, and who listened to my early songs and read my poems and gave me encouragement. By the end I had begun to find a community. I got to organize and execute an international film festival of documentary films on art. I learned much from Jatin, despite his sometimes-insufferable demeanor. I have quotes of his that I’ve kept written, that now have far more significance than my stubborn, immature self would grant: “Don’t be so quick to just be this or that—be everything at once and the course will appear.” “Don’t ever let your pursuit of writing or being a writer or poet or painter or singer distract you—always fully experience the present.” “Just surrender—no one does that in this day and age—don’t do it because I tell you to, do it for yourself.” My time in India was many things to me, but one of the most important lessons I learned was to let go of ideas of who I should be and just sit down and do the work. In his youth, Jatin wouldn’t allow himself to eat dinner until he had completed three hundred sketches. The time there hardened me, but I learned to soften again. And while I would never relive that experience, or wish it on anyone else, the suffering I endured made its mark on me and sharpened my focus on what I truly want out of my time on earth. I became, over time, less focused on the outcome and more on the experience of the present. And I learned to surrender. I learned, and have continued to learn, that to resist is to strengthen. To surrender is to take a step toward grace.

Week 1 | Week 2

Monthly Mix

July 2014

Monthly Mix

Monthly Mixes highlight our favorite tracks of the month in one place.

Stream Here


[00:00] • The Bedroom – “The Big Up”
[03:40] • Lydia Ainsworth – “PSI”
[07:58] • Seatraffic – “Precious Stones”
[12:22] • Ricky Eat Acid – “this goes out to…”
[15:08] • Mister Lies – “Flood You”
[18:45] • Saint Pepsi – “Fiona Coyne”
[22:43] • Lemonade – “Stepping”
[26:42] • Children of Pop – “Taking Over”
[31:20] • Los Angeles Police Department – “She Came Through (Again)”
[33:52] • Celestial Shore – “Gloria”

Illustration by Laurent Hrybyk.


Suno Deko - Week 1


Residency is a two-part journal entry brought to you by one of our favorite creatives.

This week, Living Spaces artist Suno Deko reflects on his time at Arcosanti for Hundred Waters‘ album release mini-festival this past May.

Over Memorial Day weekend this year, I was lucky to be invited out to play Hundred Waters’ album release festival at Arcosanti, in the heart of the Arizona desert. The night I returned home I felt compelled to write something about the experience, as there was seemingly nothing else I could do to process all the different kinds of feelings I was having about it. The somewhat incoherent essay that follows is that response, and it felt like a fitting choice when I was asked to contribute as a Portals artist in residence.

MAY 26, 2014

It feels urgent and necessary to write about my time at Arcosanti while it is immediate, vivid, visceral, my hair still coarse from the dust of the desert, my skin still pink and taut from the monolithic sun, and the permanence of the aridity stretching my cracked lips across their fleshy frame. My flight landed at 6:25 a.m. this morning, a redeye from Phoenix, descending through the murky purpling Atlanta sky, slit in places with gashes of pink and fuchsia clouds, and the naked city beginning to thrum beneath the belly of the plane. I am still not out of the dream, even as I sit in my own living room, which is somehow an alien place, almost like the set of a film; but there are indeed four walls, and it is only me, the low purr of the box fan, and the click of my dog’s nails on the hardwood floor. Warren Hildebrand just sent me a somewhat final mix of the new Foxes in Fiction record. I don’t know him well at all, and we’ve never met in real life, though we’ve worked together professionally (he mastered my EP). The color and sadness and vitality and hope and seemingly infinite braiding layers of sound in that piece of work—I listened to it in its entirety as I walked through the park by my house as dusk settled and the bats began to flip and twist through the first few stars of the evening, and I felt such a deep and permanent sense of place in this world. When “Altars” came on, which I wasn’t aware was going to be on this record, as it’s an older song (or at least one I had heard before) the lyric that I presume to be about his late brother brought me instantly and unexpectedly to tears (in my dreams you’re still laughing), and I ducked off the path down a smaller path to issue my abrupt tears into the blurring darkness, the leaves of the trees turning deep green to midnight blue as the light drained out of the world. I rejoiced at my own body’s inability to contain what I can only describe as a pure and uncontrollable exultation of the capabilities of the human mind. But this isn’t about that record, it just kind of happened at the end of a long and saturated dream that I hope will never be something I have to wake up from. The story I want to tell is different.


Arcosanti is an experimental, sustainability-focused architecture community equidistant from Phoenix and Flagstaff, in the middle of a vast ochre expanse of shrub brush, rust-colored mesas, cacti, and the most terrible armies of glistening black ants. The entire place is a scene out of Dune, or Tatooine. Paul Giese of Hundred Waters studied Arcosanti in school, and he and band-mate Zach Tetreault visited earlier this year on a road trip to LA sans Trayer Tryon and Nicole Miglis, the other two members of the band. When they returned in March after SXSW, I, and Nina Mashurova, who was traveling with me for a short stint as the world’s greatest tour manager / number one bae, were lucky enough to spend a night there with them as they finalized their plans for what would become their album release gala: a celebration amongst some of the world’s most futuristic, but somehow deeply spiritual and elemental geometric architecture, the unforgiving sun and boundless stars, and the wiry frames of the imported Italian cypress trees that stand across the eastern facade of the entire campus like sentinels. Whatever compelled them to breach the almost incessant status quo to make and release albums according to the way the industry demands, they took their infinite creativity and applied it to an experience that people could have together, in one of the most beautiful and baffling places of natural beauty on earth.

It was, naturally, the greatest surprise and honor and generally most terrifying thing that’s ever happened to me the night Zach casually asked me over FB chat if I wanted to play. I was in the guest room of Julie Byrne‘s parents’ house in Buffalo, down in the basement in my own enclave, savoring a real bed and a room with a door after six weeks of touring mostly with her, but also in parts with Little Spoon, Nina, Alligator Indian, and Tantrum. I’ve been friends with HW since their first Atlanta show in the fall of 2012, but this invitation to play the festival bent every bone in the body of my understanding of what kindness is, and generally what it is that I am doing making music at all. I have never had the experience of meeting so many people in such a short amount of time and so instantly and without ceremony connecting with them. There was some magic there, or just a large unspoken knowledge, or a recognition of a true and fathomless self in the other people there. Fluidly, we knew each other as if we had never not known each other. There is a quiet part of me that wishes that everyone who hears music can know the people that make it, know them deeply, so that the place within them that the music calls forth, all of the strings and tethers that get pulled and untied, can belong to a visceral human place and not just dispersed into the ether. I feel that is why fame is so confusing to those on either side of it—there is such a universal expression in music, and all art, that people feel seamlessly connected to the frail human forms with names and histories and addresses and identities that create them. But of course no human could withstand that kind of barrage, and so those that are “known” in the world, who make or do things that cause others to stand closer to them, must be fiercely protective of their right to live their own lives, and can therefore only provide a thick mirror of experience to all those who peer into it.


I cannot express the depth of love I have for Hundred Waters, a a love that it is so vast and intense that it pushes through the cracks of my ability to be a functioning human being. I can fall down thinking about what they do. These people are made of pure and shimmering stardust. They have created in their new album a motherfucking masterpiece of the human condition, in all its horror and joy and harrowing survival and bliss. But this isn’t a review. I’ve just been struck listening to it today, after having seen it given to the world in a bassinet of light and fury the amphitheater of Arcosanti, with the wild endless stars burning above—how deep it goes, from what depths it comes. In Buddhist thought, one of the primary goals of human existence is to fully inhabit the present moment, to know and feel consciousness without thought, to be fully empty, a vessel, a wind chime that allows the events of life, the “things that happen,” to blow across it like a hot desert wind. There are things, experiences, in life that can facilitate this—birth of a child, near-death experience, a beautiful and moving piece of art, falling in love, death of a loved one, etc.—these can bring the mind to the stillness of the present, where time stops and reveals itself to be entirely a construction of the human brain. The experience of being there was that for me. Chatting with Zach today I expressed my feeling that that experience will likely be one of those turning points in my life, before and after which nothing is ever the same. There was before it and there was after it and they may as well be separate lifetimes. We all have these divisions. Sometimes they’re traumatic; sometimes they are apices of overwhelming beauty and meaning.

We live in a time where many allow the cynicism of our generation and the generations around us, and the Internet, to quickly turn life into a series of quips, a seemingly endless vortex of negativity, cutting down the depth and complexity of people and life and dissecting their sentimentality into projections of the ideas of idiots. Know this and know it well: we live in a world where people feel more deeply than ever. Look at the progress in equal rights, look at the conversations around racism, sexism, homo- and transphobia, the codifying of normality (words like “cis,”) that allow the dominant sectors of society to be able to see themselves in the way minorities and socioeconomic outcasts are constantly reminded, every moment, of their place. Don’t worry, I’m not going down that path. All I meant is that less divides us as human beings than ever. Who we are, what our names are, what we believe in, who we love, is increasingly being exposed as exactly what it is: the tiniest microscopic spec of the true nature of who we are as sentient beings. And what I felt this weekend at Arcosanti was an entire movement of people creating something and working their fucking asses off all—ALL!—because it is beautiful, and important. The artists selected to play—Majical Cloudz, How to Dress Well, Julie Byrne—make music of deep spiritual resonance and feeling in the face of today’s celebration of the surface and derision of the heartfelt. All in the service of the aesthetic, the experience, the feeling. Radical statements of love. And the festival that was created to house this incredible art was an exact representation of that work. The festival was free. Aside from the limited sponsorship (free drinks all weekend) the visual blight of branding and corporate logo-rape that is the cancer of any kind of music-related non-DIY gathering was gone. It was only the sky beyond the domes and apses, the rounded shapes and circular motifs of the structures, the soldiered cypresses, the glaring sun and pulsating stars, and the dry and immaculate desert air. And us. All of us. Together. This is a festival for the real future. The generosity of OWSLA, of Hundred Waters, of Family Management and HW’s manager Mike Feinberg, all the other performers, the festival staff and Arcosanti residents, the tech team, and most notably the kindness and consideration of everyone who came—it was the most bewilderingly positive and deeply satisfying experience I think everyone involved had ever had, and created a bond in all of us that will carry us through to the end of our breathing, when the light that illuminates us returns back into the stars to push through and be ignited in another form in another time, if time even is a tangible and definitive thing that exists beyond the limits of the human imagination.


I had an older man come up to me the day we left to say that watching me was the most moving experience he had had in many many years, that he played in punk bands in the ‘60s, and seeing how music has progressed, and how young people have carried the torch forward, gave him the ultimate hope for the future of our civilization. His eyes welled with tears. Then he promptly walked away. How to even respond to such generosity? Is there any other reason to make art than to move people this way?

If you’ve made it this far I thank you for lending your beautiful eyes to this story. I cannot attempt to thank Hundred Waters for what they have created and executed, but also the ethos that they have birthed. FORM, which is the name they gave to the festival, and is the first of many gatherings across the globe in the years to come, is something that could outlive all of us, and in its essence is a purity of intention and swirling mystical universe of love that has the power to live on long after our minute and frail bodies can. I hope you’ll listen to their new album, and ask yourself what parts of you it brings forth—those parts that you didn’t know existed until they were unearthed by what statements and sentiments are expressed through their work. They continue to inspire, encourage, and pave the way for me—for how a band can create a life in the present moment and do good work despite the adversity of the entire machine they must exist inside. They are artists of the truest form. I give thanks to them every day with all the infinite love I have.

To survive we must develop more knowledge, more tolerance, more wisdom, and become aware of what we call love or compassion.

-Paolo Soleri (1919 – 2013), founder and visionary of Arcosanti.

Photos by Tonje Thilesen.


THE LE SIGH - Week 2


Residency is a two-part journal entry brought to you by one of our favorite creatives.

This week, the multi-city blog collective THE LE SIGH wrap up their two-week stay with a reflection on the art installation from Living Spaces – Brooklyn.

via Molly Morris of THE LE SIGH:

The commute to Silent Barn to help install and attend the Portals Living Spaces showcase was agonizing—the entire time I thought, “I’ve completely fucked up the dates and the artists are waiting with hammers but the doors are locked and the entire show is ruined.” Knowing the ridiculousness of this thought, I sunk into my plastic subway chair and remembered India K. and Maggie Dunlap, the artists we’d selected to create artwork for THE LE SIGH’s curated portion of the show, were competent, knowledgeable and perfect human beings, who had assured me everything was going just fine.

When you have such a talented team of artists, nice group of bloggers, and a great venue, things tend to go okay, but my brain tends to think, there’s no way it will end this well. You’ve had it too easy! But when I knocked on Silent Barn’s metal door and was greeted by an enthusiastic, hammer-wielding Maggie, things were going as planned. Though some of the artwork installed overnight was beginning to droop, a group of hands were already stringing them back up. We hammered, we hung and we clipped things to clotheslines, watching before us the installation the artists had so diligently planned come to life.

And when people began flooding into the show, there was nothing more to do but stand amidst the crowd and listen to reactions (or, if you’re me, pace unbearably from room to room like you have something to do but you’re just worried that if you stop moving, the artwork will self-destruct). Creating artwork specifically for shows in which it isn’t necessarily the primary attraction is always tricky, as attentions inevitably shift. We all melt into musicians as they perform, but at Living Spaces, once the amps stopped pulsing and everyone trickled outside or fell back into conversations, the photographs and sheets and phrases were all you could see. And as the video India and Maggie shot flickered against a nearby building’s brick wall, illuminating the phrase, “You cannot remember memories accurately” as the crowd buzzed, smoked and blinked at the makeshift screen, it was obvious everything had fallen into place exactly as it should.

Photos by Daniel Dorsa.

Week 1 | Week 2

Artist Mix



Artist Mixes are an ongoing series of mixtapes curated by some of our favorite musicians.

This month, the London-based producer-vocalist Bayou gives us an eclectic collection of tunes—featuring Lil Herb, Cooly G, Tinashe, and more.


[00:00] • Logos – Atlanta 96 (Limitless Mix)
[03:44] • Dizzee Rascal – Give U More
[07:00] • Nelly Furtado – Showtime (Arca edit)
[10:20] • Tinashe – 2 On (JMZ Riddim)
[13:39] • Bayou – Speakerrips
[15:56] • 宇多田ヒカル – First Love (DJ vdidvs Jersey Club Remix)
[19:10] • Wildchild – Jump to my Beat
[22:00] • Cooly G – It’s Serious
[25:12] • Lil’ Herb – Coolin’
[28:38] • Aristophanes – 瞧!那個人!wie man wird, was man ist
[31:52] • Frank Ocean – Acura Integurl

Photo Essay

Living Spaces - Brooklyn


Photos by Daniel Dorsa

View previous Living Spaces – Brooklyn features here.