Created by art collective teamLab, the Future Park exhibition is an interactive and participatory world of light and colour where imagination meets technology. Assistant Curator Nina Earl explores teamLab’s creative processes.
Technology is increasingly finding its way into every aspect of our lives, and while some have warned of its dangers, others are exploring its possibilities. Creative group teamLab are embracing technology through their computer-generated art; since 2001 they have been creating artworks that use immersive and cutting-edge technologies to explore how these tools can generate positive change. They seek to blur the boundaries between artwork and viewer, as well as attempt to transcend the physical and digital barrier often imposed at our machine interfaces — viewers can actually become active participants in the artwork. Through the unique responsive environments teamLab create, they aim to challenge our current awareness and draw our focus back to the places and people around us.
Fundamental to teamLab’s creative process is the understanding that humans learn about the world through interaction with others and by sharing experiences. Learn & Play! teamLab Future Park presented by Toyota, on display at the Powerhouse Museum, is an immersive playground that can be enjoyed by children and adults alike. It also functions as a space for intellectual training in many things, including co-creation and physical knowledge, and as a learning place for the future.
Visitors will be able to contribute to the evolution of Future Park by scanning their own creations so that they come to life within the digital worlds of the exhibition, as well as through immersing themselves in the projected environments. TeamLab want all kinds of people to visit the exhibition, from true art fans to people seeking self-improvement by opening their minds through exposure to new experiences.
TeamLab call themselves an art collective — seemingly the right term for a group that employs hundreds of people from a range of professions to create their immersive artistic experiences. Their interdisciplinary teams comprise artists, programmers, engineers, CG animators, mathematicians, architects, web and print graphic designers, and editors, and they describe their development process as open and collaborative, requiring continual creation and thinking as they define and progress the project.
They also refer to themselves as ‘ultratechnologists’, so it is no surprise that founder Toshiyuki Inoko has a strong grounding in the mathematical and engineering knowledge underpinning the group’s works. After studying mathematical engineering and information physics at Tokyo University, Inoko wanted to continue the creative exchanges he had with his friends and continue to explore the power of art and technology to help our society evolve.
‘To make that happen, we wanted a place where we could get people from all different specialisations and skills, and decided to make one on our own,’ Inoko says. ‘Our name teamLab 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.’
Today teamLab utilises the unique qualities of the digital to generate co-creative activities that go beyond the boundaries of art, science, technology and creativity. ‘What we call “collective creation” refers to the creation of something of higher quality by a group, leading to the strengthening of an entire organisation. There are two parts to this. One is technologists of different specialisms crossing the boundaries of one’s own fields, working, thinking and creating together. The other is the discovery of transferable knowledge born out of the creative process, its sharing and recycling to heighten the creativity of the group.’ This co-creation has layers of meaning, not just referring to the diverse specialties required in the production, but also to the audience’s fundamental role in shaping and influencing the final piece.
TeamLab set the bigger concept along with the project goal and technical feasibility at the beginning, but the form of the artwork only becomes clearly defined as the team’s work progresses. ‘We could say that our uniqueness is the process for creation. Although the large concepts are always defined from the start, the project goal tends to remain unclear, so the whole team needs to create and think as they go along.’
Informing teamLab’s creative practice is a rethinking of the way we perceive and interact with objects and artworks in a museum or gallery. For them the digital world provides a space for collaborative creation or quiet contemplation that is free from physical constraints. They see the audience as an important part of their work. With a focus on ‘interaction connected with art’, they seek to make the presence of others a beautiful experience. They want visitors to be able to interact not only through actions but also simply by being immersed in the spaces they create. ‘It connects to our belief that creativity is a person’s most important form of thinking. By increasing their creative power, each individual becomes capable of contributing to the enrichment of society as a whole.’