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Visiting Tokyo's new Digital Art Museum

As a stunning visual spectacular, Tokyo's Digital Art Museum has become the must-Instagram experience for visitors to the city. Its full name - Building Digital Art Museum Epsom teamLab Borderless - suggests just how big the collaboration must have been to get this 100,000sqm exhibition space happening. It took the Mori Building Group and Epsom to make it work and nothing about it feels like this was a cheap exercise.

The collaborative art group teamLab are known for works in Singapore and London but with this permanent space they paint across a big canvas. Rendering butterflies, flowers and charging rhinos onto walls, floors, mirrors and a series of cutomised surfaces, the canvas is truly vast and visitors are warned in advance that this is about discovery - non-sequential, likely to get lost and maddening to visitors wanting linear narrative. This means you can jump in anywhere and experience the exhibition any way you want. The Borderless part of the title is about the shifting nature and the changing experiences every visitor will have. The stories feel universal with lots of birds and butterflies in flight, soaring melodies - sound and light signifying whatever you want. 

Inside there are several rooms that feel separate but can be connected - like the birds that wing from one to the next. The Crystal World, drips light that could be a rain shower before shifting to feel like a hyperspace effect. Elsewhere the Floating Nest lets you lie on netting as projections zip past while the Flower Forest is a psychedelic switching through cherry blossoms to sunflowers as the displays multiply across the rooms. The Forest of Resonating Lamps has a more interactive element with visitors invited to initiate light through rubbing. Cupping or otherwise touching lamps which then transmit to the next and creating a line through the exhibition.

In terms of comparisons if you've seen projection-based festivals like Vivid or Enlighten that project images against historic buildings then you're in the right league.They work well enough as spectacles and great moments on Instagram but there's not much beyond the wow.

Still it is beautiful watching visitors struggle to capture the scale of the big canvases on their small screens - most of the images here present only slices of the whole. And this is the challenge: how to present a narrative when your audience is looking in 360 around or more likely grabbing a selfie with the moving rhino?

Tips for Visiting

  • Book ahead - we arrived before opening and there are lines plus staff holding up signs saying they were booked out for the day.
  • Catch the Rinkai or Aimo lines - if you get there early there's a big Ferris Wheel and other things to do nearby.
  • Grab the app for more info on the exhibition space and the ability to interact more.