Miyajima's LED numbers tell tale of life in Hong Kong


Hong Kong (AFP)

Japanese artist Tatsuo Miyajima's new work "Time Waterfall" has been shrouded in dense fog for most of the week, his trademark numbers partly hidden as they cascade down Hong Kong's tallest building.

But despite the heavy weather, Miyajima is still hopeful that his creation will deliver a message to the bustling city's residents: to be in the moment.

The 59-year-old's newest work is designed to convey the flow of human life through large luminous numbers which work their way down the 490-metre tall International Commerce Centre (ICC), a beacon by night in the centre of the southern Chinese city.

Each separate digit, in various sizes and falling at different speeds, represents the trajectory of different individual lives, and Miyajima felt Hong Kong was the best place for the exhibit.

"I found this city full of energy, vitality. It was the ideal place to reflect on the questions of life and death," Miyajima said.

"The numbers from nine to one scroll gradually, then comes the darkness, then the countdown starts over. The countdown represents life. Darkness symbolises death. It's the cycle of life that repeats itself."

The artist is in town for Art Basel, which has been exhibiting more than 4,000 artists from over 200 galleries around the world all week.

"I'm basically telling the story that life is going on and life and death is happening at this very moment... this very moment is very precious," he told AFP.

- 'Continue forever' -

Among Miyajima's best-known works is "Counter Void", a digital wall five metres high by 54 metres long, which displayed numbers in the centre of Tokyo in 2003.

In 2012, he lit up a traditional Korean house in Seoul with LED numbers for his work entitled "Wild Time Flower in the Courtyard."

Miyajima says combining technology and numbers is a way to express "continuous change".

It also ties in with what he sees as Buddhism's main message -- to keep changing.

"There are three messages in my artwork: to keep changing, connect with everything and continue forever, and it's hand-in-hand with Buddhist philosophy," Miyajima said.

"Many people will see these numbers scrolling without even understanding, but they can question what they have in front of their eyes," he adds.

"It's precisely why my work is important: to make people reflect."

The Hong Kong edition of Art Basel, which also takes place in Basel and Miami, has helped feed the city's reputation as an art hub for Asia, with a surge in new galleries opening their doors in recent years and major arts complex M+ under construction.

"Time Waterfall" comes as there is increasing awareness in Hong Kong of public art.

British artist Antony Gormley's "Event Horizon" has placed shadowy human figures on the city's towering skyscrapers, causing both curiosity and consternation from people on the streets.

During Art Basel a host of installations popped up in Hong Kong's malls and public spaces.

Miyajima's work was co-commissioned by Art Basel and will be displayed intermittently over two hours every evening until the end of April.