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宫岛达男Tatsuo Miyajima|用数字体会生死 Experience life & death with numbers

About artist 


Tatsuo Miyajima, who was born in Tokyo’s Edo district in 1957, grew up in Japan’s most wealthy area with a strong urban culture, which informs his works about human nature and urban thought. In the early years of his career, he focused on avant-garde performance, which ignited his interest in installation construction, physical space exploration, and the riddles of time.

宫岛达男 1957年出生于东京江户区,在日本最富裕的地区长大,有着浓厚的城市文化,这为他的作品提供了关于人性和城市思想的信息。在他职业生涯的早期,他专注于前卫的表演,这激发了他对装置建造、物理空间探索和时间之谜的兴趣。

In the 1980s, he shifted his concentration from performances to site-specific installations and sculptures, primarily employing displays and LED systems to represent his topics with a minimalist approach. Tatsuo Miyajima released his work with light-emitting diodes for the first time in 1987. Sea of Time, which was shown in the Young Artists Section of the Venice Biennale the following year, received widespread worldwide praise. He has become one of the representatives of Japanese post-mono school artists.

在 1980 年代,他将注意力从表演转移到特定地点的装置和雕塑上,主要使用显示器和 LED 系统以极简主义的方式表现他的主题。1987年,宫岛达夫首次发表了他的发光二极管作品。次年在威尼斯双年展青年艺术家单元展出的《时间之海》获得了世界范围内的广泛赞誉。他已经确立了自己成为目前日本后物派艺术家的代表之一。

“Mega Death”


Numbers are not only used and calculated in mathematics, but also in artistic imagination, connected with the philosophy of life and rational thinking.


Numbers are everywhere in our life. The alarm clock that wakes me up in the morning; my bank account balance; turning a year older each year; essential anniversaries, and so on. Do these numbers have any significance for you?


Numbers symbolize life and death in the case of Tatsuo Miyajima. “Mega Death”, his 1999 piece, comprises 2,400 glowing blue counters. The installation is repeated from 1 to 9. Although our age is growing, our life expectancy is decreasing. Therefore, he intends to depict human life’s death and rebirth via the reciprocal repetition of numbers.


Consider the twentieth century’s multiple wars, revolutions, and diseases. Every day, someone dies or gives birth to a new life. The initial wall was black, and every blue light that turned on lit the gloomy world like a new life, yet life was finite, and it was stifling when the light went out at the end. When the lights come back on, it’s like starting over.


It sounds like the Buddhist theory of life and death, yet in Buddhism, death is presented as the beginning. Buddhists believe that reincarnation occurs. Tatsuo Miyajima is a Buddhist, and from his childhood experiences and Buddhist philosophy, he established his own “digital and creative existence.” As a result, this philosophy has profoundly inspired his work, transforming him into an artist who balances reason with intuition.


But why didn’t he just use 0?


This is done on purpose. Because Buddhism has a concept of “emptiness,” it is analogous to 0, which may imply limitless or nothing. A 0 can also represent something that has ended and no longer exists, such as a 0 on the pacemaker of a patient who died in a hospital. As a result, there is only a cycle of 1 to 9, which represents endless existence.


Counter Sky Garden


“Although the mediums and props used in installation and performance art are different, as long as the core concept is the same, it’s fine”


On November 20, 2015, Fosun Art Center made a public invitation through the Morning News to everyone who works or lives in Shanghai to submit the most memorable number in their lives to the “Counter Sky Garden” project. This work’s“co-artists” was chosen from among 300 persons.


The digital sky garden installation is made up of 300 LED digital lights that constantly flash. The numbers are repeated from 9 to 1, and the “people” form the work’s spirit. Each LED frame depicts a person’s life. People control the pounding tempo of the LED numerals according to their preferences, and the reflected personalities vary. When the numbers alter, the hue of the light changes, symbolizing that life is reincarnating.

数字空中花园装置由 300 个不断闪烁的 LED 数字灯组成。数字从9到1重复,“人”构成了作品的精神。每个 LED 框架都描绘了一个人的生活。人们根据自己的喜好来控制 LED 数字的跳动节奏,反映的个性各不相同。当数字发生变化时,光的色调也会发生变化,象征着生命正在轮回。

“This is why I use numbers to express one of my artistic behaviors. And this is what I thought of in 1987. I thought of expressing this way. Since then, I have always used numbers, and there is no middle. Changed.” 


– Miyajima Tatsuo 宫岛达男

Tatsuo Miyajima’s work has always revolved around reflections on life, death, and disaster. He feels that life is impermanent and hopes that those who are fortunate enough to see his works can examine their own life from these cold numbers. The constant reincarnation given by numbers gives people an intuitive feeling and makes people carefully study their inner thoughts. There is humanity in the Buddha-nature, which makes the rational world in front of you appear delicate and broad.


*all images and artworks belong to the artist & his representing galleries respectively 


Translation 翻译 Alice Yip


本篇文章来源于微信公众号: SHMADNESS


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