An infinite room full of crystals. A cozy black hole where every surface is a pillow. A dark universe that rains flowers. An ankle-deep koi pond where multi-chromatic projected fish swim away from your feet.
These are some of the sites at DMM Planets, 32,000 square feet of interactive art installations created by the art collective TeamLab, which runs through August 31 at Japan’s Odaiba Minna no YUME-TAIRIKU 2016 -A World of Wonders festival.
"The biggest challenge of the project was that we were trying to create a completely new thing that nobody had ever seen," says TeamLab artist Rio Nishiyama. It seems to have worked. Through a dark maze, visitors reach unique room after unique room, to be experienced in no particular order. But as Nishiyama explains, the experience is always meant to mix scale, motion, and, maybe most importantly, the presence of other people.
"We believe that the digital art is able to indirectly influence the way that people in the space relate to each other. Now, if this space that has been expanded through digital art changes due the the presence of others, then the presence of others must be considered a part of the art," says Nishiyama. "With the kind of art that has been common in the world until now, you could say that, from the viewer’s point of view, the presence of others was an interference, at the very least."
Indeed, while it may seem like a dream to walk around your favorite museum without dodging around the tourists, DMM Planets installations crave the inclusion of strangers. You can imagine how a padded room might feel if you were locked inside an insane asylum alone, but hopping around the space with other people is something else entirely; maybe it reminds you of childhood sleepovers and jumping on the bed. In some of the projected rooms, motion-tracking follows visitors, so their movements directly impact the pixels floating around the space.
In these cases, other people feed a feeling of positive social chaos rather than meditative order. For the most ambitious room in DMM Planets, which requires you walk in barefoot as it has been completely flooded with water, virtual koi swim in schools around your feet—but they can also react to anyone else walking through the pond, too. So in theory, the more people who walk through the pond, the more these fish come to life.
I say "in theory" only because I haven’t tried the experiences, and TeamLab is reluctant to detail the software, projectors, and motion tracking technology behind their exhibits. They prefer, instead, to let the artworks—like your fellow visitors—speak for themselves.
[All Photos: courtesy TeamLab]