TATSUO MIYAJIMA ‘THE LGIHT OF TIME’ Catalogue of Museo d’Arte Contemporanea, Rome, 2004, (Essay by Danilo Eccher)

22 Mar 2004


Danilo Eccher

The neurosis of LEDs superimposing, stumbling over and chasing each other is the frontier of an aesthetic extension that the art of Tatsuo Miyajima aims to explore. On the one hand, the progressive order of relentless enumeration means there is no escape for a sequential discipline that aims to restrain reality. On the other, there is a disjointed and and dubious rhythm that anticipates the shock of  a perceptive disorder that disorients all formal exactitude.

In the frenetic oscillation between these extremes lies the art of Tatsuo Miyajima, a sort of jarring poetry that inflects its own prosody along the edges of an apparent algebraic certainty, along the confines of an explosive visual delirium. The certainty of numbers is the security of a known horizon, one that is familiar, reliable and controllable in its organization. It is stable and certainly produces infinity, and thus the unknown and the in apprehensible, but it does so through the serial repetition of constant and amicable elements. In this sense, even with their own obscure destiny, numbers are close allies in interpreting the world, in the game of its abstraction and in its intellectual reproducibility. A proposition is thus drawn up for an order that emerges in the form of an acceptance of priorities, meaning that it is composed of a defined sequential chain.

So everything is arranged in an extreme classification that works along the course of absolute abstraction, capable of reinterpreting reality, defining its laws and limits. The reassuring need for the known and for the perceived means there is a demand for the acknowledgement of rules that are certain, sharing stable, reliable, and simple in their universal interpretation. In their clear formulation, numbers well represent this existential exigency.

However, it is in the moment of its sequential inflection that the numerical process can fall into the trap of variation – with the most uncertain outcome. The discordant rhythm of an unrestrained and neurotic temporality muddles up the algebraic programs of a given datum. It is the impetuous presence of time, with its pauses and accelerations, that introduces an element of doubt in a way of proceeding that has displayed self-assurance and determination. It is a slight stammer, an imperceptible limp, a slight shadow in an untroubled look, a sudden silence i na familiar melody.

This brings about small crack in the wall of certainties that the number had built up – and that time shakes to its very foundations. The temporal rhythm that gives numbers their life and frees the movement of their serial nature actually recognizes the demented countenance of ‘another’ reality. This is revealed in the frenzied chasing and overlapping of a numerical alphabet now gripped by its own hallucinations. As though the uncompromising characters of an endlessly repeated performance were suddenly to start writing about a mysterious dance, supported only by the hysteria of their movement. This is how the numbers appear, like fluctuating, flashing lights elusively flowing away, vaporous protagonists gone haywire in an aseptic environment. The silence of mathematical space is run through by the disjoint vociferation of the glare of time sparking off new rhythms and describing unpredictable dispositions. Vital energies burst out behind the mask of an efficient, regulating system. So it not just disruption and discordance, but rather the awareness of a compositional freedom straying into the arena of poetic cognition.

The suggestions of rhythmic improvisations follow the utopia of Leonardo Fibonacci’s numerical sequence, which attempts to interpret the Universe, and which Mario Merz used to give a voice to the inexpressible energy of the Cosmos. What appears to be the precision of calculation nourishes the acid inconsistency of doubt, just as the faltering disorder of time creates the dramatic power of a new truth. In the whirlwind of this syncopated advance, in the void that separates these isolated crests, in the silence that intervenes in this indistinct performance, we find the electrifying enchantment of Tatsuo Miyajima’s art. A graceful harmony, a soft dance step in a precarious balance between scholastic control and acute instinctiveness. A sort of elegant and sophisticated brutality that maps out a logical and spatial structure with ragged and blurry outlines.

Right from his earliest works, Tatsuo Miyajima’s studies have acquired their formal shape through the contamination between the spatial actuality and the dynamic element, between the performative aspect and the architectonic structure. The importance of the space reveals a vision of the work that cannot be confined to an artistic frame – for this frame tends naturally to expand into a more all-embracing dimension. In other words, the work coincides with the space and models it so that it appears the same as the work itself.

All this has value if one also considers the vitality of the space, the fact that it is in movement, and the pulsation of the work that does not abate in its contemplative staticness, but agitates its body in an infectious, irrepressible and intriguing convulsion.

In these works, the performance appears in a different and unexpected guise, but is its perseverance that surprises and provokes an attitude of hypnotic participation. The work envelops you, it attracts and seduces you with the forthright look of someone who knows their own power and the desires of others. The initial ‘actions’, like the ensuing environments, are a dimension of the work that cannot leave movement aside.

This dynamic fact, that at times concentrates on the numerical sequence, at others on the performative element, enables this study to regain – also on the formal and compositional level – that freedom of expression and poetic wonderment that excessive exactitude would otherwise risk marginalizing. The protagonism of the number thus takes on new performances in which algebraic order, temporal sequentiality and technological motioning come up against the subjective and unique theatricality of the performative ‘presence’. A new conceptual exception is thus made, a sort of audacious linguistic oxymoron that contrasts the individuality of an action with the presumed objectivity of a mathematical horizon able to describe the world and give order to time.

The subtle performative spirit that can be seen in all Tatsuo Miyajima’s works is the distant – but insistent – voice of the subject’s distinctiveness. It demands space and is not willing to succumb to total universality. This art, which appears to be eulogise an imperturbable indistinct universality, mobilizes the attention of infinite, curious individualities that proudly proclaim their presence. And so it is that, in the complex conceptual mechanism that is play out between order and time, between space and movement, the technological approach puts itself forward not only in terms of its linguistic instrumentality, but also in the dimension of a symbolic message. 

The use of LED suggests a specific awareness in the identification of a language that contains a precise ‘popular’ value, propounding a mundanely humdrum and familiar technology, sign of modernity that can no longer overawe, a known message that does not instil fear. It is a habitual mechanical element that embodies an easily recognizable visionaries, a radiance that can arouse curiosity, possibly amaze, but never overwhelm, so the choice of this technical language has the task lowering the degree of dramatic power that can be provoked by the subjects the are dealt with. The tragic theatricality that is implied in the conceptual dynamics is dissolved in the confidence placed in a linguistic process entrusted to a known language.

So, rather than resort to the superficial emotion of an evocative, sulphurous and romantically dramatic narrative, Tatsuo Miyajima opts for a composition that is more compliant and reassuring. The risk might be that of a spectacular platitude, a superficial predominance of decoration, but here too the artist eludes all expectation, raising the stakes, augmenting the risk forcing all excess.

Having abandoned any attempt at justification, Tatsuo Miyajima makes the radical choice of adopting irony, a light step a detached smile, a distracted glance, an amused whisper: the disorientation of irony shuffles all the cards. The characters change their raiments and reality is inflected in all its forms. What had been ascertained is shaken by the doubt of an ironic smile, and everything seems to evaporate in the drifting of detachment. Technological sophistication can thus drown in the water of the lake, or it can clamber up the trees, dissolve into transparency of a window, ascend broad flights of stairs, or dive again into a basin at home – wherever the caress of a smile prevents all rigidity of interpretation and all excessive formal asperity. Even in this case, the revelation does not resort to an unexpected deflagration, to a surprise effect or sudden and theatrical brightness, but it is instead a constant and subtle murmur that slowly surprises, smiling complacently at every little discovery. It is a sort of discreet suggestion that invites us to look beyond, to leave our expectations to one side, and amuse ourselves with the a;; too undemanding appearance we see.

Tatsuo Miyajima’s art is capable of dealing with important aesthetic themes while making use, with the most astonishing nimbleness, of an intentionally unkempt and ironic language. The concentration of the eye is abandoned to the incitation of a beaming visionariness that transforms technological into the curiosity of an indecipherable game. The poetic emotion of glittering lights underwater, their conceptual weight in the untiring and endless flow of time, the obsession of an infinite numerical sequence marshaled into bookkeeping-like monotony: everything in these works appears to lead towards the lands of mystery and enigma, but it is the outburst of a childlike redeeming innocence that makes this journey so astonishing and curious.

Tatsuo Miyajima’s art is charged with powerful tension and energy: it absorbs the themes of complex aesthetic considerations, experimenting the languages of disconcerting mundaneness, contemplating the dawn of enchantment, falling into the despair of doubt and drifting. But, more than anything, it bears witness to the fragile enthusiasm that runs through everyday being, giving voices and bodies to those presences that constitute our very existence.

It is the light of numbers in their flow through time, as they flash on and off, chasing and fluctuating, with their bookkeeping-like precision and the obliviousness of their fantasy.