teamLab & TikTok, teamLab Reconnect: Art with Rinkan Sauna
Report Part 1
22 March – 31 August 2021
Would you like to take a sauna? To have an immersive art experience? What if you could do them both together at the same time in the same place?
The art collective teamLab currently runs “teamLab & TikTok, teamLab Reconnect: Art with Rinkan Sauna” in Roppongi, Tokyo for a limited period of six months.
Here is what we experienced with this unusual programme, with the guidance of Takashi Kudo, Communication director of teamLab.
By Yumi / amuzen
The ingenious group of art-minded engineers, scientists and specialists has brought about a new formula this time: “art meets sauna” (or “sauna meets art”).
And for real: not simply art with make-shift sauna tents, nor merely sauna with Mount Fuji paintings found at public bathhouses. The setup is intriguing and truly experimental, showcasing yet another leading edge of their experiential art endeavours.
You may already know that the teamLab’s immersive art is made in such a way to stretch your bodily senses vis-à-vis space.
This time around, it is also about feeling good.
It’s relaxing and restorative, and even “rerooting” – getting inspiration from the age-old Japanese tea and sauna tradition called “Rinkan-no-chanoyu”.
Silicon Valley would LOVE this. Jack Dorsey, certainly, would.
◆ From the ordinary to the extraordinary
The venue is just opposite Tsutaya Bookstore on the edge of Roppongi Hills, a major commercial complex consisting of Mori Art Museum, Grand Hyatt, brand shops, cafes and restaurants, as well as offices and residences once known as a symbol of Japan’s IT bubble in the 90s.
Across the intersection of the bookstore, you can see a white, one-story building with the signboard of teamLab’s Reconnect.
Proceeding toward the gate, first you will go through the entrance ritual, which is non-contact in today’s pandemic context – making brief stops at electronic thermometers and ticket-processing posts, without physically touching them. You will then enter the video guidance room to learn what this is all about, i.e., dos and dont’s.
With building excitement – and perhaps also anxiety, like in my case – you will pick up a facial mask, rental towels and swim suits, and then go to the locker room. Change clothes and take a shower, and now you are ready to leave almost everything ordinary behind you and embrace the extraordinary.
◆ Three sauna sets followed by art sessions
The bottom line of this special setup is to enjoy sauna and art at the same time.
Importantly however, there is a sequence of steps to take. You will practice three “sauna and art” sets – to repeat a sauna and cold shower sequence followed by an immersive art session, for three times in total, over a stretch of 75 to 90 minutes.
Think about the tea ceremony, the ancient Japanese art of chanoyu, with a ritual sequence adapted to the modern world.
◆ Seven Finnish-style saunas
The facility has seven sauna cabins – two of which are for women only – that can fully satisfy the traditional Finnish-style sauna enthusiasts.
There are dry and “löyly” (steam) saunas, with different temperatures, music and light effects. Each löyly sauna uses a distinct aroma, too. The staff comes in at regular intervals to pour water onto the sauna stones to generate steam and scent.
To decide which sauna cabin to enter, check the digital panel by the door. It shows the inside temperature, how it is crowded or vacant, the aroma used for löyly, and the time left until the next löyly.
We entered a 90-degree Celsius dry sauna first, and it felt wonderful. My body warmed up and sweated gently – without no unpleasant tingling heat – and totally relaxed.
We also tried later a birch-scented sauna, which makes you feel a bit like “forest bathing.”
But a most pleasing moment came when we later experienced the steam sauna using “hoji-cha”, roasted Japanese tea, for löyly. I never imagined hoji-cha can be used for an aromatic purpose, and personally never felt the scent of hoji-cha that good, almost entrancing. The tea is a special blend procured from “EN TEA”, a tea garden at Ureshino, Kyushu in southern Japan.
◆ Cold showers
A cold bath is quite a challenge for the sauna beginners. But here, instead of soaking in an icy bath tub, you can take a cold shower, over head or over shoulders, whichever you like.
The shower areas are filled with cold mist. In one of them, butterflies of light are fluttering, but disappear as you touch them (“Step into the Light Circle“). At another area, a large circular rainbow is cast on the mist (“Walk through the Light Circle“), representing a brush-stroke circle of zen.
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