Alex Beim is the Founder and Creative Director of Tangible Interaction studio where he and his team specialize in creating innovative, sensory installations that bring people together. We sat down with Alex to learn more about his passion for creating tangible moments.
How did your career kick off?
After almost 20 years of designing for print, web, and advertising, I felt like I wanted to do something that was a little more “real.” I liked the idea of just making something you could interact with. Before I started Tangible, I was working in web advertising and it made me feel really empty. I wasn’t doing anything that would make the world a better place. I felt the urge to make things that had meaning, to bring people back to being in the moment. 10 years ago I had the opportunity to submit a project to an Italian festival for an interactive art installation. I came up with the idea to make these large, inflatable balls that would light up when you touch them, and that could be used at a concert. The idea was to encourage people to be more than spectators, to make them a part of the show. The festival loved the idea and I ended up diving into this thing I had no idea how to do. I went from working at computers all day to thinking about electronics, industrial design, and interaction. The project was an incredible success and people were so receptive. A couple of weeks later I was doing a project with the Chemical Brothers and a couple of projects throughout Europe and it just took off. For the first time in my life, I felt really fulfilled with the type of work I was doing.
How has technology changed the way we interact with one another?
The world 10 years ago was very, very different. We were already connected but I think right now, partly because of technology, people are more open to the idea of interaction and tangible products; it’s more familiar.
What is your mission with your work?
I like to provoke social interaction. I want people to just come together and play. That’s the whole point of what I do.
What was the concept behind your Lumiere 2016 installation, Shine with Pride?
I had been carrying the idea of creating something on the street for a long time. I wanted to do something that would be very catchy and attention-grabbing, as well as something that would bring multiple people together to play. Shine has multiple levels of interaction; if you’re walking by, you may turn around to see what it is, some people will view from the sidelines, and others play. For me, it was all about creating a moment.
How does the installation work?
Tubes of light react to people’s touch. It feels like you’re touching a spring, and once you let go, the light bounces up and down. If you hold it at a certain spot it actually extends like a beam of light. It’s modeled after physics, but it’s really playful.
In your opinion, what is the significance of Lumiere, or any public artistic event for that matter?
Anything we can do to bring people out, especially during that time of year when people aren’t going out because it’s dark, and rainy, and cold, is a great opportunity and something that Vancouver can truly benefit from. One of the biggest complaints about this city is that it’s hard to meet people and that it’s really hard to have a social life. If we can, in some way, have projects in this city that bring people together and encourage interaction – that’s a huge win. If we don’t create those moments, people get so lost in their devices and insecurities.