Happenings and Happenstance at A SPACE
“I love this day, man; best day of the year,” Basti Artadi tells Matt Morrison as they bump into each other at _Acoustic, the stripped-down staging of Fête de la Musique 2015, which is being mounted for the second consecutive year at A SPACE. Running the said shindig is no small feat, and between these two fine gentlemen there is, obviously, more than one rockstar: while Artadi may destroy stages countrywide as frontman for Wolfgang and The Nice Ones, Morrison and his crew are silently steering the burgeoning coworking scene, pioneering for real—sans safety nets, sans flotation devices—with just their ears on the ground and their hearts in place.
Unbeknownst to most, and as evidenced by this very day, A SPACE goes beyond being a mere coworking hub; it also doubles, among other things, as a pop-up events space. In this manner, it ceases to be just four corners and a roof; it becomes a structural chameleon in the same manner that Bowie, or, say, De Niro approaches his work, pliable to the mold of the hour, to the assigned role, so to speak. “When faced with a conventional practice, what we do is critique it: Is that ours or is it just something that we’ve been given?” Morrison asks, to which the resounding response, if there ever is one, is perhaps akin to the poet Ezra Pound’s now-legendary call to “Make it new!”
“It’s less about the space and more about what happens in it. You can pretty much take that whole approach for everything here,” Morrison, more a towering hip-cuya vision than a CEO, further adds. And so, while work is something that gets done in A SPACE, the incorporation of play and socialization is also of paramount import. Apart from Fête, a warm-up event for the Malasimbo Music + Arts Festival has also been put up there, as well as other key happenings like press launches by Rappler and Basti Artadi’s first ever art show Kalat, which shone a light on the singer’s previously cloaked visual side.
Add talks, social mixers, and other left-of-center gatherings in the mix—capoeira, doodle meets, secret Sofar Sounds music shows, game nights—and you’ve got a site that’s as vital, as organic, and as multifaceted as anything. In scope and possibility, A SPACE is in essence like your mother’s basement — where you start bands, practice silk-screen printing, host thematic movie-thons for your friends — but cooler; a place that embraces rather than turns away freaks, geeks, and everyone in between. There’s an undeniable concentration on artists and hobbyists in A SPACE events, but also true-blue, furrowed-brow start-up tech figures, and they have amassed in droves for such stirring events as StartUp Grind’s pitch fest and AngelHack’s hackathon-cum-developer-bootcamp. And as for the people who are in the habit of stirring things up, there are those who literally stir, fry, bake, and more, wishing to unleash their ballistic culinary genius to the world. These guys find themselves turning the A SPACE Kitchen into a lab churning gastronomic delights, be it for private sit-down eats, gourmet food demos, kitchen coworking, cook-offs, or even shoots for YouTube cooking shows.
A SPACE deems their hallowed halls like clay, like live sculpture, or like crowd-sourced Wiki or renga, the Japanese verse-form with multiple authors; it breathes, it moves, it adjusts. “When you write something then you publish it, it no longer belongs to you anymore. It belongs to whoever the readers are,” Morrison offers an apt metaphor for his venue’s relationship with its clients and frequenters. “It’s a bit like that with this space: it belongs to all the other people that come in. It’s their DNA.” Sometimes it’s happenstance that brings people into the venue, nudged by some invisible gust of wind; most times it’s word of mouth—the mouths of agenda-less people who just appreciate fine alternatives to the usual, and would like their friends to experience the same—and all of this manifests in the many-sided goings-on in the famed coworking crib. “Again, it’s just a box with toys inside. You need people around to play. That’s when the magic happens,” Matt closes with a smile.