Few things inspire cheer more instantly than a bouquet of brightly colored flowers. As former first lady Lady Bird Johnson once said: “Where flowers bloom, so does hope.”
In many ways, this has been especially true over the course of the past year, during which so many of us became shut-ins. With cold weather setting in, flower sales have skyrocketed as people seek to bring the natural world inside, hoping to quell their winter woes and conjure thoughts of spring and summer—by which time, hopefully, the world will be a little more open.
With this in mind, last fall, the global art collective teamLab conceived Flowers Bombing Home, an interactive art project in which you can use your television to stream montages of brightly colored flowers from teamLab’s YouTube livestream. Many of the images are made by other artists, and, in fact, everyone can submit their own creations using the collective’s templates.
We spoke with Takashi Kudo, a member of teamLab, about the project, how it’s been received, and what’s next for the collective in 2021.
How did the project come to be?
The project was created to help us realize that our existence is connected to the world, and to celebrate that connection. The television in your home becomes art. You watch and participate at home, and in so doing, connect with the wider world. People from so many different places draw flowers, creating a single artwork that blooms in homes all over. In the future, perhaps the flowers will continue to bloom forever as an artwork for people to remember this era.
Why did you want to do a project that everyone could have a hand in creating?
The fact that we can connect with each other, regardless of where we live, is a message that affirms human existence from the ground up. We hope to encourage you to realize that there never are and never were boundaries, that we are connected to the world just by existing in it. We would be happy if humans could accidentally connect with others and derive positive value from that.
Humanity has faced many problems over its history, but we do not believe that these problems have ever been solved by division. The birth of civilized nations and the spread of infectious diseases were both the result of globalization and the loss of world boundaries, but humanity has solved these problems not by dividing people, but by working together to develop drugs and vaccines, advanced medical technology, and so on.
We believe that people need to remember the benefits of history and science, because if we only look superficially at the immediate events of the current situation, we promote emotional division. [Our] artworks are designed to help people experience the beauty of a world without boundaries, and the beauty of anti-division.
How do you go about sorting through people’s entries?
We don’t sort through people’s entries; our only request is that people don’t write text on their flowers. After they upload their drawings, they are queued [behind] those who submitted their drawings prior, then are shown on our YouTube once it gets to the front of the queue.
Does the project take inspiration from anything you’ve done in the past? And were there any glitches or challenges when you first rolled it out?
Flowers Bombing was first exhibited in 2018, not as a remote piece, but in an exhibition. This is the first time we created a work where people can upload their drawings online and participate and view the work from their homes, or anywhere else in the world.
At first, our members had to stay home because of Japan’s safety measures. We were in the midst of working remotely, and we made plenty of mistakes while going through trial and error to release this to the public… though the same could be said for any other project.
How often do you tune into the project in your own homes?
As we are an art collective with hundreds of members, this answer will differ from member to member! Some may have the artwork streaming constantly, others may stream it on and off during the day, and some might check in even less frequently. But whenever you need a break, want to see what other people around the world have created, or want to co-create with them yourself, Flowers Bombing Home is always available.
What has been the response so far?
We are always humbled by the responses to our work, and this project has been no exception. We have received flowers from all over the world: from Asia and Europe to the Americas. We are very happy to be able to help people connect, even in this time of isolation.
What are you hoping people take away from the project?
We would like for people to know that there are others like themselves who want to reach out and be in contact with each other.
When we look at the world through an intellectual lens, problems are overflowing. And when you see the problems that we cannot solve, you just feel hopeless. In this era, we think what’s more important, at least as artists, is to seek out and affirm an idealistic part of humanity, and present an idea of the future. We’re not talking about a simple fiction like manga or video games, but instead, an ideal fictitious world that may be realized to some degree some day. There are problems that cannot be solved at this very moment. But what we can do is to suggest that we may be able to create an ideal world by connecting the hints that can be found in the long history of humanity.
What’s next for you this year?
Our immersive permanent exhibition, “teamLab SuperNature Macao,” had a soft opening last summer, but we hope to have a grand opening later this year. We have also been invited to be a part of the inaugural exhibition at Superblue Miami, alongside the artists Es Devlin and James Turrell. The exhibition is scheduled to open in early spring this year. And in Japan, we have plans to open an outdoor exhibition in the historic Kairakuen Gardens in Mito, Ibaraki, that will transform the garden, where various types of plum trees bloom in spring, into an interactive art space that changes due to the presence of people. Finally, we have plans to open an art and sauna experience in Tokyo this spring.