teamLab's Aesthetic Journey

teamLab, Floating Flower Garden; Flowers and I are of the Same Root, the Garden and I are One © teamLab

Toshiyuki Inoko is the founder of teamLab, an international collective with its roots in Tokyo and branches all across the world. In this interview, he tells of teamLab's aesthetic journey from a few students' project to a global phenomenon that transcends all boundaries.

(This article is a translation of a piece first published on the website Travel+Leisure China.)
With the pandemic nearing its end, our hearts began to flutter again. In this era of growing digitalization and visualization, travelers will inevitably be exposed to these concepts on some level, both actively and passively. "Travel+Leisure China" conducted a video interview with Toshiyuki Inoko, founder of the world-renowned art collective teamLab, and asked him to take us on a journey through the beauty of digital art.
The collective was founded in the early 2000s by five students from the University of Tokyo and the Tokyo Institute of Technology. During the interview, Inoko repeatedly stated that creativity is important, but having a good idea is not enough; it must be realized by a team of members with professional skills. More than two decades have passed, but time has not diminished the original intent of these former students of prestigious Tokyo universities, who want to present their original ideas held from the beginning of this project through digital technology and expand their aesthetics with digital art. They have continued to experiment as a team and released one incredible artwork after another.
In addition to artworks displayed in art museums, we see more and more works created by teamLab appearing in shopping malls, hotels, restaurants, and even in nature. Some are moving paintings that are hung on walls; others are themed or rhythmic artworks, being installed in themed restaurants; and others are, when night falls, plants and natural environments given new artistic values when set aglow. The group does not set boundaries for itself; it sees the entire world as a canvas and the team hopes that their artworks will appear in more regions and places. The team seizes every opportunity to influence people's perceptions and understanding of beauty, and to spread the beauty of digital art to new audiences.
Many of our Chinese readers have visited teamLab's exhibitions in Shanghai and Macau. For such large-scale permanent exhibitions, it takes years for the core team to develop the idea and to execute the physical art. In order to adhere to the philosophy of integrating science and art, many of teamLab's exhibitions emphasize interaction with the audience. All exhibitions are designed to be mutable; they change with the seasons and are to be updated with new content based on actual interactions with audiences. The interactivity between artworks and the audience breaks the traditional concept of the unchanging exhibition, and focuses more on the audience's feelings on-site, allowing viewers to be integrated into the works and have a stronger sense of participation. Art becomes less distant and out of reach, and more something to be touched and played around with. As a result, teamLab's exhibitions have been very popular from the beginning and reach a wider audience of all ages, as both children and the elderly can easily understand and embrace this form of art. Although teamLab's exhibitions offer a unique experience, they are not entirely virtual, nor do they resemble the increasingly popular metaverse. Inoko emphasized that people cannot completely escape reality and enter a completely virtual world; instead, physical interactions with art are essential.
If you enjoy digital art and are visiting Tokyo in the near future, do not miss the opportunity to take a look at their artwork.

1. teamLab Planets TOKYO

The exhibition is located in Toyosu, Koto-ku, Tokyo. It has been open since 2018, and it attracts countless visitors. The venue consists of four massive exhibition spaces and two gardens. It is a museum where you walk through water, together with gardens where you become one with the flowers.
When you walk barefoot in this exhibition and immerse your entire body in the artworks, the boundary between your body and the artworks dissolves; the self, others, and the world exist in a borderless continuity. Such a new borderless relationship between us and the world is then formed and awaits our exploration.
Opens in a new windowteamLab Planets TOKYO
Address: teamLab Planets TOKYO, 6-1-16 Toyosu, Koto-ku, Tokyo
Term: 2018.7.7(Sat) - end of 2027

2. Galaxy & teamLab: Catching and Collecting in the Sea of Life

If you happen to be in Harajuku and visit the Meiji Shrine, do not miss the nearby exhibition "Catching and Collecting in the Sea of Life" co-organized by teamLab and Galaxy. The exhibition is based on the concept of "Catch, Study, Release," where visitors will explore the mysterious and deep underwater world with Galaxy smartphones, capturing, observing, and learning about various sea creatures, and creating their very own collection book. In this exhibition, you will witness the wonder of sea creatures moving infinitely between the physical world and the world in the Galaxy smartphone without boundaries.
Opens in a new windowGalaxy & teamLab: Catching and Collecting in the Sea of Life
Address: Galaxy Harajuku, 1-8-9 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Term: 2022.9.29 (Thu) - 2023.3.26 (Sun)

3. MoonFlower Sagaya Ginza

This Ginza restaurant has been a favorite of Asian luxury tourists since before the pandemic, and reservations are difficult to come by because there are only eight seats in total. When you walk into the restaurant, you may be taken aback by the spectacular display of flowers and plants created by teamLab. Flowers, plants, and trees adorn the walls and tables, and flowery patterns adorn the plates. Diners can place their plates anywhere on the table, and the flowers and birds on the plates will interact with the surroundings and the diners. Diners will gradually become one with their surroundings throughout the meal, creating an unforgettable immersive dining experience.
Opens in a new windowMoonFlower Sagaya Ginza, Art by teamLab, Tokyo
Address: PUZZLE Ginza 6F, 2-5-19 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
Term: 2017.4.01 (Sat) - permanent

4. Universe of Water Particles on the Living Wall (GINZA SIX, Tokyo)

This piece of art, titled Universe of Water Particles on the Living Wall, is installed on the wall of the trendy GINZA SIX mall in Ginza. While shopping, customers can enjoy the sight of a computer-generated waterfall falling on a three-dimensional rock, as if they were in nature. The waterfall is represented by a continuous stream of countless water particles, which the designer simulates to flow in accordance with the laws of physics. This video artwork embodies teamLab's concept of "ultrasubjective space," offering customers an innovative space to relax in a shopping mall.
Opens in a new windowUniverse of Water Particles on the Living Wall (GINZA SIX, Tokyo)
Address: GINZA SIX, 6-10-1 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
Term: 2017.4.20 (Thu) - permanent

5. Vegan Ramen UZU Tokyo

photo of Vegan Ramen UZU Tokyo

teamLab Planets TOKYO © teamLab

This is a vegetarian restaurant that does not serve fish or meat, but the ramen served is impressively rich and flavorful, beyond what many might expect from vegetarian fare. With teamLab's magic touch, the dining area becomes dreamy and modern. The restaurant breaks the concept of a traditional vegetarian restaurant or ramen stand by elevating the dining experience to new levels. You find yourself happily full, delighted by what all of your senses experienced.
The above are some of teamLab's works in Tokyo as well as an introduction to a journey through the beauty of Tokyo from various perspectives. After visiting them, you will undoubtedly notice teamLab's ingenuity and hard work in discovering and creating beauty, along with the wonderful experience they provide to all. As stated by teamLab, digital art can expand people's aesthetics and broaden their worldview.