By The Num­bers


Azure - - CONTENTS - WORDS _Danny Si­nop­oli

The world’s first dig­i­tal art mu­seum

Ten thou­sand square me­tres of dis­play space, filled with more than 50 dig­i­tal ex­hibits, by means of 520 com­put­ers and 470 pro­jec­tors. It’s only ap­pro­pri­ate that the Mori Build­ing Dig­i­tal Art Mu­seum, which opened in Tokyo this past June, should be de­fined by a raft of im­pres­sive fig­ures. Af­ter all, what is dig­i­ti­za­tion but the trans­mis­sion of data through a se­quence of bi­nary num­bers?

In the case of the new mu­seum, how­ever, the fig­ure with per­haps the great­est sig­nif­i­cance is the most fun­da­men­tal: zero. Part of the Mori Build­ing Com­pany’s new Pal­ette Town devel­op­ment in the Ja­panese cap­i­tal’s Odaiba district, the world’s first-ever all-dig­i­tal art venue show­cases the work of team­lab, an ex­per­i­men­tal art col­lec­tive com­pris­ing de­sign­ers, an­i­ma­tors, en­gi­neers and pro­gram­mers. Un­like most other mu­se­ums, it has no per­ma­nent works in its col­lec­tion (those 50 or so ex­hibits are in con­stant flux, mov­ing and chang­ing ac­cord­ing to the way peo­ple en­gage with them), no phys­i­cal wayfind­ing (vis­i­tors make their way around with the help of the venue’s apps, which also fa­cil­i­tate in­ter­ac­tion with the in­stal­la­tions) and, per­haps most sur­pris­ingly of all, zero on-site eater­ies (the pseudo-ex­cep­tion be­ing the En Tea House, where dig­i­tal flow­ers sprout from steam­ing bowls).

What its un­ortho­dox ap­proach does af­ford vis­i­tors is a truly im­mer­sive ex­pe­ri­ence, de­scribed as “bor­der­less” by team­lab. “Art­works,” the col­lec­tive says, “move out of the rooms freely, form con­nec­tions and re­la­tion­ships with peo­ple, com­mu­ni­cate with other works, in­flu­ence and some­times in­ter­min­gle with each other.” For example, any­one who steps into the Led-stud­ded “in­fin­ity room” called Crys­tal World can – via an app down­load­able through a QR code found at the room’s en­trance – de­ter­mine its colour scheme. In a space called the For­est of Res­onat­ing Lamps, mean­while, a dif­fer­ent “tree” is il­lu­mi­nated when­ever a per­son walks in, while a flo­ral cascade in an­other room (pic­tured here) washes over on­look­ers depend­ing on what they touch and where they stand or sit.

“No two vis­its will be the same,” prom­ises team­lab, whose non-static pro­gram­ming ef­fec­tively re­flects the ephemer­al­ity of dig­i­tal me­dia. In this re­gard, the mu­seum is with­out par­al­lel in the world. The prospect that vis­i­tors won’t be wowed by what they see and ex­pe­ri­ence is also pretty much zero.

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