Moving Up Maslow’s Pyramid with Kirsten Dirksen
Since 2006, Kirsten Dirksen and her husband have been producing *faircompanies, a web video series that has evolved to become the world’s most comprehensive archive of compact homes and the people who made and live in them (among other things). Virtually every significant small space–from our own LifeEdited apartment to Nakagin Capsule Tower to many, many others you never heard of, but should have–has been lovingly chronicled by Dirksen.
As her profession dictates, Dirksen’s focus has her looking at others, but we thought it was time to turn the focus on her, finding out more about her and *faircompanies..
David Friedlander: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Kirsten Dirksen: I live in Fontainebleau, France (40 miles south of Paris). We just moved from Barcelona this fall.
I don’t really have a job title. I used to work in television, then I met my husband in Barcelona and started commuting there between freelance TV jobs in NYC. Once we had kids I began to do more freelance work from Spain, but now I just make videos for our website and youtube channel.
DF: How did *faircompanies begin?
KD: Back in 2006, my husband, Nicolás Boullosa, had the idea to start a website that was a type of 21st-century Whole Earth Catalog. While it has evolved into something a bit different, “access to tools” is still the logline for *faircompanies.
With my videos I try to focus on great stories: people who are building unique homes, creating new vehicles, reinventing gardening, etc. Again echoing Stewart Brand (founder of the Whole Earth Catalog), I believe in the power of basic tools and skills–and the technologies available to us today (e.g. 3D printing, aeroponics, Arduino)–to shape our environments in a way unthinkable a few generations ago. As Brand wrote back in 1968 “we are as gods and might as well get good at it”. (For a taste of all this, I put together a compilation video of some of my stories here).
DF: What is your intention behind making the videos?
KD: I want to explore stories in the way I wanted to film and edit them, but often couldn’t while working for broadcast media. I make videos to examine how other people live. The camera gives me an excuse to ask questions.
What attracts me most to people who have minimized their lives (their possessions, the size of their home, etc) is the shift in focus. Here are people who have decided not to focus on stuff and so that leaves the more interesting topics, namely, my personal favorite: anything related to philosophy of life.
DF: What is or are the favorite videos you’ve produced and why?
KD: I don’t have a favorite video. I feel that each video builds on the others and they’re all part of this trip I’m on of discovery. That journey involves:
- An examination of what we need to live (beginning with Jay Shafer’s tiny house which I filmed 6 or 7 years ago).
- A look to the transcendentalists (I had a great conversation on Emerson with the owners of the Innermost House about 5 years ago).
- A fixation on the ancient Stoics (my husband introduced me to Seneca and Marcus Aurelius (their ideas are tangential to this piece I filmed one summer day 5 years ago “A river, 3 generations of family and the meaning of life”).
- A study of pantheism and how to examine the little things with my documentary of our family road trip in a Westfalia (“Summer of Family Love”).
DF: Anything else we should know?
KD: I want to be sure to point out that I’m very aware of how easy it is to oversimplify all this. I don’t think a tiny house, or a tiny wardrobe, makes anyone happier, but it might open up more paths toward fulfillment. If you think about it within the framework of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, those who have chosen to make their physical needs small, and easier to achieve, can move on to working on self-actualization.
Returning to Stewart Brand’s ideas about the incredible access to information we all have at this moment in history, I try to tell stories to help remind people about the great power we all have at our fingertips. I think the Internet has also made it dangerously easy for us to identify with mass movements and, at times, to fall victim to victimhood. I hope my videos inspire people to recognize the great power we all have, even if it’s just to make small, but often significant, changes in our lives.