Forest of Resonating Lamps - One Stroke, Metropolis, teamLab, Exhibition view of MORI Building DIGITAL ART MUSEUM: teamLab Borderless, 2018, Odaiba, Tokyo © teamLab

Borderless World of Beauty Dreamed by teamLab
Only infinite beauty remains where the boundaries have crumbled, between the audience and artworks, others and I, and humans and nature. We met teamLab, an art collective that commands global attention, in Tokyo.
Traditional art museums had a lot of restrictions. You could never touch or photograph artworks displayed on the white wall or in a clear glass box. Art was primarily consumed by those with enough knowledge to understand its meaning, and the audience would follow the prearranged route in the museum, throwing educated glances at the works they were supposed to admire.
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.

Universe of Water Particles on a Rock where People Gather, teamLab, Exhibition view of MORI Building DIGITAL ART MUSEUM: teamLab Borderless, 2018, Odaiba, Tokyo © teamLab

1MORI Building DIGITAL ART MUSEUM: teamLab Borderless

At the touch of a hand, the stream of water changes its direction, a flower withers, and a butterfly disappears into the void. Your body becomes a switch to turn on the artwork or a piece of drawing paper where flashes of light make marks on. One of the representative projects by teamLab on permanent display is “MORI Building DIGITAL ART MUSEUM: teamLab Borderless,” and it offers an unprecedented experience by destroying the boundary between the audience and the artworks.
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. 

Universe of Water Particles on a Rock where People Gather, teamLab, Exhibition view of MORI Building DIGITAL ART MUSEUM: teamLab Borderless, 2018, Odaiba, Tokyo © teamLab


The Way of the Sea - the Nest, teamLab, Exhibition view of MORI Building DIGITAL ART MUSEUM: teamLab Borderless, 2018, Odaiba, Tokyo © teamLab

Weekdays 10:00~19:00
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.)
Phone +81-3-6368-4292

2teamLab Planets TOKYO

Entering an unfamiliar space barefoot, the audience immediately becomes defenseless. The universe-themed exhibit, teamLab Planets TOKYO, pursues the concept of “Body Immersive” through which the audience becomes one with the artwork. It’s a step ahead of interactive art. Unlike at teamLab Borderless, the audience follows a prearranged route, experiencing seven art installations one by one.

teamLab, Soft Black Hole - Your Body Becomes a Space that Influences Another Body, 2016 © teamLab


teamLab, Drawing on the Water Surface Created by the Dance of Koi and People - Infinity, 2016-2018, Interactive Digital Installation, Endless, Sound: Hideaki Takahashi © teamLab

The most tell-tale of characteristics unique to teamLab Planets TOKYO is the installation entitled “Drawing on the Water Surface Created by the Dance of Koi and People - Infinity.” Upon entering the knee-high water barefoot, a herd of koi fish greet you, prompted in real time by a computer program on the surface of water that has been expanded infinitely through the mirrors in the space. The moment a free-floating koi hits a viewer’s leg, it transforms into a colorful flower in full bloom. The artwork helps understanding the inevitable interactions between humans and nature as well as others and I, as they exist in the same space.
“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.

teamLab, The Infinite Crystal Universe, 2015-2018, Interactive Installation of Light Sculpture, LED, Endless, Sound: teamLab © teamLab

Weekdays 10:00~22:00
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

A 2-hour train ride from Tokyo on the JR Hokuriku Shinkansen line will take you to Kanazawa, a small city still possessing the charms of the Edo period(1603~1868). The 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa was built to look more like a park where anyone can enjoy art and is set to serve as a stage for teamLab from August 9 to September 1.
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.

teamLab, Continuous Life and Death at the Now of Eternity, Cannot be Controlled but Live Together, 2019, Interactive Digital Installation, Endless, Sound: Hideaki Takahashi © teamLab

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.”)
Phone +81-76-260-3581

Interview with teamlab

Q. What’s the meaning of the name 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.

Flower Forest, teamLab, Exhibition view of MORI Building DIGITAL ART MUSEUM: teamLab Borderless, 2018, Odaiba, Tokyo © teamLab

Q. Are there any difficulties coming from working with experts of various fields?
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.

Multi Jumping Universe, teamLab, Exhibition view of MORI Building DIGITAL ART MUSEUM: teamLab Borderless, 2018, Odaiba, Tokyo © teamLab

Q. Unlike other existing museums, teamLab particularly pays attention to children. Any special reasons?
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.
August 2019 Editor:Ha Jaekyung
Writer:Lee Yeeun


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  • August 2019
  • Editor: Ha Jaekyung
    Writer: Lee Yeeun
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