teamLab’s digital art from the future

This post features a review of the teamLab Borderless exhibition at the MORI Building’s DIGITAL ART MUSEUM, Tokyo.

You might not have heard of teamLab but you will probably recognise their work from your hipster friend’s Instagram account. The Tokyo-based digital art collective has been making immersive art installations since 2001. During this time they have exhibited their work around the globe including at London’s Pace Gallery, the National Museum of Singapore and at Australia’s National Gallery of Victoria’s 2018 Triennial.

Inspired to use digital technologies to expand the connection between art and people, teamLab’s work sits at the intersection of science, art and technology. 

teamLab Borderless at the MORI Building DIGITAL ART MUSEUM in Tokyo.
Image credit: teamLab, Exhibition view, MORI Building DIGITAL ART MUSEUM: teamLab Borderless, 2018, Odaiba, Tokyo © teamLab

In March of this year, I visited the MORI Building’s DIGITAL ART MUSEUM in Tokyo where teamlab’s ‘Borderless’ exhibition is on permanent display. The exhibition consists of 60 digital artworks spread across 10,000m² of gallery space.

A multi-sensory art experience

As I walked through the spaces, it felt like entering and exiting a labyrinth of different imaginary worlds – the whole exhibition is a sensory experience, to say the least!

Each room in the exhibition had a unique and continuously changing atmosphere. For example, in the ‘Floating Nest’ room, visitors sit on a suspended net while visual projections of colourful butterflies crows and sigh flying through space surrounding them. The projections change perspective and speed in synchronicity with an accompanying music soundtrack, creating a sense of flow and movement both visually and conceptually.

teamLab's Borderless digital art exhibition at the MORI Building DIGITAL ART MUSEUM in Tokyo.
Image credit: teamLab, Exhibition view, MORI Building DIGITAL ART MUSEUM: teamLab Borderless, 2018, Odaiba, Tokyo © teamLab

Visitor’s opportunity to engage with the digital technology varied significantly from room to room. For example, in the ‘Wander through the Crystal World’ installation (below), the music and lighting were pre-programmed. While visitors could walk through and observe the environment, there were only limited opportunities to alter the room’s elements. 

teamLab's Borderless digital art exhibition at the MORI Building DIGITAL ART MUSEUM in Tokyo.
Image credit: teamLab, Exhibition view, MORI Building DIGITAL ART MUSEUM: teamLab Borderless, 2018, Odaiba, Tokyo © teamLab

In contrast, the children’s ‘Sketch Aquarium’ (below) was highly interactive and had many interactive components. For example, children and their families could draw sea creatures with crayons on A3 sheets of paper and scan them. Their animal then became part of the under-water digital projection on the surrounding walls. 

Video: The ‘Sketch Aquarium’ at teamLab Borderless. Credit: teamLab, Exhibition view, MORI Building DIGITAL ART MUSEUM: teamLab Borderless, 2018, Odaiba, Tokyo © teamLab

As a side note, a tip I would give to anyone planning to take lots of Instagram selfies (no judgement!) I would recommend wearing a light-coloured outfit. This is so the vivid projections can show up on your clothes. 

teamLab Borderless: Digital art museum meets theme park 

The number of visitors at teamLab Borderless on the random weekday that I visited was well into the thousands. Each activity was designed to encourage the visitors to flow through the spaces and as a result there were few opportunities for people to manipulate the installation’s physical and conceptual parts in a hands-on way.

From an education perspective, it would have been great to see more components in the installations that visitors could play with to allow for prolonged thinking and creative learning. In contrast, the children’s installations did have many hands-on making activities but this was much less evident in the adult areas. 

teamLab Borderless at the MORI Building DIGITAL ART MUSEUM in Tokyo.
Image credit: teamLab, Exhibition view, MORI Building DIGITAL ART MUSEUM: teamLab Borderless, 2018, Odaiba, Tokyo © teamLab

Overall, teamLab Borderless was an aesthetically beautiful experience. 

The exhibition is well worth a visit if you are visiting Tokyo with children under the age of 15.

Just book your tickets in advance!

teamLab's Borderless exhibition at the MORI Building DIGITAL ART MUSEUM in Tokyo.
Image credit: teamLab, Exhibition view, MORI Building DIGITAL ART MUSEUM: teamLab Borderless, 2018, Odaiba, Tokyo © teamLab

Further Links

  • teamLab’s upcoming international touring schedule can be found here – there are upcoming shows in China, Japan and California in 2019.
  • The teamLab website features an extensive archive of the collective’s past and present projects.

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