Yesterday I visited the Tatsuo Miyajima exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) in Sydney. Miyajima is a Japanese contemporary artist who uses LED counters in the Buddhist inspired sculptures that have evolved from his early performance art.
I was instantly drawn to take selfies with my phone, and from watching the video and reading the notes on his website, it seems that kind of interactivity with the viewer is exactly what the artist intended. Indeed the MCA exhibition is titled 'Connect with Everything'. Conversely a lack of such connection would, in his words, 'terminate art eventually'.
He told the Saturday Paper that 'the whole point of art is to reach an audience, so hopefully it will go out into the world and meet someone and they will respond'.
That's why I was amused to see one of the attendants dutifully chastise another visitor for touching one of the artworks. The visitor was obviously drawn to touch the artwork in the way Miyajima's sculptures had me taking selfies.
I'm certain the artist would have given his blessing to the touch, as the wear and tear of public touch is part of art existing in the 'real world' rather than the isolation of the 'art world' that the performance artist sculptor shuns.
Those who had a traumatic relationship with maths during their childhood could find the exhibition distressing. That may have been the case with the friends of a friend who reported that they did not like the exhibition. Perhaps they kept their distance from the works and did not feel moved to interact in the way that I - or the chastised toucher - did.
I too had a troubled relationship with maths when I was young, but I feel that I experienced a degree of healing at the MCA yesterday, as if the artist was reaching out to me with Buddhist compassion. Miyajima said in the Saturday Paper interview that he traces his interest in art to childhood illnesses that left him hospitalised for months. The LED numbers represent human beings - it is 'playful technology and big, bright lights [that] are accessible to everyone'.