Digital artwork blooms endlessly on campus

‘Ever Blossoming Life – Gold,’ which has joined Smart Museum collection, is on display in Eckhardt Research Center

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, 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.  

This 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 art 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.  

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.  

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. 

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.   

The public can visit the artwork in the north lobby of the Eckhardt Research Center during the building’s regular hours, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m.–5 p.m. 

This story originally appeared on the Physical Sciences Division website.