Monday, October 14, 2019

Adventure 30/50 : teamLab Borderless Tokyo

You know when you see pictures of something and think, well, yeah, that's with fancy cameras and when it's the perfect time and when there's no one else there, but it would never look like that in real life?

I thought that might be the case at teamLab Borderless, a digital art museum in Tokyo. You may have seen their glorious photos, like this:

Well, here's a photo I took with my old iPhone (a 6...), during opening hours of the same room:

Still pretty amazing, eh? But I'm getting ahead of myself...

TeamLab Borderless features a huge collection of digital artworks, some very interactive ... and some actually interact with each other. The space is vast -- so vast I just discovered that there is one big artwork we didn't even find.

The museum is in Odaiba, a modern district full of flashy modern architecture and entertainments. We actually had to walk through Toyota Mega Web -- a car theme park / museum / demonstration area to get from the train station to the museum entrance!

They recommend you buy tickets for the specific day you want to attend in advance. When you get there, you may wait in line as they restrict the numbers of people inside -- which is why it never really felt crowded inside, except in some of the smaller exhibits.

We hadn't done a lot of research, so we didn't have a "plan of attack" -- we just wandered and looked at things, which worked out fine. Pictures are worth a thousand words, so I'm going to load up this post with plenty of pictures and add a few comments here and there. I apologize in advance that I'm not going to be able to name all the artworks -- it was really hard to keep track of them all!

Here's the first space we entered -- a hallway filled with projected flowers.

A few minutes later, that same hallway had shifted to greens and golds.

This was one of my favorite rooms, which I think was called something like "universe of water particles". These two images were taken one minute apart, so you can see how quickly the art changes around you:

One smaller work was designed to make you feel as if you were in virtual reality -- without all the bother of those headsets. The piece featured crows swirling and flying. These pictures can't do it justice.

The exhibition is called "Borderless" because the group of artworks 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.
That means that pieces appear in different spaces at different times -- that is, elements of pieces. The crows, for example, move and appear throughout the museum, flying between the different artworks. Butterflies are another recurring element. And then there's this amazing hydrangea bear. What's a hydrangea bear? Why, he's a bear, made out of hydrangeas. And he slowly walked around the museum.

The hallways were full of funny little vignettes, moving around, though they were difficult to photograph. There was a parade of fierce military rabbits escorting a frog nobleman, accompanied by traditional musicians. Yeah, it was as odd -- and as charming -- as it sounds. 

The Crystal World was one of the most popular spaces in the museum -- millions of LEDs in a mirrored room, making 3D patterns of light. 

What most people didn't realize, however, was that you could control the artwork and patterns using the Borderless app -- it would give you options of natural events, and you could choose one. For much of the time we were there, it seems like we were the only people using it.

I loved when we made it rain...

But the "aurora" pattern was glorious:

As was this subtle but very effective "full moon" which, in person, was really three-dimensional:

But all the patterns were lovely, and fleeting. I was trying to capture the "snowfall" and it quickly turned to these brighter colors:

Some of the pieces were much more subtle, like this animated calligraphy. First the characters would be drawn, and then they would slowly "lift up" and rotate, giving the characters a depth that was supposed to reflect the order in which the strokes were made. It was completely hypnotic, even if I didn't understand the characters.

Another area, called "Memory of Topography" started with an uphill walk underneath "trees":

Suddenly they were large flowers...

Eventually you arrived in a "field" full of, at the time, "autumn leaves".

But over time, they turned to spring leaves floating in water...

... and then into rice plants in a rainstorm:

... before night fell,

... and the space was illuminated by fireflies...

These spaces were pretty disorienting with the dark and the moving art -- I couldn't tell you how big this room was, or whether there was an exit at the far end.

A huge area called the "Athletics Forest" was very popular while we were there. The undulating floor had creatures slithering across it... and it you "stepped" on them, they exploded into rainbows.

We did the "three-dimensional bouldering" course, which was somehow surprisingly stressful...

And we went into a space with a giant aquarium projection, where you could color your own creations and they would be scanned in and join the art. So Wil's turtle and my squid have been exhibited in Tokyo, thank you very much...

The big room of color changing "balloons" was fun, but somehow not as full of balloons as I wanted:

Inadvertently we saved my favorite room for last ... largely because we didn't find it until the end!

The Forest of Lamps is a mirrored room -- one side with 2-way mirrors, which meant you could still enjoy the piece while you are waiting -- full of color-changing lanterns. When you stand near one, it changes color... and if you stand still, it will cause the other lamps near it to change color, too. And as you can see, it's glorious.

They let 25 or so people into the space at a time, and you spend about 3 minutes inside. When you're in the room, all you can see is the lamps.

We LOVED teamLab, and I would put it on my list of must-do Tokyo experiences. You can learn all about teamLab Borderless, see even prettier photos and videos of the artworks, and even buy tickets from the teamLab Borderless website.

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