Altered Perceptions: The Artistic Power of Sauna

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All photos courtesy teamLab

For centuries, the sauna has been used as a collective space for gathering and relaxation, using a mix of hot and cold to cleanse the body of toxins.

But for many cultures, sauna has also been an experience meant to change perception, with cultures like the Ojibway First Nations people and Japanese Zen culture using hot and cold transitions to heighten awareness. It is this history of the sauna as a vessel for a heightened perception that forms the thematic centerpiece of teamLab’s Rinkan Sauna Roppongi art exhibit.



Founded in 2001, teamLab is a Japanese art collective focused on changing human perception of life and the natural world. Since its conception, the collective of artists, architects, engineers, mathematicians, and designers have hosted interactive exhibits across the globe, including New York and Paris.

The exhibit exemplifies the idea of life as a circle without beginning or end. A continuously rotating circle of light greets viewers following their exit from a traditional tea sauna experience, symbolizing the eternal motion of the world around a still point at its center.

The truly unique part of the exhibit is the use of the sauna to induce a “sauna trance” and thus, alter viewer perceptions of the art. “When entering a sauna trance, the senses sharpen, the mind clears,” teamLab says. “The beauty of the surrounding world comes into focus, and what normally goes unnoticed can be experienced.” 


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