Transcending Boundaries / by Heloise

For most of us, virtual reality is precisely that; a digital world, viewed through a headset. But for the last sixteen years, the multidisciplinary Japanese collective TeamLab have been working to change all of that. A coalition of artists, engineers, editors, animators, architects, digital experts  and graphic designers, they call themselves ‘ultratechnologists’. And the work they produce brings virtual reality into the real world, immersing their audiences in spectacular, large-scale experiences — whether it’s designing a shimmering virtual Christmas tree for luxury jeweller Mikimoto, or creating an animated Japanese battle scene in the Las Vegas Bellagio’s famous fountains.

We were lucky enough to attend a private view of their first-ever London Show, Transcending Boundaries, at the Pace Gallery in Mayfair recently. Spread across three darkened rooms, each one smaller than the one before, the show is an impressive demonstration of their expertise. Using a combination of sensors and projectors, the first room is dominated by a giant waterfall which runs down a wall and all along the floor, in long lines of light which split and deflect as they encounter the audience. Surrounding this, brightly-coloured flowers blossom and fade at high speed, their petals scattering as the viewer approaches. On another wall, butterflies cluster and disperse, fluttering around the room; if a viewer touches one, it dies.

After the sensory overload of the first room, the second space focuses on a single installation — a computer-generated image of dark, crashing waves. And The final room is the most interactive of all. As viewers walk across the floor, flowers blossom under their feet; when they stand still, more flowers spring to life all over their bodies — and fade away when they move again.

Like walking through a life-sized video game, the whole exhibition is beautifully made, with its poetic theme of growth and rebirth realised through beautiful images and soft, evocative music. And the balance between technology and creativity is superbly done. It’s well worth a visit to check their work out; TeamLab have exhibitions happening all over the world this year, from Dubai to Texas to Taiwan.