Japanese art collective teamLab to show 15 installations at ArtScience Museum

The interactive art installations include one with projections of butterflies and flowers (above) and another of large lit balls that change colours and produce sound when touched.
The interactive art installations include one with projections of butterflies and flowers (above) and another of large lit balls that change colours and produce sound when touched.PHOTO: TEAMLAB
The interactive art installations include one with projections of butterflies and flowers (above) and another of large lit balls that change colours and produce sound when touched (left).
The interactive art installations include one with projections of butterflies and flowers and another of large lit balls that change colours and produce sound when touched (above).PHOTO: TEAMLAB

The ArtScience Museum will mark its fifth anniversary with the opening of a new permanent exhibition featuring 14 works by the 450-strong art collective, teamLab, which is known for its evocative digital art works. The show promises visitors an immersive, sensorial and interactive experience

A new universe, built from strings of binary code and offering visitors a sensorial, interactive experience, will be unveiled at the ArtScience Museum next month to mark its fifth anniversary.

This landmark permanent exhibition, which features 15 digital art installations by award-winning Japanese art collective teamLab, will take visitors on an immersive journey through nature and urban areas and into outer space.

One part of the exhibition, for example, will feature an Edenic space with projections of butterflies and flowers on the walls and floor.

This scene is rendered in real time by a computer program, so the types of flowers shown match the season of the year and the viewer's interaction with the work causes changes to it.

Flowers bloom and wither in the presence of a person and butterflies fade away when they are touched. The scene is alive, ever-changing and never the same.

The entire exhibition occupies 1,500 sq m - a quarter of the museum's gallery space - and it is done in collaboration with teamLab. The museum's executive director Honor Harger, 40, would not disclose the cost of the exhibition, but tells The Straits Times it is a "significant" amount.

This development comes hot on the heels of a $2.5-million digital media edutainment centre helmed by Japanese creative agency 1->10 that will open in Sentosa this month.

Ms Harger says it was always the plan for the museum to have a permanent exhibition that offers visitors a definitive experience of what it is about - a museum that explores the "intersection among art, science, technology and culture". But finding the right project and partner took a while.

The search began in 2014 when she joined the museum.

It was on the lookout for art organisations or artist groups that could create a large-scale, immersive exhibition melding art and science, and one that was permanent yet changing, so that it would draw repeat visitors.

"We didn't want to make a traditional exhibition, but build a universe," she says.

The 400-strong teamLab, founded in Japan in 2001, proved to be kismet. The collective includes artists, programmers, engineers, mathematicians and architects, and aims to "achieve a balance among art, science, technology and creativity" through its work.

She praises its work as "a coming of age for digital art".

"Because of the team's background, it has the mastery to execute digital art seamlessly and create compelling experiences where the technology recedes into the background and the art takes the lead, engaging the viewer emotionally."

She adds that its works also have "a strong element of physical play and educational underpinning".

An example she cites is an installation of large lit balls which change colours and produce sound when touched.

"Digital technology can sometimes have the effect of separating us from one another," she says. "We interact with our screens and not one another.

"This installation, however, is specially designed to let people play and make music together. With it, one could also talk about physics - harmonics and the electromagnetic spectrum."

This exhibition is the largest permanent show for teamLab, which first showed here at the 2013 Singapore Biennale.

The collective's founder Toshiyuki Inoko, 38, says of the collaboration: "The vision of the museum is in line with our ideology and concept.

"We think that new digital art will go on to change art, not just extending artworks into a new era, but also changing the art space and museum itself, as well as the way people interact and experience art."

Ms Harger says the exhibition, which opens to the public on March 12, will be enhanced throughout the year and refreshed with new works every one to two years.

Admission prices will be announced later this month, when tickets go on sale.

She says: "The exhibition will be a game-changer for ArtScience Museum for sure, but we think also for Singapore.

"In one stroke, Singapore becomes one of the leading destinations in Asia for digital art and for art and science."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 02, 2016, with the headline 'Art and science come alive'. Print Edition | Subscribe