The Blockbuster Avant-Garde

Visitors to teamLab Planets, an art venue in Tokyo run by the eponymous art collective, can wade in a knee-deep pool of water, where images of koi fish projected onto the water’s surface dart around their legs, leaving trails of multicolored light in their wakes. Reach down to cup a koi, and it bursts into…

The Blockbuster Avant Garde
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This enveloping experience, replete with light, sound, nature imagery, and animation, is the kind of work that teamLab has become known for since its founding in 2001. The largest and most prolific art collective working with interactive digital technology, teamLab has hundreds of employees, who include artists, architects, programmers, engineers, mathematicians, and CG animators. They operate a network of their own permanent spaces, and regularly participate in exhibitions at museums and galleries around the globe. Given the scale and success of their independent operation, their continuing collaboration with other institutions raises the question: what do they need from the art world?

The answer could be that they aspire to transform it. We are redefining the relationship between artwork and visitor, Michaela Kane, a member of teamLab, said in a recent interview. (She doesn't have a specific job title; the organization is nonhierarchical and eschews such labels.) The collective prefers visitor to viewer because the point of their immersive works is not to look at the landscape so much as be part of it, both affecting its contours and experiencing its effect. They have called their art borderless, and it's both a conceptual proposition and a literal one, as their artworks float down hallways and interact with each other.

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