teamLab is made of self-described "ultra-technologists", experts from several fields such as programming, engineering, mathematics, and architecture. It was established in 2001 by Toshiyuki Inoko, who had the ambition to explore the links between humans and nature, and art and technology.
Last week, Inoko and a handful of their team members flew over to uncover the still unfinished museum and show the local press a total of six installations spread across two different rooms. Some of them were already seen this year at their monumental exhibition at TANK, but some are new to the city. The result is a stunning combination of works that move around freely, influencing each other and reacting to people's presence.
Inside the local version of the world-famous Forest of Resonating Lamps (1.5 times bigger than Tokyo's), I had a chat with Inoko about the museum, the collective, and their story:
(Scroll down for pictures! Scroll down for pictures! Scroll down for pictures!)
SmSh: Can you tell us about some of the new attractions that we’ll see in teamLab Borderless Shanghai?
Inoko: The fun thing about opening such a huge museum is that it allows us to experiment with new technologies and concepts, so amazing things are coming!
One of them is an installation called Light Community, composed of hundreds of light vehicles moving around continuously and autonomously in many tangled trails. These vehicles were made to relate to each other, so when one stops or slows down, the one behind it will adjust accordingly. The lights also react to your presence and pass on the effect. We have been experimenting with this piece in Japan, but its debut will be in Shanghai.
Another new attraction is made of thousands of moving lights. It’s the first time in history in which that many are brought together. We even had to develop a special light beam, otherwise, it would be too hot in the room. The process took over a year. This one is a hard one to explain, but the beams will create real light sculptures right in front of you.
SmSh: You have created installations in many unusual places all around the world. Which one was the most significant to you?
Inoko: A Forest Where Gods Live is the most significant. It's set in an actual forest in Japan where we transformed nature into art without harming it. It’s significant because people can experience a place that’s very ancient, where nature was formed more than 10 thousand years ago and where old tribes lived. This piece is meaningful because it’s about the continuity of life and our relationship with nature.
Once, I went to the South of China to see some terraced rice fields that were cultivated by a tribe with an old history. I was impressed by how the fields expanded through the horizon in a way that it wouldn't fit the human eyesight. It was a very significant experience for me, something that I could never buy. In the same way, we expect art to be something that you experience rather than own. I don't own any artworks myself. I don't think my sense of value or my level of happiness will increase by possessing artworks. But with experiences, they will.
SmSh: You call yourselves ultra-technologists. Can you explain this term and why the affix “ultra”?
Inoko: We are a group of technologists that work with a hands-on approach to create art. But when I first founded teamLab, no one understood or believed in what we wanted to do. So I thought it would be funny to put something stupid in front of the name technologists. Those days only two things had the word "ultra" in Japan: a detergent brand and Ultraman, our version of Superman.
SmSh: What comes first, art or technology?
Inoko: Art comes first. Technology is simply a tool to achieve ideas. But because of it, ideas also evolve. Inside teamLab, I am the one that usually has the creative idea, then everyone else contributes to it with their expertise, so the idea changes back and forth. We don't even have a clear definition of who’s an artist and who’s not, it doesn't matter, the work is all collaborative. We all use our expertise to create something and the final result is art. Although, it's very important to understand the significance of technology: the digital element liberates us from the material. This is what this place is about too.
SmSh: What do you want people to feel inside teamLab Borderless?
Inoko: We want to create a space that’s like the universe itself, where all the elements relate to each other and everything is continuous. Soon, hundreds of overlapping works will be moving through these rooms at their own will, as if they were alive. Modern life creates too many borders. But, in reality, there are none. We want you to forget about these separations. We want you to forget about any kind of separation, in here you are part of the work.
teamLab Borderless Shanghai is scheduled to open on November 5, 2019. Other interesting works include The Columns, in which a set of columns guide the flow of water, and En Teahouse, in which tea flowers bloom inside your teacup.
Regular tickets from the museum will be 229rmb on weekdays and 249rmb for weekends and holidays.
Now, the installations! Eye candy!
Born From the Darkness, a Loving and Beautiful World
Crows are Chased and the Chasing Crows are Destined to be Chased as Well, Flying Beyond Borders
Espace EN TEA
Flower Forest Lost, Immersed and Reborn
Forest of Resonating Lamps
Moving Creates Vortices and Vortices Create Movement
The Way of the Sea, Flying Beyond Borders
Universe of Water Particles on a Rock Where People Gather
teamLab Borderless Shanghai, Bldg. C-2, 100 Huayuan Gang Lu, near Bansongyuan Lu. Opens November 5, 2019.