At some point I lost myself in the interactive spaces and audiovisual worlds of teamLab, when I visited the newly opened museum of the digital Japanese artist collective teamLab for the first time at the end of August 2018. The somewhat cumbersome adventure space “MORI Building DIGITAL ART MUSEUM – teamLab Borderless” was launched in Tokyo’s Odaiba district in early summer and has developed into a visitor’s sensation, not least through various short videos that made the rounds on Facebook and Instagram.
Ken Kato is responsible for the communication of the DIGITAL ART MUSEUM. He leads me through dark corridors, branches appear dimly before us. And it quickly becomes clear that teamLabs Museum is a holistic experience that brings what the digital magicians have conjured up in recent years as events for the tokyotrope in the institutionalized framework of a museum.
Digital butterflies and caterpillars on their pants
Even the first installation shows that the term “museum” provides a rather inaccurate idea of what happens here. Eventspace would probably be the better term. Or home port for the work of the planet’s most exciting digital collective – to put it succinctly. Butterflies flutter over the walls, cross screens and land on my shirt. Digital butterflies, mind you, crawling down my pants legs as caterpillars.
“Borderless”, the motto of the exhibition, of the museum, the motto teamLabs is omnipresent – and the following rooms will bring it to life. Butterflies turn into flowers that spill over the floor and walls, engaging the onlookers in the art. If you stroke your hand over the flowers on the wall, you see the flowers twining and changing. “When I saw the Mona Lisa in Paris, it was enclosed in bullet-proof glass,” says Ken Kato. “TeamLab’s digital art can not wear off, and when the audience touches it and transforms it, it’s transformed, but not destroyed.” This is a whole new kind of accessible art possible.”
Great art for everyone
Klein started teamLab many years ago. And over the years has earned a reputation in Japan as a leading digital event company, as an art collective, as a digital agency. What exactly teamLab is, that’s hard to believe. Depending on who looks at her, sees something else. The disciplines merge. Art and commerce go hand in hand at teamLab. They are loved by the intellectuals – and by the big crowd. “Yes, this boundlessness is central to the identity of teamLab,” says Ken Kato as I approach him on this all-round side-opener of the group.
And since the identity of teamLab is the central design element of the museum, the whole thing naturally does not stop at a blurring of spaces, art and spectators. The deeper you dive into “MORI Building DIGITAL ART MUSEUM – teamLab Borderless”, the more limitless the experience becomes. A landscape of mountains and valleys lies before me. Waterfalls bring down pillars in space and gather in lakes. Children sit on the edge of the landscape and use crayons to paint crocodiles on large sheets of paper – scanning them and releasing them as animated beings into the digital landscape. Cheering and pointing. If the fantasy is released into real spaces, then that is actually completely “Borderless”.
The most beautiful impressions are here in the following videos:
Zero, one and then the big wonder
And so it goes on, deeper and deeper into the digital brain of teamLab. Hours can be spent here, probably days. It’s about corners, through dark corridors, into the light. Projections and interactions, real objects that can be used to manipulate the digital. Children run, old people stay open-mouthed. And everything merges. If there should be something like a digital utopia: this could be her. From ones and zeroes teamLab conjures great amazement and even greater emotion.
At the end it goes through dark corridors, out to light, the buildings of Odaiba in Tokyo. Ken Kato says goodbye. I’ll come back, that’s for sure. Because what teamLab offer in their museum is not of this world. Maybe next time even in Europe. For here, the limitless collective spreads over and over again.
If you would like to experience teamLabs art and do not want to travel to Japan immediately: the exhibition “Massless” is currently taking place in Helsinki, presenting excerpts from “Borderless” in Northern Europe.
Björn Eichstädt (43) is managing partner of the communication agency Storymaker. The agency focuses on supporting technology-driven companies in the areas of PR, digital communications and content development. In addition, Storymaker is active in East Asia with a focus on China and Japan.