teamLab: the philosophy of borderlessness

teamLab is an interdisciplinary art collective from Japan. By creating immersive digital art installations all around the world, the collective tries to break boundaries between people, nature and art, and to explore new relationships between human and nature, oneself and the world. In the following interview with Takashi Kudo, the Communication Director of teamLab, who has recently presented teamLab activities in Kaunas – European Capital of Culture Forum, we discussed teamLab’s philosophy, the capacity of digital art and boundaries that are ought to be broken.

teamLab brings together professionals from various fields of practice: artists, programmers, mathematicians, CG animators, web designers, editors and so on. Could you tell us a little about the teamLab and its goals?

teamLab is art collective with over 500 members. It is an interdisciplinary creative group that brings together professionals from various fields of practice in the digital society, aiming to go beyond the boundaries between art, science, technology and creativity, through co-creative activities.

teamLab aims to explore a new relationship between humans and nature through art. Digital technology has allowed us to liberate art from the physical and transcend boundaries. We see no boundaries between ourselves and the nature; one is in the other and the other in one. Everything exists in a long, fragile yet miraculous continuity of life. This is teamLab’s universal concept throughout our creation.

When we started teamLab in 2001 at the rise of the digital age, we had the passion to eliminate boundaries and work beyond existing disciplines, which was becoming all possible by digital technologies. To make that happen, we wanted a place where we could get people from all different specialization and skills, and decided to make one on our own. Our name “teamLab” literally comes from that idea, to create a team of specialists and a place like a laboratory for all kinds of creation to move the world forward.

How do you make up concepts for your works and what is the main philosophy behind teamLab projects? 

Our artworks are created by a team of hands-on experts through a continuous process of creation and thinking. Although the large concepts are always defined from the start, the project goal tends to remain unclear, so what we need to do is for the whole team to create and think as we go along. teamLab’s organizational structure seems flat at a first glance, but it is also extremely multidimensional, with an underlying layer that is unclear and undecided.

The big concepts are always defined from the start, and the project goal and technical feasibility also go hand in hand. The goal of the artwork becomes more clearly defined as the team progresses its work.

We select and develop the optimal technology according to the theme and the work concept. In that meaning, we’re not really focused on technology itself, but rather, we’re interested mainly in the concept of the ‘digital’ and exploring how this phenomenon could expand and enhance art.

Also, it seems that the main focus for Silicon Valley-originated technology is the extension of someone’s mind. Personal computers and smartphones are certainly extensions of the mind, Twitter is an extension of a person’s statements, and Facebook is an extension of our personal relationships. These digital domain sees the ‘self’ as the principle, and are meant to be used personally.
What teamLab wants to do is to enhance the physical space itself by digital art. It doesn’t necessarily have to be yourself that intervenes with it. It can be other people, or a group of people that vaguely includes you. And instead of a personal use, we want to make it usable by multiple people in the same space.

By digitizing the space, we can indirectly change the relationships between people inside. If the presence of others can trigger the space to change, they’d become a part of artwork. And if that change is beautiful, the presence of others can become something beautiful as well. By connecting art and digital technology, we think the presence of others can be made more positive.

It’s seems like boundaries are the thing that you try to break in each and every of your work. What is your perception of boundaries?

We want to dissolve all kinds of boundaries. Even though it doesn’t really exist, we feel as if there are boundaries between us and the world. Although everything exists in the same continuity, something divides us and creates a boundary. Many things that were created in modern times have brought boundaries. If possible, we want to eliminate those boundaries just once more. We want to create a sense of borderlessness. By immersing your whole body, and by seeing the world change due to your existence, we want to create an experience that makes people feel as if there are no boundaries, and that everything exists in a continuity.

Why do you think that impressiveness is so important? How do people usually feel in your installations?

Very soon we will be opening the digital-only museum ‘MORI Building DIGITAL ART MUSEUM: teamLab Borderless’ in Tokyo on June 21, 2018.

With the concept of ‘borderless’ as it’s theme, ‘MORI Building DIGITAL ART MUSEUM: teamLab Borderless’ (https://borderless.teamlab.art/jp/)is the unparalleled digital-only museum. Approximately 50 works, including new works, will be exhibited in a huge scale 10,000 square-meter space, structured around 5 areas.

The artworks have no borders with other works, they leave the installation rooms and move down corridors, communicate with other works, and sometimes fuse with them. Since there are no boundaries between people and the artworks, people become immersed in the installations. This, in turn, causes the boundaries between people to be in a state of continuous flux. People use their bodies to explore the installations and create new experiences with other people. The result is a new kind of digital art museum the likes of which cannot be found anywhere else in the world.

Digital art has been liberated from the constraints of material substance. The feelings and thoughts that were incorporated into an artwork through a physical medium, can now be directly transferred to people (visitors) through experience. Unlike physical materials, people move freely with their bodies, form connections and relationships with others, and recognize the world through their own bodies. The body has a concept of time, and in the mind, the boundaries between different thoughts are ambiguous, making them influence and sometimes intermingle with each other.

If an artist can put thoughts and feelings directly into people’s experiences, artworks too can move freely, form connections and relationships with people, and have the same concept of time as the human body. Artworks can transcend boundaries, influence and sometimes intermingle with each other. In this way, all the boundaries between artist, people and artworks, dissolve and the world of ‘teamLab Borderless’ is created. As people walk freely around ‘teamLab Borderless’ they lose themselves in the artwork world. The borderless artworks transform according to the presence of people, and as we immerse and meld ourselves into this unified world, we explore a new relationship that transcends the boundaries between people, and between people and the world.

 

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