Mind-blowing magic in huge Osaka outdoor art extravaganza

HERE’S an eggs-ceptional attraction that’ll scramble your senses – and it’s not even Easter yet. It’s the latest installation from the contemporary art gurus at cutting edge collective teamLab.

They’re blurring the boundaries between art, technology and nature at Nagai Botanical Garden, a 240,000 square metre urban park with its own lake, in Japan’s Osaka. 

And there seem to be eggs – well, strangely glowing otherworldly ovoids – everywhere. It’s as if you’ve wandered onto the set of a sci-fi blockbuster. Just don’t mention Alien

What’s more, because just about every object you encounter in the garden is interactive – not just with visitors but with wildlife and weather too – no two visits are ever the same. 

I’m in the good company of local guide and ex-pat Kendal James, no stranger to regular readers of this blog, a writer, artist and tour guide with online travel streamer Heygo, and on social media.

Now, I’ve visited teamLab installations before, including the extraordinary indoor attraction which closed last year in Tokyo, but this is the first outdoor show I’ve experienced.

Read more: Inside the real-life Matrix at teamLab Tokyo

While some of the sights will be familiar to those who checked out my review of the Tokyo exhibition, others newly excite the senses with sensational swirls of colour and evocative sounds.

A trail through the attraction starts simply enough with interactive lighting in the grasses and trees before those eggs start to appear, shimmering with shifting colours and seemingly growing in number.

But here’s the clever thing. Approach the ovoids in the camellia garden by day and they reflect the world around you – but it’s as darkness falls that they really hatch their cunning plan.

They flicker slowly if left alone, phasing through 57 colours – but touch one and it reacts immediately, shining brightly. Then others nearby take their cue and start to change colour too.

The teamLabs artists love to give each area an arty title, so these aren’t so much eggs as Resonating Microcosms. The trees get in on the act, too, picking up the colour palette.

There’s more resonance in the eucalyptus park, where the eggs are supersized, in similar fashion to the indoor Tokyo installation, and you can push your way between them, each touch setting off those trademark colour changes all around.

Read more: Wading through waves of light in Japanese wonderland

More traditional are the floating candle lights on Oike Lake, each of which has a mind of its own, autonomously drifting on the water at the whim of the wind but setting off colour chains when they touch.

But the best is yet to come, as teamLab Botanical Garden Osaka saves its show-stoppers for later. 

The headline attraction is the awkwardly titled Sculptures of Dissipative Birds in the Wind, which gives you no idea of what you’re actually about to see.

Swirling lights are projected onto three towering monoliths set at crazy angles on an island, the patterns designed to reflect the energy generated by the birds that fly around them.

If there’s no movement, the sculptures can remain blank – at night even dissolving into the darkness – but that’s rare, not least because bushes have been planted to attract the insects that birds feed on.

Simpler, but no less effective, are the green-lit grids that link the trees at the secondary Nagai Satoyama forest and which are generated, once again, by the movement of visitors.

They may well put you in mind of sci-fi blockbuster The Matrix.

Just when you think you’ve seen it all, there’s an area where Japanese symbols write themselves seemingly in the air, the 3D calligraphy brushstrokes painting the darkness.

It’s graceful and serene, with a gentle music soundtrack, and you can easily lose track of time here, so plan your trip accordingly.

Last, but not least, there’s fire in the forest. Those aren’t words you normally want to hear in these days of climate change and rising temperatures, but this one is harmless.

The Universe of Fire Particles is a clever illusion of flames amid the trees, and there’s an unexpected bonus – you can take this one home with you and share it with your friends.

If you’ve downloaded the Distributed Art app on your phone, you’ll find that as you approach the artwork, the flames appear on your screen too. And that’s without any button pushing.

Move your phone close to a friend’s mobile and the fire will spread to his, or her, device as well. teamLab say that eventually the flame could spread across the world, and there’s a map to monitor its progress.

“Distributed Art duplicates itself, or a part of an artwork is distributed among people,” they say. “Then, once in the hands of the people, the artwork is further actively distributed, and also makes copies of itself.

“The artworks will be distributed and exist on people’s networks and become decentralised. When the artwork exists on the network, it continues to exist even if the original disappears.”

If you’re planning to visit the installations, check the teamLab website first. While much of the attraction is permanent, elements of it are seasonal and subject to change. For general info on Nagai Park head here.

Meanwhile, to check out Kendal James’ upcoming virtual tours, take a look at her Heygo channel here. The platform offers real time tours, live chat, a map and the opportunity to take photos remotely.

Most Heygo tours are free to join, but tipping the guides is encouraged, typically from £5 here in the UK.

Read more: Unicorns, elephants and cherry blossom in Japan

Categories:heygo, Long haulTags: , , , , , ,

1 comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: