Japan’s teamLab melds museum and sauna in fresh digital art experience
TOKYO — A wall of flower petals bursts into a thousand fragments. A huge ball levitates in the air, turning from red to blue to purple. Hundreds of butterflies dart around a screen of tiny water particles.
This is not a modern art museum, but the latest creation of Japan’s teamLab collective of engineers, artists, and architects, anchored around a maze of seven saunas lit up in hues of red, green, and yellow.
The Tokyo-based digital art group took over an empty lot in the city’s glitzy Roppongi district and over the last year erected a gigantic tent housing the sauna rooms and three immersive art installations.
“Art is traditionally exhibited in luxurious places like palaces or museums – we wanted to create a luxurious state of mind for people to experience it,” said Takashi Kudo, a teamLab lab member at a demonstration on Saturday.
“TikTok teamLab Reconnect” runs from March 22 until the end of August. For $44 on weekdays and $53 on weekends, visitors can dip in and out of the hot rooms and cold showers, and walk inside the artworks sporting only swimming suits.
The coronavirus means seating in the biggest saunas was cut from 24 to 12 and ventilation was adjusted to meet government standards for air circulation.
Kudo stood under dozens of large, hand-blown glass lamps from Italy. The lamps slowly changed colors from burnt orange to magenta, illuminating dark corridors separating the rooms.
The team said it wanted to affect all senses, including touch, sound, and smell. Aromas such as roasted green tea waft through one of the saunas, and white birch in another.
“Nobody goes to an art museum in this fashion because art is art and sauna is sauna,” said Kudo, pointing to his swimming trunks. “What we wanted to try is to combine and offer a very different experience – and a very different experience of this art.”
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