A mind-bending alliance of over 500 artists, mathematicians, animators, programmers and architects, teamLab are a creative coalition like no other. Formed in 2001, the art collective of self-described ‘ultratechnologists’ are responsible for some of the most immersive and interactive artworks of the last decade.
From making a Japanese cherry blossom forest come alive with resonating illuminations to giant LED waterfall installations, their life-affirming works transform spaces with cutting-edge digital technology. As part of our Pioneer series of interviews with those that share the Emel and Aris ethos, here, teamLab reveal the cornerstones of their future-thinking philosophy.
How does teamLab’s creative process work?
“Our artworks are created by a team of hands-on experts through a continuous process of creation and thinking. Although the large concepts are always defined from the start, the project goal tends to remain unclear, so the whole team needs to create and think as they go along. teamLab’s organisational structure is extremely multidimensional in that sense.”
In what ways do you utilise technology to expand art?
“teamLab believes the digital domain can expand the capacities of art, and that digital art can create new relationships between people. Before people started accepting digital technology as a serious art medium, artistic expression had to be presented in some physical form. The advent of digital technology allows human expression to become free from these physical constraints, enabling it to exist independently and evolve freely.
In the interactive artworks that teamLab create, viewers movements or even a presence transforms the artwork. This allows the boundaries between the work and viewer to become ambiguous. Viewers become a part of the work. This changes the relationship between an artwork and an individual into a relationship between an artwork and a group of individuals.”
Do you find digital technology liberating as an art medium?
“Digital technology has liberated art from the constraints of material substance. The feelings and thoughts that were incorporated into an artwork through a physical medium, can now be directly transferred to visitors through their experience. As people walk freely around our artwork world, they lose themselves. The borderless artworks transform according to the presence of people.”
You’ve brought art out of galleries and into natural spaces like forests and gardens, how do you harmonise the natural world with digital technology?
“We see no boundary between ourselves and nature; one is in the other and the other in one. Everything exists in a long, fragile yet miraculous continuity of life. That is the universal concept of our art creation. Based on that concept, we executed a project called Digitized Nature, where nature itself becomes art.
Digital art uses things like software, sensing, network, light and sound. By using these non-material technologies, we can turn nature itself into art without destroying it, keeping nature alive. No longer does art need to be exhibited in nature; rather nature itself becomes art.”
You marry cutting edge technology with traditional Japanese art, how important is it to celebrate Japan’s cultural heritage?
“Our work, Gold Waves, is influenced by premodern Japanese paintings, where oceans, rivers, and other bodies of water were expressed as a series of lines. The lines gave the impression of life, as though water was a living entity. It leads us to question why premodern people sensed life in rivers and oceans.
Also, why did they behave as if they themselves were a part of nature? Perhaps something can be discovered by fusing today’s common knowledge with the subjective world of premodern people. By reaching back and examining the past, we think we can find hints for the future.”
What do you think the future has in store for digital art?
“Our utmost interest is to explore human beings and create artworks that change their values; something that means something to them. We think that new digital art will go on to change art, not just taking artworks into a new era, but changing the art space and museum itself, as well as the way people interact and experience art, and even the art market.
Our intention is to create a new experience, and to change the world through such experiences.”
Describe teamLab’s work in four words
“We are the future”
View teamLab’s Work This Year At:
Moving Creates Vortices and Vortices Create Movement
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia until Apr 15, 2018
Au-delà des limites
La Grande Halle De La Villette Paris, France, TBC
Digital Light Canvas
The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands, Singapore, permanent exhibition
All images © teamLab. Main image: La Grande Halle De La Villette Paris, France