Wow, so today was a fun day! I had to pick up my visa today in Tokyo, which took quite some time (though it was much better than the reapplication process last month, which took 4 hours!), and afterwards Paul and I went to check out the DMM.Planets exhibit we’ve been seeing drifting around Facebook for a month.
It’s located in Odaiba, an island in Tokyo Bay, right beyond a giant shopping mall and next to the giant Gundam. To get in we had to pay 2,000¥ to enter a weird fairground-like area with lots of One Piece paraphernalia and games and the longest fries I have ever seen in my life! We stood in line for 40 minutes until we were let in, though luckily they had some giant AC fans standing around the winding line area. (Apparently, after 6p.m. you can pay 1,000¥ to see just the exhibit, but I imagine the line is MUCH longer then!)
I absolutely loved this exhibit! It played a lot with the sense of touch (we had to remove our shoes at the entrance and went from room to room through dark hallways with different-textured floors – even a squishy beanbag-esque section), and every room exuded a wondrous sense of serene infinity.
The first room, titled Wander through the Crystal Universe, was my favourite:
A mirrored room, reflecting the gleam of hundreds and hundreds of stringed lights hung from the ceiling, stretched out in a glittering eternity. The lights reacted to touch and danced about in random patterns, enhanced by quiet, meandering music and an occasional shock of sound rising in reaction to the movement of the lights. In this exhibit I felt as though I were standing in the midst of the universe rushing past me.
(I also posted a little clip of the Crystal Universe on my Instagram.)
The next room was called Drawing on the Water Surface Created by the Dance of Koi and People – Infinity. A seemingly endless expanse of water stretched out before us as we entered, the surface dancing with flowers and koi fish. While I would have enjoyed the other two rooms in solitude, I really enjoyed seeing the space full of people marvelling and exclaiming over the projections. The mirrored walls made the room seem much, much bigger.
(Pardon the terrible quality of the pictures, I left my camera at home for ease of travel and only had my phone!)
The last room, Floating in the Falling Universe of Flowers, was a domed room with a mirror floor where everyone lay on their backs and gazed up at a spiralling universe of flowers. The flowers regularly cycled through phases of budding, blossoming, and dying, while many-coloured butterflies fluttered amongst them lazily across the ceiling.
Overall, I loved this exhibit. It’s been so long since I’ve been to something so immersive as this. The themes of eternity and ephemerality were gorgeous to witness!
Despite this, I had two issues with the exhibit:
The biggest downside: though the intended “uniqueness” of each person’s experience was great in concept, it was not well-expressed, and therefore poorly executed. I knew very little about this exhibit besides the promotional videos I’d seen on Facebook, and there were no informational signs or pamphlets given while we waited 40 minutes in line. Because of this, Paul and I were completely unaware of the fact that we could interact with the rooms through our smartphones – supposedly viewers could release coloured butterflies in the flower dome, or “select elements that make up the Crystal Universe” to interact with the lights.
I only learned this information once I looked up the website – which, if you’re wondering why we hadn’t done that before, I’ll just say, Japan is pretty awful at websites! So I totally wasn’t expecting such a comprehensive and well-written set of artist statements concerning each room. (Check it out here!)
The second issue I had was with the sheer amount of people being let in. There’s no clear alternative to what they could have done, obviously – if you have an exhibit with a limited showtime that is meant to be seen and experienced, and people want in, you let them in.
Because of this, however, there was a sense of urgency the entire first half of the exhibit. I had no idea that the first room (which I have only mentioned in passing, the beanbag-esque room) was meant to be a full work! It’s on their website as Soft Black Hole – Your Body Becomes a Space that Influences Another Body. People were supposed to lie down on the floor and experience – as the title says – the influence of the body on a space and the space on a body.
Despite this concept (and the sheer awesomeness that is lying in a beanbag room), we were quickly ushered through and not encouraged to linger. We literally stomped from one doorway to the next in under 30 seconds. I felt extra disappointment in the Crystal Universe, because the attendants were constantly urging us to keep moving. It wasn’t until we reached the wide, wet, and chaotic expanse of the koi room that we finally seemed to get some peace.
I’ve noticed on the schedule that there are several days where the exhibit closes early in the evening for private reservations. I’m very jealous; I think that’s the way this work is truly supposed to be experienced – in the quiet solitude of oneself or only a handful of others.
Other than those two issues, I loved this work. It was beautiful, immersive, and awe-inspiring. Despite the crowds, I definitely think that anyone able to see it should go and experience the beautiful of DMM.Planets! It’s open until August 31st in the Odaiba Aomi area.