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Massless Clouds Between Sculpture and Life

teamLab, 2020, Interactive Installation, Sound: teamLab

Massless Clouds Between Sculpture and Life

teamLab, 2020, Interactive Installation, Sound: teamLab

Life is an order of energy.

In the artwork space, an order of energy is created, just like life. A huge white mass forms and floats upwards. This can be considered a visualization of an order or energy.

The sculpture, a giant white mass, floats between the floor and the ceiling within the confines of the space, an indefinite form changing, as though transcending the concept of mass. The boundary between this floating sculpture, the space, and the body of the viewer is ambiguous, and people can immerse their bodies in this sculpture. Even when people push through the sculpture and break it, it naturally repairs itself like a living thing. But, as with living things, when the sculpture is destroyed beyond what it can repair, it cannot mend itself, and it collapses. Even if people try to move or push this floating sculpture in the air, they cannot do so. If they stir up the wind, the cloud will break. We come to realize that a simple act by human beings cannot move this sculpture.

What is life in biological terms? Viruses, for example, are considered to exist somewhere between living and inanimate because they do not have cells, the smallest unit of biological life, nor do they possess biological membranes, cell membranes, and they do not reproduce. What separates the living from the inanimate cannot be defined biologically to this day.

That you continue to be tomorrow who you are today is against the law of increasing entropy, wherein tangible things collapse. In other words, in a universe where entropy (a measurement of the lack of order in a system) is supposedly being maximized, life is an entity that resists this trend. Life can be thought of as a “supernature” phenomenon: an occurrence that defies the laws of classical physics.

Physicist and 1977 winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, Ilya Prigogine, observed that in the natural world, when energy is absorbed from an external source, internal entropy is generated, then released. Prigogine discovered that there exists a non-equilibrium state that is only realized when this entropy is released. Through the dissipation of energy (or matter) and the removal of entropy, internal entropy is reduced and order is created. It can be said that living organisms take in energy from the outside in the form of food, disposing of entropy in the form of excrement, thereby preserving entropy.

All living things, as defined by modern biology, are made up of cells. All cells are surrounded by a cell membrane composed of a lipid bilayer with the hydrophilic parts facing outward and the hydrophobic parts covered within the layer. Both the inside and outside of the enveloping membrane are liquid. Smaller cell structures made with the same lipid bilayer as cell membranes are called vesicles.

Bubbles are also vesicles wrapped in a lipid bilayer membrane, and the membranes of the bubbles that make up this white mass are structurally identical to cell membranes. However, contrary to cells, the bilayer of the bubble membrane floats in and encloses air, so the hydrophobic part faces outside the layer, while the hydrophilic part faces inward.

In other words, if cells can be thought of as vesicles in liquid, bubbles can be considered vesicles in air. 

It can be said that this sculpture is created from the same structure of matter and order of energy as cells, the smallest units of life.