A luminous waterfall continuously flows on walls, quietly and relentlessly invading the floor, arresting in front of the feet of a silent human presence and then starting to flow again around it. This is not a bizarre surreal dream, but one of the installations by Tokyo's teamLab, currently on at the London-based Pace Gallery (6 Burlington Gardens, London W1S 3ET).
Entitled "Transcending Boundaries" (until 11th March), the event includes a series of immersive experiences divided in three spaces and created with innovative technologies that allow visitors to break the boundaries between different levels of perceptions and ponder about the "physical Vs conceptual" dichotomy.
The largest room in the exhibition includes six works and features a virtual waterfall that freely flows through the exhibition space, hundreds of butterflies that fly seamlessly from one artworks to the next, flowers and cherry blossoms that bloom and scatter, and a study of an Enso circle suspended in three-dimensional space.
The artwork is created in real time by a computer program and the images are not prerecorded, the work therefore continuously changes, interacting with the visitors (note: no event can be replayed again): while the butterfly flight pattern is influenced by the state of the other works surrounding them, if a viewer touches a butterfly or a flower, they die.
This first room is an example of the "Ultra Subjective Space" concept, an idea central to teamLab's practice, that consists in the depiction and perception of space in pre-modern Japanese art, a depiction that situates the viewer directly within the realm of the artwork.
In the second room the installation "Dark Waves" (2016) invites visitors to reconnect with nature through a simulation of waves- The water is expressed as a continuous body after calculating the interactions of hundreds of thousands of particles. To visualize the waves, the behaviour of the particles on the water was extracted and lines were drawn in relation to the movement of the particles.
In the third and last space entitled "Flowers Bloom on People" (2017), the body of the visitor triggers a reaction in an installation. Flowers start indeed blooming from the visitor's limbs, and the installation responds to the viewers' movements. The floral tapestry becomes also a way to communicate with other visitors since, when other viewers arrive in the room, the flowers reach out to touch them.
While these digital tapestries may be a bit too hyper-real for the average art lover happy of quietly staring at a painting or a sculpture for a period of time, these installations may actually become an innovative way to enjoy art and maybe break the boundaries between the real world and the art world. The works create indeed a post-real reality in which a visual experience is translated into a sensorial one.
Founded in Tokyo by Toshiyuki Inoko, the interdisciplinary teamLab group includes programmers (user interface/database/network/hardware/computer vision engineers and software architects), mathematicians, architects, CG animators, web designers, graphic designers and artists.
Their work has been so far exhibited in established galleries and museums all over the world and, in the next few months, the group will unveil new installations in Dubai, Fukushima, Yokohama and Houston. Expect to see one teamLab's immersive tapestries soon on a runway near you in a spatial or clothing collaboration with a contemporary fashion house or brand (as predicted in a previous post on this site last year...).