While Pace Gallery has been a forefront supporter of the digital and technological art form since the late 60s, the launch of Pace Art & Technology in 2016 took its collaborative involvement with multi-disciplinary art groups to a whole new level. Pace London’s current show, teamLab: Transcending Boundaries presents a phenomenal exploration of the role of digital technologies in the transgression of the physical and conceptual boundaries of an artwork. This interactive exhibition, featuring three rooms and a total of eight artworks, is an engaging and immersive experience that forces you to reassess the conventional parameters of a work in space.
On entering the first room of the exhibition, the tranquil calming sound of flowing water is accompanied by a multi-coloured visual of fluttering butterflies, blooming flowers and cascading water. Enraptured by the perpetual change – the installations are created in real time by a computer program, which never repeats the same state – it takes me a moment to realise that my movements within the space, and those of the other visitors’, actually alter the projected scene around me. Butterflies are born from the very spot on which I stand and gather around the blossoming flowers surrounding my feet. When I move, they disperse and a new colony forms. A swipe of the hand on the back interactive wall kills any butterflies caught in flight. It becomes speedily apparent that Flutter of Butterflies Beyond Borders, Ephemeral Life, presents a virtual cycle of life and death. This constant state of flux reflects the ephemeral and ever changing fragility of life. Momentarily rather melancholic.
However, beyond the flapping wings of multi-coloured metamorphosing butterflies, is the cascading waterfall of Universe of Water Particles, Transcending Boundaries. The hypnotic crashing of virtual water particles is utterly captivating and pretty much dominates the space of the first room. The flow of water is free from constriction and becomes a visual reminder of the power and force of both metaphoric and symbolic boundaries of which this installation is supposedly free.
Consistent with teamLab’s concept of Ultra Subjective Space – an art historical reference to the non-perspectival depiction of space in premodern Japanese art – Dark Waves like Universe of Water Particles is all about the transition of water in space. The flowing water, projected in a computer generated three-dimensional space, is represented as a continuous body of thin lines that have been drawn after calculating the interactions between hundreds of thousands of water particles. The only work in room two, Dark Waves is both technically and visually impressive. Cloaked in a thick darkness, you leave room two for room three, a little overwhelmed by the unexpectedly profound messages behind teamLab’s work.
Room three is similar to room one, in that the installation comes alive with the presence of people. Shrouded in white throws – given by a loitering gallery attendant on entering the room – each individual becomes the locus of blossoming flowers. When the flowering branches of Flowers Bloom on People come close to one another, they connect and disperse rapidly into an unpredictable direction. The cycle of life, birth, death and decay, is once again graphically explored by this group of Japanese ultratechnologists and becomes a focal point of Transcending Boundaries’ ephemeral beauty.
While the interactive nature of the exhibition could be dismissed as gimmicky, teamLab utilise digital technologies in this new body of work to explore serious questions about human relationships to the social, conceptual and physical boundaries that constrain and liberate us in the Age of Great Acceleration. Fun, vibrant and remarkably novel, it is most definitely one for the to-do list.
By Lucy Scovell
teamLab: Transcending Boundaries at Pace Gallery, on view until 11 March 2017 at 6 Burlington Gardens, W1S 3ET.