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Monday, October 15, 2018

Tokyo's Mori Digital Art Museum

This entry is augmented by several video clips; please allow extra time for it to fully load.
An old-fashioned digital print of Tokyo's Mori Digital Art Museum
When I was a Junior in high school (1962) I took a typing class which, as it has turned out, was one of the smarter educational encounters I've ever undertaken. We used to enjoy creating pictures with the various numbers, letters, and keyboard symbols available by using the variable density of each character. Of course, that recollection stretches well past any contemporary definition of digital art. However, as early as 1976, I painted what may be the first digital self-portrait using just such computer-generated characters and a rudimentary application of impressionist color principals. As computers have developed more and more power for less and less cost, digital art has developed along side them from photo editing to digital "paintings" printed out on paper or canvas, framed, and hung on a wall in a traditional manner. Running parallel with this evolution has been an expansion of the very definition of art itself, to include virtually all visual forms of creativity.

Perhaps the most important of these has been various imaginative uses of colored lights. I mean, where would art be without the key element of light? It simply wouldn't exist. Going back in history (my own) I can recall disk jockeys with expensive light arrays which eventually came to be keyed into the music they played. Again, computers came along and geometrically enhanced the possibilities. I mention all this in case you happen to be in Tokyo sometime in the future. If so, don't miss the EPSON teamLab Borderless Mori Digital Art Museum. But in doing, don't expect to see old-fashioned, framed, digital art from the past(top). It's not that kind of museum.

As you can see in the videos above, this type of art is all about light, music, color, lasers, sound, even the movement of air. Thus most of the images I'm using demand video presentations to be truly seen and appreciated. It's a whole new and different art requiring a whole different type of image to even write about. Produced in collaboration with local urban landscape developer Mori Building Co. Ltd., the amazing light displays are housed in their very own building, spread out over two floors in a huge space in Tokyo’s Odaiba district. TeamLab, the Japanese art collective behind the world’s first truly digital art museum, has developed a borderless, boundary-breaking future. There are no frames to mark the limits of the art and the real world. The viewer becomes part of the art itself.

teamLab, Universe of Water Particles on a Rock where People Gather (2018)
It’s taken time, but today, the art world is slowly turning its back on analogue and going digital. Nowhere is that clearer than within the huge, 10,000 sq. meter space, of the Mori Building Digital Art Museum. The museum is divided into five zones and utilizes 520 computers and 470 projectors. TeamLab have transformed a traditional museum space into something futuristic, groundbreaking and challenging. For the teamLab collective, their digital art exists on a separate plane, liberated from the constraints of material substance. In their newly defined museum, they hope to transfer the feelings and thoughts that visitors would have gotten from a physical artwork through their own bodies, relationships and experiences. When an artist can put thoughts and feelings directly into people's experiences, artworks too can move freely, form connections and relationships with people, while embracing the same concept of time as the human body. Such art 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.

Visitors walking freely around the museum are expected to lose themselves in an alternate, art- based, borderless world, immersing themselves in each experience. In Borderless World, visitors are invited to understand and recognize the world through their bodies, moving freely and forming connections and relationships with others. TeamLab Borderless is a group of artworks that form one borderless world. Artworks move out of the rooms freely, form connections and relationships with people, communicate with other works, influence and sometimes intermingle with each other, and have the same concept of time as the human body.

In Athletics Forest (above), for example, teamLab have manufactured a “creative physical space” which trains spatial recognition ability by promoting the growth of the hippocampus of the brain. It is based on the concept of understanding the world through the body and thinking of the world three-dimensionally. In a complex, physically challenging, three-dimensional space, the body becomes immersed in an interactive world. The interactive aspect continues in Future Park, an educational project based on the concept of "collaborative creativity, co-creation". It is an amusement park where you can enjoy the world creatively and freely with others.

teamLab, The Way of the Sea in the Crystal World - Colors of Life (2018)
Is teamLab’s museum is an example of the art world becoming more digital in general? Even the collective can't answer that. But, they explain that digital technology allows artistic expression to be released from the material world and for ideas and experiences to change and flow more freely. In art installations with the viewers on one side and interactive artworks on the other, the artworks themselves undergo changes caused by the presence and behavior of the viewers. This has the effect of blurring the boundary lines between the two sides. When the viewers actually become part of the artworks themselves the relationship between the artwork and the individual then becomes a relationship between the artwork and the group. Another viewer, present within that space five minutes before, or the particular behavior exhibited by the person next to you, suddenly becomes an element of great importance.

The digital domain can expand art and change how we view the capacities of art in our world, which can actually help us to create new relationships between people. TeamLab wants visitors to understand how digital technology can expand the conception of art as well as liberate art from a value system based only on physical materials. The museum encourages people to rethink the relationship between humans and nature as well as their relationship with the world. Traditional art museums have tended to treat the existence of viewers as a nuisance. At an exhibition with no other viewers, for example, you are likely to think of yourself as extremely lucky. Yet teamLab encourages people to think of the presence of other viewers as a positive factor. The importance of this shift in thinking stretches even beyond the art world. In modern cities, the presence of other people around us, as well as their unpredictable and uncontrollable behavior, is often seen as an inconvenience to be endured. This is because the presence of each person and those in their vicinity do not have a visible effect on the city. If entire cities were to be wrapped in the type of digital art conceived by teamLab, people would begin to see the presence of other residents in a more positive light.

Described as Tokyo’s most "Instagrammable" spot, the museum is unlike any other experience in Japan. The Mori Building Digital Art Museum is quickly becoming one of the country’s most popular destinations. However, there are a few tips which may help in enjoying the museum. Wear white or light-colored clothing and flat-heeled shoes. Touch everything, enjoying the museum as would a child. Don't rush, and by all means buy your tickets online if you harbor any hope of seeing the museum at a given date and time--or at all.

Mori digital art-museum design room.


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