Our newest laneway project, Ackery’s Alley, was publicly launched last week. It includes an exciting and innovative installation from Tangible Interaction, which taps into some of the very basic levels of human instincts, to play and to explore. We caught up with Alex Beim, Founder and Creative Director of Tangible Interaction on his experience, his work and upcoming projects.
Tell us a bit about your background as an artist, how Tangible Interaction was formed and some of the work you have done up to this point?
After almost twenty years of working in design and advertising, I decided it was time to move. Having had a very successful career in both spaces, there was something very profound missing. I really wanted to make a difference in the world by creating art that would have a real impact in our lives, something that could touch people, make them curious, and have them feel connected with their bodies, spaces, and other people too. So back in 2006, I had an idea to create large, helium-filled inflatable balls that would light up when people touch them.
By 2007 I had a prototype and it was everything I thought it would be and more. By 2008 I was being contracted to bring them to festivals in Europe and licensed them to Blue Man Group and Cirque du Soleil. I started Tangible in 2008 and I have been working with my team for 10 years now. We have worked on so many projects in so many places. About 4 years ago I felt I wanted to do more in my own city and fortunately today I can say that we are. We have done permanent and temporary projects for Science World, the Aquarium, Capilano Suspension Bridge, Yaletown BIA, West End BIA, Vancouver Olympics, VPL, BC Hydro, Westbank, Tractor Foods and now a key permanent project for the Downtown Vancouver BIA.
Your installation FIELD is the highlight of the DVBIA’s newly developed Ackery’s Alley. Why do you think this installation is important to Vancouver and what will it bring to the space, the city and its residents and visitors?
As naturally beautiful as Vancouver is, the city needs more surprises. We need more unexpected places where we are invited to play, to hang out with friends and also potentially make new ones. We need spaces where we can be curious and creative, where we can engage all our senses, where we can move, dance and be silly. I want my city to be known for all the unexpected things that are waiting to be discovered, like a large musical instrument in a back-alley.
FIELD sounds like a very unique and interesting installation, how does it work exactly?
FIELD is comprised of 35 lights that point at the ground and are arranged on a grid pattern of 5 by 7 under an overpass.
From afar and if nobody is present, the piece is silent, the lights slowly animate by changing size but just in white. Each beam gets larger and smaller, resembling a breathing pattern. When a person puts their hand under the beam or when walking under the light all the lights change mode and reduce their size to about a foot in diameter, except the light being played with. The light that is affected will change colour and size according to the person's height or hand movement. It will also play a unique sound. Each one of the 35 lights plays a different sound that has been created as a composition people can play.
You collaborated with the celebrated Vancouver-based composer Adam Lastiwka on this project, can you tell us more about this?
Working with Adam was incredible. When we brought him in, he got the idea right away. This is not a common piece of music, every sound can be played at any time and in any order, either one at a time or all 35 and the composition has to always sound great. He did that, every time we got a sample it was very exciting to play with the lights and see how it felt. I think people will love the experience, and the composition is a huge part of it.
What’s next for you and Tangible? After FIELD is installed what is the next big project?
Right after FIELD, we are installing a very large piece in Squamish, it is a private commission for a very large community that is being developed. Our project is called SUMMIT and just to give you an idea of the size we will be controlling 56,000 LEDs independently to create a beautiful center piece to a building.
Ackery’s Alley is located at 675 Smithe Street and will be open to the public from August 9, 2018. You can find out more about Tangilbe and the work they do here.