teamLab Borderless

Inside the Extraordinary World of teamLab Borderless, Tokyo, Japan, March 4th, 2019

Mar 04, 2019 Photography by Joshua Mellin
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I honestly don’t know why, when I ordered my chamomile green tea at the café inside of teamLab Borderless, I thought I’d just be drinking tea. The second my hybrid latte was delivered, VR flowers grew in front of me. When I sipped it, contemplating this sudden magical appearance, the table in front of me was instantly littered with digital petals, a configuration that grew and changed every time I placed my cup down. Even taking tiny sips, I regretted not making my drink last longer.

Surprising occurrences are the currency of teamLab’s newest gallery, located in at the Palette Town in the Odaiba neighborhood of Tokyo, Japan. Billed, as one of the largest displays of digital art in the world, Borderless dazzles by the sheer amount of content and lack of pretention. No convoluted artist statements, no order of operations, just a string of dark rooms to explore (and re-explore) at your own pace. It felt like a Disneyland of art for those who love applying their own meaning to pretty images. Which, is all of us, right?

Borderless isn’t a selfie pit—even if the reflections of “Forest of Resonating Lamps,” “Crystal World,” and “Universe of Water Particles on a Rock Where People Gather,” are likely to inspire more than a few happy snappies. (And honestly, who can blame you? The color alone is pure clickbait. No judgement.) There are no cheap cash-ins or cuties themes. Instead this is scientists, artists, and soundscape musicians seeking to create a mood—be it the emotional “Memory of Topography,” where viewers walk through a moonlit rice field, the frenetic “Crows are Chased and the Chasing Crows are Destined to be Chased as well, Floating Nest,” a scene so intense it felt like the entire room was flying through space, or the meditative “Black Waves – Continuous,” which borrowed its crashing waves from centuries of Japanese wood cuts.

But the true wow factor comes with the realization that nearly every artwork is either interactive or interacts with each other. Butterflies from the opening area trail through the halls between rooms. Poking them will kill them. (In my defense, I felt kinda guilty about watching them drop.) Flowers come together to form huge floral creatures, on a forever migration, as are ghostly bunnies who will ominously turn to stare at the viewer when poked. (Maybe they heard about my butterfly killing habit?) Upstairs a huge aquarium of visitor designed fish swim in endless circles. (Yes, that last bit is aimed at kids. No that didn’t stop me from scribbling a purple and pink shark, and then chasing my creation around the walls for several minutes.)

Given the sheer number of interactive components, it would be possible to visit teamLab Borderless multiple times without seeing the same art twice. There are also seasonal season additions—like the rest of Japan, teamLab is excited about cherry blossom season. Even during my two hour visit the elements shifted dramatically. Spots that were once blank filled in with riots of flowers, creatures, and guests experiencing it all, meaning several passes through each room were required to fully experience creations. Which is fine, this is the kind of magic worth your time.

Check out a full gallery of photos here

Grab additional info and tickets here




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