“Be where you are”, is what people tell you. Be in your place, 210
be in your time, all of that. All these old wisdoms, they’re nothing new.
paying you money to do what you do. But the third thing is the subject or concept of livelihood, which is to say you’re doing meaningful work. I just personally have no illusions that the world is going to be filled with highly paid jobs in the future, and therefore, the sooner that one can accept that that is not a very high priority, in terms of the first things that one could do, then the next thing is to say, “Okay, well lets go and do meaningful work,” and then figure out as we go along how to eat, how to have somewhere to live, and then what the longer term consequences of that would be. Really the larger question has to be, “How do designers bring value to the table?” Then the question of livelihoods and jobs and everything, I think, comes later. JA: I have a different kind of question for you, before we go. We asked this of our students and we’re asking it of ourselves—thinking about the communities in which we work and how we make commitments to those communities. I’d be curious to hear you talk about what you think are the communities that you’ve dedicated yourself to over the course of your career. Whether they be geographical or… JT: I’m very touched that you think I’ve dedicated myself to any. Well, I’m one of those kind of slightly ruthless individuals who travels around, looking for interesting groups of people, but that’s not the same thing as if I had dedicated myself to—On the contrary, I think there’s a big question mark that people have raised about that—in so far as I’m kind of one of these connector type people, who connect one person to another in what I hope is a helpful way. That’s pretty much the opposite of what I’ve been saying about staying in one place. Where I live here in France—here I am after 30 years travelling the world—being
curious and meeting lots of interesting people. I actually asked a friend of ours here in France, “Well how does one become—at what point are we going to be really accepted as members of the Gauge community?” She said, “When a member of your family is buried in a little church yard. That’s the point at which people will embrace you as members of the community.” I said, Mmm, I’m the oldest person in our family, so I basically have to die and be buried, and things will move along? And she said, “Yes.” And she was completely serious, she wasn’t joking at all. So I, yeah, I don’t think I could dedicate myself to any community if the truth be told. I’ve worked with all sorts of interesting groups. What I try always to do is to identify those people who are doing interesting things and have a great deal of positive energy that has nothing to do with me, and then figure out if I can find out ways to add to what they’re doing. That’s what, in the last decade or so, is the way I figure out where to prioritize. But I do think that we all collectively have a problem of concentration and focus and staying in one place. In the design world, and the world generally, we are heavily addicted to novelty and change and the next thing and starting something new and all that kind of stuff. So it’s very hard to get away from that. It’s an addictive thing of what the next, the next, the next! Whereas, actually what the world needs is for people to do one thing at a time. And I’m not at all a good example of that. JA: Well the question we’ve been struggling with is—Is the idea of community necessarily geographic? Or can community be thought of more abstractly? I mean certainly there’s a community of people, even in the very loose way that you describe it, of the energetic people who are positive and doing
good work. Could you say that you’ve dedicated yourself to that community? JT: I could say it, but whether you would take me seriously is another matter. I’m really not that obsessed by this whole subject of online communities and virtual and remote. I think that there’s enough people out there talking about it, I don’t need to add anything. I don’t have anything to add to that, except that I very, very, very passionately believe in the notion of embodiment, in that human beings have bodies that our bodies are part of the earth and that disembodied communication is a lower bandwidth, in all respects than anything else. So yes, of course you can have, I don’t know, all sorts of ways of sharing interests with people over a wide area, but at the end of the day, I think that embodiment and the communication and the relationships we have by way of being in bodies in a place is the first starting point, for me anyway. And that’s not just a theoretical, intellectual thing. The place that I’m in is what really counts. I think that’s, in terms of the environmental movement, generally, that is the one thing that everyone is sort of becoming rather clear about, is that unless you’re aware of your place or of the social systems where you are as a person, then everything else is to some extent a secondary distraction. Which isn’t to say that I don’t move around too much, still, but I’m trying to live a bit of that, in terms of not constantly moving around. I know people remotely and all over the world, of course I do. It’s just that I think people get mesmerized by that as part of the—one of the problems we have is the notion that everything that is virtual has some kind of purse valuable content, and I don’t think that’s true. “Be where you are”, is what people tell you. Be in your place, be in your time, all of that. All these old wisdoms, they’re nothing new.