Between Cinema and a Hard Place: The artists: Tatsuo Miyajima

Tatsuo Miyajima was born in 1957 in Japan. He began by making performance art, but since 1987 has been constructing installations using LED counters. He lives and works in Tokyo.

‘Time connects everything’, says Tatsuo Miyajima. ‘I want people to think about the universe and the human spirit.’ In this darkened room, digital numbers pulse and flash, tracing vanishing patterns in light, as they count from one to ninety-nine. Like stars in deep space, they follow invisible arcs, sometimes blinking out, only to be reborn a moment later.

For Miyajima, time is the fabric that binds the universe. As a Buddhist, he believes in reincarnation, which is why zero, a symbol of the end, or death, never appears. When each counter reaches ninety-nine, the numerical cycle begins anew. But Miyajima’s work is not limited by a single system of thought. It could be considered as visual poetry, or philosophy, as a metaphor for the patterns in nature, or a representation of mathematical theories of order and chaos. ‘The work is the reflection and the mirror for the audience’, he says.

The two works shown here, Opposite Circle, and Lattice, consist of different configurations of red and green light-emitting diodes (LEDs). ‘Red and Green are basically opposite colours. For me, they represent different, opposing meanings - Japanese and Western culture, or white and black people for example . But the associations are very free’, Miyajima explains. Some of the numbers race frenetically, others move slowly and hypnotically, as if measuring the many ways in which we experience time at different periods in our lives - devouring the minutes or drawing them out. These works embody the three guiding principles of Miyajima’s art: ‘keep changing, connect with everything, continue forever.’