Miyajima’s LED art illuminates the Santa Barbara Museum of Art

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Tatsuo Miyajima, Counter Ground, 1998–2000. LED, electric wiring, and wooden panels. Photo courtesy of the Dallas Museum of Art.

The symbols used by Japanese artist Tatsuo Miyajima are instantly recognizable. Look at any stopwatch or scoreboard, and you’ll see the numerical digits at the heart of his work.

A new exhibit at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art features Miyajima’s digital installations. It’s his first solo exhibition in the U.S. in more than two decades. 


Tatsuo Miyajima, Time Waterfall-panel #12, 2018 Computer graphics, LED display. Installation view at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, December 22, 2019 – April 19, 2020. Photo credit: Brian Forrest.

“I don't use 0 because it represents death and darkness,” says Miyajima, whose art reflects his Buddhist practice. “When the screen goes blank, that is essentially a signifier of death. 9 to 1 being lit up and cascading is a symbol of life. And this particular piece, the fact that there is 9 to 1 and then flashes of black really indicates this cycle of life and death."


Tatsuo Miyajima, Installation view at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, December 22, 2019 – April 19, 2020. Photo credit: Brian Forrest.

“I'm very interested in this life and death dynamic,” he says. “The light-dark dichotomy is perfect for this, the contrast when light goes out, signifying death. This is really why I've chosen to use light as my main medium.

The “Tatsuo Miyajima” exhibition runs through April 19.

Credits

Guest:
Tatsuo Miyajima - Artist

Host:
Matt Guilhem

Producer:
Kathryn Barnes