Create the world you wish existed in this digital art playground
On the surface, the Powerhouse Museum’s latest exhibition looks like a Gen Y reimagining of familiar schoolyard games like hopscotch, Lego blocks or sketch boards. But the digital light projections and responsive artworks, such as a room of giant illuminated musical balls, is actually a colourful canvas to rethink how we live and interact with one another.
Japan-based TeamLab are an indefinable group of multi-skilled mathematicians, architects, artists and animators who came together in 2001 (“at the rise of the digital age,” they say) to create a team of specialists and “a laboratory for all kinds of creation”.
They’re bringing Learn & Play! TeamLab Future Park to Sydney, which features eight installations that react in real time with the people and movements in the room. “Traditional media, such as paintings, do not change in relation to the presence of viewers or their behavior,” TeamLab tells Time Out via email. “Digital art has the ability to change relationships among people who are present in the same space.”
In each exhibition you’re positively engaging with other people in the room, and those who’ve walked through it moments before you. For example, in Light Ball Orchestra, you can roll around neon spheres to create a live symphony; in Sketch Town, visitors can draw new-age transport and buildings that will change the course of the digital landscape on view. And in Graffiti Nature, you can stand in a Fern Gully wonderland of mountains and valleys populated by other people’s animal and plant drawings.
“In modern cities, the presence of other people around us – as well as their unpredictable and uncontrollable behavior – is often seen as an inconvenience to be endured,” says TeamLab. “If entire cities were to be wrapped in the type of digital art conceived by TeamLab, we believe people would begin to see other residents in a more positive light.”
This positive combination of art, science and technology is precisely what Peter Denham, director curatorial of collections and exhibitions, is most excited about. “Everything is underpinned by what it’s like to live in a city now – and what it might be like in the future,” he says. “It’s magical. Parents worry about screen time, but this is a perfect example of how the digital world can offer a positive future for young people.”
Though TeamLab’s technology driven artworks certainly appeal to children, they’re not the only target audience. In fact, it’s play that is the key component – no matter the date on your birth certificate.
“Humans learn about the world through interaction with others and by sharing experiences – and much of human society has developed through achievements born from collaboration and collective play,” says TeamLab. “Our hope is that through enjoying this collective play, people may become more creative in their everyday lives.”