Presented by Adelaide Festival Centre, Art Gallery of South Australia and Samstag Museum in partnership with teamLab
Reviewed 16 September 2016
If flowers are the idealised form of nature, as suggested by generations of Japanese artists, then what is the idealised form of technology? It would probably be something quite similar to a new work acquired by the Art Gallery of South Australia to coincide with OzAsia 2016: an algorithmic digital piece by Japanese “ultra-technologists”, teamLab.
Ever Blossoming Life II – A whole year per hour: Gold is an incredible work debuting at the Art Gallery this OzAsia season. The work appears as four panels of dense floral arrangement, constantly sprouting new flowers, dropping petals and shifting under a mysterious wind. What could easily be mistaken for a simple looping video (albeit, a breathtaking one) is actually something much, much more.
Ever Blossoming Life II is actually based on a computer algorithm, coded to form complex patterns of imagery that are never quite the same, second by second. Over the space of an hour, the image morphs multiple times to reflect the changing season, portraying different flowers and their petals as the “year in an hour” progresses. The work endlessly recreates itself, just as nature does, and so no two viewings will be the same.
teamLab, a diverse collective of artists, programmers, engineers, animators and more, was formed in 2001 by Toshiyuki Inoko, a then-recent Mathematical Engineering and Information Physics graduate from Tokyo. Ever since then, teamLab have been pushing the limits of technology to create a balance between the traditionally disparate worlds of art, science, technology and creativity.
This 2016 work seems a masterpiece according to their philosophy. It is informed by Japanese traditions, such as yamato-e paintings and waka poetry, two influential styles that inspired Japanese artistic practice for centuries. Waka and yamato-e would come to decorate the palaces and houses of nobility, as well as inspire a generation of popular printmakers and craftsmen that eventually defined Japanese art for the outside world. This rich history of Japanese art was largely tied with the natural world, with elements, such as birds, mountains and, of course, flowers, appearing in the majority of works, representing personal or social attributes.
Alongside Ever Blossoming Life II is a temporary exhibition of Japanese historical art. The luxurious golds, elegant brushwork and precise, high-quality printing on display highlights the ingenuity of these artists and give the viewer a well-rounded history on the nation’s art. Viewers come to see how centuries of creating art amongst the natural world has all led up to the creation of advanced digital works such as Ever Blossoming Life II.
It is impossible to deny – as you watch the delicate pink and blues of the computer generated flowers – that the digital world is, ultimately, part of the natural. Everything is tied together, everything has its season and everything can be made beautiful. Impermanence is perfection.
Reviewed by James Rudd
Venue: Art Gallery of South Australia, North Terrace
Season: On display until January 15, 2017
Image: teamLab, Japan, formed 2001, Ever Blossoming Life II – A whole year per hour, Gold, 2016, Tokyo, four channel, digital artwork, endless, edition 4/6; Gift of the Neilson Foundation through the Art Gallery of South Australia, Foundation, 2015, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide.