Concepting with Yatú

A conversation about collaboration,, communal resources, and our concept of time.

Published June 8, 2023
Yatú is an Artist-Founder based in NYC, who joined USURPATOR for a conversation about his work. We talk about his projects USB Club and Teal Process, and discuss virtual and IRL collaboration spaces, the value of physical space, virtual catalog, and our concept of time.

You can listen to an extended version of our conversation on the USURPATOR Pod. You can follow Yatú on Instagram, or, and check out Teal Process on their website, or their page on

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USURPATOR: I’m here today with Yatú. I don’t quite know how to introduce you, I wrote here that you’re an idea cataloguer, DJ, Concept Composer, and power user.

YATÚ: I wouldn’t say that those things are not true, I would say they’re components of who I am. I’m a firm believer in new roles being created, and people identifying them. It’s kind of a transition into this new notion of how people are able to identify their gender could be closely related to roles, and how people practice their work. So, the role that I’m currently practicing and discovering is Artist-Founder.

U: Do you feel comfortable having only one role? Or is it always shifting between factions and different parts?

Y: I think I’m always practicing these roles on and on, so the role I was practicing before was Concept Composer.

U: And now you’ve been promoted.

Y: Yeah, it’s not a promotion, but more so a different waypoint. It’s more of a horizontal shift rather than a vertical one.

U: And now you’re the Artist-Founder of…

Y: Fill in the blank, inc.

U: Of anything?

Y: No, earnestly, it’s called Fill In The Blank. It’s a company that's exploring and playing with USBs, connectivity, and the future of auxiliary hardware.

U: This is the company that runs USB club, which I’ve heard you talk about. Can you give me a rundown on what it is?

Y: It’s something that’s evolving, it’s been described as an underground network. We started off by learning how to use a CDJ, which everyone uses with a USB. If you don’t have a USB, then you can’t use one. CDJs are really expensive, but there are these things called Pirate Studios, which are kind of like WeWorks for audio studios, where people can do podcasts or band practice, or DJing, because they have CDJs there that you can book time slots for. So I started going there to practice and a lot of our friends wanted to come by, and they were like “What do I need to do?” And I was like, “You gotta get a USB.” By, like, the 12th time, I started to think “Okay, this is interesting.” Then I started throwing these contribution parties, where everyone would come with their USBs loaded with files that they found interesting. We had a party, but in the meantime, people were contributing their files into this folder that became a representation of the group in that moment. It was really unique, and continued evolving from there.

U: So, how many people are in USB Club?

Y: It’s hard to keep count... I don’t know. The right answer is, if you have a USB, you’re in USB club.

U: How does USB Club and Fill In The Blank connect to Teal Process?

Y: Teal has been a huge catalyst. It started out as an excuse to explore ideas. It started when I was in college with Norm. Instead of going out for spring break we stayed in and made art. We were going to hackathons all the time, meeting kids from different universities and building things with them. We discovered our art in senior year, they didn’t offer design courses at our school. I started designing at hackathons, which not many people were doing at first, it was mostly engineers. Then, we were like “What if we make a website that doesn’t have much utility and is just beautiful to look at?” So the first project was called “Gassed Up” which is on the Teal website, and we called it an artifact. We changed Teal from always being open to ideas, to it always being an open question. Really, it’s just a flexible container for people to explore ideas.

There’s a funnel model:
On the top, there’s concepts. So if we have a conversation, then we have an idea. That’s a Concept. If we try it or act on it, then it becomes an Experiment. If it continues resonating with us, and we want to polish it to a point where we come to peace with it, it becomes an Artifact.


U: I was curious about the choice of the word Artifact, and what significance that has to you.

Y: I mean, it has the word art in it. It's something that can be looked at years later and can still be appreciated. It has something cementing in it, where experimentation is more loose. It’s really just granular language about the maturity of a thought. From thought, to Concept, to Experiment, to Artifact. When it's an Artifact it can kinda be left alone.

U: I also wanted to ask you about I consider you a power user of, and when I was looking at your page for Teal Process, I was interested in how you guys are working collaboratively in that space.

Y: has a very dear place in my heart. I discovered it around 2018, and was too poor at the time to become an investor, but now I’m a proud supporter. I think it achieved an extremely simple, utilitarian approach to organization design. It has a beautiful architecture to it, and the way we use it at Teal is just a work log, for work in progress. At times, I’ve considered creating something that works more naturally with us. While I think is great, and it works for everyone who understands how they can tailor it to their needs, I think there are some areas of improvement that work better for me, or for Teal’s workflow. In the meantime, all of our Artifacts are documented there. I imagine there’s around a 1000 blocks documented there for Teal. The way we used it was to create channels that separate primary source versus secondary source.

We were doing a lot of primary research. So, if I took a photo of a sketch we did, that’s a primary source, it came from us. Then we’ll create a secondary channel for the Concept, where we have all the references and context.

I think that we accidentally got traction on We were using it as a tool, and people were admiring all the different surface areas we were touching and exploring, and we were exposing it. Virgil Abloh played a very inspirational role for me in how transparent he was in his process. I just saw it as a place to catalog those things. We actually got around to creating a boutique software called Concept Trust in 2020, where we create tooling that works more with our workflow and has been our sacred place to start putting our active explorations. I kind of matured out of a little bit, and now we use the Concept Trust.

U: And, how do you use the Concept Trust?

Y: Part archive, part museum. I don’t think we’ll ever fully transition out of because of the people in there and the culture. There are people I’ve resonated with that social network who I still want to say hello to. Concept Trust isn’t a social network yet.

U: One of my questions was going to be if is an ideal collaboration space, or what that ideal would be.

Y: Yeah, for instance, the camera. I think that a better integration with the camera would help people put more primary source information on, rather than just circling and connecting. There isn’t a lot of primary source information up that hasn’t existed before, and the camera is the missing piece. Uploading images should be a bit more seamless. But one of the founders, Charles, is one of my favorite founders. He’s an Artist-Founder in my eyes.

But, there’s still no likes, there’s still no algorithm. It’s pretty utilitarian. In a sense, is also boutique because it's a small team. They’re probably getting bombarded with suggestions. But what defines them and what the stronghold is, is them maintaining the principles of what it is, and not letting the pressure of time get in the way, or mass adoption.

U:  For sure. Another thing I wanted to mention was your focus on IRL space and place.

Y: Yeah, one of my favorite things to do is to change and rearrange a physical space with friends, as a design practice, and to see what behaviors come out of it. People put so much emphasis on design in a product sense, but I think there’s so much more reward in doing that with friends, it affords much richer experiences that we can give on a digital level.

My favorite type of space to curate is one that encourages moments of education. Laurel Schwulst is someone who I saw express the phrase that teaching is creating educational environments. So, after college, I took a loan out and rented a space out with some friends to create our own residency. We ended up just putting things in there, and people could come by and do whatever they wanted to do. That continual practice happened with The Factory, which is another space equipped with tools where people can come by and learn what they want to learn. Because the tools, and access to the tools, is often the barrier of entry to learning. Even something like a sewing machine, so many people want to explore fashion, but won't be able to explore it because they don’t have access to one. Or practicing DJing, or carpentry. So, to put all these tools in a space, and allowing people to make whatever they want, that’s a true educational moment. So what’s come out of there is SOLD OUT, for example, a friend’s clothing line which has since gone on to create their own space in the Lower East Side. My friend Sean, also a part of Teal, did chair workshops at The Factory, and he’s also opening up a space of his own, under the name of Menagerie. We have a space in Greenpoint now, where people can come and DJ.

Right now, we're in a transitional phase where the space has served its purpose in empowering people. Now, we're having fun with it by hosting sessions called Listening Labs. At The Factory, when people came in, they would put on a construction vest. It served as a costume or uniform that empowers you psychologically to have the permission to do things, to move things around, to break things, to set things up. In the Lab, people put on white lab coats, with notepads so they can draw and observe while people play and listen to music in unconventional ways.

What resulted from all this, was a lot of friends also opening spaces, and we connected them as an art project with this research group called Other Internet. The project I did with Aaron Z. Lewis and Norm was this notion of a schoolscape, which is augmenting educational environments. We wanted to create a campus, physically. But there’s a lot that goes into that, especially in NYC. But I realized that if we could just connect these spaces, we already have a campus. There’s a valley of loneliness in terms of resources after you graduate. You don't have access to the tools you used to have. So, we created these learner cards that acted as a passport to access all these spaces. We had a couple fellows, gave them stipends, and they got to traverse the campus, we gave them an orientation. That was a really beautiful way to reignite the feeling of having a campus without having to build another building.

U: Definitely. What spaces were in the campus?

Y: There was The Factory, The Playground, Eternal, Daze, Quay, and The Garage. We had 3 fellows, and they could access the space as long as they connected with one of the space stewards. Everyone had a copy of the keys of The Factory, the HQ.

U: How long did the residency last?

Y: So, we practiced a new form of time called quad-cycles, which are around 4 days. I think we had around 7 quad-cycles, about a month. It hacked time and we made it slow down by framing things into quad-cycles.

U: Okay, so break down your concept of time for me.

Y: The pandemic really shifted Norm and I’s understanding of time, because we were living in the same place, as roommates. The purpose of time shifted, no one was going out. 3 days started to feel like 1 day.

With Paragonday Systems, we broke down a system of time and days. We have 3 types of days and a clock dial, which is solar time. For the days, we have NP1, NP2, and Paragonday. NP stands for Non-Paragonday.

Paragonday is the ideal day, which a lot of people attribute to vacation. But you can have Paragonday at any time, or for a moment of a day. When you’re in complete control of your time, with no pressure. That’s rare for me to come by, but it's beautiful. NP1 is a day of obligations, a day of work. NP2 is when you don’t have those same obligations, what most people probably constitute as a weekend. That really helped framed like: “Hey, am I working today? Is my time already determined?” verses when you’re doing what you want to be doing.

U: So, how does this link up with the concept of actual time? If a day is longer than a solar day, does that take away from the next?

Y: Yeah, we call those sun cycles. A day can be multiple sun cycles. It’s a theory, on the main page, we outline the theory. If you scroll down, we built other tools to go along with it. Paragonday is a lifelong project. We wanna make a clock one day, and a watch, which will be called Sun-Check, so you're checking the time and not watching it.

U: How did you choose to visually represent this?

Y: There are many ways to represent it, but there's an interesting way to bi-directionally understand time—past sunset, until sunrise. A line wave that represents sunrise and sunset is a good way to visualize where your time is at.

U: I really appreciate imaginative rethinking of time, and how we encounter it. I think it’s an amazing project.

Y: Yeah, and just to continue planting seeds, there’s this squad called the New Times Working Group, which is a group of people who want to change time. The thing that’s controlling humans the most is probably the current calendar system that we have. The way the calendar is set up, we’re trapped in cell blocks. If we could liberate ourselves from the calendar, the world would probably be flipped on its head. Relieving ourselves from the universal time system that we exist in now will really reverse how we’re enslaved in time.

U: I also know that you’ve worked for a long time as a UX designer, as a UX researcher myself, I’d love to know some of your thoughts. My feeling is that UX was once a more noble pursuit, it has a good backbone. But after working in the field for a while, I can see that it's been commodified in a perverted way. This field was meant to design the accessibility of the internet, and help us rethink how we interact with the products at our disposal, and how they open themselves up to us. It’s been reduced to recreating the same layouts over and over again. And in my field specifically, people don’t really want to know who the user is or what they want, and reimagine new ways to give it to them. Creatively, it feels like we’re on a bit of a downturn since having UX designers and researchers has become a necessary role that a company has to have on paper.

Y: Yeah, I have a long-standing history with UX. My first ever internship, I was a UX Researcher. With time, I’ve been able to reflect on this. The reason why I personally care about UX is because I’m naturally sensitive. I’m sensitive to how people feel, how they react, what triggers them. Those who are highly sensitive have the intuition to improve the quality of life, by having the consideration of using their sensitivity to improve the everyday products that surround us. We have this concept in UX called user touchpoints, which is a cute metaphor, because highly sensitive people can be tuned into these touchpoints more than others. It comes down to always thinking about how someone feels.

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USURPATOR is an online magazine sharing essays and interviews about the user experience of our current virtual landscape

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