Tatsuo Miyajima’s overall career project has been to focus attention on the passing of time. His signature has been the use of small numerical counters made of LED lights that go repeatedly from 1 to 9 and then momentarily black, before beginning again. Miyajima speaks of the influence of Buddhist thinking on his own. He refers to each light diode as representing a life. When the counter goes black, it represents death, and then, when the count recommences, it is a symbol of rebirth and renewal.
Ironically, the other immersive work in the exhibition, “Arrow of Time (Unfinished Life)” (2016), in which viewers are provided with pillows to look up at the ceiling, features diodes in red, a color one more readily associates with blood, rage, and violence. In the case of “Arrow of Time,” the installation is not nearly large enough to realize the ambition of creating an immersive environment. Scale is so important to the effect of a work like this, and the room allocated was simply too small. The choice of red, we are told in the catalogue, is meant to represent a “dramatic meteorite storm.” Thus, the work which wishes to provoke our thoughts about the deaths of millions during the 20th century is represented by a haunting and tranquil setting, while the night sky is a room awash in red light.