The Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA) presents Tatsuo Miyajima: “Connect with Everything” as part of the Sydney International Art Series 2016–17. One of Japan’s leading contemporary artists, Tatsuo Miyajima is known for his immersive and technologically driven sculptures and installations. Curated by MCA Chief Curator Rachel Kent, this is the artist’s first retrospective exhibition in the Southern Hemisphere and is exclusive to Sydney.
Tatsuo Miyajima represented Japan at the 1999 Venice Biennale with the vast installation Mega Death. A highlight of this survey, Mega Death is a room-scale installation of brilliant, blinking blue LEDs, each representative of human life or energy. A silent, twinkling memorial to death during the Second World War recalling Hiroshima and Auschwitz, the lights are programmed to switch off at intervals, plunging viewers into complete darkness momentarily, before lighting up and counting once more. Another highlight of the MCA exhibition is a new installation, Arrow of Time (Unfinished Life), recently presented at The Met Breuer, New York.
Central to Tatsuo Miyajima’s practice are numerical counters that count from one to nine repeatedly using light-emitting diodes (LEDs), which then go dark momentarily. The repetition of numbers, along with the shift from light to dark, reflects the importance of time. The artist draws inspiration from Buddhist philosophy, exploring mortality and human cycles of life, death and renewal.
Other works in the exhibition immerse visitors in a different way. They bathe viewers in coloured light, surround them from above and below, and reflect them through the use of polished, reflective surfaces including mirror and glass.
Despite his use of high-end technology, Tatsuo Miyajima has also harnessed elemental materials—water, earth and coal. Counter Coal (2008/2016) for example comprises a vast black mound of coal in the gallery, punctuated by red LEDs. In the MCA exhibition, a second work wraps around its perimeter. Entitled Time Train to the Holocaust (2008/2016) it features a model train that hauls tiny blue counter gadgets in its wagons.
Connect with Everything also includes the artist’s paintings, works on paper and performance videos. In the 1990s, Tatsuo Miyajima commenced a series of live works where actors or the artist himself repeatedly counted down from nine to one, and back up again. At each interval the performers would submerge their face into a bowl of liquid (water, milk or red wine) suggesting the fluids of life. Two of these works will be presented at the MCA—Counter Voice in the Water at Fukushima (2014) and Counter Voice in Wine (2000).
- Tatsuo Miyajima, Arrow of Time (Unfinished Life), 2016. LED, IC, electric wire, iron. Courtesy the artist, The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Lisson Gallery. © the artist. Photo: Thomas B. Ling.
- Tatsuo Miyajima, Warp Time with Warp Self No. 2 (detail), 2010, LED, IC, electric wire, mirror glass, steel, Taguchi Art Collection, Image courtesy the artist and SCAI THE BATHHOUS