teamLab: Where Immersive Installations Become Nature’s Canvas

In a world where the digital and the organic are often seen in opposition, there exists a collective that not only challenges this dichotomy but harmoniously blends it into an immersive tapestry of light, nature, and code: teamLab.

teamLab is an international art collective that combines advanced digital technology with elements of the natural world to create expansive, immersive installations, each inviting spectators to step into dynamic environments where surfaces becomes alive with blooming digital flora, and movement creates ripples that extend beyond the physical space into the realm of the virtual.

In this article we will examine the key elements that make teamLab stand out, as well as give insight into teamLab’s vision through Takashi Kudo’s lens, Communications Director of teamLab.

Takashi Kudo

Dissolving Boundaries: teamLab’s Interdisciplinary Mission

The essence of teamLab’s work lies in its unique amalgamation of diverse expertise. Artists, programmers, engineers, CG animators, mathematicians, and architects come together in an interdisciplinary collaboration to create art that defies categorization.

From the interactive real orchids of Floating Flower Gardento the responsive environments of Borderless World, this confluence of talents is central to teamLab’s mission: to merge various disciplines, thus fostering a deeper connection among people and with the world around us.

In their installations, nature is not just a backdrop but a central character. “teamLab Planets TOKYO, for example, centers water as its vital essence. This integration of technology and nature captivates the senses, fostering environmental consciousness and prompting reflection on our relationship with the natural world.

Within teamLab’s immersive environments, the boundaries that once defined our understanding of the world melt away instantly. A wall transforms into a canvas for a living forest; a room becomes a boundless ocean. 

This is art that does not just occupy space-it redefines it, inviting us to step into a realm where the divisions between the self and the world are as fluid as the digital waters that sway at our feet.

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Floating Flower Garden: Flowers and I are of the Same Root, the Garden and I are One - © teamLab

teamLab: Synthesizing Time, Nature, and Technology in Art

teamLab’s ethos celebrates the seamless fusion of temporal cycles, natural elements, and digital innovation. Their installations emerge as dialogues, not mere intersections, where the organic rhythm of nature harmoniously interfaces with the precision of technology, and historical motifs are reimagined within futuristic contexts. 

This convergence redefines the digital art landscape, challenging us to consider how technology can expand our engagement with the natural world. teamLab’s art catalyzes a conversation across eras, demonstrating how digital mediums can enhance our sensory appreciation of nature and resonate with artistic heritages. 

Accordingly, the installations reshape perceptions of time, portraying it as a vibrant, interconnected expanse rather than a linear journey. A perspective that invites viewers to see art as a continuum that evolves ceaselessly, integrating ancestral legacies with emergent digital potentialities. 

Through teamLab’s lens, we envision a symbiotic relationship between technological growth and the timeless allure of the natural world. Their work leads us to a future where digital art exists in synergy with our environment, serving as a conduit to both our cultural heritage and the horizons of artistic innovation.

teamLab, Bubble Universe: Physical Light, Bubbles of Light, Wobbling Light, and Environmental Light © teamLab

The Viewer’s Experience: Immersion and Transformation in teamLab’s Installations

From the moment a visitor encounters one of teamLab’s installations, they are engaged in a unique and varied artistic dialogue, where their presence and movement can shape the experience in diverse ways.

As a result, the interactive nature of teamLab’s works forges a conversation between the individual and the collective. As visitors traverse these responsive spaces, they find themselves at the heart of the artwork, with their actions contributing to an ever-evolving visual composition. This dynamic interaction prompts a reevaluation of our role within the artwork and our influence on it, highlighting the fluidity between the self, society, and the digital realm.

Throughout these installations, time is not a straight line but a tapestry woven from countless moments and future possibilities, together stretching into the future. 

This immersive exploration exemplifies teamLab’s revolutionary approach: digital art as a medium for connection and discovery, fusing the organic with the digital, the individual with the collective.

Forest of Autonomous Resonating Life - Fukuyama Castle - © teamLab

Upcoming Attraction: teamLab Borderless in Azabudai Hills

In a natural progression of teamLab’s fusion of art and technology, the “teamLab Borderless: MORI Building DIGITAL ART MUSEUM” is set to open at Azabudai Hills, Tokyo, on February 9, 2024. 

Shifting from its previous location in Odaiba, the Azabudai Hills exhibition promises an expanded and ever-evolving artistic landscape. This initiative, in collaboration with Mori Building, aligns with Tokyo’s growing focus on integrating culture and wellness into urban spaces. 

At Azabudai Hills, where the ethos is “Green & Wellness,” the exhibition aims to enrich visitors’ perspectives, blending the self with the surrounding world through art. 

For more details and ticket information, visit the official teamLab Borderless website: www.borderless.teamlab.art.

Tickets will be available from January 16, 2024.

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Borderless - © teamLab

Insights from Takashi Kudo: In Conversation with teamLab’s Visionary

Now, we shift from the immersive worlds teamLab constructs to the minds that envision them. Below, Takashi Kudo, teamLab’s Communications Director, shares his insights on the collective’s creative heartbeat and the innovation behind their breathtaking installations.

 

Fakewhale: teamLab’s work is a symphony composed by a diverse group of experts from various fields. How does this interdisciplinary collaboration shape the creative process?

 

Takashi Kudo: Ever since the founding of teamLab, we’ve created through the process of collaborative creation as a collective. teamLab is a laboratory by a team, a place where the team experiments, a place for experimental creations. 

teamLab’s creativity is based on multidimensionality, where members with different specialties create together by crossing their boundaries, as well as their transferable knowledge, a type of knowledge that can be shared and reused. As a result, teamLab generates what we call ‘collective creation’, the creation of something of higher quality by a group, thus strengthening an entire team. An individual person may not be directly involved in the project but his or her shareable knowledge might be. This continuous process of creating and discovering the transferable knowledge at a high speed yields the power of the group. It is organizations like this, able to uncover vast troves of knowledge, that differentiate themselves. 

Knowledge can be uncovered in all parts of the creative process. If small, detailed, yet versatile knowledge is shared by a team, this will develop into a strength, leading to new projects or the improvement of present artworks. This results in an overall improvement in the quality of our creations. 

 

Fakewhale: Your installations allow visitors to experience a fusion of past, present, and future. How do you conceptualize time within your works, and what do you believe this temporal blend communicates to the audience about the nature of existence? 

 

Takashi Kudo: Our works are not fixed and are constantly changing, a person’s experience is a part of a long flow of time. It is not something that is experienced as a fixed moment or time in the work. 

We exist as a part of an eternal continuity of life and death, a process which has been continuing for an overwhelmingly long time. It is hard for us, however, to sense this in our everyday lives, perhaps because humans cannot easily conceptualize time for periods longer than their own lives. In other words, we can understand that the world of today is a continuation of the same world from yesterday, but we feel that the worlds from more distant ages are different and non-continuous. There is a boundary in our understanding of the continuity of long periods of time. 

Everything exists in a long, fragile yet miraculous continuity over an extremely long period of time. teamLab aims to transcend boundaries of perception, demonstrate the continuity of time, and explore the relationship between the self and the world. Because we think people understand and recognize the world through their bodies, moving freely, forming connections and relationships with others. As a consequence, the body has its own sense of time. In the mind, the boundaries between different thoughts are ambiguous, causing them to influence and sometimes intermingle with each other.

 

Fakewhale: teamLab beautifully integrates natural elements with digital mediums. How does this integration comment on the relationship between human-made technology and the organic world? In particular, how can digital art, particularly through teamLab’s installations, enhance our understanding and appreciation of the natural world? 

 

Takashi Kudo: We believe that the relationship between humans and nature is something that each of us must realize and discover over a long period of time in nature. However, in our modern and urban lives, it is difficult to experience being surrounded by and at one with nature. We have no desire to copy nature through digital technology, but we believe that digital technology and its use in creating artistic expression will enable us to perceive more widely the relationship between humans and nature, which we have lost touch with in our daily lives. Rather than reproducing nature itself, we want to create works that allow people to feel the continuity of nature and the world with their bodies. We believe that technology is not in conflict with nature, but has the potential to complement it. 

One of our projects is called Digitized Nature, which explores how nature can become art. The concept of the project is that non-material digital technology can turn nature into art without harming it. 

There is a permanent exhibition based on this project in Mifuneyama Rakuen that takes place every summer-fall called teamLab: A Forest Where Gods Live. The forest, rocks, and caves of Mifuneyama Rakuen have formed over a long time, and people in every age have sought meaning in them over the millennia. The park that we know today sits on top of this history. It is the ongoing relationship between nature and humans that has made the border between the forest and garden ambiguous, keeping this cultural heritage beautiful and pleasing. 

We exist as a part of an eternal continuity of life and death, a process which has been continuing for an overwhelmingly long time. It is hard for us, however, to sense this in our everyday lives, perhaps because humans cannot easily conceptualize time for periods longer than their own lives. In other words, we can understand that the world of today is a continuation of the same world from yesterday, but we feel that the worlds from more distant ages, like the Edo Period, are different and non-continuous. There is a boundary in our understanding of the continuity of long periods of time. 

When exploring the forest and seeing the forms and textures of megaliths and caves that formed over eons, we recognize that this long period of time continued until today. The existence of these forms can transcend the boundaries of our understanding of the eternal continuity of life. 

The artworks explore how the existence of these forms can be used as they are to create a place where we can transcend the boundary in our understanding of the continuity of time and feel the long, long continuity of life. Using these existences that embody long periods of time as they are, we can experiment with expressing this eternal continuous life even today and continue to accumulate meaning in this place. 

Humans have created many different artifacts by borrowing the power of nature. Not just art such as sculptures, but also huts and roads. Every artifact is made from nature. But we thought humans could create something by using nature as it is, without physical intervention. Digital art uses things like software, sensing, network, light and sound. These are non-material and have no physical impact. By using these non-material digital, we can turn nature itself into art without destroying it, keeping nature alive.

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Mangrove Island at Manar - Abu Dhabi - © teamLab

Fakewhale: teamLab’s installations often dissolve the boundary between the self and the collective experience. How do you design your spaces to cater to both individual exploration and a shared journey, and what role does the interactivity element play in this?

 

Takashi Kudo: Traditional media, such as paintings, do not change in relation to the presence of viewers or their behavior. The artwork remains as a fixed relationship vis-a-vis an individual viewer. For the majority of art up until now, the presence of other viewers tends to constitute a hindrance. If you happen to find yourself alone at an exhibition, you would consider yourself to be very lucky.

When an artwork changes based on the presence or behavior of a viewer, the boundaries between artwork and the viewer become blurred. In this case, the viewer becomes part of the artwork itself. Similarly, when the artwork changes due to the presence of other viewers, those people also become part of the artwork. This causes the relationship between an artwork and an individual to expand into the relationship between an artwork and a group of individuals. Whether a viewer was present five minutes ago, or how the person next to you is behaving now, suddenly becomes important.

Digital art has the ability to change the relationships among people who are present within the same space. Regardless of the intentions of the others to interfere or act upon the artwork, if the interaction of other people with an artwork creates change that we feel is beautiful, then the presence of others can in itself become a positive element.

This applies not only to art. Even in modern cities, the presence of others might be considered uncomfortable. We often cannot understand or control others, so their existence around us is something that is simply tolerated. This is because the city does not change based on your existence or that of others. If cities were to become more like digital artworks, however, the presence of other people could become a positive element. In this way, the search for new relationships among people through digital art may go beyond art, potentially influencing society’s views on how cities should evolve.

 

Fakewhale: In bridging the gap between historical artistic heritage and digital innovation, how does teamLab ensure that cultural traditions are not just preserved but also reimagined in a way that resonates with contemporary and future audiences?

 

Takashi Kudo: We are interested in cultural concepts that might have been lost in the past due to the incompatibility with modern times. We also believe that this current society built on digital and networks will become a different society from the modern era. In other words, we see certain hints for the new society in the cultural knowledge and social understanding of the pre-modern era. These little hints may be hidden within the many patterns of times that existed prior to the modern era.

Anyway we have not created artworks to ensure it. 

We would prefer not to discuss the digital technology behind our work, as our focus is on the art itself, while technology is merely a tool, like paint, that we use to create our art.

 

Fakewhale: Are there emerging technologies or recent digital advancements that teamLab is excited to explore or integrate into future projects? How do these technologies potentially expand the possibilities of digital art? 

 

Takashi Kudo: As mentioned, we could say that digital technology is the core of our work, but it is not the most important part. It is still just a material or a tool for creating art. 

teamLab believes digital technology can expand art and that art made in this way can create new relationships between people.

Digital technology enables complex detail and freedom for change. Before people started accepting digital technology, information and artistic expression had to be presented in some physical form. Creative expression has existed through static media for most of human history, often using physical objects such as canvas and paint. The advent of digital technology allows human expression to become free from these physical constraints, enabling it to exist independently and evolve freely. 

Furthermore, digital technology has made the expression of change itself more free and precise. It has become possible to express change based on the behavior of people and the artwork’s surroundings. This enables the artworks to become interactive with the viewers, and viewers are able to participate in the artwork.

 

Fakewhale: Could you highlight any current or upcoming exhibitions that you’re particularly excited about? Which installations or artists’ works are set to push the boundaries of what teamLab has achieved so far?

 

Takashi Kudo: We have several museums and exhibitions that are opening around the world. All of our upcoming projects are always available on our website.

 

Fakewhale: Can you share a recent innovation or creative breakthrough within teamLab that has particularly inspired the collective, and how might this influence the direction of your future projects?

 

Takashi Kudo: It is very hard to say because each member has been inspired by many things. But to answer as a collective, we think that we are inspired and influenced by our projects themselves.

For example, one of our latest projects is called teamLab Phenomena Abu Dhabi that we have worked on over these couple years.

The artworks do not exist independently, but are created by the environment which produces the various phenomena.

Objects like stones and man-made creations maintain a stable structure on their own. Unlike these, the existence of the artworks are dependent on their environment.

The environment produces phenomena and stabilizes their structure – these stabilized phenomena are what create the existence of the artworks.

Environmental phenomena are released from the material substances that have been responsible for maintaining structures of existence. Elements like air, water, and light that permeate our daily lives are transformed by their environment into unique phenomena that become works of art. The boundaries of their existence are ambiguous and continuous. Even if people destroy the work, the work will remain in existence as long as its environment is maintained. On the contrary, the work will disappear if the environment is not maintained.

In time, people’s consciousness will expand from existence itself to the environment. 

A stone can continue to exist in a closed box, sealed off from the outside world, but life cannot sustain its existence in such a box because it is created by its environment. 

Life is a miraculous phenomenon that emerges from a flow in a continuous world.

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Graffiti Nature - Beating Cave, Red List - © teamLab

A New Perception: The Self, The World, and The Art

Following this conversation with Takashi Kudo, we’re left to ponder the expansive possibilities that teamLab’s creativity unlocks for the future of digital art. 

teamLab’s installations are a journey into perception itself, questioning how we perceive boundariesーthe edges of self, the start of another, the line between nature and technology. 

In a world where we often categorize and separate to understand, teamLab encourages a different approach: one of continuity and connection. Through their art, we are reminded that everything exists in a delicate yet extraordinary, borderless continuum.

In the reflective waters of teamLab’s digital landscapes, we see not just our own image but a vision of a world without the barriers we’ve built-physical, social, and temporal. It’s a world where the past informs the present, the present shapes the future, and art is the eternal link that joins them together.

Founded in 2021, Fakewhale advocates the digital art market's evolution. Viewing NFT technology as a container for art, and leveraging the expansive scope of digital culture, Fakewhale strives to shape a new ecosystem in which art and technology become the starting point, rather than the final destination.

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