teamLab, art collective from Tokyo. Photography © teamLab. Exhibition view of teamLab Borderless, 2018, Tokyo teamLab, courtesy Pace Gallery
1.Tell us what you do and your beginnings.
teamLab (f. 2001) is an international art collective, an interdisciplinary group of various specialists such as artists, programmers, engineers, CG animators, mathematicians and architects whose collaborative practice seeks to navigate the confluence of art, science, technology, and the natural world. teamLab was created to be a “laboratory to experiment in collaborative creation”, i.e. “teamLab”. teamLab’s interest is to create new experiences through art, and through such experiences, we want to explore what the world is for humans. teamLab has been creating art since the beginning. Our aim has always been to change people’s standards of value and contribute to societal progress – this has not changed since the very start.
In the beginning, teamLab had neither the opportunity to present ourselves, nor could we imagine how to economically sustain our art creation. On the other hand, we believed in the power of digital technology and creativity, and thus kept creating something new, no matter which genre it would turn out to be. While we took part in various projects to sustain ourselves, we increased the number of technologists such as architects, CG animators, painters, mathematicians and hardware engineers.
As time went on, while teamLab gained passionate followers among young people, we were still ignored by the art world. Our debut finally came in 2011 at the Kaikai Kiki Gallery in Taipei, as we were invited by the artist Takashi Murakami. Since then, teamLab has gained opportunities to join major contemporary art exhibitions in cosmopolitan cities such as Singapore Biennale 2013. In 2014, New York Pace Gallery started to help promote teamLab artworks. These fortunate factors allowed teamLab to expand rapidly. Finally in 2015, we were able to organize our own exhibition for the first time in Tokyo. These situations further accelerated our evolution and gave us opportunities to exhibit internationally in New York, London, Paris, Singapore, Silicon Valley, Beijing, Taipei and Melbourne among other cities.
2.What are your favorite museums in the world? Why?
First of all for us, the role of a museum is to introduce new contexts and concepts to others through art. Through this, we believe museums can change how people think, even just a little and bring change to the world.
That is why museums that take a chance on our work hold a special place for us. To be honest, we ourselves cannot even say whether or not our work is “art” – history will decide that. But we believe that museums that have chosen to exhibit our work believe in our philosophies, our concepts and “artwork”, and they want to help us change the world. Thus far, our works have been shown at Amos Rex, Helsinki; ArtScience Museum, Singapore; Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide; TANK Shanghai; Borusan Contemporary Art Collection, Istanbul; National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; and others (you can find more here).
We have also created our museums dedicated to teamLab works with our partners, including teamLab Borderless museums in Tokyo and Shanghai, as well as our teamLab: A Forest Where Gods Live museum in the real nature of Mifuneyama Rakuen in Kyushu. It is these museums that aim to change the world in similar ways to us, and so these are our favorite museums.
3.How important are social networks in your business? And which platform do you prefer and why.
First, we should explain that we do not create art as a business – we create what we believe in to explore new relationships between humans and the world. However, we could say that we organize museums as a business too. In that context, social networks are very important. For example, most of our visitors to teamLab Borderless in Tokyo first heard about our museum through friends on social media, and they came thanks to that.
We do not have a preference for any specific platform – we just want to create an immersive experience for people. The motto for teamLab Borderless is “Wander, Explore, Discover”. We want visitors to freely wander about the space and become one with the artworks. In doing that, visitors often use social networks to share their experiences. We see this as another way of creation and expression, and we love when people decide to express themselves. In that sense, social networks can be thought of as a very important tool. In other words, each visitor can individually express themselves and transmit information using social networks. As for what teamLab is doing ourselves, we believe that it is a natural human desire to share emotions or something that is moving and inspiring. However, the “experience” cannot be cut out.
Through smartphones or TVs, people can understand only with their heads. Knowledge may be gained, but the sense of values and perceptions cannot be changed or broadened. Only through the actual, physical experience of the world or artworks, people can start to recognize things differently. Even if people look at teamLab Borderless on Instagram, their values will not be broadened. teamLab wants to continue creating experiences that cannot be shared with just photos or videos.
4.What are your future projects?
We have several exciting upcoming projects around the world:
teamLab SuperNature is a single, massive world comprised of works that aim to explore new perceptions of the world and the continuity between humans and nature. It is a “body immersive” exhibition centered around a group of works that blur the boundaries between people’s bodies and art. In teamLab SuperNature, people immerse their bodies in art with others, influencing and becoming a part of the artworks themselves. People become one with the art, blurring their perception of the boundaries between the body and the artwork, and thereby recognizing the continuity between the self and the world. teamLab SuperNature also has new, unprecedented, and immersive “Future Park” and “Athletics Forest” areas. “Future Park” is an educational project based on the concept of collaborative creation, or co-creation. It is an amusement park where visitors can enjoy creating the world freely with others. “Athletics Forest” is a new “creative athletic space” that helps train spatial awareness. It is a space that develops the body as well as the brain based on the concept of “understanding the world through the body and thinking of the three-dimensionality of the world”. The exhibition soft opened in June of this year, and the date for the Grand Opening will be announced soon.
Shower³ by teamLab (read as “Cubic Shower by teamLab”) is a light sculpture space that immerses the body in a three-dimensional shower of light. Over the past few years, teamLab has been working on a series of light sculptures that focus on the reconfiguration of space and the construction of three-dimensional objects using light. Light Sculpture – Line series is a group of artworks made up of a collection of moving lines of light. Light Sculpture – Plane series consists of works made of laser planes. Shower³ by teamLab combines these two series to create a massive light sculpture space across an entire space, immersing people’s bodies and changing their perceptions of space. The new night club space is scheduled to open later this year.
This is the inaugural program for Superblue Miami, an experiential art center in Miami, Florida scheduled to open early spring of 2021. Together with Es Devil and James Turell, teamLab will make the commencement in the group exhibition Every Wall is a Door. teamLab’s portion of the exhibition, teamLab: Between Life and Non-Life, features new and recent projects in one, all-encompassing experience exploring the ambiguity between living and nonliving states of being, and the relationship between humanity and the natural world. Many works shift according to audience interactions within them and with surrounding works, resulting in one-time-only visual effects that can never be replicated. This approach casts visitors and their relationships to one another as integral to the ultimate form of the work – underscoring their collective presence as a positive means of creation and serving as a metaphor for the integrated systems of nature itself, where distinctive parts interact to become a unified whole. Finally you can find the latest updates on our upcoming and open exhibitions on our website.
5.To create greater engagement among museums, artists and professionals, do you have any advice for cultural projects such as #MuseumWeek?
Honestly, we have not been involved in these sorts of projects, so we can not speak to what other institutions, galleries, or artists should do. All we can do is keep creating what we believe in. teamLab aims to explore a new relationship between humans and the world through art created using digital technology. When we look at the world through an intellectual lens, problems are overflowing. And when you see the problems that we cannot solve, you just feel hopeless. In this era, we think what’s more important, at least as an artist, is to seek out and affirm an idealistic part of humanity, and present an idea of the future.
We’re not talking about a simple fiction of manga or video games, but instead, it’s an ideal fictitious world that may be realized somewhat. There are problems that cannot be solved at this very moment. But what we can do is to suggest that we may be able to create an ideal world once more by connecting the hints that can be found in the long history of humanity. We just find it more important to create the world than to criticize the world.
Interview by Fabio Pariante, journalist
teamLab (f. 2001) is an international art collective from Tokyo, an interdisciplinary group of various specialists and aims to explore the relationship between the self and the world and new perceptions through art. In order to understand the world around them, people separate it into independent entities with perceived boundaries between them. teamLab seeks to transcend these boundaries in our perception of the world, of the relationship between the self and the world, and of the continuity of time.
Everything exists in a long, fragile yet miraculous, borderless continuity of life. teamLab has exhibited in numerous exhibitions in places around the world, including, among others, in New York, London, Paris, Singapore, Silicon Valley, Beijing, Taipei and Melbourne. The teamLab Borderless permanent museums opened in Odaiba, Tokyo in June 2018 and teamLab Borderless Shanghai in the Huangpu district, Shanghai in November 2019. teamLab Planets’ huge immersive body space in Toyosu, Tokyo is visible until the end of 2022 teamLab’s permanent exhibition “teamLab SuperNature” soft opened in Macau in June 2020. Annual Work Show teamLab recently closed the teamLab: A Forest Where Gods Live – teamLab in Mifuneyama Rakuen, Takeo Hot Springs, Kyushu. Since 2014 teamLab is represented by Pace Gallery.