Those who like a bit of digital interactivity with their art will find much to enjoy in Pace London’s new exhibition of artworks by teamLab, a Japanese art collective whose members include artists, programmers, engineers, CG animators, mathematicians, architects, web and print graphic designers and editors.
The show sees a digital waterfall flow down one wall of the space, its water spilling across the floor but parting when it reaches the feet of the audience. Meanwhile, butterflies fly around and flowers grow, both dying if touched by a visitor’s hand.
In a second space, computer-generated waves toss wildly on the wall (shown top), crashing and tipping into one another in a hyper-real display. To create this piece, teamLab calculated the interactions of hundreds of thousands of particles; in visualising the waves, the behaviour of the particles on the water was then extracted and lines were drawn in relation to their movement. The mind boggles at its construction, but the finished work is a feast for the eyes.
As its title – Transcending Boundaries – suggests, teamLab are in part experimenting with our expectations of what is allowed to happen in an art space in this exhibition. Some of this involves literal boundaries being traversed: the show’s butterflies, for instance, flap innocently into the frames of more formal artworks in the space and briefly appear within them.
The audience too crosses expected boundaries, in particular by being invited to experiment with touching the walls and floors of the space to create unique effects, but also in their interactions with others in the gallery.
And every viewing of the artwork will be different, depending on the amount of people in the space and the changing effects, which include an array of different flowers which bloom and decay, rendered in real time by a computer programme.
There is a certain amount of spectacle in all this – kids will love this show – which could risk Transcending Boundaries being written off as ‘stunt art’. Yet there is emotion and thoughtfulness on display here too, and teamLab make many references to established art historical themes in the show. Dark Waves takes inspiration from the iconic works of Hokusai, for example, while Enso, a work displayed on a monitor in the central space, experiments digitally with the Zen practice of drawing a circle with a single brushstroke. The connection in the works to these enduring themes in art raises questions of how tech might be used to reexamine ideas of nature and our relationship to it in the digital age.
Plus, while immersive is a word that can often be bandied about to describe projects that rarely deliver, the works here are truly absorbing and meditative. So much so that when I wandered back through the the central space to find technicians tweaking the work, and computer code displayed around the walls, I felt a jolt of surprise to be reminded of what lay behind its sublime scenes.
Transcending Boundaries is on show at Pace London until March 11. Visitors are required to book to attend, more info is at pacegallery.com