teamLab @ Tokyo 2019 | teamLab:LIFE @ Seoul 2021

Interactive climbing area at teamLab Tokyo. Moving your body is a creative work, and life is creativity.

teamLab @ Tokyo

In April 2019, I packed my bags and left Vietnam for a solo trip to teamLab exhibition in Japan, Tokyo. It was a chaotic and depressing time — a fresh grad with uncertain prospects, broken relationships and reputations. This seemed like a perfect psychedelic getaway without having to smoke weed.

In retrospect the four days in Tokyo turned out to be more than a fleeting smoke of a joint, but a bedrock experience to withstand the incoming mental breakdown and subsequent hardships, COVID, and more hardships.

29th April 2019 — excerpt from a journal

“People are remembered not for living in a reality but by creating a new one”.

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There was a sense of humanity on the streets of Tokyo — a warm, pastel kind of atmosphere just like in the sentimental animations. The lack of cars parked on the streets laid the city stripped off of external decors and showed its mechanical ways of life as it is; with an occasional dash of light wood that showed the depth of tradition embedded among them. Riding on the train going through such idyllic neighborhood, and into a dizzying Tokyo station was at once the most pleasing and dissonance inducing experience.

Apart from the aesthetics, there was also the deep pleasure in a solo travel, the excitement and relaxation of a hostel, and the liberating feeling of (finally) being a perfect stranger rather than a half-stranger everywhere.

Alice’s Wonderland can’t compare to this town down the rabbit hole

I took the train up north, and changed to another line at Oimachi station, towards Tokyo Teleport Station. As the name implies, the Teleport station felt eerily futuristic as metal and wood wove in and out through the spacious interiors; as if the future and the past met at this particular point in space and time. Outside the station, there was a large empty space with a shopping mall and an exhibition hall in the distance forming a complex.

Chill out / sketch area inside teamLab Tokyo

Just before entering the site, there were signs warning the visitors that it was dark inside and that it’s okay to be lost — it was meant to be enjoyed by losing your way. Anxiously, taking a few steps in…the place surprises one with wonder and surrealism that can’t be described in words.

It’s a place where you get to literally experience the words “it’s ok to get lost, that’s what makes life fun”. It’s not a trite saying but words you can feel, touch, interact with.

teamLab:LIFE @ Seoul

teamLab:LIFE exhibition leaflet at DDP, Seoul

I returned to a smaller teamLab theme exhibition two years later in Seoul. The theme was about life; the ever-interconnectedness between life, death, space and time. I found this exhibition particularly inspiring as there were series of bad fortunes for years, and teamLab exhibitions always seemed to be around the corner at the lowest points of life, or to prepare me for them, by providing space for contemplation and consolation.

I went to both of the exhibitions alone, yet I felt intensely connected to the surroundings and never felt alone the whole time. It felt like being a child again, with a freer sense of time and simple admiration for things as they are. And I realized then that letting people who don’t appreciate things or people in themselves into one’s life is to lose this part of self connected with nature and love. That was why I felt a part was missing inside of me for a long time; not because I was a stranger everywhere, but because I had met too many exploitative people in search for love or labor that satisfies all their needs.

This particular installation’s line caught my eye: “The flow of waterfall influences other artworks”. The genius of this exhibition was that the waterfall is the last installation, so that the tourists will realize that all the other installations they experienced were influenced by other people in this space. As they walk through and interact with waterfall, their actions would also influence the experience of whoever just walked through the exhibition entrance…and on…and on…

In literal sense, the water particles allowed one to transcend the physical boundaries of space and time — what I presume to be the ultrasubjective space. Given how a space (de)constructs a subjective lens through which we influence one another, maybe the absolute time also gets broken down through such lenses formed by contours of space and give rise to subjectivity.

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r&d blog on architecture, software engineering and inspirations