teamLab, Universe of Water Particles on a Rock where People Gather ©️ teamLab

We are nature

3 February 2023


The borderless continuity between digital and physical

Interview with the outstanding Tokyo-based and international art collective teamLab

In the physical world, environments that can connect people to nature are the most preferred and perceived as most beautiful due, for instance, to the presence of water, greenery, views, vegetation, natural colors and shapes, etc. (Korpela & Hartig, 1996). Both real and digital nature can improve mood and reduce stress (Chan et al., 2021). Environmental psychology shows that environments that are fascinating, offer a psychological feeling of being away from everyday life, give the impression of extension and breadth, and match with one's own intentions (Kaplan, 1995) are the most restorative. These environments are beneficial particularly for those who experience psycho-physical stress from everyday life and urban stressors (e.g., noise, traffic, pollution, cement, etc.). 

Technology can facilitate a digital connection with nature in many ways.

Some examples include:

  • Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) experiences. These technologies allow people to experience nature in a way that is similar to being physically present in a natural setting. For example, VR nature-tours can transport people to remote locations or enable them to experience nature from the perspective of an animal.
  • Social media and online communities. Platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and You Tube provide a way for people to share their experiences in nature and connect with others who have similar interests.
  • Educational resources. There are many websites, apps, and online courses that provide information about nature and the environment. These resources can help people learn about different ecosystems, species, and conservation efforts.
  • Virtual tours and interactive maps. Some websites and apps offer virtual tours or interactive maps that allow people to explore natural locations from the comfort of their own home.

An outstanding example of technology facilitating a digital connection with nature can be found in the artwork of teamLab, an international art collective based in Tokyo, Japan. Their collaborative practice seeks to navigate the confluence of art, science, technology, and the natural world. Through art, the interdisciplinary group of specialists, including: artists, programmers, engineers, CG animators, mathematicians, and architects, aims to explore the relationship between the self and the world, and new forms of perception. teamLab exhibitions have been held in cities worldwide, including New York, London, Paris, Singapore, Silicon Valley, Beijing, and Melbourne among others.

Let's ask them about their artwork:

In which ways does your artwork facilitate a connection with nature? 

First of all, teamLab believes that the digital domain can expand the capacities of art, and that digital art can create new relationships between people. teamLab aims to explore the relationship between the self and the world and new perceptions through art. In order to understand the world around them, people separate it into independent entities with perceived boundaries between them. teamLab seeks to transcend these boundaries in our perception of the world, of the relationship between the self and the world, and of the continuity of time. 

Everything exists in a long, fragile yet miraculous, borderless continuity of life.

Our concept of digitalized nature can be a good example.

Digital technologies such as sensing, networks, light and sound, are non-material and have no physical impact on the environment. By using such non-material digital technologies, nature can be turned into living art, without harming it. 

Nature itself becomes art.

Nature has formed over a very long period of time. By turning nature into art we can gain a sense of the continuity of nature that humans do not usually perceive.

How do people feel, think and act differently once they experience your artwork? 

Today, even if there’s a problem on the other side of the earth, it affects your own country. They are connected. It is no longer possible to live on one’s own. We are connected. We are all part of nature or earth.

The COVID-19 crisis made it clear that humans are only a fraction of what makes up the earth. We individually exist, yet together create something larger ― a micro within the macro.

Nature brings us both blessings and disaster, and with the progress of civilization, there are benefits and negative implications: nature and civilization are always connected. There is no absolute malicious intent or universal beauty. There is no easy way to understand this relationship and no simple way to arrange our feelings and our sensitivities towards it. Nevertheless, we want to affirm that we are alive regardless of the situation.

The world seems to be divided more and more, but to be divided has never solved the problem in human history. Instead of that, we should do something else to connect and face the situation. The world seems to be in search of the right answer, but are we thinking about the right questions to begin with?

The only thing that artists can do is to pose questions to the world and create an opportunity to look at the world.

The power of art may seem weak in this situation. But we believe that art can change the standard of feeling, like beautiful. Life is beautiful, don’t you think so? And the actions of individual people are driven by emotions. We would love to say that life is beautiful. And we hope that it will reach people.

Overall, technology can provide a way for people to connect with nature digitally, learn and benefit from the natural world, even if they are unable to physically visit certain locations.

Rita Trombin

Environmental Psychologist & Biophilic Design Expert 

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