by Sukanya GargJul 04, 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a global lockdown that is adversely affecting economic growth, but simulateneously offering a much-needed respite for Mother Nature. As the skies turn bluer, trees greener, birds chirpier and animals bolder with adventures on city roads, the question on each of our minds is - what have we done to our planet, and in the process, to ourselves?
In light of this spirit of introspection, STIR speaks to world-renowned Tokyo-based interdisciplinary art collective, teamLab, about their upcoming project teamLab SuperNature, which talks about the continuity and bio-synchronicity between nature and humans. The international studio doesn’t just aim to achieve a balance between art, science, technology and creativity in the execution of their works, but the underlying message echoes of the indispensable connectivity between humans and ecology.
Speaking to the collective about the journey that has led up to this project, founder of teamLab, Toshiyuki Inoko says, “I like science and art. I wanted to know the world, wanted to know humans, and wanted to know what the world is for humans. In college, I wanted to know more about the world, and I majored in physics and mathematics.” According to him, “science raises the resolution of the world. When humans want to know the world, they recognise it by separating things".
Delving further, he continues, “For example, the universe and the earth are continuous; however, humans recognise the earth by separating it from the universe. To understand the forest, humans break it down into trees, separating the tree from the whole. Humans then cut the tree into cells to recognise the tree, cut the cells into molecules to recognise the cells, and cut the molecules into atoms to understand the molecules, and so on. That is science, and that is how science increases the resolution of the world. But in the end, no matter how much humans divide things into pieces, they cannot understand the entirety. Even though what people really want to know is the world, the more they separate, the farther they become from the overall perception.”
Citing the above as the inspiration for founding teamLab, Inoko says, “Even though I am nothing but part of the world, I feel as if there is a boundary between the world and myself, as if I am living independently. I have always been interested in finding out why I felt that way even before I started teamLab. The continuity of life and death has been repeated for more than four billion years. However, for humans, even 100 years ago is a fictional world. I was interested in why humans have this perception.”
Art for the collective, then, is a means to transcend the boundaries of human perception of the world, the relationship between the self and the world, and the continuity of time. Inoko believes that “individuals’ behaviours are determined not by rationality but by aesthetics; and expanding people’s aesthetics changes their behaviours. Art is a process to approach the whole and express it without division. For Inoko, “everything exists in a long, fragile yet miraculous continuity over an extremely long period of time. teamLab SuperNature aims to create an experience through which visitors recognise this continuity itself as beautiful, hence changing or increasing the way humans perceive the world.”
The upcoming project, which will be displayed in a massive multi-layered immersive space of 5,000 square meters at The Venetian Macao, will transform the space into a “three-dimensional world with varying elevations”, exploring “new perceptions of the world and the continuity between humans and nature". The “body immersive” art space will allow people to “become one with the art” blurring the boundaries between the body and the work as well as the self and the world.
teamLab SuperNature will also have “new, unprecedented, and immersive Future Park and Athletics Forest areas. Future Park is an educational project based on the concept of collaborative creation, or co-creation. It is an amusement park where visitors can enjoy creating the world freely with others. Athletics Forest is a new ‘creative athletic space’ that helps train spatial awareness. It is a space that develops the body as well as the brain based on the concept of ‘understanding the world through the body and thinking of the three-dimensionality of the world’,” describes Inoko.
Viewers can further look forward to two new artworks, which will debut as part of this project, the first being Massless Clouds Between Sculpture and Life. In the installation, “a giant cloud floats between the floor and the ceiling within the confines of the space, as though transcending the concept of mass. People can immerse their bodies in this cloud, blurring the boundaries between the artwork and the body. Even when people push through the floating cloud and break it, it naturally repairs itself like a living thing. But, as with living things, when the cloud is destroyed beyond what it can repair, it cannot mend itself, and it collapses.” An installation such as this is in perfect resonance with the times we are living in, where while the lockdown might offer a state of repair, perhaps we have gone too far and cannot fully mend our planet.
The second work, which shall debut as part of teamLab SuperNature,is a yet untitled installation that creates a three-dimensional object or light sculpture by a plane made of a collection of laser rays of light. With both these works as others, the digital aspect of these art installations allows human bodies to “become more immersed in the artwork than ever before. The medium can be transformative and the intentional movement and behaviour of people can cause visual changes in the artwork".
Spatial relativity is also intrinsic to most of teamLab’s installations. According to them, “teamLab explores a sense of spatial awareness interpreted in premodern art.” As they explain, “The behaviour of our forebearers toward nature was not merely one of observation. Their belief that they were a part of nature was not the result of a way of thinking. Rather, they fully entered the world which they were observing, and easily understood how they were a part of it. If you have seen the world through the more recent western Renaissance perspective, however, it seems that a clear boundary divides you from the world you are observing. It is not possible to exist in that world. In other words, the world is one to be observed.” Consequently, teamLab’s work is an effort to help people explore the “borderless, continuous relationship between us and the world” and emphasise the continuity and connection between all living things.
Even as their works highlight the increasing entropy of the world, teamLab believes that art can be a tool for harnessing change. “In this era, we think what’s more important, at least as an artist, is to seek out and affirm an idealistic part of humanity, and present an idea of the future”, says teamLab. They do not prefer to dwell on the losses or the problem, but prefer to create a vision of an “ideal world by connecting the hints that can be found in the long history of humanity”, thereby providing a glimpse of a future world that can be nurtured into existence if we want.
(Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the teamLab SuperNature launch has been suspended until further notice, with the revised opening date yet to be confirmed.)