Hyperessay – teamLab, The Ultra-Technologists

teamLab founders Toshiyuki Inoko (left) and Takashi Kudo (right). Image taken from https://www.indesignlive.sg/people/5-minutes-with-teamlab-singapore

The Japanese collective and interdisciplinary company, teamLab, calls themselves ‘ultra-technologists,’ a statement that suggests their rejection of labels to their roles in the company, but instead an integrated community of creatives working together with a common goal. Started out as a small company in 2001 doing programming for clients, teamLab made it to the international scene after Singapore Biennale 2013 where they were given a special showcase in Singapore Art Museum with their project ‘If the World Changed‘.

Artwork showcased in the Singapore Biennale 2013

teamLab aims to achieve a balance between art, science, technology and creativity by creating interactive artwork using mostly spaces, digital media, and technology like augmented reality to engage their audiences. The idea is to allow for audience participation so as to remove the notion of artworks being static. teamLab strongly believes that an artwork should be interactive, as they believe that the experience of the artwork becomes much richer when there is participation, and that creates a collective experience that is much better than the singular experience static artworks can provide for viewers. By simply creating interaction, teamLab allows their participants to be connected to the artwork.

The teamLab work that I would be studying more in depth would be ‘The Infinite Crystal Universe‘, which is a large-spaced installation filled with rows of digitally controlled LED lights that streams down from the ceiling, essentially using pointillism to create a 3D space filled with ‘stars’ in a universe. The LED shimmers and reacts to audiences by proximity and by the interaction with the app that controls the installation. Ambient music also plays to add to the atmosphere. Within the artwork, one may feel like an adventurer stumbling upon a mysterious yet beautiful space.

The Infinite Crystal Universe, teamLab, 2015-2018, Interactive Installation of Light Sculpture, LED.
Image taken from https://www.teamlab.art/ew/infinite_crystaluniverse/

At first glance, one can tell how visually stunning the artwork is, perfect for audiences interacting with it through social media posting. The highlight comes when an audience uses a smartphone to control the artwork using an app.

Image taken from http://www.jetset-away.com/right-here-right-now/crystaluniverse

Through this action, the audience can choose an object to be sent out, which changes the music and allow the object to explode within the artwork into a spectacular LED light show that mimics galactic activities like supernovas. Within this interaction itself, the sender and the other audiences witnesses the spectacle made by the small action of a swipe. As the other audiences realise what they can do, they can start making their own objects and watching their creation blast into the universe and explode beautifully.

At its essence, the artwork encourages interaction through an awesome experience that connects everyone together in the same space, watching the same thing, feeling the same emotions. The artwork evoke a sense of how small we humans are in terms of the scale of the universe, yet one action made by us can impact everyone’s life so greatly. Without audiences, this artwork would not achieve the effect that it was made to express. As such, the artwork is very much in line with teamLab’s ideas of an interactive installation.

Image taken from https://mymodernmet.com/teamlab-crystal-universe/
Image taken from https://mymodernmet.com/teamlab-crystal-universe/
Image taken from https://mymodernmet.com/teamlab-crystal-universe/

In reference to Roy Ascott’s reading ‘Behavioural Art and the Cybernetic Vision’, ‘The Infinite Crystal Universe‘ exhibits some behavioural art characteristics. Firstly, the artwork allows for control and communication between the digital LEDs and the audience, and amongst audiences. The shift in the states of the LED cues the audiences to contemplate on the meaning behind the art, while also allows the audience to imagine the things they can do, while audiences can signal amongst themselves to teach each other on the artwork’s interactions. This feedback loop within said interactions and relationships, allows for the artwork to be in a constant state of change, keeping the artwork alive. Without the audience participation, the feedback loop would break, and the artwork would not function the way it should be. The artwork is also ambiguous, unstable, uncertain, and open-ended, which allows for a flexible interpretation as well as a flexible interaction. In this sense, the lines between art, artefact, and experience is blurred where audience and their experiences becomes part of the artwork.

John Cage’s ‘Variations V’. Image taken from http://www.medienkunstnetz.de/works/variations-v/

We can also see that teamLab also have very close visions with John Cage, which can be seen in his works ‘Variations V‘ where he made use of indeterminacy, chance, and unpredictability in his works to reimagine musical compositions, which is deemed too deterministic. By using chance to control musical composition, John Cage allowed the audience (the dancers) to not just be part of the artwork but also be essential for the artwork to exist. We can imagine the audiences in ‘The Infinite Crystal Universe‘ as the dancers in ‘Variations V‘, where the audience is given a set of choices, but their actions are completely unpredictable, while at the same time they become part of the artwork to make it alive. The artwork operates by chance, and through this controlled chance, audiences are encouraged to experiment with different combinations of objects to send out, and in whole, creates interaction. Although 50 years apart, we can draw similarities in the concepts of interactivity between both artworks.

teamLab’s ‘The Infinite Crystal Universe‘ exhibits both their own collective philosophy as well as important principles that characterises interactive art. Even though they are geographically and chronologically distant from previously studied interactive works, the principles still hold true. However,  there is also an evolution not just in terms of the technology used, but also in the way that people interact with the work. In our current society, social media is very prevalent and as such, artworks are made purposefully simple and photogenic for the purpose of being ‘Instagramable’. Artworks have thus incorporated this property and that added to another layer of interactivity. We have seen how teamLab have also included the idea of connectivity between audience and the art such that it could be easily understandable, which is absent from older forms of interactive art like John Cage’s ‘Variations V’.  As such, interactive artworks are still changing, and with the globalised society, the future of interactive art could become more and more advanced.


teamlab planets tokyo: a ‘body immersive’ exhibition of all-encompassing digital art










5 Minutes With… teamLab!


Interactive Installation Transports Viewers to Dazzling Universe of Infinite Lights

Hyperessay Key Work Selection: The Infinite Crystal Universe

I will be looking at the artwork ‘The Infinite Crystal Universe’ by teamLab.

Here’s the artwork description:

Pointillism uses an accumulation of distinct dots of color to create a picture, here light points are used to create three-dimensional objects. This interactive artwork expresses the universe through accumulated light points that spread infinitely in all directions.

People can use their smartphones to select elements that make up the universe by dragging them and releasing them into the The Infinite Crystal Universe. Each element released influences that of other elements and is influenced by the presence of people in the space. The work is created by people in the space and is thus continuously changing forever.

I really love love love this artwork because I also have a personal story tied with this artwork. I visited Art Science Museum alone before entering ADM after experiencing a down period of my life. It was a great experience going there alone as I have all the time to myself interacting with all the artworks.

The one that strike me most was, of course, this artwork. I walked through the curtains of LED thinking it would just be an “Instagram” artwork (seen it online too many times). When I reached the end, I saw an Ipad and the text description of the artwork, and decided to meddle with it. I apparently sent out a ‘star’ which appear in the artwork itself, and it exploded, creating a visual and auditory spectacle. Meanwhile, the crowd of photo-takers are just amazed by the change in environment, unaware that I, 1 person, with 1 swipe, just did all these. It was an overwhelming experience.

What I felt was that, with a small action, I can feel so powerful and yet also feel so lonely. I literally teared. Like really, words can’t describe what I felt.

SO. I feel so connected with this artwork and I also like astronomy so the whole idea of space, planets, and stars are very interesting to me.

The Infinite Crystal Universe, teamLab, 2015-2018, Interactive Installation of Light Sculpture, LED. Image taken from https://www.teamlab.art/ew/infinite_crystaluniverse/

I chose this artwork as its intend is not just straightforward, but also very impactful. My interpretation is that, on a personal level, we can see how small we all are, yet, how easily we can impact the world around us. On a whole, the interactivity is very apparent and forms some kind of relationship between the “universe maker” and the rest of the audience. There is some sense of immersion too, as audiences gets up close with the LEDs.

Through this artwork, teamLab expresses their method of creating immersive works that dissolve borders between viewer and works which allowed for quote: ‘continuous dynamic behavior, visual phenomena, and the ability to transform the canvas’. 

‘by doing so, the boundaries between the body and the work become ambiguous, which may become the starting point for people to think about their relationship with the world.

interactivity, immersion, constantly changing, feedback loop, audience > work > other audience > work > etc

teamlab planets tokyo: a ‘body immersive’ exhibition of all-encompassing digital art







Manifesto – Do Not Make Fiction

Art will always be fiction, no matter how close to reality it will be, while design will always be a piece of reality to consumers, whether invisible or not. Do not make fiction.

Do not create works that, despite speaking so much, might as well spoke nothing. Do not make works with shallow ideas that has almost no meaningful impact, backed up by information that seems to make sense, but is inherently pointless. Do not justify your work with outdated ideas or the ‘-isms’, or get so inspired by them that you lose yourself. Instead, be mindful to your surroundings as to what is purposeful and reasonable, conserve precious resources, and create works that have zero bullshit, like the Droog or the Super Normal. Take the leap of faith and believe in yourself and the influence that speaks to you the most.

History progresses to bring us contemporary work practices, like how Dadaists created artworks to fight oppression, Constructivists made their artworks with a social purpose, or how Bauhaus made design user-centric the way we know today. We should only use them as lessons, not references.

We shall not be artists, we shall be designers.

Hyperessay Artist Selection: teamLab

The artist I am choosing is teamLab.

teamLab is a Japanese collective, interdisciplinary group that uses digital media as their playground for art-making through the use of augmented reality, interactive spaces, and various technologies.  Calling themselves ‘ultra-technologists,’ teamLab aims to achieve a balance between art, science, technology and creativity.

teamLab was founded in 2001, a company that did not made it in art, but instead made applications, back-end systems, web design, interfaces, and data bases. They became major after the Singapore Bienalle 2013 which they were given a special showcase in Singapore Art Museum. The Bienalle drew a total of 560,000 visitors, and the success of the event made teamLab go international. teamLab founder Toshiyuki Inoko, Takashi Kudo, teamLab’s Communications Director and one of the first members of the collective. teamLab is now an internationally known brand which has about 500 staffs in Tokyo, as well as small offices in Singapore, New York, and Los Angeles. teamLab also have 4 permanent exhibitions in Singapore, Future World: Where Art Meets Science at the ArtScience Museum, Story of The Forest at The National Museum, Digital Light Canvas at Marina Bay Sands’ former skating rink and Flowers and People – Dark at the National Gallery.


The Infinite Crystal Universe, teamLab, 2015-2018, Interactive Installation of Light Sculpture, LED. Image taken from https://www.teamlab.art/ew/infinite_crystaluniverse/

With works like ‘The Infinite Crystal Universe,’ ‘Walk, Walk, Walk: Search, Deviate, Reunite,‘  ‘Sketch Aquarium,’ teamLab created immersive and interactive worlds full of colours and imagination. teamLab not only engages audiences with beautiful worlds, but also allow them to interact with it by adding their own part to the artwork (as seen in Sketch Aquarium).

When asked about the considerations put into the production of a teamLab work, the response was:

Interactive artworks encourage viewer participation. Common interactive media, such as video games, PCs, smartphones, Internet applications, and the like, involve people who purposely wish to interact directly with the world, actually intervening and executing some functions in order to do so. However, teamLab focuses much more on connecting interactivity and art, regardless of whether the viewer purposely wishes to intervene and execute some actions, so that art is changed simply by the mere existence of another person. In addition, if the change caused by the existence of that third person looks beautiful, then the existence of that person also becomes beautiful.

At the very least, with the conventional type of art that people have experienced up until now, the presence of other viewers constituted more of a hindrance than anything else. If you found yourself alone at an exhibition, you would consider yourself to be very lucky. However, teamLab’s exhibitions are different: the existence of other viewers is definitely seen as a positive element.

Sketch Aquarium, teamLab, 2013-present. Image taken from https://www.teamlab.art/w/aquarium
Walk, Walk, Walk: Search, Deviate, Reunite. 2018. Image taken from https://www.teamlab.art/w/walk

According to one online article, chief creative officer Takumi Nomoto said this:

“It’s about creating something that’s against what people see as the norm,” Nomoto says, smiling. “If I go to a museum and I see art hanging on the wall I don’t feel any connection to it, it’s just a painting on the wall. However, if you’re part of the art, if you play an integral part, then you can connect with it.”

teamLab’s philosophy is essentially creating non-static interactive artwork that one can relate to, and that generates the feedback loop which is crucial for the artworks to stay alive. The futuristic visions of teamLab allows for such a playful yet awe-inspiring works. I find this philosophy really interesting and something that I would love to do. Being able to meddle with technology to extend one’s perception of the world is one thing that is great. To be able to inspire people with the creation of universes is another experience that cannot be put into words.

For a software programming company to transition into an art-making one, their approach to design is really candid, enthusiastic, and really different from trained artists which I feel made them really lovable and genuine in the way they make art. When art and science comes together, it becomes something without boundaries. When we start seeing science as art, and throw away preconceived ideas of what art should be, we can really appreciate this new ways we perceive art. Just like Nam June Paik’s ‘Magnet TV,’ teamLab can be revolutionary in our time to create a more hopeful future for not just the art world, but also for reality.






5 Minutes With… teamLab!


Neo Conceptualism Essay

Bryan Leow Ee Kwang

Neo Conceptualism


Neo Conceptualism happened between the 1980s to 1990s, which is the revival of Conceptualism of the 1960s to 1970s. The very idea of conceptualism stems far into the past, during the 1910s where Dadaism was formed. Dada founded the idea of conceptualism, through Marcel Duchamp’s “Fountain”. Displaying a found object in an art gallery for the first time, Duchamp broke the rules of art at that time, which are usually carefully made paintings to specifically fit a certain style. The Fountain is an actual urinal found in a men’s room, placed flatly down on the gallery stand to be turned into “art”. By taking the object out of context and switching of the orientation, Duchamp have transformed the meaning of a urinal into something else. The function of the urinal became something more conceptual: a mockery of art, and a stance on art being something that should be without rules. By doing so, Duchamp started Dadaism, which made use of seemingly nonsensical, meaningless, and provocative artworks to express their protest to bourgeois ideas of art as well as their discontent with the war at that time. This has influenced many more artists like Hannah Hoch to create more Dadaist artworks.


Fast forward, Dada influenced neo-conceptualism in some ways, as can be seen from John LeKay’s “Untitled” which features a wheelchair on top of a ladder. This is very similar to Duchamp’s “Bicycle Wheel” visually. The usage of readymades which started from Duchamp took off to show us new ways that art can be represented. While both artworks are conceptually different, the idea of Dadaism stuck.


The most direct influence was Conceptualism. The whole idea of conceptualism was to question the concept of art-making. When thinking about conceptualist artworks, we must remember how art used to be like in order to contextualise the reasonings behind conceptual art. The Young British Artists are a group of British artists who exhibited together in 1992 that drove Neo Conceptualism to where it is today. They influenced the movement greatly through their branding which is easily recognised worldwide. Members of the YBA includes Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin. Due to the openness of their usage of materials, they can easily create sensationalised artworks that challenges our ideas of what art is supposed to mean. By doing so, the artists are able to create artworks that have provocative characteristics like in Dada, shocking audiences to a larger extend that is better than what a painting or sculpture can do. This can be seen from “The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living”, an artwork by Damien Hirst. The artwork is an actual dead shark, preserved by formaldehyde, stored in a tank. The concept behind this artwork is that death is something that we cannot imagine. We cannot imagine how it is like to be dead, like the dead shark. At the same time, we cannot imagine ourselves to be dead, due to the shark’s powerlessness, despite its fearsomeness when it is still alive. The artwork has everything that makes a conceptual art great — Interesting mediums, extraordinary concept, and really shocking imagery. Despite the cost and criticism, we cannot help but to admire both the grandeur of such an artwork, as well as really contemplate on the whole meaning of the artwork. The art is also able to fully express itself now that the medium is open to not just sculptures and paintings. Other than that, the artwork also provoke questions about the real meaning of art. Should art be about the idea or the object itself? Should mediums like these be acceptable as “art”? Therefore, conceptual art have fulfilled its goals to completely challenge the way we see art.


We can see the evolution on the ideas of what a conceptual artwork should be, from Duchamp’s Dadaist “Fountain” to Hirst’s The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living”. Neo Conceptualists continue to experiment on different mediums, extending into performances, photography, and even more. Neo Conceptualism seems to be an expansion of Conceptualism, which gave rise to what we know as Contemporary Art today.


I would like to offer another perspective towards Contemporary Artworks. Perhaps, the idea of creating such works would also be a testing of what works and what does not, in the context of art. Surely, the freedom for artists to do whatever they want as long as they have an idea is a double-edged sword. Artists can be easily criticised as like creating their concepts and artworks. However, criticism and questioning could be the next driving force artists need in order to evolve. We can think of such artworks as a bridge that links the old, rigid, and traditional ways towards a greater future of art itself. Through this experimentation, art can evolve to something that is perhaps more free, yet elegant at the same time. We live in a time of transition and that is something that we should not take for granted.

Reading Response – Age of Information

Massimo Vignelli’s philosophy in design was inspiring. I love this quote from him in the interview:

‘If we need something and we can’t find it, then we design it.’

It was such a simple idea, yet have and could lead to the creation of great designs. The usage of a standardised way of working allow modern artists (designers) to create works that are not just practical, but also of wide variety depending on the subject they want to tackle.Massimo’s idea of the terms ‘information architecture’ and ‘visual communications’ also allowed us to understand what design really means. There is now a clear shift of art as a form of self-expression to art to solve problems.

Massimo’s philosophy on quality as an attitude and a way of living is also commendable. It is also interesting to compare this idea with artworks from the past, which have never really talked about quality before, as if it is something that is established as one’s style. Having this sense of quality perhaps builds a person’s reliability in business and therefore makes design a skill that is not just beneficial to society but also in demand. This shift of the way art-making is done perhaps shaped the idea of corporate identity and branding. With that, I believe Massimo have laid the foundation to modern visual communications.

I felt overwhelmed thinking about how design have came to this point, and how weird it is that design have only existed recently. Before Constructivism, artworks are not always made for social reasons, which is a huge contrast to what we have currently where we always consider external factors in art-making in order to find it meaningful. It is funny how the world changes, and with globalisation and digital technologies, I am sure there will be more ahead of us to discover.

Reading Response – The Modernist Era

The first essay questioned modernism on its ideals of abstraction and universalising design. I somewhat agree with his viewpoint, as it is impossible for designs to be solve every problem in the world. Yet, this very idea push designers to look beyond what is physically possible, and push designers to consider every aspects of their design to be as universal as possible. Certainly, though, the movement could have taken on a better viewpoint rather than its cold take on design. Design do require at least a slight bit of human touch, rather than cold and harsh rules. Nonetheless, Modernism do developed an interesting style that speaks of itself and its time that I feel was necessary for the movement of history.

The second essay got me questioning if we would be able to still do design without going through the training required of us. I feel that the idea of setting rules and guides for designers is an interesting step towards the future during Modernism. Together with proper training, designers could grasp, or even master both the technical skills and creative thought process. I feel that the existence of Modernism have brought upon a greater good than what it may seem to be. Without it, design would be so out of reach for people, it would have probably not evolved to what it is now.

The third essay talks about the evolution of Modernism where designers start inputting their own creativity into the designs. Designers are more interested in visual communications and problem solving, which turns design into a more personalised process.

Modernism, despite its extreme viewpoint, is an essential step in history for designers to realise they are part engineer, part artist. The rules guide the designer, and the designers add their own personality and creativity into their designs. Design is able to reach its current state now because of Modernism. However, I feel that design is still evolving. Who knows, we can be the next person to start a movement to evolve design further into something greater?

Reading Response – Industrial Revolution

My favourite (amongst all the given choices) would be Futurism. Despite its questionable political influences, I really appreciate the shift in depicting motion in a 2D canvas. This is probably something that was never really done before at that time, and I was fascinated by how artists are able to suggest the idea of motion with just shapes and strokes that we take for granted today.

G. B. (1912). Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash [Painting found in Albright–Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York]. Retrieved September 11, 2018, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dynamism_of_a_Dog_on_a_Leash
My favourite piece is Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash by Giacomo Balla. This adorable painting caught my eye because fast doggo the artist have successfully depicted motion using blurred strokes of the moving body parts that rotates from their respective turning points that we take for granted nowadays (in animations or cartoons). This is, to me, a forward-thinking way of depicting something 4-dimensional into a 2D canvas. The use of such technique have also allowed us to imagine the speed of the motion. Lastly, the painting also expressed a calm yet energetic feel, which makes the contrast in the painting so great and captivating for me.




Also, fast doggo!

The Bauhaus Maggi Mee

My life as a Singaporean was very stale up until university where I start to get exposed to external influences (such as modern artists, Instagram artists, etc) as a result of my studies. It was only after mixing around with an interesting cohort of people and professors that got me seeing the world differently. I feel like I have always been living in a shell, indulging in my own local culture. I therefore created this Bauhaus-inspired art piece, constructed out of circles, squares, and a triangle to reflect on my thoughts on external influences of Singaporeans.

I given the colour blue to the triangle, the coloured red to the circle, and the colour yellow to the square. This is a reference to the action of pouring water into Maggi mee.

The blue triangle represents water, which is external influence that seems invisible to the eye most of the time, but is essential for cooking the maggi mee.

The red circles represents the soup of the Maggi mee, which is only best eaten when mixed with water. It also represents Singapore. Once water is added into the soup, the maggi mee will have the best flavour — not too salty, not too bland. This also shows how it is unhealthy for Singaporeans to stay too indulged in our own bubble.

The yellow squares represents the noodles, which are dark at the edge, light when closer to the middle of the circle. This also represent Singaporeans, and how the noodles are inedible without the addition of water.

The blue triangle draws the eye towards the circle, and the yellow square leads the eye which spirals into the center of the circle. As we go deeper into the circle, the circle gets darker, creating a sense of depth. I also tried to make the composition as minimal, and also avoided any warping or rotating of the shapes so as to keep them true to what they are.

Original Inspiration
Trial 1

Week 4 – Art Nouveau

I went out to Punggol Waterway Park and found these patterns in nature.

This green leaves are connected together and look very lively, which reminds me of Singapore as a country that is united and also active. I picture the individual leaves as a little person, all connected together into a bigger bunch. The leaves are also healthy and un-damaged, which made me thought of them as young, which is also a reflection of how I view Singapore.

This tree bark patterns are very flowy and have a lot of action going on in there, which also supported by view of Singaporeans being active and constantly on the move. The upward direction of the wavy pattern also reminds me of the country’s growth as a young nation.

With the first image, I traced and took a part of the bunch and repeated them to form a symmetrical lion, depicting Singapore. I like how the leaves at the bottom created the teeth of the lion.

The next image, I traced over using pencil and then coloured it in with Illustrator to create this part of the tree bark. I then use it to form a tree that covers the front of the ‘lion’.

As I tried to make the image more dynamic, I realised I can use the branch to form the silhouette of Singapore in the negative space. Overall, this composition represents Singapore as an active and young nation that still growing. The arrangement also made it seems like the lion is looking directly onto the silhouette, which also represents how we are still watching ourselves and shaping ourselves. The colour I chose are closer to the natural colours, and I try to make it vibrant to reflect the youthfulness of our country.