Artsy tech whizkids teamLab has been making waves for a few years now, with high-profile (permanent) exhibitions in Singapore, London, Paris and Shenzhen. Now, they've created an unprecedented 'digital art' museum in Tokyo, with a little help of the Mori Building group: located inside Odaiba's Palette Town development, next to the ferris wheel, this huge permanent museum covers 10,000sqm. The full name (Mori Building Digital Art Museum Epson teamLab Borderless) is a bit of a mouthful – just 'teamLab Museum' will suffice, we think.
The exhibitions are permanent, but true to the museum's 'borderless' name, some of the exhibits are not confined to their respective rooms as they transition from one to another seamlessly. All the exhibits are interactive: you're encouraged to touch, follow, disrupt or add to them. None of these video/digital artworks are played on loop, either. They are all original, organic movements that are dependant on audience participation – the art changes constantly through 'smart learning'. As teamLab puts it, 'no two visits will be the same'.
The museum is divided into five sections: Borderless World, Athletics Forest, Future Park, Forest of Lamps and the En Tea house. Out of these, Borderless World is by far the largest, while the latter two are single installation rooms. In total, there are a good 50 exhibits spread across the vast space. There's plenty to discover, and we'd recommend setting aside a few hours to see it all. Eat beforehand, as there's no food available once inside the museum.
There's also a lack of signs pointing you in the right direction. But there are no set ways to see the exhibits; you're encouraged to roam and wander in any way you like and be surprised. To make sure you don't miss the best bits, here are the highlights from the teamLab museum.
森ビル デジタルアート ミュージアム エプソン チームラボボーダレス
Wander through the Crystal World
This dazzling infinity room full of LEDs and mirrors was the highlight of teamLab's 2016 exhibition with e-commerce business DMM.com. Here, the installation is recreated in a bigger room, and you're able to control the colour scheme with an app on your smartphone (downloadable through a QR code displayed at the entrance to the room). It's tempting to spend a long time here taking the perfect selfie, but there's more to see at the museum. Do note that the exits (though there are two) are not very obvious.
Forest of Resonating Lamps
It's a toss-up which exhibit will be the most Insta-popular: these lamps, or the Crystal World. Up to 20 visitors will be allowed inside this bulb-heavy room for about two minutes at a time. The light bulbs change colour if you come near them – hence 'resonating' lamps. After a certain time period, the entire thing changes colour scheme completely, from a vivid red one to intense blue or vibrant yellow and pink.
Flower Forest: Lost, Immersed and Reborn
One of the first (and largest) rooms inside the museum, the walls and floors are covered with projected flowers. Touching them makes them scatter and wilt, while standing on an empty spot will sprout flowers. There are also butterflies flying around – tap them and they'll die. Such delicate creatures. Don't worry though, plenty more will pop up somewhere else.
En Tea House: Flowers Bloom in an Infinite Universe inside a Teacup
This tea house feels like a digital version of Dominique Ansel's Blossoming Hot Chocolate. For ¥500 you get to choose a type of green tea (we liked the yuzu option), which is then placed in front of you inside the very dark tea house. Keep the cup in place for more than a few seconds and flowers will start to 'bloom' inside it, while picking it up and drinking from it will scatter the leaves across the table and walls.
Animals of Flowers, Symbiotic
teamLab hasn't forgotten to jazz up the hallways either. Besides artworks that usually have a semi-permanent home, these moving flower-animals make an appearance on the walls connecting the different rooms. Touch them and they'll shed some blossoms; they might even acknowledge you.
Memory of Topography
This room recreates a paddy field for you to happily frolick through. The 'stalks' move, so you can chart your own path through the grassland, and the projection follows the rhythm of the seasons: the colours change depending on what a real rice field would look like in spring, summer, autumn or winter.
Crows are Chased and the Chasing Crows are Destined to be Chased as well, Transcending Space
These crows are just as pesky as the real-life ones: they often show up in rooms unannounced, and completely take over for a short period of time. That includes in this alcove, where standing in the middle during the projection will give you some serious vertigo.
Crows are Chased and the Chasing Crows are Destined to be Chased as well, Floating Space – the Nest
This suspended net (amid a space where the visuals are constantly changing) is one of the most immersive visual experiences in the museum – if you can find it. We only did on our third visit, after asking a member of staff where it was (it's near the entrance, inside Borderless World). It's generally the home of the crows, but even if you've seen those before, the net offers a new vantage point.
Dancing People and Animals Beyond Borders
This band of samurai and oversized animals often do a little Bon Odori dance in a room, but you're just as likely to bump into them in the corridors – they're easily scared by the crows, and are therefore often on the move.
森ビル デジタルアート ミュージアム エプソン チームラボボーダレス
If you need a little break from all the visual theatrics, this room full of waves might just do the trick. The waves swirl around the black walls, and you can gaze at it while resting on the handful of beanbags stacked in the middle. A little respite from all that riot of colours.
Light Forest Three-dimensional Bouldering
Part of the 'Athletic Forest', this bouldering section is full of treestump-inspired poles with grips that change colour. You'll be handed a receiver before climbing; choose one colour and then stick to it. The receiver will map out a new path for you, based on your chosen colour. Art becomes a workout here.
森ビル デジタルアート ミュージアム エプソン チームラボボーダレス
Weightless Forest of Resonating Life
A constellation of bouncy ballons, which light up according to touch. Think of it as a softer, more huggable version of the Forest of Resonating Lamps – even the floor is made from springy foam.
Light Shell and Light Vortex
This strobe light show is definitely a no-no if you have the most minor signs of epilepsy. The straight, white beams of light move around in syncronised movements that change over time. See if you can follow the light's path, but we'd recommend not spending an extended period of time here to preserve your senses for the rest of the museum.
Multi Jumping Universe
Create new planets while jumping around – that's the premise of this bouncy exhibit. Running across the trampoline leaves a Milky Way-trail of stars, while jumping in a specific spot will slowly make a mid-sized planet appear.
Future Park: A Table and Musical Wall Where Little People Live
Possibly one of the cutest installations, this room is filled with little dwarves, trying their best to jump or climb on all kinds of objects. The frying pans on the tables are particularly fun: you can 'fry' an egg in them.
Future Park: Sketch Aquarium
Just as fun for kids as adults, you can draw your own sea creature on a stencil and then scan it in. Voila: your very own fish will be swimming around on the wall. To make it even more interactive, the fish, as always, move when you touch them, while some randomly dropped bags sprout goodies on the wall too.