Tara Shi is a designer making social apps and gadgets with Disk Cactus, an art and tech studio based in Oakland, California.
She has also co-founded This Will Take Time, a land-based artist residency program, where she is exploring the contemporary notions and politics of soil in a number of ways, such as digging holes and other rituals.
Tara recently met with the Elementa team while visiting Oslo on a project to document her practice of walking, inspired by Norway’s Slow TV.
# What do you have in front of you right now, and how does it relate to your mission as an enterpreneur (or designer)?
The systems that produce the world are complex and disorienting. There is so much to be questioned and imagined. I believe in learning from + with others, and building organizations increases surface area for this exchange.
# Is it possible to change the world positively through gagdets and technology?
Certainly! Technology is mundane - anything from shovels to second-life avatars can be considered technology, tools that contemporary humans use to engage, interpret and shape the world. The potential for the beautiful and sublime or the horrifying rises out of our relationship to these tools, where and how they are used, and how access, power and ownership are distributed.
# In you project This Will Take Time you have bought a piece of physical land to explore. What makes soil such an important subject to you?
I think the urban relationship to soil is interesting. In metropolitan landscapes, it’s very hard to see what is below in the ground; everything is hidden under thick concrete or asphalt. Digging was a spontaneous act the first day we arrived on TWTT land — the only tools on hand were our bodies and shovels in the back of the car. It became a symbolic celebration of ‘breaking ground’ and reaching deeper, and our embrace of the meaningless/absurd.
Over months, we just kept digging and created big voids, nothings. but, when you are in there digging, acting, conversing, thinking in solitude or with others -- it is a totally strange physical environment where you must confront the materiality and realness of the land.
# As as an artist and entrepreneur living in the neighbourhood of some of the great players of tech, how do you perceive the present trends in workspace design and culture?
In SOMA (south of market) the SF neighborhood that many startups are located in, and in West Oakland, where Disk Cactus is run out of a warehouse, the trend of post-industrial recapture is in full swing. These airy production spaces are perfect for the digital-pioneer, a concrete frontier still rough around the edges, ready to be furnished with grade A plywood conference tables and standing desks.
The walls of the cubicles have given way to an endless sprawl, lubricated for information flows and collaboration between teams. The water cooler has expanded to a deluxe entertainment centre, offering abundant wells of snacks, alcohol, fair-trade coffee, catered lunches, and continuing into shower-equipped bathrooms, napping and workout zones. The company's slack channel is the new Muzak that keeps cultural time and pervades all. In short, Work is Lifestyle.
On a more intimate front, Work is working on seducing the home (those belonging to the sharing economy know this well). The mattress recycling center around the corner, nearby warehouses and many of the homes foreclosed during the financial crises are carefully being resurrected and rebranded as live-work lofts with an amnesia for previous tenants. They are now ideal for the entrepreneur or unconstrained creative class.
# What will a typical workspace look like in 10 years?
It will be invisible.
For the digital elite, the future of work will be defined by love. Love will be the unstoppable force that finally melts away all the walls and even whole office buildings, spilling labor into public and private spaces. Though the price of physical mobility, flex hours, and working from home/your car is precarity, it doesn’t matter, because each smile that comes with “how can i help you?" is a work of love, each [EMOJI] sent in a business email is a work of love, and each corporate meeting is now a meeting of friends + lovers.
# Is the Singularity Near?
To quote Siri: “I’m afraid can’t answer that.."
# Please share some links to the most interesting new projects we may not be aware of? Art, music, products, companies, etc
These aren’t *new* projects, but a small set of ones I’ve been thinking about lately (i.e.the aged open tabs on my browser):
Miranda July - Somebody, Learning to love you more, Joanie 4 Jackie, and all
Francis Älys - The Green Line
Deray McKesson + Samuel Sinyangwe - Mapping Police Violence
Christoph Schaefer on Park Fiction
Ta-Nehisi Coates - Between the World and Me
Emily Martinez + Liat Berdugo -
Reuben Hoggetts' archive - Cybernetic Zoo
If you are in Bergen, Tara Shi will be hosting a public walk on Sunday 7 of February 2016 from Bergen Train Station to Kollsnes, the closest Statoil facility to the city and connecting node in Tampnet’s undersea FOC (fiber optic cable) network. It will be Walking Public’s 3rd walk