Photos by Takahiro Takiguchi
Photos by Takahiro Takiguchi

teamLab Planets offers ‘body immersive’ art experience

by Takahiro Takiguchi
Stripes Japan

In Japan, there are museums for every taste: Western fine arts, modern paintings, photographs, sculptures, traditional Japanese arts and swords or armor. Most of these museums display their exhibitions in glass cases and often prohibit you from taking photos or video. At most museums, it is a safe bet you will be expected to observe and appreciate the artwork or artifacts quietly.

But, did you know there is an attraction in Tokyo where you can enjoy art more interactively?

A short walk from the newly-opened Toyosu Fish Market, teamLab Planets offers what it has dubbed a “body Immersive” art experience.

The seven large-scale digital art pieces making up Planets are a sensory explosion involving water, textured floors and colorful projections. Not only are you allowed to take as many videos and photos as you want, but are also highly encouraged.

Planets is the second large-scale exhibit in Tokyo produced by art collective “teamLab,” a self-proclaimed interdisciplinary group of ultra-technologists. The art they’re creating, they say, seeks to navigate the confluence of art, science, technology, design and the natural world.

If you had the opportunity to enjoy teamLab’s much larger Borderless digital art museum in Odaiba, Tokyo, you will get a kick out of Planets.

Recently, my wife and I took a dip—literally— into the art exhibit meant to make you feel like you’re on a different planet with every turn of a corner.

After purchasing our tickets (2,700 yen or about $24 per adult) and entering a staging area, guests were asked to remove our shoes, socks, roll our pants up to our knees and place all our belongings into free lockers provided.

A teamLab staff member stood at the door, showing us where to enter. As we stepped inside we found ourselves in a dark corridor with minimal lighting, standing in ankle-deep warm water. The entrance to the exhibit is a long, dark zigzag slope that gives you the sensation of entering a spaceship or something similar. My wife and I made our way up the watery slope, hand-in-hand excited to see what would happen next.

 

teamLab Planets’ displays all have an other-worldly feel. Three involve wading through water and two have mirrored walls and floors. (If you’re wearing a skirt, teamLab will provide you shorts upon request.) The exhibit definitely lives up to its name, as we felt like we were no longer on earth. Here, a quick breakdown of the seven planets we visited:

1. Waterfall of Light Particles at the Top of an Incline
At the end of the watery corridor entry, a shining waterfall awaited our arrival. Projections on the water made it look surreal in its dark surroundings. We couldn’t help but stop and stare with awe as the waterfall gradually changed from white to blue.

2. Soft Black Hole - Your Body Becomes a Space that Influences Another Body
After returning to dry ground and wiping our feet off with the towels provided by another teamLab staff member, we entered a bumpy, obstacle course-like room. Imagine walking on a floor made completely of bean bags and memory foam. Compared to the tranquil corridor with the relaxing waterfall, this space, which threatened to swallow us with each difficult step we took, made us imagine we were in some deep underworld.

3. The Infinite Crystal Universe
The next art space was filled with countless strings of lights suspended from the ceiling and resembling long icicles, synchronized to celestial music. The space was really fantastic, as everything kept changing from pink to blue then back to a bright white. With surrounding mirrors, the colored cords seemed endless, which made us feel as if we’d gotten lost and ended up in a deep, fantastic forest.

4. “Drawing on the Water Surface Created by the Dance of Koi and People – Infinity” 
Amongst the seven rooms, this was my favorite. We entered a large pool of milky, warm water with projections of flowers, leaves and koi fish decorating its surface. These projections not only covered the water, but they also swam up our arms, legs and faces. We immediately found ourselves immersed in the art.

5. Cold Life
Connected to the carp and flower pool, “Cold Life” is a small side room with a bench for sitting back and viewing as a projection of a plant on the wall goes through its life-cycle on a loop. We sat, our legs still in the water, as the plant on the wall blossomed. 

6. Expanding Three-dimensional Existence in Transforming Space - Free Floating, 12 Colors
The next room transported us into a bouncing sphere world. The lighting illuminates the bouncing balloons in reds, greens, yellows and blues. The rectangular-shaped, mirror-walled room is filled to the brim with these large balloons, so it was a slight squeeze to move around and take photos of ourselves against the soft, color-changing spheres.

7. Floating in the Falling Universe of Flowers
Planet’s finale was a room with a domed ceiling reminiscent of a planetarium and a mirrored floor. Projections of flowers and stars flying erratically along the dome gave a spinning sensation. A staff member suggested we lay down on the floor to watch as the flowers whizzed by. Music and the strong scent of flowers pumped into the room to match the projections, made us feel like we were in a snow globe filled with blossoms.

You can enjoy Planets without explanations. But if you must know, check out the names of each room at the entrance before you leave the staging area. An hour spent traveling through teamLab Planets made us feel as if we had accomplished an unusual adventure, which is not something we have ever felt in any conventional art museum.  Although the dark and winding exhibit might be intimidating and the thought of wading through water even more so, this unusual art experience was definitely worth it.

teamLab Planets Tokyo

- Period: July 7, 2018 – fall 2020
- Hours: Mon – Fri, 10 a.m. – 10 p.m.; Sat, Sun and holidays, 9 a.m. – 10 p.m.
- Location: 1-16 Toyosu, Koto-Kudaka, teamLab Planets TOKYO
- Admission: Mon – Fri: 2,700 yen for adults, 2,200 yen for college students, 1,500 yen for middle and high school students, 800 yen for elementary students. Sat, Sun and holidays: 3,200 yen for adults.
- URL: https://planets.teamlab.art/tokyo/

 

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