Critics’ Picks

teamLab, Continuous Life and Death at the Now of Eternity, 2017, nine-channel digital video, color, silent, indefinite duration.

teamLab, Continuous Life and Death at the Now of Eternity, 2017, nine-channel digital video, color, silent, indefinite duration.

Palo Alto

teamLab

Pace | Palo Alto
229 Hamilton Avenue
November 15, 2018–January 13, 2019

The Tokyo-based interdisciplinary group teamLab comprises hundreds of artists, designers, and programmers, whose interests span from simulations of food to what they call “ultrasubjective space,” an interpretation of the decentered, shallow perspective of historical Japanese painting that offers a counterpoint to Western perspectivalism and its static relationship to the viewer. The collective’s show at Pace is a pared-down departure from their iconic immersive environments and explores both this method of representation and the time-based experience of looking itself. Six recent flat-screen monitor works come close to removing audience-centered perspective altogether: Take, for example, Reversible Rotation – Continuous, Black in White, 2018, which depicts suspended three-dimensional calligraphic brushstrokes, likely created with modeling software, that seem to rotate across the nine screens. Because the piece is both multichannel and physically larger than the viewer, it is impossible to perceive all of it without changing one’s own position in space.

Where the looped pieces are controlled experiments, teamLab’s more speculative monitor-based work utilizes infinite loops, where digital compositions unfold algorithmically so that configurations never repeat. Mesmerizing and deeply strange, these works ponder what it means to always be looking at an image for the first time. The titular and central piece of the show, Continuous Life and Death at the Now of Eternity, 2017, occupies nine monitors and combines this formal question with the content of biological life; flowers and other organic shapes drift down the monumental screen in ever-changing patterns that still obey natural laws of gravity. For an oeuvre that is so self-consciously synthetic, the overall experience offers a surprisingly potent meditation on attention, lifespans, and mortality itself.