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Alive with 13,000 ‘floating’ orchids, this is a garden like no other

<i>From teamLab Planets</i><br/>
From teamLab Planets

Dan Hodge, CNN and Amanda Sealy, CNN

Patience. Understanding. Tranquility. This is what Tokyo-based “ultra-technologists” teamLab wants visitors to experience when they enter its new artwork, entitled “Floating Flower Garden; Flowers and I are of the Same Root, the Garden and I are One.”

But this immersive installation marks a departure for the world-renowned collective, which is known for colliding technology and art through interactive LEDs, projections and soundscapes. Here, it is the natural, rather than the digital, that leaves visitors spellbound

Unveiled over the summer, the work is made up of over 13,000 living orchids. Suspended from the ceiling, they grow along near-invisible wires to give the impression they are floating in mid-air.

Once you approach the curtain of orchids, however, teamLab’s signature magic begins to take shape. Triggered by sensors, the flowers slowly start to rise up, allowing you to enter the space, before descending again behind you.

“We are using real living orchids, but behind them are so many technologies,” explains Takeshi Kudo, communications director at teamLab.

“The main concept is still not changed: We try to bring people inside our installations.”

Enveloped in flowers

While the artwork appears completely overrun with flowers, as they float up they create new spaces for visitors to explore. Because of this, people are able to freely wander around the installation — albeit at a pace dictated by the flowers themselves.

“The garden starts to make a space for humans… But they are moving super slowly, so you have to adjust your time to the garden’s,” explains Kudo.

For Kudo and the teamLab collective, which comprises artists, programmers, engineers, CG animators, mathematicians and architects, orchids were the perfect flower for the exhibition. Evolved to grow without soil, they symbolize a resilience and adaptability that the art collective hopes to explore through the artwork.

“The orchids, you can see, have so many colors and there are so many different types. They can live without soil, and we can learn so many things from these orchids and other plants. (They have) more history than human beings.”

The exhibit comes into its own when you halt in the center of the space, the floating plants slowly closing in around you. Enveloped by a mirrored floor, light pouring from the ceiling, the plants’ aromas and composer Hideaki Takahashi’s otherworldly soundscape, it’s a satisfying — and almost hallucinogenic — assault on the senses.

“Floating Flower Garden; Flowers and I are of the Same Root, the Garden and I are One” is on show at teamLab Planets, a Tokyo museum featuring nine absorbing works that encourage visitors to become one with the art. The installation will remain open until the end of 2022.

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