Text by Brook Mason, Architectural Digest
In creating mesmerizing Technicolor digital-art installations, often infused with a sonic element, the Tokyo-based collective teamLab of 500-plus members is commanding attention like never before. They just launched the world’s first museum dedicated to digital art in Tokyo. And already "the MORI Building DIGITAL ART MUSEUM: teamLab Borderless," the institution's full name, is drawing in more than 7,000 visitors daily, they report. Additionally, teamLab is staging a massive exhibition in Paris, not to mention five others in Japan. The group's founder, Toshiyuki Inoko, has just taken on a 55,000-square-foot space in Brooklyn’s Industry City, slated to open next August.
To discover more about how the collective is putting its own spin on the art world, AD spoke with Takashi Kudo, teamLab's communication's director and artist, in its Tokyo headquarters.
“Overall we can experiment with new visual experiences in our art and are removing the borders between the art and the visitors,” says Kudo. In doing so, they turn their talented hands to creating immersive experiences in surprisingly dark, empty galleries. As visitors wend their way through the exhibitions, they trigger delicate motion sensors, and brilliant kaleidoscopic light installations are projected on virtually every surface. Upon gazing at teamLab’s high-tech digital waterfall or simply standing beneath a veritable forest of sunflowers, the visitor is immersed in the collective’s creative rendition of natural environments, as well as more cosmic ones. And the museum alone is massive in size, comprising some 107,639 square feet of space set up with 520 computers and 470 projectors.
Consider The Infinite Crystal Universe, in which the visitor enters into an intergalactic space. Kudo explains it is “a style of art in which an accumulation of distinct dots of color creates a full picture. Here, light points are used to create three-dimensional objects. This interactive artwork expresses the universe through accumulated light points that spread infinitely in all directions.” Kudo points out that “people can use their smartphones to select elements that make up the universe by dragging them and releasing them into the The Infinite Crystal Universe.”
TeamLab has even created a sprawling interactive digital art installation at Kyoto’s World Heritage Site Shimogamo Shrine where visitors can saunter through a magical forest with hovering huge egg-like shapes in magenta, a deep yellow, and jade green.
But creating such astonishing immersive experiences is no easy task. Inoko's team is made up of “co-creatives” and includes artists, architects, engineers, animators, mathematicians, architects, web and print graphic designers, and editors. Their artistry blends art, science, and technology.
“Although the large concepts are always defined from the start, the project goal tends to remain unclear, so the whole team has to create and think as we go along,” says Kudo who refers to his colleagues as “a team of hands-on experts.”
Even through teamLab’s digital art may seem out of bounds for routine collectors, Pace gallery, which has three galleries in Manhattan as well as outposts in London, Beijing, Hong Kong, Seoul, and Geneva (and represents the collective), is witnessing an overwhelming response.
I believe a strong foundation of serious collectors has already been established,” says Peter Boris, Pace executive president. “Over 125 individual works by teamLab have been sold to private and public collections around the world,” he adds.
For their November show in Palo Alto, teamLab is taking over the entire gallery. Then the collective will launch its Planets digital installation in Brooklyn. To ensure that the show is even more immersive, visitors must take off their shoes while exploring through that creative endeavor, which will boast different floor textures, adding yet another element to their artistry.