teamLab on their new installation at Pace Art + Technology

teamLab, Blossoming Life II – A Whole Year per Hour, Dark, 2015, four-channel digital projection, color, 60 minutes, looped. Photo: teamLab and and Pace Gallery.

On December 15, 2015, the Tokyo-based artist Takashi Kudo came to Silicon Valley to begin preparations for an installation at Pace Art + Technology, Pace Gallery’s new project space in Menlo Park. Kudo is one of three spokespeople representing the over four hundred collaborators in teamLab, an art collective that rethinks the idea of the art installation by allowing it to take numerous forms as evanescent, immersive digital environments, such as gardens, towns, aquariums, or even fields of fire. Here, Kudo discusses the collective’s new artwork/exhibition, “Living Digital Space and Future Parks,” on view at Pace Art + Technology through July 1, 2016.

WE DESIRE MAGIC. We are not interested in illusionism per se, but we want to create otherworldly environments. Digital technology can allow us to access other realms. It’s shamanistic. It has the power to pull us far back in time, when the boundaries between art and life, or the “real” and the “imaginary,” were considerably more fluid.

For our installation at Pace Art + Technology, we have been focusing on elemental themes: energy waves, the universe, flowers, fire. It’s all so basic, yet utterly integral. Plato’s allegory of the cave is a nice way to understand how real the digital can be in our lives. Our artworks shouldn’t be viewed as “information.” Information can act like imagination when it’s freed from its more “pragmatic” uses. It can be fantastic—a digital interface can be a portal to another dimension.

Flowers and People – Dark, 2015, is an artwork that algorithmically unfolds in real time. It never repeats or happens in the same way. The flowers depicted within it are continually growing. If there are too many people near the work, or you move too close or too fast, you kill the flowers—they disappear. Another new piece in the show, Blossoming Life II – A Whole Year per Hour, Dark, 2015, reacts to the idea of duration, and the changing of time. We’ve created an experience that makes one hour equivalent to one year (which means that approximately five minutes is the length of one month). Different flowers will shoot up or wither according to the seasons, in rapid succession.

In Sketch Town, 2014– , gallerygoers interact with a barren, sketched-out municipality. People come in and draw, on paper, an element of the place, like a car, a house, or some other sort of building. The drawing gets scanned and then immediately becomes part of a 3-D hamlet. Within the town there are helicopters outfitted with cameras to give viewers a bird’s-eye view of the ever-developing landscape.

The idea for Sketch Town came out of our Sketch Aquariums. We came up with the Sketch Aquariums about three years ago. We made our first aquarium in Okinawa. Families came and rendered, from memory, different kinds of aquatic plants and animals, and created these voluminous, beautiful, florid environments. Compared with the one we would do later in Tokyo, this work looked very different, as the local flora and fauna were more tropical. Everything was much brighter, much more colorful. It’s a good reminder that in a world full of corporate farming and mass consumption, there are still local cultures, memories, and perceptions that can alter the landscape.

In the next twenty years everything will be connected to digital technology. The difference between developed and developing countries will be because of developed and developing companies. How do we keep beauty in a world that, more and more, seems to exist solely for the cultivation of information? The most important thing for the evolution of future generations is the idea of cocreation. Our Sketch Towns cannot be made by one person. If they were, they’d be homogeneous, boring. The Sketch Towns are vibrant because of all the different people participating in making them. We are excited to install this exhibition here in Menlo Park, as it’s a hotbed of technological innovation that’s also deeply connected to nature and the “flower power” movement of the 1960s and ’70s. It feels like the future, and the future is being made right here, right now.