Interview with Takashi Kudo, Global Brand Director, teamLab
1. What is teamLab’s mission in our world?
As Global Brand Director, how do you envision teamLab will impact or influence humanity as a whole? teamLab is an international art collective, an interdisciplinary group of various specialists, such as artists, programmers, engineers, CG animators, mathematicians and architects whose collaborative practice seeks to navigate the confluence of art, science, technology and the natural world.
teamLab aims to explore the relationship between the self and the world, and new perceptions through art. In order to understand the world around them, people separate it into independent entities with perceived boundaries between them. teamLab seeks to transcend these boundaries in our perception of the world, the relationship between the self and the world, and the continuity of time. Everything exists in a long, fragile yet miraculous, borderless continuity of life.
2. From Takashi Murakami and Yayoi Kusama to yourself, what is it about Japan that produces such popular, yet unconventional and original artistic leaders?
teamLab has been creating art using digital technology since the beginning. Our aim has always been to change people’s standards of value and contribute to societal progress.
However, we had neither the opportunity to present them nor could we imagine how to economically sustain our teams producing art. On the other hand, we believed in the power of digital technology and creativity, and we simply loved it. We just wanted to keep creating something new, no matter which genre it would turn out to be. And while we took part in various projects to maintain teamLab, we have increased the number of technologists, such as architects, CG animators, painters, mathematicians and hardware engineers.
As time went on, while we gained a passionate following among young people, we were still ignored by the Japanese art world. Our debut finally came in 2011 at the Kaikai Kiki Gallery in Taipei thanks to artist Takashi Murakami. Since then, we have gained opportunities in cosmopolitan cities, such as Singapore, where we joined the Singapore Biennale in 2013.
Also, in 2014, PACE Gallery in New York started to help promote our artworks. These fortunate factors allowed us to expand rapidly. In 2015, the collective was finally able to organize its own exhibition for the first time in Tokyo. These situations further accelerated its evolution and provided opportunities to exhibit internationally in New York, London, Paris, Singapore, Silicon Valley, Beijing, Taipei, Istanbul and Melbourne, among others. Also, we do not consider ourselves Japanese or representative of Japanese culture. We are an art collective that transcends boundaries, and seeks to explore new relationships between humans and nature without regard to nationality.
3. Who are your own artist heroes and key influences?
teamLab explores what contemporary society has discarded as a result of a lack of compatibility. In particular, teamLab explores a sense of spatial awareness interpreted in pre-modern Japanese art.
Until the late 19thcentury, people in Japan depicted the world differently than today. This ancient Japanese sense of spatial recognition has been lost in modern times. With our work, we explore whether the world itself has changed spatially or if people have lost sight of how they once saw things.
Traditional Japanese painting is generally described as flat. We believe that our ancestors saw the world exactly as depicted in ancient Japanese paintings, to the same extent that contemporary Japanese conceptualize space as seen in modern perspective-based paintings or photos. In other words, we believe that our forbearers developed a logical structure of spatial recognition that differs from the Western Renaissance perspective.
When you are looking at the world as depicted in Western perspective, it appears to be distinct from your reality, and you cannot fully become a person in that world. Understanding this, we can conclude that it is possible to gain a new way of seeing the world, stemming from the connection between the appearance of the world and our behavior within it.
The behavior of our Japanese forbearers towards nature was not merely one of observation. Their belief that they were a part of nature was not the result of a way of thinking. Rather, they fully entered the world which they were observing, and easily understood how they were a part of it.
If you have seen the world through the Western perspective, you can understand how a clear boundary divides you from the world you are observing. It is not possible to exist in that world. In other words, the world is one to be observed.
It is common to hear people of today chant “we are a part of the Earth.” However, many people behave as if there is a clear boundary between themselves and their world, and they act as if the world is different from the one that they are in. Perhaps this is a result of the abundance of photos and live videos currently presented in modern society, which force us to remove ourselves from the world that we are observing.
4. Can you tell us more about teamLab’s newest site in our neighboring Macau? What are some of the coolest art installations to look forward to?
teamLab SuperNatureis a single massive world comprised of works that aim to explore new perceptions of the world, and the continuity between humans and nature. It is a “body immersive” museum centered around a group of works that blur the boundaries between people’s bodies and art. People immerse their bodies in art with others, influencing and becoming a part of the artworks themselves, blurring their perception of the boundaries between the body and the artwork, and thereby recognizing the continuity between the self and the world.
teamLab SuperNature will also have new, unprecedented and immersive “Future Park” and “Athletics Forest” areas. “Future Park” is an educational project based on the concept of collaborative creation or co-creation. It is an amusement park where visitors can enjoy creating the world freely with others. “Athletics Forest” is a new creative athletic space that helps train spatial awareness. It is a space that develops the body as well as brain based on the concept of understanding the world through the body, and thinking of the three-dimensionality of the world.
We hope that these experiences will give people the opportunity to gain new insight and recognition of the continuity between ourselves and the world.
teamLab SuperNature is a massive multi-layered/floored, heavily immersive space. Housed in The Venetian Macao Cotai Expo Hall F, it will cover 5,000sqm of labyrinthine floor space. With cavernous ceilings 8m high throughout, the space will be transformed into an extremely complex, three-dimensional world with varying elevations filled with a group of heavily immersive, ever-changing artworks.
There are two major new artworks to debut at teamLab SuperNature: One is called Massless Clouds Between Sculpture and Life, which has undergone numerous experimentations at the warehouse in Tokyo, which can be seen here: -Video: https://youtu.be/OypTYmLwJJU
A giant cloud floats between the floor and the ceiling within the confines of the space, as though transcending the concept of mass. People can immerse their bodies in this cloud, blurring the boundaries between the artwork and the body. Even when people push through the floating cloud and break it, it naturally repairs itself like a living thing. But, as with living things, when the cloud is destroyed beyond what it can repair, it cannot mend itself and it collapses.
Another work is the as of yet untitled new piece. It is an installation that creates a three-dimensional object or light sculpture by a plane made of a collection of laser rays of light.
5. What is next for teamLab? Where do you see teamLab in 5 years from now?
Who knows what will happen in the world in five years from now, maybe even next year. I think what is more important, at least as an artist, is to seek out and affirm an idealistic part of humanity and present an idea of the future.
Science raises the resolution of the world. When humans want to know the world, they recognize it by separating things. In order to understand the phenomena of this world, people separate things one after another. In the end, no matter how much humans divide things into pieces, they cannot understand the entirety. Even though what people really want to know is the world, the more they separate, the farther they become from the overall perception. Even though we are nothing but part of the world, we sometimes feel as if there is a boundary between the world and ourselves.
The continuity of life and death has been repeated for more than four billion years. However, for humans, even 100 years ago is a fictional world. We are interested in why humans have this perception.
How can we go beyond the boundaries of recognition? Through art, we want to transcend the boundaries of our own recognition. We want to transcend human characteristics or tendencies to recognize the continuity. Art is a search for what the world is for humans. Art expands and enhances beauty. Art has changed the way people perceive the world.
Groups move by logic, but individuals decide their actions by beauty. Individual behaviors are determined not by rationality, but by aesthetics. In other words, beauty is the fundamental root of human behavior. Art expands the notion of beauty. Art is what expands people's aesthetics, that is, changes people's behavior.
It may be the whole world or only a part of the entirety, but it is art that captures and expresses it without dividing it. Art is a process to approach to the whole. And by sharing it with others, the way people perceive the world changes. Through the enjoyment of art, the notion of “beautiful” expands and spreads, which in turn changes people’s perceptions of the world.
Everything exists in a long, fragile yet miraculous continuity over an extremely long period of time. We aim to create experiences through which visitors recognize this continuity itself as beautiful, hence changing or increasing the way humans perceive the world. Our intention is to change people’s standard of beauty, even if it requires a great deal of time.
At some point in history, humans saw flowers and thought “beautiful.” But we do not really understand this phenomena of beauty. Evolution explains some instances: it is natural that we would perceive other humans to be beautiful from a reproductive standpoint.
But this does not explain why humans have found flowers beautiful. In the time before civilization, people did not see beauty in something as insignificant as flowers. In other words, we humans attributed the same idea of “beautiful” to targets for reproduction as well as to unrelated things, like flowers. In theory, we should have used different words for these two completely unrelated concepts, so the fact that we conceive of them, in the same way, is quite miraculous.
We believe that art is an act of modern people creating their own flowers and expanding the notion of “beautiful” with those flowers, just in the way that ancient human beings saw flowers as beautiful and expanded the idea of beauty. We do not instantly understand the reasons or meaning behind this expansion. However, through these positive expansions of “beautiful,” 30 or 50 years later, people may behave differently in a way that we cannot understand with today’s limited knowledge, allowing humanity to continue to grow and thrive.