Friday, July 15, 2011

Tatsuo Miyajima: Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust @ UCCA - Beijing

Tatsuo Miyajima: Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust

For leading Japanese contemporary artist Tatsuo Miyajima, numbers are both figurative and abstract, symbolizing a vast realm of existential possibilities, the eternal nature of space and time, and the infinite cycle of life, death and rebirth. His core artistic concepts ("Keep Changing", "Connect with All", and "Goes on forever") are derived from Buddhist philosophy, while his methods and materiel (LED counters, computers, electrical circuits, projection video) are informed by the latest technologies.

Many of Miyajima's pieces and installations involve precision LED counters that cycle through the numbers from 9 to 1 (or from 1 to 9), then back again. They may go blank, plunging the room into darkness, but never do they read "0", for "zero" represents the ultimate negation, a denial of the infinite cycle of human existence. The artist describes his avoidance of zero as "a deliberate inclusion of a void - rejection of the idea of nothingness...taking out zero focuses attention on zero."

The three works in this exhibition employ different sets of visual tools to express the visceral nature of time and draw the viewer into the experience. HOTO winks back at us with our own reflections, Floating Time immerses us in a sea of dancing numbers and MEGA DEATH forces us to confront a truly terrifying number: 167,000,000, the estimated number of lives lost to war, revolution, violent conflict and genocide in the 20th century. When those 2,400 blue LED counters go dark en masse, signaling the ultimate annihilation, we are placed in a state of suspended animation, anticipating the ultimate rebirth.
Miyajima's simple digits from 1 to 9 are a potent reminder that each individual life is unique, equally valuable and worthy of respect. Whatever the calculations, however we are added up, we are always more than the weight of our numbers, more than the sum of our parts.

- Jérôme Sans, UCCA Director

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