I am influenced by whomever I meet and wherever I go, but it’s not something you can necessarily see on the surface of my work; it’s just that I’ve been to places that have left a mark on me so I might think of things differently when I leave to make a work. I first came to Sydney in 1992 as part of the [9th] Biennale and I was able to stay here for a week with my wife. The memory of that has actually influenced my work but you won’t necessarily see that just by looking at it. It’s not like I’m suddenly going to put a kangaroo in a counter gadget.
I’ve got roughly two directions with that. I have works where I use the shape of the human body and I place counters within it, and with that work I’m obviously investing an individuality into time and work and that person or entity in a sense. But there are also works where the time and the counters represent people, but it’s so abstract that it is distant from me.
Technology to me is quite neutral. It doesn’t really carry any values of beauty within it. What is interesting to me is what’s behind technology and the philosophical aspects of that. You look at your analogue watch and you can see the needle go around. But when a digital counter counts down from ten, there is a moment when it changes which you cannot perceive. And so, you have a quantum leap of something that might be 0.999 ... which is not one, but it makes that incremental jump to become something. It is this quantum leap that I try to get a handle on; it is the moment when something arises out of nothing and that is what life is like. So, does technology influence me to do things in a particular way? No, not really. Rather technology allows me to explore that vague feeling or awareness—that momentary flash when something ticks over and a quantum leap is made. That’s what I’m interested in.
Art contains that which is beautiful and that which is good. The aesthetic sensation that arises from art itself is the reason why I am in it. So that means that my own aesthetic comes from art itself. All the little judgments and decisions I make also come from art. I do have an aesthetic sense that guides my decisions, but technology in motion is not my point; the aesthetic experience which arises from art [for the audience] is the point.
Mega Death was completed in 1999, and then two years later we had the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York, which dragged us into a whole variety of global and regional conflicts that are still going on. I know I made Mega Death as a critique of the 20th century, but the feeling I have now is did any of us actually properly critique the 20th century in a manner that we can then apply in the 21st century so that we don’t make the same mistakes again? I feel that the more the 21st century progresses, Mega Death is actually increasing in its meaning rather than decreasing.
Horologists decided upon clock time in 1884 as a point where we ‘start from’. I’m actually not that interested in clock time, I’m interested in time that’s personal. If I’m bored time passes slowly and expands; if I’m having fun time goes by in a hurry and appears to shrink. So, for me, when I think about human life and the time that passes then the time I’m talking about is the sort of time that changes due to our consciousness and awareness. [Tatsuo leans in, and lifts his sleeve to show me his watch. Its elegant clean lines replace its usefulness as a device for telling time; there are large gaps between the few numbers on its face.] With the watch I wear you can hardly tell the time on it because it’s only got one needle, so one unit is actually about 15 minutes. So when someone says 'what time is it?' I can only tell them roughly.
[At this point I tell Tatsuo that I sympathise with that idea of time and say I’d prefer to take a train journey that is beautiful, than one that is fast. Suddenly there is a furtive knock on the door of our room, and just like that we are out of time.]