teamLab at amos rex: exhibition review

Figure 1

So, as our monthly theme for Crop Up is new chapters and looking into last year’s art events I thought I’d write a review (which I’ve been meaning to write since Summer but that’s not the point) for this amazing exhibition in Helsinki I saw before coming back to Nottingham. The exhibition in question is an interactive one by the new art museum Amos Rex and teamLab, a Japanese art group consisting of 500 or so members. The exhibition made headlines this Winter as the already long queues (I think I waited about 30 minutes in the Summer heat to get in?) became even longer with some people waiting to get in for an hour or two. I, for one, can say that it was worth the wait. Maybe not in the cold December-January weather though, or perhaps I’m just not dedicated enough to the arts. Either way, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Figure 2


First off, the Amos Rex space in itself is absolutely stunning (figure 1). I didn’t like the museum shop that much – I know, shocking – but they had some cool bits. A bit overpriced in my opinion but I think I’ve just gotten used to the prices in England. Anyhow, I cannot really comment on the entrance ticket pricing as I got in for free thanks to my handy Museum Card!

I think there was meant to be four rooms working in total (figure 2) but I got to only experience two of the rooms as the other ones weren’t working. Not really sure what happened with those two but two is better than nothing. Either way, let’s start with the first room, aka Black Waves.

Figure 3

Black Waves (figure 3) was just… beautiful. The only thing that ruined the experience for me were the people, but really, if you know me as a person you would know that people usually ruin many experiences for me in general. The Waves projected on the wall of the otherwise dark room were incredible to look at. Not quite like waves, not quite like blue pieces of strings flapping about like waves. It was interesting and puzzling to look at, all I could think of was 1. I really would just love to lie down now and experience catharsis and 2. How did they make those waves?

I still don’t know how they made except for the fact that it was a video projection so obviously the main ingredient was pixels. Other than the herd of people and beautiful waves, there was some peaceful piano music playing from the speakers. The space really made you feel as though you were on a seashore in the pitch-dark night, albeit I doubt you’ll be able to hear any piano music playing except from your headphones or airpods if you’re fancy.

Figure 4

Next up: Graffiti Nature: Lost, Immersed and Reborn (figure 4). I’m going to be honest with you all, I don’t remember that much from this room. I think it’s because the space was so big and a bit overwhelming for tiny me – I blame the bad functioning of my fight or flight part of brain. What I do remember from it was that it was incredibly beautiful, and so exciting! I’m a big fan of immersive spaces as my attention span is terrible and honestly? Art should be fun and not boring.

Again, far too many people. I understand that though as it was the first exhibition the museum held after its opening and it really was just that good. The projections on the walls and the floors were all interactive and the plants and animals moved according to your movements as well. So by dragging my hand on the wall I created more flowers. This was even more fun to do because all of the plants and animals were designed by the visitors themselves (figure 5).

Figure 5 – My lizard I designed for the exhibition. The scanning machine scans the drawn image and then creates a 3D animation based on it.

The animals (lizards, crocodiles and birds IIRC) also interacted with each other as well as the visitors. So besides using motion sensory technologies, teamLab also made it possible for the users’ creations to ‘sense’ each other which I think is a very smart idea. It definitely gets the audience to experience the art in a completely different way. The space, while being cool and interactive, was also very disorientating which I still don’t know if I liked or not. This was done with the help of mirrors placed on some of the walls. While I think that might have sounded good as an idea, I’m not really sure about the execution. Maybe the intent of the room was for people to just experience it by walking slowly, as if in nature, but some people (myself included) got startled by their reflection at times. Just as a side note, I almost bumped into my own reflection which probably affects my opinions on the mirrors.


Despite the dizzying mirrors, the exhibition felt very refreshing. I have never experienced a show like this before and I really enjoyed it. I don’t think all exhibitions or artists should strive to be as interactive as teamLab’s art was in this exhibition as it could get a bit overwhelming. Yet I do think it was a very lovely experience and a great way to get people to introduced to the new museum space in the centre of Helsinki. This (figure 6) is all I have to say.

Figure 6


Written by Katja Vääränen

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