Tokyo-based group that brings en­gi­neers and artists to­gether for global projects makes China de­but with in­ter­ac­tive ex­hi­bi­tion. re­ports.


It is one of the largest in­ter­dis­ci­pli­nary art col­lec­tives in the world. Since it was founded by Toshiyuki Inoko in Tokyo in 2001, teamLab has gath­ered some 400 pro­fes­sion­als from var­i­ous fields, in­clud­ing artists, en­gi­neers, an­i­ma­tors, ar­chi­tects and math­e­ma­ti­cians.

Call­ing them­selves “ul­tra­t­e­ch­nol­o­gists”, they have cre­ated in­stal­la­tions of light and sound, mix­ing art and tech­nol­ogy that have en­thralled the au­di­ences.

The col­lec­tive works in groups on dif­fer­ent projects around the world.

Their dig­i­tal in­stal­la­tions are now shown at ex­hi­bi­tions in seven cities of dif­fer­ent coun­tries, in­clud­ing the China de­but ex­hi­bi­tion, teamLab: Liv­ing Dig­i­tal For­est and Future Park, at Pace Gallery’s space in Bei­jing.

One is Flower For­est: Lost, Im­mersed and Re­born, which is tak­ing up the bulk of Pace Bei­jing’s space of 1,500 square me­ters. The gallery has been as­so­ci­ated with them since 2014.

In this work, a com­puter pro­gram ren­ders real-time im­ages of thou­sands of flow­ers in the four sea­sons — blos­som­ing and with­er­ing. They are pro­jected on the floor, the walls and pan­els of mir­rors to cre­ate a dy­namic gar­den, with the au­di­ence ac­tu­ally in­side it rather than look­ing at it from out­side.

The work is in­ter­ac­tive: When peo­ple touch the flow­ers or “step” on them, the petals fall and fade away.

An­other work, also cre­ated by them ear­lier this year, is dis­played in a sep­a­rate room in the Bei­jing gallery.

Vis­i­tors ex­pe­ri­ence the in­ter­ac­tive dig­i­tal in­stal­la­tions at the show in Bei­jing.


If you go

Com­puter-gen­er­ated im­ages on LED screens sur­round view­ers from all sides, nar­rat­ing the ad­ven­ture of eight crows that chase each other, scat­ter and fi­nally turn into flow­ers. The mu­sic for this work, by Hideaki Taka­hashi, adds dra­matic ten­sion and grandeur to it.

“Peo­ple have to uti­lize their bod­ies and open up their senses to ex­pe­ri­ence the en­vi­ron­ment of the ex­hi­bi­tion. The lives of a flower, a leaf and a crow look splen­did but also slightly sad,” says Fu Lang, a teamLab:Liv­ingDig­i­talFore­stand vis­i­tor and a Bei­jing res­i­dent.

“Di­verse pre­sen­ta­tions of the process from glam­orous liv­ing to a sor­row­ful death make the in­stal­la­tions in­ter­est­ing.”

Inoko, who stud­ied science at the Univer­sity of Tokyo, says the ex­hi­bi­tion aims to make the au­di­ence feel that time and space have dis­ap­peared, by ab­sorb­ing peo­ple into the en­vi­ron­ment.

He says peo­ple have been em­pow­ered by ad­vanced tech­nol­ogy, and they try to “draw a clear line be­tween them and the world”. Such work tends to blur the bound­ary.

“I hope peo­ple can un­der­stand that the world is not all about the in­for­ma­tion they get from me­dia such as TV pro­grams and so­cial net­work­ing ser­vices. I hope peo­ple can feel the world with their minds and bod­ies,” says the 40-year-old artist.

Takashi Kudo, the commu- nica­tions di­rec­tor at teamLab, says tech­nol­ogy is not “su­per im­por­tant” to their out­put, although it is the core medium of their work.

He says what mat­ters a lot is the ex­pe­ri­ence of peo­ple in find­ing dif­fer­ent ways to com­mu­ni­cate with the world.

The dig­i­tal in­stal­la­tions of teamLab have evolved in terms of imag­i­na­tion and tech­ni­cal de­tails, as their pre­vi­ous ex­hi­bi­tions in the United States and Europe have shown.

The col­lec­tive is among in­ter­na­tional groups whose in­ter­dis­ci­pli­nary en­deav­ors have cre­ated im­mer­sive en­vi­ron­ment at ex­hi­bi­tions and re­shaped peo­ple’s view­ing ex­pe­ri­ences. And, some such works have been in­tro­duced to the Chi­nese au­di­ence in re­cent times.

“We be­lieve teamLab rep­re­sents an im­por­tant development in con­tem­po­rary art.

James Tur­rell: Im­mer­sive Light from Jan­uary to May, the China de­but of the prom­i­nent US artist whose light in­stal­la­tions left the au­di­ence won­der­ing about dif­fer­ent per­cep­tions.

But the rise in such im­mer­sive shows has also led to dis­cus­sions on whether they can be viewed as art.

Xian Zhuo­heng, a vis­i­tor in Bei­jing who fre­quents con­tem­po­rary art shows, says tech­nol­ogy and in­ter­dis­ci­pli­nary ef­forts have en­riched the def­i­ni­tion of “art­work”.

“Im­mer­sive work, like other forms of art, is a pre­sen­ta­tion based on in­di­vid­ual ex­pe­ri­ence of artists. It’s vivid, in­ter­ac­tive and brings art closer to peo­ple. And it doesn’t lack in depth of ex­pres­sion.”

Boris from Pace says the cur­rent ex­hi­bi­tion marks “the close of a cy­cle of growth for teamLab” and it gives peo­ple the clues to the future of their works.

Inoko says his team wants to cre­ate an even big­ger work — turn­ing a part of a city or nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment into an ex­hi­bi­tion space to dis­play their works.

10 am-6 pm, through Oct 10, Mon­days closed. Pace Bei­jing, 798 art dis­trict, 2 Ji­ux­i­an­qiao Road, Chaoyang dis­trict, Bei­jing. 010-59789781.

Con­tact the writer at linqi@chi­

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