teamLab’s Instagrammable art show in Macau is a mesmerising digital creation that proves science and art go hand in hand, according to founder Toshiyuki Inoko



a group of people playing instruments and performing on a stage: Multi Jumping Universe, one of the interactive digital installations created by teamLab Photo: teamLab


Multi Jumping Universe, one of the interactive digital installations created by teamLab Photo: teamLab

Anyone even remotely tapped into social media will have some awareness of teamLab and its out-of-this-world art displays and installations. Beautiful, all-encompassing and unique, the group’s work is something to be experienced rather than merely seen.

Founded in 2001 by Toshiyuki Inoko, teamLab calls itself an international art collective. It’s an interdisciplinary group of specialists – programmers, artists, engineers, mathematicians, CG animators and architects – whose works explore the convergence of art, technology, design and the natural world through the digital medium.

As a child, Inoko loved science and art. The two disciplines intrigued him and gave him different lenses through which to see the world and the contrast between those two perceptions stuck with him.

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a man with smoke coming out of it: teamLab founder and visionary Toshiyuki Inoko. Photo: teamLab


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teamLab founder and visionary Toshiyuki Inoko. Photo: teamLab

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“What science did was make the resolution of the world clearer, through study and scientific processes. And what did art do for humans? Actually, art has changed the way we perceive the world,” said Inoko. “That is why I have always been interested in art and science, ever since I was a child.”

This interest stayed with him, and as a major in physics and mathematics at university, Inoko was struck by an epiphany: “Once I entered university, I realised that humans try to understand the phenomena that are happening in the world by dividing things into pieces, by separating things into parts. We keep separating things further and further and further. We try to understand the Earth, so we separate the Earth from the universe.

“We try to understand the Earth itself and the elements in the Earth, so we separate those elements to try to perceive what they are. And then we saw the atom. Because we wanted to understand the atom, we had to break that into molecules. Humans kept separating things; humans kept breaking things down into pieces to perceive the world. But, at the end of the day, that did not help humans to understand what the entire world is, what the entirety of the world is. So I’ve always liked science, but because I was always very much interested in what the world is for humans, my interest has shifted more towards art.”



a person holding a birthday cake with lit candles: Flowers Bloom in an Infinite Universe inside a Teacup installation by teamLab. Photo: teamLab


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Flowers Bloom in an Infinite Universe inside a Teacup installation by teamLab. Photo: teamLab

Opened in June, teamLab SuperNature Macao is the largest non-gaming attraction within the Venetian Macao casino and entertainment complex. How will teamLab operate differently in a permanent space compared to the more usual temporary spaces? Very differently, is the answer. First of all, financially. The amount that can be spent on art differs tremendously between temporary and permanent exhibits.

“Permanent exhibitions allow us to create a space from scratch,” said Inoko. “With temporary exhibits, there is already a pre-existing space and we localise our artworks to fit that space. Definitely, an opportunity where art can come first means a lot more.”

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What can visitors to the new, permanent museum at The Venetian look forward to? New work, for sure. Expect experiences such as a floating white mass you can walk into and out of. This cloud is not smoke – smoke is something you don’t really recognise as a “thing”, yet this is a seemingly tangible mass that just happens to be floating in the air, in a room. Even though you feel it’s tangible, you can still walk in and out of it. Surely an experience to look forward to, as soon as travel resumes.

When he graduated from college, Inoko wanted to create a space to express himself, a space for experimentation where different specialists could co-create together by crossing their own boundaries of knowledge and specialities. The name teamLab suggests a lab to experiment in collaborative creation.



Inverted Globe Graffiti Nature, Red List at The Venetian. Photo: teamLab


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Inverted Globe Graffiti Nature, Red List at The Venetian. Photo: teamLab

“With teamLab I actually did not set the bar too high. What I did back then was create artworks at night. During the day we had clients who we provided with the technology and creations they asked for. This sustained our lab. At night I kept creating what I thought was most meaningful. I wasn’t really expecting any return from my nighttime creativity.”

However, the founder and artist had already subconsciously prioritised his art above commercial projects. At the same time, teamLab had no stockholders, so had no targets to aim for. As teamLab is about shortening the distance between people and art, the collective was constantly asking what impact their art had on those who experienced it.

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“As teamLab, we do not really know what kind of experience we’ve been able to deliver to our visitors. What we are hoping to deliver to visitors is a perception where people would not feel the boundaries between themselves and the world. For instance, when you watch a movie, there is a world beyond the screen which means the movie becomes a boundary between the viewer and the world that exists beyond that screen.”



background pattern: Expanding Three-Dimensional Existence in Transforming Space - Flattening 3 Colours and 9 Blurred Colours, Free Floating, at The Venetian. Photo: teamLab


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Expanding Three-Dimensional Existence in Transforming Space – Flattening 3 Colours and 9 Blurred Colours, Free Floating, at The Venetian. Photo: teamLab

Those who have visited teamLab exhibitions will know that the screen does not create that type of boundary, but instead offers an ambiguous experience – more precisely, an experience that intentionally makes the boundaries between yourself and the art ambiguous, reducing the distance between subject and art. “Art is often overlooked as an important subject in school,” Inoko said.

“The process of science is to break things apart, break things into pieces, to understand what the original thing is. The more we divide into pieces to understand what that existence is, the further we go from the entirety, the bigger picture of what it is. Art, on the other side, is a process of trying to perceive that existence as a part of continuity, even though it is just a part of it – but art is a way for humans to try to perceive the entirety of continuity. And by sharing this experience with others, that could change our perception of the world.”

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