Interview with ADX/Interhacktive

What goes together better than peanut butter and jelly? A Design Week Portland collaboration between Interhacktive and ADX, of course! Interhacktive specializes in creating large scale interactive art installations, fabricating and design. ADX is a membership-based design and prototyping facility in the heart of Southeast Portland’s Central Eastside Industrial District. It’s a maker match made in heaven.

Next week, you’ll have the chance to feel the love at AIGA Portland’s exhibit, Blurred Lines: A Curated Exploration of the Future of Interaction held October 9-11, 2013 at Refuge PDX.

We asked hacker, coder and maker Chris Rojas of Interhacktive a few questions about Touch Tunnel, his Blurred Lines collaboration with ADX. This is what he had to say:

What are you creating for Blurred Lines?
As you enter the building you will find yourself in a tunnel made of a white stretchy fabric. Every touch of the fabric triggers visuals on the surface of the walls that mimic the growth of coral, fluid, ice crystals and other patterns found in nature.

Touch can often be an even more evocative emotion than sight, by combining the two we are creating a wondrous interplay between the physical (walls) and the imaginative (visualization) and the interconnectivity between these as people form and reform. The tunnels will be changing each night to represent different common geometric forms, or abstract shapes, etc to always get the mind wondering about where the real stops and the virtual begins.

Concept ArtTouch Tunnel concept art by Morgan Hickman

What was your inspiration for this?
Plenty of Sci-­Fi movies have touchscreens built into windows, walls, tables and pretty much all around us. In this piece I explore that idea, by turning all the walls into touchable glowing surfaces. I’ve previously worked on multi-­touchscreen mirrors, tables and walls, but I wanted to explore other kinds of touchscreens and I found what I was looking for while traveling through the Denver Airport which is made up from these beautiful white tent like structures that allow natural light to fill the room during the day while at night it allows the internal lights to be seen from the exterior. I thought it would be fun to create a stretchy touchscreen that reacts with light as you push outward on it.

Are there any real life applications to your installation?
There are plenty of real life applications for new and unusual touchscreens. The soft flexible feeling of fabric is something you’ll want to touch and play with as opposed to something hard and square. In the future we may have beautiful displays all around us and people may be able to flick their hands into the air to command a computer, but I believe touchscreens are essential because humans love haptic feedback, we love to touch things, it makes them feel real and without that we’re just waving our hands around like a bunch of lunatics.

Tell us about your creative process?
My creative process usually starts with, “Wouldn’t it be cool if”…and through lots of creative problem solving and engineering, ends with “OMG this is awesome.”

Everyone becomes inspired, it’s human nature. The difference between the average person and an artist is that an artist feels driven to take the inspiration further. To create something tangible from this inspiration usually to understand it and to share it.

How would Abraham Lincoln react if he saw your installation?
Abe would crap his pants, mostly because these materials weren’t around when he was.

ADX facility

The ADX shop

Oculus at Interhacktive

Oculus at the Interhacktive studio

Do you think humans will someday have the option to spend their entire life in an alternate reality, like in Avatar, only happier? Given the option, would you?
Without a doubt, in fact, if you want to give it a try, stop by my studio. Would I join in the digital alternate reality…yeah of course, the ability to do things you can’t physically do or see or things not based in reality, yeah, better than drugs. Would I want to spend all my time in there, hell mothafuckin no way. I love the mountains, beach, nature, rain, human contact, realness, the end.

What does your studio look like?
Interhacktive share a large studio with other artists and creative types ranging from comic book artists to RED camera operators in old town portland. It’s the old Merchant Hotel Building which apparently is haunted, although I’ve never experienced any paranormal activity.

ADX is a 12,000 sf warehouse filled with digital design tools, metal and woodworking tools and most importantly has the space to spread out and tons of really smart people around who can help troubleshoot as we navigate through the creative process.

What kind of coffee do you drink there?
We don’t drink coffee in the office…we take naps on the couch and work when we are properly rested.

That’s great, but… really? No coffee?
ADX has Portland Roasting.

And Ninkasi beer, I hear. My kind of people.

What excites you about the creative scene in Portland?

What are the biggest challenges that Portland’s creative scene faces?
Too much talking to each other and not enough engaging the public. Ego and territorial/pretentious attitudes from “designers”

What is good design?
Good design creates conversation. Good design is subjective.

Thank you Interhacktive and ADX for all your creativity, collaboration and hard work. I’m looking forward to feeling my way through the Touch Tunnel and seeing its different configurations each night at Blurred Lines!

You too can experience ADX/Interhacktive’s Touch Tunnel October 9-11th at Blurred Lines: A Curated Exploration of the Future of Interaction – where leading design studios in Portland share their experiences of what can (and may) happen when light, sound, images, motion, culture and history combine. Explore a space like you’ve never imagined, grab a drink at the bar and groove on music spun by different DJ’s each night.

Buy your tickets now at:

Published October 2, 2013
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