An endless run time digital artwork from the interdisciplinary collective teamLab joins the collection of the Smart Museum of Art, thanks to a partnership with the Physical Sciences Division and the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering at the University of Chicago
An ‘ever blossoming’ newly installed digital artwork can now be seen in the lobby of University of Chicago’s William Eckhardt Research Center. The artwork, titled Ever Blossoming Life – Gold (2014), was created by the interdisciplinary art collective teamLab and is the only digital artwork permanently on view and available to the public at the University. It was recently acquired by the Smart Museum of Art through a unique partnership with the Physical Sciences Division and the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering.
The organic, continually progressing imagery of Ever Blossoming Life – Gold is generated in real time by a computer algorithm designed by teamLab, which bridges the past and present and future. The result is an artwork that is constantly recreating itself; the images never repeat. teamLab—a Tokyo-based collective consisting of artists, programmers, engineers, mathematicians, and architects who refer to themselves as ‘ultra-technologists’—describes how “previous states are never duplicated” as the flowers grow, blossom, and wither and fall away, the cycle of life “continuing for eternity.”
“The acquisition of this dynamic artwork by teamLab would not have been possible without the collaboration of our colleagues in the sciences and demonstrates our shared enthusiasm for this new form of digital art that reflects the profound development of technology and science in our lifetime,” said Vanja V. Malloy, Dana Feitler Director of the Smart Museum of Art. “This partnership brings together students, faculty, staff, and our public to explore the intersection of art, science, and technology, and spearheads a transformative new approach to cross-disciplinary research and dialogue at the Smart.”
The Smart is the first museum in the Midwest to acquire a work by teamLab, expanding its holdings of time-based media in an expansive collection of over 16,000 objects. teamLab was founded in 2001 and its works have been exhibited and held in museum collections worldwide. Ever Blossoming Life – Gold is the first computer algorithm artwork in the Museum’s collection and will enable new opportunities for the Smart’s Feitler Center for Academic Inquiry to teach with classes in the sciences.
An exhibition copy of Ever Blossoming Life – Gold was included as part of the inaugural installation of Art at the David Rubenstein Forum, which showcased art loans from the Collection of Kenneth C. Griffin in tandem with selections from the historical document collection of David M. Rubenstein on display throughout the building. It was there that Angela V. Olinto, Albert A. Michelson Distinguished Service Professor and Dean of the Physical Sciences Division, first encountered the artwork alongside Matt Tirrell, Dean of The Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering. Olinto, Tirrell, and Jill Ingrassia, Curatorial Advisor to the Office of the President who curated the installation, helped instigate a partnership with the Smart Museum.
“I was drawn to this artwork because of what it represents for the future of art and the continued cross-fertilization between scientific and artistic endeavors. This is an extraordinary piece, as it gives us a unique experience every time we observe it, and it is a prime example of how artists can use technology and science to create an experience that emulates nature and reminds us of the impermanence of life,” said Olinto.
Both PME and PSD are headquartered in the Eckhardt Research Center and are frequent collaborators on research. This seemed like a natural extension of their partnership.
“Science and art have always been viewed as branches of the same tree. This is evident in teamLab’s engaging computer algorithm-generated art. Partnering with the Smart Museum and the Physical Sciences Division to bring the beauty of Ever Blossoming Life – Gold to UChicago where innovative, impactful science is also ever-evolving is an honor,” said Tirrell. “The entire community will benefit.”
The PME is among the first engineering programs in the country to have a full-scale arts lab embedded within its school, devoted to collaborations among scientists and artists.
These shared connections to Ever Blossoming Life – Gold plant a seed of cross-disciplinary engagement and collaboration, helping to nurture conversations between students and scholars of Art History and East Asian Studies with the community of scientists who study, work, and convene every day in the Eckhardt Research Center. In writing about the work, recent graduate Jimin Kim (BA ’22) and current PhD candidate Roko Rumora describe how ideas of transience are a part of the wabi-sabi principles of traditional Japanese aesthetics: “Wabi refers to the beauty of aged things, while sabi speaks to the impermanence of life through the passage of time. Together, the two principles serve as the core values of the aesthetics of Japan, the nation in which the artists’ cultural roots lie.” These traditional aspects of Japanese landscapes are exemplified elsewhere in the Smart Museum’s collection, such as in the Edo period scroll painting Bird and Chrysanthemum by Gyokuho Hasegawa.
The algorithm that is behind the shifting, botanical form of Ever Blossoming Life – Gold suggests additional paths of inquiry, into the relationships between art and technology, boundaries between humans and nature, and the place of the past in envisioning new futures.
“What is particularly compelling about this artwork is that we, as viewers, can experience it anew each time we see it. In that spirit, the opportunities for our continued collaboration across the arts and sciences are limitless. We are creating new models for partnership, learning, and research and the acquisition of teamLab’s Ever Blossoming Life – Gold is only the beginning of what is possible,” said Malloy.
Starting May 5, 2023, the public will be able to visit the work in the north lobby of the Eckhardt Research Center during the building’s regular hours, Monday through Friday, 8 am–5 pm.