In the segment of International Eye, ARTRA recognizes impactful international artists and initiatives of artistry that work towards the progression of various disciplines of art in an inventive manner. The art collective teamLab is a prominent international institution that promotes transcending conventional limitations of art through collaboration and technological innovation. The digital has engulfed many aspects of human existence, and has now reached art and the process of artistic creation, complementing and enhancing elements of creativity, uniqueness and beauty perceivable by the human eye. As an internationally recognized collective teamLab produces art in conjunction with digital technology alongside the basic concepts of fostering positive relationships between people, changing the way in which space is recognized in relation to art, collaborative creation and removing boundaries between artworks.

teamLab was founded in 2001 by Toshiyuki Inoko and several of his friends, to create a ‘lab’, a space for co-creative activities. The environment was designed to create something, to deepen thoughts and insights. By developing new experiences of art teamLab intends to explore what the world is for humans. They strongly believe in the power of digital technology and creativity, and have a number of technologists such as architects, CG animators, painters, mathematicians and hardware engineers working on projects fostering their vision. In 2011 at the Kaikai Kiki Gallery in Taipei, Taiwan teamLab received the opportunity to be recognized by the international art community. This was followed by an exhibit at the Singapore Biennale in 2013. Since 2014, New York PACE Gallery has been dedicatedly promoting teamLab’s artworks to wider audiences. As of today, teamLab has showcased their pieces locally and internationally in countries including the UK, France, the US, Taiwan, China, Korea, Indonesia and Thailand.

We were intrigued by one of teamLab’s ongoing projects, “teamLab: Universe of Water Particles in the Tank” which is currently open at the TANK Shanghai Museum in China until August 24. The exhibition is immersive, allowing the audience to interact with the installations created from a former, massive oil tank. It uses the digital to blur the boundaries between the artworks themselves, the artworks and the audience as well as one person’s self and another. ARTRA engaged in conversation with teamLab to uncover their artistic practice in general and specifically in relation to the exhibition.

Q | How do you incorporate digital technology to expand the preconceived limitations of art?

A | teamLab believes digital technology can expand art and that digital art can create new relationships between people. Digital technology enables complex detail and freedom for change. Before people started accepting digital technology, information and artistic expression had to be presented in some physical form, for example, canvas and paint. The advent of digital technology allows human expression to become free from these physical constraints, enabling it to exist independently and evolve freely. Since digital art can easily expand, it provides us with a greater degree of autonomy within the space. We are now able to manipulate and use much larger spaces, and viewers are able to experience the artwork more directly. Through an interactive relationship between the viewers and the artwork, viewers also become an intrinsic part of that artwork.

Unlike a physical painting on canvas, the non-material digital technology can liberate art from the physical. Furthermore, because of its ability to transform itself freely, it can transcend boundaries. By using such digital technology, we believe digital art can expand the beautiful.

Q | Can you elaborate on the creative process of your exhibition ‘teamLab: Universe of Water Particles in the Tank’, from its implementation to execution?

A | A technologist is a specialist who performs both knowledge and manual labor. It is someone of expertise who works with their hands and discovers knowledge in doing so. Our process of creation is to think simultaneously as we physically create as a team of technologists practicing hands-on labor with specialized knowledge. We think technologists and collective creation always come together. The big concepts are always defined from the start, and the project goal and technical feasibility also go hand in hand. This is why the goal of the artwork becomes more clearly defined as the team progresses in its work.

TANK Shanghai, a massive oil tank that was renovated without being destroyed, is an incredibly unique museum. The oil tank itself encompasses the time of the city. We wanted to create an exhibition that made use of the form of the TANK and the time it encompasses. Inside this circular tank, we created a small universe where the intersections of these times meet. Inside, a single world is born that is constantly changing and influenced by the behavior of people. Visitors become a part of the artwork, allowing them to rethink the relationship between people and the world.

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5th August, 2019 Visual Art | Digital Art