Photo/Illutration Sketch Aquarium, part of the teamLab Borderless exhibition, is a creative space where children draw a sea creature of their preference. Once completed, the piece of paper is scanned, and the image is projected onto a giant virtual aquarium. (Photo by Lisa Vogt)

Borderless? A loaded word these days. My dictionary defines the term as “lacking edges, limits or boundaries.”

In our dreams and minds, thoughts are enigmatic. They overlap, run into and influence one another. We, as physical beings, form relationships, communicate and shape ourselves as we live our lives.

The smallest subatomic particle that we can imagine is pushed and pulled from some force around it that allows it to exist. And even a hermit must eat and drink to survive, hence must merge with something outside, blurring the borders between their quintessential self.

A museum like no other exists on the second floor of Palette Town in Odaiba, next to the Ferris wheel. EPSON teamLab Borderless is a collection of digital artworks that “interweave without boundaries” in a vast 10,000-square-meter space.

Armchair reading about this place can give you a vague sense of it, but cerebral activity processing spatial information that is always moving about is a different school of fish.

Oh, no. I’m afraid I’ve lost some people reading this column. Well, when possible, visit the place. Then revisit this article, and you’ll understand what I’m talking about.

Interactive digital installations make you part of the exhibition. For example, at the Sketch Aquarium, people draw a sea creature on a sheet of paper using crayons.

One girl who looked to be about 6 years old drew a yellow seahorse and took it to the attendant, who scanned the paper. Then, her creation magically started swimming along with other creatures on the giant blue aquarium wall! The little girl squealed with delight as she chased her seahorse.

At Forest of Flowers and People, the cycle of buds growing, flowers blossoming, and petals withering and then fading away repeats itself.

If people stay to watch, they can see flowers grow and bloom magnificently, which die if touched or stepped on. Butterflies come where lots of flowers bloom, and when crows appear or heavy rain pours, the petals scatter, and the flower is no more.

The Floating Nest is viewed lying on our backs on a huge net suspended in space. Schools of fish swim through the net, dissolving our bodies and removing boundaries, making us a part of the work. The fish, leaving trails of light in their path, make the viewer “become” the light, freely soaring about as a different entity.

As in the real world, there’s only "ichi-go-ichi-e" and no animated loops. Experience borderlessness rendered by AI in real time.

(EPSON teamLab Borderless is currently closed to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus.) 

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This article by Lisa Vogt, a Washington-born and Tokyo-based photographer, originally appeared in the April 5 issue of Asahi Weekly. It is part of the series "Lisa’s In and Around Tokyo," which depicts the capital and its surroundings through the perspective of the author, a professor at Meiji University.