I shot the above video during a visit to the MosaicCulture Gatineau exhibition in Quebec, Canada. The giant living sculptures featured at the exhibition were created by growing thousands of annual bedding plants on steel armatures. The steel from provides the basic form of the sculpture. Like topiary, mosaiculture is a kind of horticultural art (i.e., art made from living plants), but it is this use of metal frames that makes mosaiculture unique.
The themes of the exhibition were heritage (with a focus on indigenous culture) and nature. The 45 sculptures at the exhibition were made made using 5.5 million plants.
One of the centerpieces of the exhibit was this stunning sculpture: Mother Earth — The Legend of Aataentsic.
The goddess Aataensic is the most important figure in the creation myth of the Huron people, but she is quite a dark deity. It was one of her two sons, Iouskeha, who sought to aid and nurture humans, making rivers and lakes and teaching humans to grow crops, hunt and use fire. Aataentsic, in contrast, brings death and disease, and she and controls the souls of the dead.
The following two sculptures present traditional trades.
Two large sculptures celebrated Chinese culture. One, of a lion dance, is shown below (this photo only shows one part of it).
The sculptures are surprisingly heavy. For example, each of the 56 birds in the Bird Tree sculpture, another centerpiece of the exhibition, weighs between one and three tons (unfortunately, I didn’t get any great shots of the whole tree).
The living sculptures were created by teams of landscape architects, engineers, horticultural mosaic artists and sculptor-welders. As many of the plants are seasonal, the appearance of some of the sculptures will change according to the season.
The event was organized by Mosaïcultures Internationales de Montréal and was was held in Jacques-Carter Park (just across the river from Ottawa’s Parliament Buildings) from 25 July to 15 October 2018. The sculptures featured in the video are, in order of appearance:
Mother Earth — The Legend of Aataentsic
Wisakedjak and the Creation of the World
Born with the Sun
The Raven and Moon Masks
Bison (part of the Mother Earth display)
Cellist and Ballerina
Jos Montferrand: A Giant from Gatineau
The Bird Tree
The Man Who Planted Trees
Chief of the Undersea World — Bill Reid’s Killer Whale
I shot the above video during a recent visit to the teamLab Planets TOKYO exhibition. Planets TOKYO is an interactive exhibition put together by teamLab, a Japanese art collective who combine digital art, music and technology to create interactive installations that encourage visitors to explore relationships between humans and nature and between the individual and the world. The Planets TOKYO exhibition runs from the summer of 2018 to autumn in 2020.
The members of teamLab include artists, programmers, animators, musicians, mathematicians and architects. Regarding the group’s aims, teamLab’s website states:
Digital technology has allowed art to liberate itself from the physical and transcend boundaries. teamLab sees no boundary between humans and nature, and between oneself and the world; one is in the other and the other in one. Everything exists in a long, fragile yet miraculous, borderless continuity of life. (www.teamlab.art)
I first came upon the collective’s contemporary art at an event held in Kyoto a couple of years ago: Resonating Spheres and Resonating Trees. That event was magical and inspiring, so I was excited to see their latest exhibition.
The teamLab Planets TOKYO exhibition consists of seven installations.
1. Waterfall of Light Particles at the Top of an Incline
In this first installation, you walk up a ramp against the flow of the water that is cascading down from a small waterfall illuminated by light (there are a couple of installations that require you to walk through water, so you walk barefoot though the whole exhibition). This initial installation serves as a kind of preparation. As you walk up the incline in a very dark corridor with water flowing down over your feet, there is a sense of mystery and you start to excitedly anticipate what is ahead.
2. Soft Black Hole – Your Body Becomes a Space that Influences Another Body
When you enter the Soft Black Hole room, you sink into a cushioned floor, your weight changing the shape of the environment, which in turn impacts other visitors.
In modern life we are surrounded by flat hard surfaces, so that in our daily lives we we have lost consciousness of our bodies, we have forgotten them. In natural forests flat ground does not exist. This installation is a space to remind us of the body that we have forgotten in everyday life, and to make us more conscious of our body mass. (planets.teamlab.art/tokyo/ew/soft_black_hole)
This was a fun experience that also served as a kind of mood-setter for the exhibition. As you stumble, crawl and sink into the surface, you become aware not only of your ‘body mass’ but also that this exhibition is interactive and participatory, that you are not only a viewer, but also a kind of co-creator of the experience.
3. The Infinite Crystal Universe
This installation is one of the highlights of the exhibition. The room features mirrored walls, floor and ceiling. Suspended from the ceiling are thin plastic tubes that contain over 300,000 light-emitting diodes (LEDs). These LEDs change color and brightness, producing three-dimensional patterns of light and movement.
The mirrors create an illusion of infinite space—with the points of light spreading out in all directions representing the universe.
The LEDS respond to music and the movement of visitors as well as a special smart phone app that you can use to introduce elements into this universe.
According to founder teamLab’s founder, Toshiyuki Inoko, The Infinite Crystal Universe took five years to create. It is wonderful union of art, imagination and technology
4. Drawing on the Water Surface Created by the Dance of Koi and People – Infinity
In this room visitors, wade through knee-deep water onto which is projected digital images of swimming koi that leave behind trails of light. The work is rendered in real-time, with the movement of koi being influenced by the presence of people. When the fish collide with people, they turn into flowers and scatter.
5. Cold Life
In an alcove beside the pool of digital koi is a seven-minute 3D animation. The animation starts with calligraphy representing the Japanese word for life (生). The calligraphy transforms into a tree from which a variety of lifeforms slowly emerge as the seasons change. This work deals with the cycle of life and death and the cycle of the seasons.
6. Expanding Three-dimensional Existence in Intentionally Transforming Space – Free Floating, 12 Colors
In this room, large spheres lit from within fill the room. They change color when people come into contact with them or when they collide with other spheres.
When they change color, this change resonates out in three dimensions and affects the colors of the other spheres. This effect was also used in the Resonating Spheres installation in Kyoto.
The twelve colors are based on traditional Japanese concept of Kasane no Irome (襲の色目(literally meaning “layers of color”). This was the system of color schemes that dictated the layering, colors and order of robes worn at court during the Heian period.
The 12 colors of the spheres in this room are: the basic colors of blue, red and green as well the colors of light in water, sunlight on water plants, plum, iris, sky at twilight, morning sky, morning glow, peach and spring maple.
7. Floating in the Falling Universe of Flowers
In the final room, you sit or lie back on a mirrored floor as digital projections of flowers and butterflies sweep past on the dome overhead. As with the Koi projection, the images are rendered in real-time and are affected by the presence of visitors.
Flowers grow, bud, bloom, and in time, the petals fall, and the flowers wither and die. The cycle of birth and death continues for perpetuity. The universe at this moment in time can never be seen again. (planets.teamlab.art/tokyo/ew/fitfuof)
About the Experience
Three of the main installations—the crystal universe, the koi pool, the room of spheres— evoke feelings of wonder and joy. When in these rooms, adults and children tend to react to the art in the same way—gazing spellbound at shifting patterns of light, giddily chasing after the digital fish projections, leaping up off the ground to head spheres to bounce spheres. The installations bring out the child in everyone.
The way the installations were sequenced was very effective, with the first two smaller works setting the tone. In the final room—the room of falling flowers—people just collapsed on the floor and chilled out, letting the music and digital images wash over them until they were ready to get up, put their shoes back on and re-enter the world outside.
The teamLab group does a good job of managing visitor numbers. You enter as part of a large group and have enough time to fully experience each of the installations. Of course, you won’t get an entire large room to yourself (as in the promotional photos), but you won’t get a crowded feeling. In the larger rooms, crowds tend to gather at first before people disperse to explore the different parts of the installation.
For this exhibition, it is better to book in at least a week in advance to ensure you can get in.
Unlike most artwork, teamLab projects work better when there are people ‘in the way’. This is because other visitors are not obstacles; instead, they are your co-participants, your collaborators in an amazing experience.
Video: How TeamLab Builds Incredible Techno Art Exhibits (by Bloomberg)
Which of the installations is most attractive to you? Why?
What are some of the benefits of creating art that is affected by the viewer’s actions or movements?
What technical difficulties do you think teamLab faced in producing works like the pool of digital koi. For example, what would be required to make the fish turn into flowers when they collide with people? You can watch the Bloomberg video in the Go Further section to find the answer to that specific question.
Create an artwork that is affected by the movements and/or actions of the viewer.
The event was organized by HKWALLS (hkwalls.org), a non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of street art and culture in the community.
Artist: Jecks and Nong Pop (Thailand)
A pair of Thai artist’s created these complementary pieces, which share a street corner and a pink color scheme. In Nong Pop’s portrait, a young girl turns to stare at the viewer, the tiger just below her left shoulder reflecting her fierce interior
In Jeck’s work, a cherubic figure with quiver of arrows on his back appears to be targeted by arrows. Though he lacks wings, he looks like he might be cupid, the Roman god of desire, erotic love and attraction. The crossed fingers behind his back suggest that he has been insincere in his matchmaking (which might explain the arrows being shot at him).
Barlo is an Italian artist based in Hong Kong. His paintings and street art tend to have a mythical and mysterious feel. In this striking artwork, entitled The Pet of the Archaeologist, it is not clear whether the creature depicted is a living animal, a porcelain figure or a biology specimen that has been cut into cross-sections.
Location: Alley behind 18 Upper Station St.
Barlo’s website: hmrbarlo.com
Artists: WEST one & Megic (China)
This collaborative effort by Chinese artists WEST one and Megic is captivating, but it is difficult to photograph (as it is a long artwork in a narrow alley). I love the way three different styles are used: the head of the dragon is painted in a realistic style (by Megic), while it’s body combines a classic Chinese ink landscape style with a futuristic, geometric street art style (by WEST one). The resulting piece could be a comment on Chinese culture—modern and moving forward but with strong roots in tradition.
One can’t help but feel more cheerful after passing by this lively brightly-colored mural of friendly, weirdly-shaped characters. This piece was painted by Zoie Lam, whose initials provide the ‘zl’ in Zlism
Riya Chandiramani’s artwork draws on Indian and Chinese visual motifs. The designs also include words which comment on psychology and society. For example, in the photo below, the design element starting at the bottom left contains the words ‘power’ and’status’ and in the next photo, the sun below the goldfish contains the word ‘peace’.
This artwork by a duo of muralists and graphic designers known as Creative Hustlers depicts the skyline of Hong Kong’s Central District as seen from the Mid-levels. The painting captures an interesting side of Hong Kong. Though the urban areas are densely populated concrete jungles, nature is never far away.
This is a collaboration between Finu, who is known for her black and white illustrations of creatures—in this case a stylized dragon with a blank, expressionless face reminiscent of No Face in Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away —and Yunus, who works with multimedia (often combining music, video, animation and live performance). In the following video from Yunus, you can see how the two elements—street art and multimedia—were combined:
For this mural on the walls of a café, local artist KS has created a food-themed portrait that is similar in style to the paintings in his Random is Beautiful series of portraits.
Location: 16 Upper Station Street (3rd Space)
KS’s website: the-ideo.org/ks
Artist: Bisco Smith (US)
American artist Bisco Smith’s white brushstrokes on a black background are a kind of visual representation of freestyle rap lyrics. Before beginning a painting, he chooses an instrumental beat and then improvises brushstrokes to go along with it.
Location: Alley behind Sai Street
Bisco Smith’s website: biscosmith.com
Artist: DILK (UK)
Across the alley from Bisco Smith’s artwork is this colorful abstract piece by British artist DILK.
Location: Back of 18 Upper Station Street (Parfumerie Tresor & 3rd Space)
Three Works from HKWALLS 2015
Street art doesn’t last for too long, so a lot of the pieces painted the last time HKWALLS was held in the district of Sheung Wan have disappeared. Here are a few of the works that are still around.