Man at His Best

ArtScience Museum X teamLab

We speak to Toshiyuki Inoko, co-founder of award-winning Tokyo-based art collective teamLab, about art, technology and the creative process.

BY Franchesca Liauw | Apr 22, 2016 | Technology

For its fifth anniversary, instead of going with wood or silverware, the ArtScience Museum is going for a collaborative effort with teamLab. The art collective from Japan will have an exhibition at ArtScience Museum with 15 works that invite visitors to experience an interactive world that responds to behaviour and creative input. 

Members of teamLab are self-proclaimed ultra-technologists but what exactly is an “ultra-technologist”?
Technologists are people who utilise the advance knowledge that they possess within their specialised fields to come up with new creations. Within teamLab, our technologists include programmers, engineers, architects, 3DCG animators and graphic designers.

Beyond being able to create from scratch with their own hands, they are also able to make new discoveries through the creative process. We place great importance on the entire group being able to reuse this new knowledge in versatile and abstract ways. Our ideal is based on our belief in new possibilities through creating collectively, rather than individually.

teamLab's focus is on collaboration. Do you believe it has the ability to foster conscious thought and awareness amongst individuals that is lasting?
We believe creativity is a person's most important form of thinking. By increasing their creative power, each individual becomes capable of contributing to the enrichment of society as a whole.

Until now, the acquisition of knowledge has involved making the brain work through volumes of information in a highly constrained form, while keeping the body in a fixed position. People have always trained their brains to work in this way. For example, by sitting at a desk to study; the volume of information that the brain can process in this way is extremely small.

People actually think more with their whole bodies; their brains are thinking while processing large amounts of information, without having their bodies fixed in a particular position. teamLab refers to this as ‘physical knowledge’. Our view is that physical knowledge may actually play an important role in society. However, as this kind of knowledge has not really been regarded highly up until now, people tend to get very few opportunities to develop it further. However, by moving their bodies freely within art spaces, while exercising awareness of others around them, we believe that people will be able to train their physical knowledge even more.

Which ActScience exhibition installation do you believe will have the greatest impact?
It is difficult to name only one. We want people to experience the exhibition as a whole in order to feel a range of different emotions, find opportunities to think, and show their creativity.

What role do you believe art should serve in a community?
Art inspires people to think about the meaning of their world. We believe art helps people to find answers, or at least give suggestions for questions such as the one you asked. The meaning of the world changes for every person, and the way in which they view it changes over time as well. When people's values change, so does their behaviour. At the very least, when the standard for beauty is changed or expanded, people's behaviour also changes, causing large transformations in society.

You said that if people "make an environment that nurtures creativity it has more chance to spread throughout the world VIA internet." What environment do you envision is needed to nurture creativity?
People are creative by nature. However, with today's education, there is only one definition of what is correct and any freely created ideas that differs from those exhibited by others, is seen as being incorrect. As a result, people become unconsciously fearful of making a mistake, and therefore end up losing their true creativity. The key here is to train people in order to solve this problem.

In real life, there is an infinite number of solutions capable of being born one after another. From among these, the creation of any solution that makes others happy constitutes the creation of a new correct solution. Creativity is not about being interactive and setting clearly defined boundaries. It is about a variety of fields working together to go way beyond clearly correct or incorrect.

What do you think the essence of society is? What role do you believe art/technology plays in developing this essence?
The most essential element in society is creativity. Art nurtures creativity itself, and the creation of an object turns that creativity into a physical, tangible form. Technology converts creative ideas into real objects, and technology itself gives birth to new forms of creativity.

If smartphones are being used as vehicles to interact with art, then a rich society is needed in order to foster this interaction. What line do you draw between culture and commodity?
Culture changes and develops people's knowledge and values. Other than this, it does not serve any other purpose. The culture that we come into contact with assumes the existence of a plentiful and peaceful society. Therefore, we are extremely grateful that our society is plentiful and peaceful.

You've developed systems that expanded thought and fostered communication. What other real world situations would you like to enhance through technology?
We want to create large-scale art installations. We also want to create a teamLab amusement park where people can become surrounded by even larger scale artworks. We want this amusement park to encourage people to be more collaborative and creative, allowing them to develop skills such as the ability to think with their bodies.

Modern cities are becoming highly complex, making ordinary actions completely unrelated to the city itself. Therefore, the presence of others also seem unrelated to the city. Digital art instigates change in the relationship between the people present within the same space. We believe that if by expanding the art space that digital art can extend the city itself, it might even be able to change the presence of those unrelated to become a positive element. We even dream of going as far as creating a new city.

Japan has a rich past ripe with history and tradition. Singapore has a brief history of culture. What will Singapore, as young as it is, have in shaping its culture during a digital age?
The new century is likely to see a completely different society from our modern society up to the 20th century. It is important for us to strive towards this. The fact that Singapore is extremely young, with an extremely short cultural history, brings considerable possibilities. This is because it is not hindered by the common sense or values from the previous eras.

At the same time, I personally believe that a lot of the cultural knowledge prior to this modern era has been deserted due to its incompatibility with the modern times. However, I believe that perhaps a lot of this abandoned knowledge may contain many clues about the future. The reason being that new eras are likely to be different from this modern society. As Singapore has an incredibly young history, it might be difficult to approach its pre-modern day culture. However, I do believe that there are many countries around Singapore where approaching their pre-modern day cultural knowledge would be relatively easier. We believe it is important to maintain an interest in this type of knowledge as well.