In Arts + Entertainment

Japan’s Wildly Popular Arts Collective teamLab Will Soon Be Jetting To Melbourne

A shimmering digital waterfall of light, cascades of psychedelic flower petals, and an immersive forest of giant, coloured-changing egg-shaped lamps that react to even the slightest touch; teamLab is one of the most diverse and compelling visual art collectives in the world.

With artists, programmers, architects, CG animators, mathematicians and engineers among its ranks, teamLab describe themselves as “an interdisciplinary group of ultra-technologists who seek to navigate the confluence of art, science, technology, design and the natural world”. It’s quite a weighty description, but the quality of their work speaks for itself.

Based in Tokyo, Japan, their bold artworks have featured in galleries across the globe from New York to Taipei, Sydney and London. If you’ve scrolled through Facebook or Instagram lately, there’s an above-average chance you’ve seen some of their dazzling creations.


Image: teamLab Exhibition view of MORI Building DIGITAL ART MUSEUM: teamLab Borderless, 2018, Odaiba, Tokyo

And now, it’s Melbourne’s turn to be amazed with an upcoming free exhibition.

From October 5 to November 2, teamLab will be bringing their distinct flavour of visual artistry to Tolarno Galleries as part of the Melbourne International Arts Festival.

Presented across 21 screens in a darkened space, the cinema-like exhibition will consist of three extraordinary artworks, each exploring themes such as movement and calligraphy.

There’s Waves of Light, a stunning continuous loop projection which echoes Japanese artist Hokusai’s famous block-work print the Great Wave off Kanagawa. Comprised of hundreds of thousands of digital particles of light, floating and interacting as if a body of water, it’s a truly mesmerising piece.

Reversible Rotation – Black in White explores what teamLab refer to as ‘Spacial Calligraphy’ – a contemporary look at Japanese calligraphy presented in a three-dimensional way. It features multiple on-screen elements, each slowly rotating one direction. Depending on your perception, they can appear to rotate both clockwise and counter-clockwise.

The third piece, Enso – Cold Light is an abstract take on the Zen practice of ‘Enso’, in which a circle is drawn with one or two uninhibited brushstrokes to express a moment when the mind is free to let the body create. It’s a powerful symbol of enlightenment and strength.

Jan Minchin, Director of Tolarno Galleries, is looking forward to giving locals a chance to fall in love with teamLab’s artworks, just as she first did at an art fair in Singapore six years ago.

“I will never forget the thrill of discovering such an absorbing and innovative work,” Minchin recalls. “Six years on, teamLab has exploded onto the world stage, creating extraordinary artworks and experiences that are completely new.


Image: Enso – Cold Light / teamLab, Enso – Cold Light, 2018, Digital Work, Single channel, Continuous Loop © teamLab

“Toshiyuki Inoko, Takashi Kudo and their fellow teamLab founders were born into the Digital Age. The wonder of what they create; it’s so alluring and absolutely Japanese.”

Jonathan Holloway, Artistic Director for the Melbourne International Arts Festival, is thrilled to have teamLab as part of the festival too, admitting their inclusion was a happy accident.

“There are some events which have taken years and countless phone calls and emails to come into being at exactly the right moment,” Holloway says. “And then, there are others where you just pick up the phone and instantly say yes. This was the latter.”

teamLab will join a stellar line-up of local and international talent at the Melbourne festival, which covers a range of genres and mediums from dance to theatre, music and visual arts.


Image: teamLab Exhibition view of MORI Building DIGITAL ART MUSEUM: teamLab Borderless, 2018, Odaiba, Tokyo

There’s Rite of Spring, an epic dance spectacular uniting Chinese choreographer Yang Liping and designer Tim Yip, who worked on the film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; Grey Rock, a Palestinian theatre piece about one man’s dreams of flying to the moon; and much more.

“Festivals are wonderful because they’re time-limited,” Holloway says. “They are one of those moments of the year that people who love the arts look forward to. You can throw yourself into them with a gleeful abandon and come out of them changed.”

If you can’t make it to the festival, the best place to experience teamLab’s work is still the Mori Building Digital Art Museum: teamLab Borderless exhibition in Odaiba, Tokyo.

Opened in July 2018, the expansive museum is home to 50 vibrant and inventive artworks generated by 520 computers and 470 projectors. Exploring the exhibits is stepping into a surrealist artwork; a dazzling, electrifying explosion of colour and movement.

Whether you’re a contemporary art fan or not, teamLab will leave you speechless.

(Lead image: teamLab Exhibition view of MORI Building DIGITAL ART MUSEUM: teamLab Borderless, 2018, Odaiba, Tokyo)

Published 14 August, 2019