Light show turns primeval Kyoto forest, shrine into a kaleidoscope

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Photo courtesy of TeamLab

Photo courtesy of TeamLab

For a few brief days this summer, a sacred shrine and forest in Kyoto, Japan, became a technicolor dreamscape.

The Shimogamo shrine, a World Heritage site whose history dates back to the 6th century, and Tadasu no Mori, the shrine’s forest and a national historical site, have long been sacred places in the Shinto religion. Japanese artistic collective TeamLab paid tribute to this history with “Light Festival of Tadasu no Mori,” an installation that transformed the landmarks with a vivid spectrum of light.

TeamLab began organizing the exhibition in 2015, during the shrine’s Shikinen Sengu ceremony, during which the shrine is reconstructed every 21 years. The decision to work with light was in part a practical one: the medium allowed them to transform the space without disturbing it.

“Since the entire forest is a religious space as well as a World Heritage Site, it was our duty to not damage any parts of the venue,” TeamLab artist Rio Nishiyama said.

The group installed LEDs along a 500-meter pathway in the forest, and placed others inside lantern-like spheres throughout the shrine. As viewers moved through the space, walking along the pathway or touching the lanterns, they activated sensors that prompted the colors to change.

Photo courtesy of TeamLab

Photo courtesy of TeamLab

In many other artistic exhibitions, Nishiyama said, the presence of art is largely kept separate from the viewer, lending them no role in the artistic process.

“I think that art up to this point has treated the presence of others, in the opinion of the observer, as intruders,” she said.

“Light Festival of Tadasu no Mori” pushed back against that notion — the work itself, Nishiyama said, is a visual representation of the energy that viewers bring to the shrine.

“We wanted to explore the new relationship between nature and human being, rather than perceiving nature as something that is controllable by humans,” she said.

The exhibition, which ran from Aug. 17 to Aug. 31, reflects a larger goal for TeamLab: to develop interactive art for urban audiences, building connections between people and the environment without disrupting the city’s everyday life.

“Cities can be turned into art without changing anything physical, maintaining the function of the city as it is,” Nishiyama said.

See below for more photos of the installation.

Photo courtesy of TeamLab

Photo courtesy of TeamLab

Photo courtesy of TeamLab

Photo courtesy of TeamLab

Photo courtesy of TeamLab

Photo courtesy of TeamLab

Photo courtesy of TeamLab

Photo courtesy of TeamLab

Photo courtesy of TeamLab

Photo courtesy of TeamLab

Photo courtesy of TeamLab

Photo courtesy of TeamLab

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