What lies beneath: a swirling installation in light by TeamLab is pulling us in

What lies beneath: a swirling installation in light by TeamLab is pulling us in

In what has quickly become Japanese art collective TeamLab’s signature style, a technologically ambitious yet highly personal digital art installation debuts today in Melbourne. Created for the NGV Triennial, Moving Creates Vortices and Vortices Create Movement straddles the ever-bending boundaries between art, technology and experience, sucking visitors in.

Ahead of TeamLab’s exhibition at Pace Gallery London this past January, founder Toshiyuko Inoko told me that ‘digital technology allows art to break free from the frame’ – a theme that busts through the walls and ceilings here. Visitors walk on digitally-manipulated water, their presence creating moving light patterns on the floor, in an algorithmic technology borrowed from the London show. Unlike the ealier iteration, the Melbourne space includes mirrors on the walls and roof, reflecting light from the floor, enveloping the visitors completely, in overwhelming, hurricane-like patterns.

This installation centres on humanity’s ability to indelibly imprint on natural environments, and in turn, nature’s affect on us. ‘Through their own movement, visitors realise that seemingly unrelated things affect the world in an uncontrollable way,’ Inoko explains. With every step, rippling light waves cascade, circling outwards. ‘We want to create an experience where people’s various behaviours create diverse flow velocity, generating huge vortices – whether you intended to do so or not.’

Installation view of Moving Creates Vortices and Vortices Create Movement, 2017, by TeamLab, at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne. © TeamLab. Courtesy of Ikkan Art Gallery, Martin Browne Contemporary and Pace Gallery

As with the London show, which contained a catalogue of familial references to Japanese art, history and culture, Moving Creates Vortices and Vortices Create Movement was born from memories of Inoko’s childhood. ‘In the ocean near to where I was born, there are huge tidal vortices called the Naruto whirlpools’, he explains. ‘Some are too massive to see – they swirl up the carcasses of organisms sunk to the bottom of the ocean, producing nutritious seawater, and enriching the ocean.’

Since then, Inoko has been interested in the relationship between ‘whirlpools, seafood and people’s lives’, which became the surprisingly organic motivation for this highly technological installation.

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