Since the beginning of the 20th century, significant changes to the old custom began surfacing. The emergence of digital technology enabled the audience to connect with “interactive media art.” Contemporary people were fascinated with the sense of immersion that the new technology-enhanced format presents, as it stimulates the five senses in reaction to human movements. At the pinnacle of this latest trend stands teamLab, one of the hippest art collectives in today’s world.
It was in 2001 that teamLab was founded in a small lab by several artists led by Toshiyuki Inoko, who studied at Tokyo University. At present, teamLab offers artistic experiences that transcend genres through collaborative works where hundreds of specialists including artists, programmers, engineers, mathematicians, and architects participate in. The works using light as the medium domineer over the exhibition space, also communicating with the audience using movements and sound.
The audience also benefits from this liberating form of art as they no longer have to tolerate customary restrictions. teamLab actually leads their audience to freely touch and feel their works. Barring commercial uses, the audience is allowed to upload photographs to their SNS accounts. Thanks to the leniency, there are over half a million postings with the hashtag #teamLab on Instagram. Notably, most of the photographs feature the performer in front of the lens, shifting focus to the subject from the art on display.
teamLab’s works can be found all over the world including North America, Europe, and Asia, but Tokyo garners most attention as it is where it all began. We experienced teamLab’s works and met the artists in the global city where people are getting more and more excited about the 2020 Olympics to be held there.
1MORI Building DIGITAL ART MUSEUM: teamLab Borderless
The museum, built in collaboration with a Japanese urban architecture developing company, MORI Building, has an area of 10,000m² and houses about 60 artworks. There are five unique spaces at teamLab Borderless. “Borderless World” reenacts Mother Nature that is full of life using cutting-edge technologies. “teamLab Athletics Forest” awakens creativity through physical activities. “Future Park” is a playground for children. “Forest of Lamps” changes its color to human movements. Finally, “EN TEA HOUSE” features a combination of Japanese tea ceremony and digital art.
Without a prearranged viewing order, the audience sometimes gets lost in a dark labyrinth or runs into an unforeseen situation as they take stairs to move to another floor. Of all the artworks, “Universe of Water Particles on a Rock where People Gather,” depicting the waterfall flowing on the wall and floor, and flowers that bloom and wither amidst the flow, and “Forest of Resonating Lamps” where lamps mediate human connections amazes the audience. Online booking through the teamLab homepage is recommended as on-site tickets frequently sell out.
Weekends & Holidays 10:00~21:00
※ Extended hours until September 1, 2019: 10:00~21:00 everyday
Odaiba Palette Town 2F, 1-3-8 Aomi, Koto-ku, Tokyo, Japan (3 minutes or walking from Aomi Station on the Yurikamome Line or a 5 minute walk from Tokyo Teleport Station on the Rinkai Line.)
2teamLab Planets TOKYO
“Soft Black Hole - Your Body Becomes a Space that Influences Another Body” can be interpreted in a similar context. Every step you take in the space results in a sinking floor. It’s a completely different experience from when you walk on a concrete floor, and while trying to balance yourself, you end up using muscles that you would otherwise not. Looking around, you will find that your trajectory causes changes to the ground surface, affecting other viewers’ routes, hence the title of the installation.
Weekends & Holidays 9:00~22:00
※ Online booking is also available for teamLab Planets TOKYO on its homepage. Admission is every 30 minutes, and you can choose the time you like upon booking. Beware that it’s local time.
Toyosu 6-1-16, Koto-ku, Tokyo (1 minute on foot from Shin-Toyosu Station on the Yurikamome Line or 10 minutes on foot from Toyosu Station on the Tokyo Metro Yurakucho Line)
3teamLab: Impermanent Flowers Floating in a Continuous Sea
The exhibition will feature four digital art installations. “Black Waves: Lost Immersed and Reborn” embodies the continuous movement of the waves in a three-dimensional space. “Continuous Life and Death at the Now of Eternity, Cannot be Controlled but Live Together” shows that flowers either grow or die, depending on the touch by the audience and the location of the sun.
10:00~18:00 (Open till 20:00 on Fridays & Saturdays)
Citizen Gallery A, B, 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa
1-2-1 Hirosaka, Kanazawa City, Ishikawa, Japan 920-8509 (Take a bus at East Exit of JR Kanazawa Station bus terminal and get off at “Hirosaka - 21st Century Museum.”)
Interview with teamlab
A. Simply speaking, it means a lab where a team creates new experiences. From the very beginning, our motto has been to pursue collective work as a group. Such an environment adds depth to the ideas and insight of our members, and stimulates the production of new creations.
Q. What’s the process for a joint work?
A. First decide roughly on the concept of the artwork. Then, experts in that field meet up to develop the idea in a more sophisticated way. For instance, our work for Pace Beijing, “Flower Forest: Lost, Immersed and Reborn,” was the product of a joint work by 3D CG specialists in charge of flower images and videos, 3D software programmers, engineers designing equipment such as a projector, programmers to arrange dozens of projectors in one space, and architects.
As such, our works are created through a process where experts and hands-on workers of each field build something and consistently reconfigure it. Even with the concept in place, the goal of each project gets shaped up as the entire team works on the artwork.
A. Although we work jointly from planning to execution, we hardly have cases of disputes or conflicts during the process. If we had time to oppose others’ opinions or lock horns, we would spend it on making one more prototype. So it’s hard to guess when we’ll face such a challenging situation.
That said, I don’t mean to say that we should unconditionally accept other people’s opinions without critical thinking. It means there’s no need to be wary of the atmosphere. In fact, teamLab members are already like that. No need for a smooth talk. No matter how excellent you are in communicating with others and avoiding conflicts, if you can’t program well, we won’t need you.
Nevertheless, we don’t hire those who don’t know how to respect other people, regardless of their skill sets. Seasoned engineers are honest and humble, and they show respect to others, no matter the age. The essence of teamLab is in having pride in our work and respecting those with specialties we don’t have.
Q. teamLab is carrying out multiple projects in cities around the world. Do you reflect the characteristics of each city in those projects?
A. We do not consider geographic locations or local features when we work on our projects. If the exhibition space has physical limitations, we will handle the matter with the curator of the gallery or museum. Essentially, teamLab pursues art that studies human nature and tries to make positive changes to human values. In other words, we create something that can be meaningful to everybody.
Q. teamLab is called an “art theme park” in the sense that the audience experiences the display. It’s also nicknamed “the Holy Land of SNS.” What do you have to say?
A. Art is meaningful when we can experience it. Thanks to the advancement of digital technology, artworks are now free from physical restrictions. We can use a bigger space to directly interact with the audience. The audience also affects the works permanently in this process. They become an essential part of the art.
Taking photographs and posting them on Instagram can be a way to preserve such an experience, I think. At the same time, you can check out similar postings using the tag system, and see how people remember their experience with teamLab. We intend to expand the physical space of our projects through digital art. The subject does not have to be I. It could be someone else or a group where “I” sort of belong to. We want our art to be used by many, beyond a mere personal usage.
A. “Learn and Play! Future Park” is one of our main projects, and we want to teach kids to create new things through collaboration with other people, and experiment with the outcome. To develop a positive perspective towards those sharing the same space and accomplish co-creation, instead of personal activities, would be our goal.
Technologies will always evolve fast, and many jobs will be replaced by machines. That’s why the unique human ability to think and create will be more valuable. If you look at today’s education or living environments for children, their creativity is oppressed rather than being encouraged.
People learn about the world as they connect and interact with others. Most of the creative ideas and accomplishments that have contributed to the advancement of human society came from cooperation. Based on that experience of joint creation, teamLab wishes people would grow a desire to create in everyday life.
Q. Tell us about the vision of teamLab.
A. It will take a long time, but we want to change how people perceive beauty. Our projects can help them experience the borderless world and its beauty, which can in turn widen their interpretation of beauty. Of course it won’t settle the problems we’re facing today. In 10 or 50 years, however, wouldn’t people act differently if they had a wider concept of what’s beautiful?
※ teamLab is represented by Pace Gallery.