Arts

'Continuous Life and Death'
at Pace Palo Alto

Digital art collective teamLab uses software and CGI to explore the life cycle
'Life and Death' is the floral centerpiece of teamLab's exhibit at Pace Palo Alto. Photo by teamlab

Toshiyuki Inoko, the founder of the digital art collective teamLab, believes their work "transcends the boundaries between art, science, technology and creativity." The collective includes software programmers, hardware engineers, CG animators, architects and mathematicians. After an immersive installation in 2016 at Pace Gallery's now defunct space in Menlo Park, Pace Palo Alto hosts teamLab's latest array of digital wonders.

"Continuous Life and Death at the Now of Eternity" is the ethereal exhibition title that also doubles as the name of a work on nine monitors that reproduces a tapestry made of flowers and plants set on an infinite loop. A time lapse video of the piece on the teamLab website seems to back their contention that the floral patterns never repeat themselves, but you'd have to be a robot or trapped in an asylum to dispute that claim. The video condenses several months of the display down to a few minutes.

The experience of Continuous Life and Death isn't that far removed from watching someone from behind the scenes play a video game via remote control, or like staring at a muted television screen. In her song "Strange Angels," Laurie Anderson compares heaven with TV and anticipates the feeling of walking through an immersive exhibit like this one: "A perfect little world / that doesn't really need you / And everything there / is made of light / And the days keep going by." For those who have the patience for it, staring at lovely images on multiple screens can be hypnotic. For others, it might come across as tedious or overwhelming.

When Inoko delivers promotional lectures about teamLab, he suggests that their accomplishment—synthesizing a variety of different disciplines—is an evolutionary leap forward. All the programming and energies of his team members cast the singular effort of a lone artist into doubt. Can Van Gogh's Sunflowers or Monet's series of water lilies hold the viewer's attention in the same way as the spectacle of moving blooms, of petals falling and reforming, forever changing color?

"Continuous Life and Death at the Now of Eternity" is full of gorgeous imagery—waves crashing, calligraphy forming, organic life enmeshed in a digital landscape. But in screen after screen, the contents seem to be advertisements for the teamLab designers. In this scenario, the e-flowers are like supermodels, airbrushed beyond their humanity, and packaged inside cold and bloodless spheres of perfection.

Continuous Life and Death at the Now of Eternity
Thru Jan 13
Pace Gallery
pacegallery.com


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