Tatsuo Miyajima_Digital Counter

MOCA Tokyo. Facing a large digital counter board, meditating while taking in the clarity of the numbers and the vague shadows reflected on the floor.

Tatsuo Miyajima is a contemporary artist known for his work on digital counters. The concept of this work is to display red-emitting diode numerical counters side by side. The digital counters, several centimeters in vertical and horizontal, are laid out in a rectangular area and operated. The movement of the digital counter starts from 1, continues as 2/3/4/5/6/7/8/9, and finally turns off, then repeats from 1. This series of movements and the speed at which the numbers change are different for each digital counter laid out.

Tatsuo Miyajima has created many works based on this concept. The first work I saw was at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), Tokyo, which I introduce here. The title is “Keeps Changing, Connect with Everything, Continue Forever”.

This work created in 1998, and installed in a room on the third floor of the permanent exhibition room in 1998 after the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo opened in 1995. It has remained in the same location for 26 years since then. The room in which the work installed is approximately 15m x 20m in size, with a ceiling height of approximately 6m. This is the only work on display in this space (though, additional other work sometimes displayed in the corner of the room)

The works displayed on the walls of a dimly lit room. The number of digital counters is 36 columns vertically and 48 columns horizontally. Therefore, 36×48=1728 pieces lined up. The overall size of the board on which the counters lined up is approximately 3m long and 4m wide. The digital counters lined up on this board continue to move.

The speed at which the numbers on these 1728 digital counters change is different. I have not confirmed it, but I think there are at least 5 types of speeds at which the numbers change. The counters that move the fastest are so fast that I cannot decipher the number. The counters that move the slowest are so slow that I cannot tell that the number are moving, so the number probably change every minute.

The permanent exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo is on the 1st and 3rd floors at the back of the building. The Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo has taken over the collection of contemporary art collected by the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum in Ueno, and is currently exhibiting it. The permanent exhibition focuses on works by Japanese artists. When walking around the exhibition room and finally enter this exhibition room, I surprised and excited. I have been to the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo many times. Even if I do not like the works in the special exhibitions or permanent exhibitions, this room at the end lifts my spirits and makes me feel refreshed.

A chair set up in front of the wall where the artwork hang. Sit on a chair and look at the work. The red light emitted by the LED reflected on the floor and shimmers. It appears to be flickering because the digital counter is moving, but the indistinct part projected onto the floor contrasts with the clarity of the digital counter’s numbers, and therein lies the foundation of Japanese culture. I feel like there is a kind of virtue in things that are unclear.

I often visit this exhibition room near closing time, and it is often no people. Sometimes there are people sitting in the chair, but after a while there is no one left. Sit in the center of a chair that can seat 5-6 people and face the work.

Confronting the work feels like meditating and calms the mind. Perhaps the new perspective and value of this work is that it allows to meditate with a digital counter, which is the opposite of an analog work.

At the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo, you can visit the permanent exhibition by visiting the special exhibition. However it is also worth visiting just to see this work, the permanent exhibition, or just this work.

Visited multiple times since 1998

Lastly, I would like to introduce some photos of different forms of digital counters that held at the Chiba City Museum of Art in 2020. In this way, Tatsuo Miyajima creates various forms based on the concept of digital counters.

Basic Information

​■ Name : Digital Counter / Tatsuo Miyajima
■ Address : 4 Chome-1-1 Miyoshi, Koto City, Tokyo 135-0022 (Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo)
​■ Homepage:https://www.mot-art-museum.jp/ (Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo)