Fort Worth

Tatsuo Miyajima

Most of the work in this show, Tatsuo Miyajima’s first solo exhibition in a US museum, consisted of the artist’s signature arrays of LED counting devices installed in unlit galleries. In Double Spiral, 1992, these “gadgets,” as the artist refers to them, are arranged in two helical lines, one green, the other red, wrapped around black columns. One turns left, the other right, as they rise up the column. The devices are set to count from 1 to 99 at various paces; when the sequence reaches 99, the counter goes dark for one beat before the sequence begins again. This periodic darkening of individual elements interrupts the spatial continuity of the forms and hints at an interruption of temporal continuity as well. There may indeed be a single sweep of time in the grand universal sense, but Miyajima’s asynchronous gadgets suggest both the subjective reality of duration and a periodic death of experience.

Miyajima’s high-conceptual concept sometimes takes a comic turn. In the Fort Worth installation of Running Time, 1994, viewers stood on a balcony overlooking a room filled with around forty little electric cars that scuttled about bearing digital displays counting from 1 to 99, 99 to 1, 9 to 1, or 1 to 9, all at different rhythms. As in all of Miyajima’s counters, zero has been excluded from the sequence. He calls them “U-cars,” short for “uncertainty-cars,” a reference to Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle as well as to the vehicles’ behavior. Since each car has front and rear sensors that reverse its direction when it hits a wall or another vehicle, they scramble about the black floor buzzing and thumping like robotic bumper cars in Brownian motion. Antically entertaining, the installation also forcefully spatializes time as it introduces a random chain of causation into his varied continuum of counting. While causality has only one temporal direction, the spatial array of his installation evokes an oceanic sense of duration and varied directions for our consciousness of time’s passage.

In addition to the familiar LED assemblages, the show also featured some surprisingly transgressive paintings. In the series “Over Economy,” 1993–94, paper money from various countries is painted over except where Miyajima first placed stencils of digital-style numerals. This unpainted space leaves “holes” in the painting through which one can make out the bills’ denominations. More aggressive still is Miyajima’s series of paintings titled “Time Landscapes,” 1993–94, nineteenth-century Chinese, Korean, and Japanese scenes painted over in monochrome except for the stenciled numerals. Only through the numerals do the landscapes remain visible. Miyajima’s action indicates his steely intent: the consciousness of time the artist explores in producing these paintings is not sentimental but conflicted (of Asian and international identities). Playing on the notion of value and duration, these pictures appear to cross-reference On Kawara’s date paintings with Marcel Broodthaers’ use of nineteenth-century landscapes and debunking of artistic value.

Michael Odom