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How a global art collective is changing the way we view the world.

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A kimono maker and a batik artist collaborate on a stunning showpiece in preparation for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Japan Airlines presents Art Beyond Boundaries In partnership with

How a global art collective is changing the way we view the world


“Magic” is a word that pops up a lot when visitors describe their reaction to a teamLab experience. Perhaps it’s the way the immersive, ephemeral installations trigger your senses; a digital sleight of hand not only evoking wonder, but somehow also opening you up to a world of possibilities. As the proud flag carrier, Japan Airlines aims to celebrate the Japanese spirit of ingenuity with stories of fellow game changers at the forefront of creativity and innovation. teamLab is one such story.

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Digital Sorcery Elevating art with technology

With a background not in art, but science, 41-year-old teamLab founder Toshiyuki Inoko had a unique creative perspective from the get-go. “I majored in science because I was interested in finding out what the world is, but more and more, my interest shifted toward exploring what the world means for human beings. That is how I have come to create art.”

In 2001, Inoko banded together with four fellow Tokyo University graduates and self-described “Japanese ultratechnologists” to form teamLab, envisioned as a laboratory for collaborative creation.

Just as the Internet came out and we were entering the digital century, we wanted to express something with a new methodology in a new era. I was also interested in how the digital world would change humans. And to explore that, we created a place called teamLab.

Today, teamLab is an interdisciplinary collective of over 500 artists, programmers, sound engineers, CG animators, mathematicians, and design architects collaborating from all over the globe. As head of teamLab, Inoko is both conjurer and conductor, creating wondrous concepts into being, but also ensuring every single element is in place, in tune, in symphony. Since its inception, teamLab has always aimed to transcend boundaries and explore new relationships between humans, nature, and the world through digital art.

That much-Instagrammed installation of a crystal universe that changes as you interact with it? That’s signature teamLab.

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Not Mere Spectators,
But Part of The Show
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I’ve always felt that we are limited by existing borders and societal expectations. So the movement [in the installations] is meant to emphasize that a world without boundaries is beautiful.

To understand the teamLab magic, you only need to step into one of the fantastical worlds they’ve created through digital technology. Their most ambitious project to date is “teamLab: Borderless,” a permanent exhibition of their digital art occupying an entire building in Odaiba, Tokyo’s hi-tech hub. No longer limited by physical media, this vast digital museum presents a borderless universe, where installations move around freely, intermingle with each other, and transform at your touch.

As people lose themselves in the artwork world, it transforms in real time according to how people interact with it. Touch the waterfalls and see them alter their flow; gaze up at a sea-sky to witness a school of fish grow and change color in patterns that never repeat: walk through crystal corridors that shift like 3D sculptures; sketch a shark and see it swim to life in the giant aquarium. The magic of a teamLab installation lies in the way it includes you in its world, and how your existence in this space sends ripples through the virtual universe.

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BUILDING WORLDS Nature as inspiration or canvas

“I was born in the countryside in Tokushima Prefecture in Shikoku, near a mountain and native forest; those are the places where I used to play. When I came to Tokyo, everything was two-dimensional; it felt very unnatural, you lose a sense of perceiving things with your body.” Disheartened by the urban flat planes that left people stationary and desensitized, Inoko was motivated to create complex, three-dimensional spaces, “so that people would remember what it was like to recognize the world with your own body.”

The Athletic Forest within the Borderless exhibition, for example, is an interactive, creative space that promotes the growth of the hippocampus, the part of the brain related to memory and spatial awareness. Recognizing that spatial awareness plays a pivotal role in creativity and innovation, the tactile experience of Athletic World invites people to exercise their muscle memory, engage with people and the world, and ultimately, think in 3D.

Meanwhile, in the historic Mifuneyama Rakuen Park in Kyushu, Japan, teamLab situates their installation “teamLab: A Forest Where Gods Live” in a space where boundaries blur between the manmade garden and its surrounding natural forest. Deeply respectful of this sacred site that has provided solace to generations of soul searchers, teamLab’s genius is in the concept of Digitized Nature, where non-physical, light-and-sound creations can turn nature into art without harming it. Coming face to face with reimagined primeval wonders shakes us from our everyday existence and leads us to explore our place in the order of things.

“Humans are part of nature; there has been a long relationship in harmony with nature. I myself exist in a very miraculous continuity of life and death, but as humans, we don’t really understand the entirety of it. We wanted to create a space where humans can have a grasp of that, and I chose Mifuneyama with its ancient caves and rocks, so people can feel and recognize the overwhelmingly long relationship between humans and nature.”

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FUTURE WORLD Where Art Meets Science

teamLab has also collaborated on a diverse range of projects—from educational installations, to reimagining everyday spaces, such as the JAL lounges at the Fukuoka and New Chitose (Hokkaido) airports. “If possible, we want to remove the framework of people's fixed concepts, and dissolve the boundaries between the world and ourselves, and the boundaries with others,” Inoko reiterates. “That way, even by just a little, maybe we can expand people's values. And we sincerely appreciate and respect JAL for providing us with the chance to do so. It is beyond awesome that we are given the opportunity to work with partners like JAL who strongly believed in and took a chance [on us]."

Pivotal in establishing teamLab as digital art visionaries, the exhibition “Future World: Where Art Meets Science” is a collaboration between teamLab and the ArtScience Museum in Singapore. Future World debuted in 2016 and was relaunched in September 2018 to now showcase a total of 19 installations and projects. “When we saw teamLab’s incredible installations in Tokyo, we felt that they would be an ideal partner for us to articulate our mission for the permanent installation; one that would transform and change over time, and would respond to the presence of each and every visitor,” shares Honor Harger, the museum’s Executive Director and curator .

“We wanted to show our visitors what a future vision of art might be,” Harger reveals. Beyond its universal appeal across cultures and ages, what’s interesting is how it flips roles and expectations of usual museum behavior. “We see people meditating, doing yoga, going on dates. We see joyful moments where children explain to parents how an exhibition like Sketch Town works—the whole hierarchy in how interactions normally work in museums has been turned over. Every visitor is empowered to have their own experiences, and the young people particularly have intuitive relationships with the work.”

Why Magic Matters The Relevance of Virtual Reality

teamLab believes the digital domain can expand the capacities of art and that digital art can create new relationships between people. Many of teamLab’s themes deal with nature, which is especially relevant in this era of social disconnect and climate change. “Their work has a power that is not often spoken about within art circles; it has a really philosophical role to play, helping people understand their own role in the environment,” says Harger. As magical as their work may be, teamLab’s message is not of escape, but of possibility, and the wonder of being alive in this world. “Art is something that changes what we value, and eventually changes the way we behave,” notes Inoko.

“teamLab is changing our perspective in how we view art,” reveals Harger. “The [regular] single point perspective, where the viewer is in front of the artwork—or TV, or film—makes us feel like we are apart from the environment. How you position yourself within the artwork is entirely up to you; it’s incredibly empowering.”

Through our work, we hope to expand people’s standard of value and contribute to societal progress. That is why we keep creating.
FLY INTO TOMORROW Innovations that keep JAL a step ahead

As the flag carrier, Japan Airlines (JAL) embodies the same artistry, commitment, and thirst for innovation as teamLab’s revolutionary artisans dedicate to their craft. Consistently awarded as the most punctual Asia-Pacific airline for six straight years by FlightStats, Japan Airlines has also recently been certified a 5-Star Airline by Skytrax, the international air transport rating organization. Award-winning in-flight seats on international routes, luxury lounges, exquisite in-flight cuisine, and signature Japanese hospitality have all contributed to JAL’s 5-star rating.

In its commitment to continue to provide the highest standard of safety, comfort, and customer satisfaction, JAL relentlessly pursues technological advancements and innovative collaborations. In 2017, JAL teamed up with IBM to develop and launch an app for aircraft maintenance. By empowering mechanics with immediate information for optimum work efficiency, JAL not only refines its own aircraft quality and safety, but aspires to change the workstyles of aircraft mechanics across the world.

Early this year, it launched the “JAL Innovation Lab,” a program that enables the team to collaborate with over 100 business partners, fusing human concepts with state-of-the-art Japanese technology to enhance customer experience across various points of travel.

JAL has also recently partnered with Boom Technology, Inc. to take on the challenge of shortening flight times with supersonic aircraft developed by Boom. Imagine, when this becomes a reality, Asia Pacific’s most punctual airline will be able to cut travel time down to practically half. Count on JAL to make every globetrotter’s dream a reality.


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