Sauna trance: art and sauna bathing collide at mesmerising new Tokyo art exhibition
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Sauna trance: art and sauna bathing collide at mesmerising new Tokyo art exhibition

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Global art collective teamLab has combined art and sauna to offer an immersive exhibition in Roppongi, Tokyo, called

teamLab & TikTok, teamLab Reconnect: Art with Rinkan Sauna Roppongi.

Running until the end of August 2021, the dynamic and interactive sensory exhibition invites guests to view mesmerising artworks while in a meditative state called a sauna trance, brought on by contrast bathing cycles.

According to Yasutaka Kato, professor of Keio University School of Medicine and representative director of the Japan Association of Sauna, sauna trance is a unique neurological state caused by the transition of dominance from the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) to the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS).

Throughout the thermal bathing cycle, the SNS dominates but during the following resting period the PNS becomes dominant.

This change results in an invigorating trance state where people feel the residual effects of adrenaline, noradrenaline and endorphins released in the bloodstream during the SNS system dominance, as well as increases in oxytocin and serotonin.

The collective wants visitors to give in to this state and let themselves relax and expand their sensory awareness to experience artwork in a deeply immersive way.

teamLab said sauna trance “sharpens the senses, clears the mind and allows the beauty of the surrounding world to come into focus. Meaning what normally goes unnoticed can be experienced.”

The exhibition is a continuous flowing experience composed of a sauna area, cold bathing area and an art submersion area, where visitors can rest and view interactive art installations.

Exhibition guests are required to wear a bathing suit and begin the experience by spending five to 10 minutes in one of seven unique saunas supplied by Metos, each with varying levels of heat and humidity, scent, light, sound and music.

Next, visitors travel to the cold shower area, complete with two different art installations, to awaken and invigorate the senses.

Guests then dry off, rehydrate and are invited to rest in one of three art submersion areas with works based on teamLab’s new Supernature Phenomena project that focuses on occurrences that transcend the laws of nature.

Highlights include an installation named Levitation - Flattening Red and Blue & Blurred Violet, consisting of a large glowing sphere levitating between the floor and ceiling. Once touched, the sphere falls to the ground and rolls away, but if there’s no external interference, it will slowly rise into the air again, as though restoring itself to its original state.

Visitors are advised to repeat this cycle a maximum of three times.

“Art is often thought of as something you display in high-end locations, such as the Palace of Versailles,” explained teamLab, “but rather than focus on the luxury of a physical space, we decided to explore the idea of viewing art in a heightened state of mind.

“We wanted to explore a new set of values and break down the barriers people perceive between themselves and the world through art.

“By taking alternating hot and cold baths, visitors open their minds, experience an ever-expanding physical sensation, and become one with the art.”

Since 2019, teamLab has been committed to exploring the combination of art and sauna while unravelling the historical background and culture of saunas in Japan.

About teamLabFounded in 2001, teamLab is an international art collective composed of an interdisciplinary group of various specialists such as artists, programmers, engineers, CG animators, mathematicians and architects whose collaborative practice seeks to navigate the confluence of art, science, technology and the natural world.

teamLab stages exhibitions all around the world, including an impressive annual exhibition and permanent exhibition in the Japanese region of Takeo.

The first, teamLab: A Forest Where Gods Live, features striking artworks created using digital technology spread through 500,000sq m of forest while teamLab Ruins and Heritage: Rinkan Spa & Tea Ceremony includes art installations woven through an abandoned bathhouse facility, complete with sauna facilities to allow guests to enter a sauna trance.

The latest Tokyo exhibition is an extension of this latter concept where people can expand their perceptions and reconnect to the world and time through sauna trance.

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Global art collective teamLab has combined art and sauna to offer an immersive exhibition in Roppongi, Tokyo, called teamLab & TikTok, teamLab Reconnect: Art with Rinkan Sauna Roppongi.

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