About the exhibit works “LIFE SURVIVES BY THE POWER OF LIFE” at the exhibition of Venice Biennale. Toshiyuki Inoko(TeamLab) Interview

Featured on STUDIO VOICE , Jul, 2012

The Video work of teamLab "Life survives by the power of life" (a.k.a. “Live”) has been created for their first solo exhibition in Taiwan. It has been exhibited until the end of November 27 as a few Japanese artists at the exhibition of Venice Biennale since June 2011.

This work that was exhibited with the works by Takashi Murakami and Kaikai Kiki in “Future Pass – From Asia to the World” is expressing Japanese calligraphy “生”(means “to live”) as 3D. And it represents an overflowing life that following around the season by showing that vegetation sprout from the character.

We asked Toshiyuki Inoko, who has done with the construction and reception party after the third day of the press review of Venice Biennale, about the background of how the work was created and the thoughts that was put in the work.

History of "Gallery debut"

– I think that it may be good to say that this year is the year of the art debut of teamLab because you have been through the solo exhibition at Kaikai Kiki Gallery in Taipei. Please tell us the history of how you made the commercial gallery debut.

Inoko: In the spring of this year, Mr. Katagiri, who works at Pixiv, brought me to Mr. Takashi Murakami’s company. I showed our work to him at that time, and he said, “This stuff is cool.” And then in the flow, it got covered in the Kaikai Kiki Gallery in Taipei.
Mr. Murakami wrote the text about this flow in the PUBLIC-IMAGE.ORG. Please use that one. (Laugh)

Because it was not aware of the video work of teamLab “to sell,” our works has been created on the assumption that the installation by technicians and maintenance need. For instance, “100 years sea” one of our works is using a couple of projectors. Because the length of the movie time is 100 years, the setting up computers by technicians is needed to exhibit. In the other hands, our new work “LIVE” is our first work that we thought of the case that owners could have in their possession while we have been making. This is our third time to exhibit this work. Taipei, Hong Kong, Venice. It will be Art Basel in Switzerland after here, and new offers are steadily coming now.

The Video work that represents raising the sea level of the earth as the animation of the ancient Japanese style. There are two patterns. One is showing all in 10 minutes, and another one is taking for the real time to show all which is 100 years.

– The Video works of teamLab is mostly created by 3D based on paintings of the ancient Japanese style. What made you think to use calligraphy in this time?

Inoko: As the major premise, we thought it simply needed to be a thing owners could enjoy. To do this, we needed to remove the technical barrier and the works should have universality as well as a good viewing thing. Because of these reasons, we made this work have generality. It has the screen ratio of 16:9 that is able to use a projector to display or use a TV monitor.

We have already made some “calligraphy works.” But we have a thought that it wasn’t properly presented much while we are in Asian cultural area. Japan has the culture that is always accompanied by illustrations, which is not like classified by art, literature, scroll paintings, or cartoon. There is always an illustration in scroll paintings. A western font requires objective beauty as a font, but calligraphy needs to know its background of who wrote this in what situation and what the person wrote to appreciate. Since the concept of the modern story called "calligrapher," it is the cultural character that has a story like Daishi Kobo wrote a point by throwing his brush.

A character basically needs to be objective because it shares the meaning of letter with others as its rule. Japanese is the subjective from the beginning. We had written a character that depends on their emotion. I think it’s interesting. Japanese people are thinking that there is no absolute, like an objective justice or evil, in the back of their mind. There is no sense of the hundred-percent-evil in Hollywood. Because this background influences a character, I think it has become to have relatively loose rules. It is interesting because a character is to strongly reflect the mentality of the writer.

It is similar to modern people who are writing messages with emoticons on their cellphone. For example, compares to “I am waiting ♡” and “I am waiting (T_T)”, these are same sentences with different nuances. Of course, some people who don’t like these emoticons may not use them.
I think it is our Japanese mind putting on their subjectivity to objective character.

Want to rebuild “Character” in digital form

– Please explain the mentality of the character called “LIVE”

Inoko: I haven’t heard anything from Sisyu, so this is what I felt about. She and I are good friends. I think she gave me her thoughts that “want you to live strongly” because my way to live seems uncertain. This “生”(to live) added a period. There is a word says, “王に点を入れたら玉”(means if a period added to王(a king), it becomes玉(a ball)) in Japanese chess. I think that the reason a period is added is her thoughts that she wants me to live stronger. When we saw this at the first time, everyone simply thought it was good one because teamLab itself is a kind of survival group itself.

When Murakami contacted to me, he told me that there was no time and it was fine to exhibit one of the past works. However, I wanted to make new one. At that time, the character was first one up as a motif.

While rotating the 3D character of the "LIVE", representing the four seasons to live.

– Have you thought of taking a balance of other three video works: “Flower and Corpse”, “100 years sea”, and “Life is the light that shines in the darkness?”

Inoko: These are the works that exhibit at this time. First, “100 years sea” is the work that the sea level rises over 100 years. It has 10 minutes version. “Flower and Corpse” is representing the collision of nature and civilization. At last, these are two new works of calligraphy called “LIVE.” Although it was coincidence, I felt the cause and effect of the earthquake and tsunami at this time. In face, the Taipei exhibition was postponed for one week after the earthquake. When I see the exhibition place after the construction is finished, I felt the cause and effect even though it was coincidence.

– While it is a character itself, the character is three-dimensionally rotating. Is there a meaning of representing 3D?

Inoko: When I went to Taipei about 10 years ago, the interior of new design hotel at the time had calligraphy as a design work. I was very mortifying. While we have same Chinese character culture, Japan does not have obtained or is losing the culture. I want people to think Japan can rebuild the character to modern taste better and it would be cool if it can be a part of design.

Now media is a paper. It means the character can be digital. I always have this theme that the character can be rebuilt in digital media and it needs to be shown as cool as it is.

The character is a letter. Hieroglyph and emoticon. I think there was a meaning to the shallowness or depth because it was carved in stone and wood in orgin. Therefore, I want to show it as 3D. It is easy to know the trajectory, acceleration force, and depth if it is slowly rotating. But whatever the reason was, I want people to think, “this calligraphy is awesome.”

Japanese are originally information supremacy.

– Among this exhibition of Venice, Takashi Murakami tweets “The evaluation of the difference between the tepid power is just building the future of the confusion. Bad things need to be rejected.” How do you understand about it?

Inoko: It will be my own opinion. There were lots of Asian artists’ works in an exhibition beginning from Taiwan and China at this time. I think it means, “We are different from the context of the West. The high-quality works within the context of the East Asia could be better than the western one. But if we bring some bad works to Venice, people may think Context of East Asia is inferior to the context of the West.” The reason representing our work to the digital way is I think that Japanese are originally Information principle rather than materialist. There is an episode, “Sen no Rikyu was entertained Hideyoshi by a flower of morning glory.” Hideyoshi found value of Sen no Rikyu from the morning glory might wither tomorrow and became a sponsor. I think an ancient Japanese considered the information supremacy. However, Japan has lagged behind in the information society. I don’t like this.

For instance, Oda Nobunaga made people free from the land and couldn’t forgive the landowner. So he burned out the territory of his own house after he moved out. In other words, he didn’t have no fixed value and found from added value only. He didn’t like to cling goods or places so he didn’t even build a barrier. Then GDP became 10 times and Creators like merchants, carpenters, and sword smiths came out to the front stage. In the meaning above, I chose digitalism because I want to represent the way only information society can do.

– Did you feel something when you came to Venice Biennale with Kaikai Kiki at this time?

Inoko: If I say ultimately straight, it may be a hint for our future, suggestion of new value and representation, tip of the added value of future, or tip for new markets.

To export the concept of the lolicon.

– Did you feel something when you came to Venice Biennale with Kaikai Kiki at this time?

Inoko: Murakami was very popular. When we walk around Venice, Japanese came close to him and started a conversation like “do they know each other?” Everyone knows Kaikai Kiki at the exhibition. It is similar that people talk about One peace and Naruto at comic stores on oversea. I honestly think he who raises the value of his country with his existence itself is cool. All people wanted to be a friend with him. But it was impossible. That’s why people were trying to talk to our staff or me. (Laugh)

Moreover, I think he is winning because “Japan is cool because Murakami is cool” is better than “England is cool because Damien Hirst is cool.”

– It is because the expression of Murakami makes is really a Japanese way, isn’t it?

Inoko: Right. That’s why my main goal is making people think “I like teamLab, so I like Japan.” It is a thing to be contributed to the industry a lot. For example, Takashi Murakami has contributed to the industry of Japan than Ichiro. Ichiro is fighting in the area of the United States, but Murakami has exported to the Japanese culture to oversea.

An old woman from Italy tried to talk to our staff at the exhibition. What she said was she was worried about his son because her son who is about to be 30 years old is falling into erotic doujinshi.

And she was standing in front of the work “Mr.” by Kaikai Kiki and asked why Japanese people present these kinds of a lolicon thing. She might start to think her son is not a person to be denied because there was a similar expression to the doujinshi that he was hiding in his closet. There was her try to understand his son through the work “Mr.” It was the realistic episode that “my son may be fine.” So she and her son might become to like Japan more and be positive.

After I heard that, I think “Mr.” seems to be better work and be respectable. I feel the reality that the work is an art. I want to be a person who is contributed to the industry of Japan.

Life is the light that shines in the darkness
Life Survives by the Power of Life
100 Years Sea [running time: 100 years]