Art collective teamLab explores the heritage of Japan’s Kairakuen Garden

The Tokyo-based international collective brings elements of fantasy and magic to Kairakuen Garden, one of Japan's Three Great Gardens that was built in the 1800s in Mito, Ibaraki.

by Shraddha NairPublished on : Mar 27, 2022

The word ‘artist collective’ is the name of the game this year! The collective way of creating has slowly gained popularity and one can observe numerous new groups popping up on the creative map at a rate which almost permits it to be deemed a trend. However, teamLab has been working as an international collective of creators for over two decades now, having been founded in 2001. The group boasts a spectrum of diverse talents including (but not limited to) programmers, engineers, CG animators, mathematicians and architects. The assemblage embodies the nature of art collectives at a visceral level, with neither head nor tail, no attachment to region or religion, effectively creating a sovereign, autonomous artist through the amalgamation of many visionaries. teamLab conceptualises their immersive art at the intersection of technology, science and nature. Their artworks are a magical concoction of fantasy and cutting-edge technology, facilitating a deep and intimate engagement between the viewer and their natural environment. Their works are in the permanent collection of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide; Asian Art Museum, San Francisco; Asia Society Museum, New York; Borusan Contemporary Art Collection, Istanbul and others. While I have interacted with them about several works in the past, this time around we discussed Digitized Kairakuen Garden 2022.

Life is Continuous Light - Plum Trees, 2021, Installation | teamLab | STIRworld
Life is Continuous Light - Plum Trees, 2021, Installation Image: Courtesy of Pace Gallery

Kairakuen Garden is a landmark landscape garden, listed among one of the Three Great Gardens of Japan. Located in Mito, Ibaraki, this garden was built in the year 1842 by Tokugawa Nariaki specifically for Samurai. The garden spans 300 hectares and is home to 3,000 plum trees, a giant cedar forest, bamboo grove, pine trees, azaleas and even an 800-year-old giant tree. The park celebrates the Mito Plum Blossom Festival, a tradition over a 100-years-old, with the inauguration of teamLab's intervention which is on display till March 31, 2022. The digitisation of the garden by teamLab is an exploration of how non-material digital technology can turn nature into art without harming it or disturbing natural processes. This project uses light as its primary material, as well as sensors and sound, to create interaction between the viewer and the garden. We caught up with teamLab to learn more about their work at Kairakuen Garden, as talking to artists who endeavour to bring humans closer to nature is what I enjoy most!

Walk, Walk, Walk - Moso Bamboo Forest, 2021, Installation | teamLab | STIRworld
Walk, Walk, Walk - Moso Bamboo Forest, 2021, Installation Image: Courtesy of Pace Gallery

The project at Kairakuen Garden is aimed at exploring our human understanding of time, while also fostering a loving relationship between the viewer and their natural environment. The collective shares with us saying, “teamLab: Digitized Kairakuen Garden features 1500 plum trees and we believe that these artworks in which the plum trees shine, convey an infiniteness as though one is buried in a plum tree forest. The human brain is smart, so during the daytime, we subconsciously perceive the buildings surrounding Kairakuen Garden and sense a 'finiteness'. But during the nighttime, by making it so that only the plum trees can be seen, a world that makes you feel as though the plum blossoms continue on for eternity is created."

Resonating Pine and Azalea, 2021, Installation | teamLab | STIRworld
Resonating Pine and Azalea, 2021, Installation Image: Courtesy of Pace Gallery

The group continues, sharing how our perception of time entangled with space is warped by our relative understanding of our own time here on earth. They say, “Humans cannot recognise time longer than their own lifespans. In other words, there is a boundary in our understanding of the long continuity of time. When we encounter a length of time that is longer than the amount of time that we have lived, our understanding cannot keep up and suddenly that continuity is split and a boundary is created. But the history of Kairakuen Garden is continuous to our present day, and our existence lies at the end of that continuity. Through this exhibition, we hope to create an experience that transcends the boundary in the continuity of time… The shapes in the garden are the result of the accumulation of time that nature holds, and we believe that our textures will create an opportunity to transcend the boundary in our perception of time.”

Autonomous Resonating Life and Resonating Giant Cedar Forest, 2021, Installation | teamLab | STIRworld
Autonomous Resonating Life and Resonating Giant Cedar Forest, 2021, Installation Image: Courtesy of Pace Gallery

The work of teamLab at this historical location is an exploration of heritage, and how the use of non-material digital technologies can turn a natural environment into art without harming it.

04 min watch Exhibition view of teamLab: Digitized Kairakuen Garden 2022, Mito, Ibaraki | Digitized Kairakuen Garden 2022 | teamLab | STIRworld
Exhibition view of teamLab: Digitized Kairakuen Garden 2022, Mito, Ibaraki © teamLab Video: Courtesy of Pace Gallery

The group of creatives at teamLab are the embodiment of the phrase “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”, a famous quote by Aristotle. By including the contributions of various disciplines, teamLab brings together multiple dimensions which lead to insightfully and innovatively crafted art installations. The team is wholeheartedly devoted to creating surreal experiences within natural environments, inspiring hundreds of viewers to reconnect with the innermost needs of our human soul. Our natural environment is fascinating, intelligent and oftentimes unbelievably mystical, and teamLab works as the facilitators, wizards and magicians to connect us with its beauty.

The international artist collective has exhibitions coming up in Beijing, Hamburg and Kyushu in the upcoming year.

Concrete and Abstract - Between Yin and Yang , 2021, Installation  | teamLab | STIRworld
Concrete and Abstract - Between Yin and Yang, 2021, Installation Image: Courtesy of Pace Gallery

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