Since 1987 Tatsuo Miyajima has been working with kinetic sculptures in an attempt to understand and represent the experience of time. The earliest of these pieces used various found elements of electrical gadgetry but he very quickly settled on the use of LED counters. From these relatively simple elements mounted on walls, on the floor, under water and even on model dodgem cars, he has created a vast diversity of configurations.
‘Region no 126701–127000’ consists of 300 LED panels which seem to be counting endless sequences between one and 99. It is a kind of kinetic sculpture yet, unlike most kinetic works, it never repeats the same moment. It quite literally exists in a state of constant change but has no cycle of repetition. In this sense it is like a living organism. The numbers may also be seen as a representation of events in the world, such as the decay of atomic structures, the formation of nucleotides and the universe as it continues to expand.
The installation is a composition of units of red and green counters, the kind that appear everywhere in our daily lives: in watches, calculators, scoreboards and the endless statistical information provided in places like natural science museums about the felling of forests, population growth etc. In Miyajima’s work individual units count from one to nine, each with its own rhythm. Miyajima has included a beautiful stamped certificate with each panel which outlines the sequence and rhythm should it ever have to be reset. The blinking lights have an eerie beauty, evoking a sense of eternally spiralling time. Miyajima has said that each pair of numbers could be thought of as a human being, the units as families and the large groups as tribes or nations.
The various timescales suggested can be seen as metaphors for everything that exists. Miyajima’s Buddhist beliefs are reflected in the work through the repetition of the numbers one to 99, signifying a revolving cycle of time, death and rebirth as part of a continuing movement – thus 0, which indicates an end, must not be used. The 300 elements are arranged in banks of 10 with adjacent banks linked. Every seventh counter is green. This colour sequence further complicates the computational possibilities of the work. Seven is of course a mystical number. The number of connections in each counter is mathematically counted and is very high indeed: the possibilities for 300 counters connected in different ways is astronomical, hence the reasonable assertion that the piece will never repeat itself.
Inspired by his spiritual leader Daisaku Ikeda, Miyajima seeks to express, or ‘push out’ into the world, his ideas of a new humanism based on Buddhism. He feels that ordinary people may have become alienated from art and wishes to bring art back for the people. Like Joseph Beuys, Miyajima believes art can help humanity overcome the difficulties of the late 20th and 21st centuries.
© Art Gallery of New South Wales Contemporary Collection Handbook, 2006
light-emitting diode, IC, electric wire and aluminum panel, 300 units
190.0 x 1200.0 cm overall :
a - 300 LED lights; 11 x 26 x 2.7 cm; each
b - Certificates and instructions; 29.8 x 21.1 cm; each
Signature & date
Signed l.c. certificates, ink "Tatsuo Miyajima". Not dated.
© Tatsuo Miyajima
Shown in 2 exhibitions
Tatsuo Miyajima - Keeping changing: connect with everything: continue forever, Anthony d'Offay Gallery, England, 05 Dec 1991–11 Jan 1992
Conversations through the Asian collections, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 25 Oct 2014–05 Sep 2015
Referenced in 5 publications
Anthony Bond, Contemporary: Art Gallery of New South Wales Contemporary Collection, 'Objects and associations', pg.332-381, Sydney, 2006, 356-357 (colour illus.). reproductions on pg.357 are details
Tony Bond, TAASA Review, "In the Public Domain", Sydney, Sep 1998, 12 (colour illus.).
Bruce James, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'Asian Collection: East Asia', pg. 246-287, Sydney, 1999, 287 (colour illus.0.
Natalie King, Art and Australia (Vol. 43, No. 3), "Tatsuo Miyajima", Sydney, Mar 2006-May 2006, 436.
Jill Sykes, Look, 'New on two', pg. 18-19, Sydney, Sep 2006, 19.