Museum of Contemporary Art Director, Elizabeth Ann Macgregor OBE, said: 'Tatsuo Miyajima: Connect with Everything introduces audiences to works from across the artist’s extensive career from early LEDs prototypes through to large-scale environments, as well as video and performance works which have expanded his object-based practice over time.’
'We thank Destination NSW for their ongoing support in bringing the work of incredible international artists to the MCA including: Annie Leibovitz, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Anish Kapoor, Yoko Ono, Chuck Close, Grayson Perry and now Tatsuo Miyajima.’, Macgregor continued.
Miyajima represented Japan at the Venice Biennale in 1999 with the vast installation Mega Death, which forms 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 the 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), which was recently presented at The Met Breuer, New York.
Central to Miyajima’s practice are numerical counters that count from 1 to 9 repeatedly using light-emitting diodes (LEDs), which then go dark momentarily. For Miyajima, the repetition of numbers, along with the shift from light to dark, reflect the importance of time. The artist draws inspiration from Buddhist philosophy with its exploration of mortality and the human cycles of life, death and renewal.
Other works in the exhibition Changing Time with Changing Self (2001) and Warp Time with Warp Self (2010), immerse visitors in a different way. They bathe people in coloured light, surround them from above and below, and reflect them through the use of polished, reflective surfaces including glass and mirror. This concept is what Miyajima calls ‘Art in you’.
Despite his use of high-end technology, Miyajima has also harnessed elemental materials – water, earth and coal – for some works. 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.
These key sculptural and immersive installations are accompanied by paintings, works on paper and performance videos. In the 1990s, Miyajima commenced a series of live works where actors or Miyajima himself repeatedly counted down from 9 to 1, 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. They include Counter Voice in the Water at Fukushima (2014), in which the artist is dressed as a Japanese ‘everyman’ in a grey suit and tie; behind him, the viewer is confronted with the contaminated sea and damaged nuclear power plant.
Other works that touch on the large-scale loss of life include the Pile Up Life series. These works reference the forms of traditional memorials from a number of different cultures including stupas.
On Buddhism’s role in his art, Tatsuo Miyajima states: 'Buddhism allowed me to clarify my vision and direction, and helped me to understand why I was creating art and had become an artist. In other words, it clarified for me that I was making art for people, not for art. That was an important moment for me and gave me a new perspective.’
MCA Chief Curator Rachel Kent said: 'Tatsuo Miyajima embraces the materials and substance of life in order to explore the nature of being. Numbers and counting sequences are central to this process, revealing time’s relentless, cyclical nature.’
'They also serve to remind us that whilst our time on this planet is brief, our lives have beauty and purpose, for we are one with the cosmos that exists within and outside us.’ Kent concluded.
Tatsuo Miyajima: Connect With Everything, has been secured as part of the Sydney International Art Series through the support of strategic partner Destination NSW, the NSW Government’s tourism and major events agency.
NSW Minister for Trade, Tourism and Major Events Stuart Ayres said, 'Since its inception in 2010, the Sydney International Art Series has brought the world’s most outstanding artists exclusively to Sydney and this year’s Museum of Contemporary Art Australia exhibition continues this tradition.’
'This first major solo exhibition from Tatsuo Miyajima to be staged in the Southern Hemisphere, is expected to bring thousands of visitors to Sydney to experience a journey through Miyajima’s immersive, technology-driven sculptures and installations.’
Presented alongside Tatsuo Miyajima: Connect with Everything is a range of public programs for all ages. Visitors to the MCA in summer can experience special guest and free daily guided tours, Japanese-inspired workshops on Thursday evenings in December.
After the success of the Gin Garden in 2015, the MCA will present a pop-up Cherry Blossom Bar opening 27 October to 5 March. The food menu pays homage to the cuisine of Japan and QT Hotel Sydney’s mixologist Jared Thibault has developed signature cocktails exclusive to the exhibition.
Families can experience the Miyajima family space on Level 3 every weekend during the exhibition and daily from 19 December to 8 January. Featuring art-making activities inspired by the artist’s practice, visitors of all ages are invited to turn light into music or meditate on a larger than life lotus leaf.
Once again, Citi is Presenting Partner of the MCA’s Sydney International Art Series exhibition, helping bring artists from around the world to Australia. Citi partnered with the MCA in 2015-16 to bring Grayson Perry: My Pretty Little Art Career from the UK and in 2014-15 to bring Chuck Close: Prints, Process and Collaboration from the US.
The MCA also acknowledges the generosity of Major Partner Norton Rose Fulbright.