Blogs Crosscuts Charles Atlas

Charles Atlas has been a pioneering figure in film and video for over four decades. Atlas has extended the limits of his medium, forging new territory in a far-reaching range of genres, stylistic approaches, and techniques. Throughout his production, the artist has consistently fostered collaborative relationships, working intimately with such artists and performers as Leigh Bowery, Michael Clark, Douglas Dunn, Marina Abramovic, Yvonne Rainer, Mika Tajima/New Humans, Antony and the Johnsons, and most notably Merce Cunningham, for whom he served as in-house videographer for a decade from the early 1970s through 1983; their close working relationship continued until Cunningham’s death in 2009.

 Atlas was born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1949; he has lived and worked in New York City since the early 1970s. His work has been exhibited domestically and internationally in such institutions as Tate Modern, London; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Centre Pompidou, Paris; the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston; Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart, Berlin; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Recent solo exhibitions include the New Museum, New York; the De Hallen, Haarlem; and Bloomberg SPACE, London. In 2013, the Metropolitan Museum of Art acquired his video Teach, one of his best-known collaborations with Leigh Bowery. In January 2015, Prestel Publishing released Charles Atlas, the first major publication on Atlas’ work, featuring writings by Stuart Comer, Douglas Crimp, Douglas Dunn, Johanna Fateman, and Lia Gangitano.

2016: The Year According to Charles Atlas

When Merce Cunningham’s dance company performed Ocean less than a year before the iconic choreographer’s passing in 2009, Charles Atlas was there. Coproduced by the Walker Art Center and the Cunningham Dance Foundation, the ambitious work featured 14 dancers performing in a massive granite quarry near St. Cloud, Minnesota, accompanied by 150 musicians—all of which Atlas captured with five cameras. A Cunningham […]

Charles Atlas. Photo: Lori E. Seid

Charles Atlas. Photo: Lori E. Seid

When Merce Cunningham’s dance company performed Ocean less than a year before the iconic choreographer’s passing in 2009, Charles Atlas was there. Coproduced by the Walker Art Center and the Cunningham Dance Foundation, the ambitious work featured 14 dancers performing in a massive granite quarry near St. Cloud, Minnesota, accompanied by 150 musicians—all of which Atlas captured with five cameras. A Cunningham collaborator since the early 1970s, and pioneer of videodance, Atlas is participating in the Walker-organized exhibition Merce Cunningham: Common Time, opening February 8 at the Walker and the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, where his 2010 multi-channel installation MC9 will receive its US premiere. On March 9, he’ll return to introduce a selection of his films in the Walker Mediatheque, and he’ll be part of another ambitious collaboration March 16–18: in Tesseract, former Cunningham dancers Rashaun Mitchell and Silas Riener create a hybrid of live dance, 3-D video, and live film segments, edited in real-time by Atlas.

A pioneering figure in film and video for over four decades, Atlas has worked intimately with a range of artists and performers including Leigh Bowery, Michael Clark, Douglas Dunn, Marina Abramovic, Yvonne Rainer, Mika Tajima/New Humans, and Antony and the Johnsons. Here, in a list that references his history and relationships, he shares his perspective on the year that was as part of our series, 2016: The Year According to                              .

Ten things that have been bright spots for me in what has been the otherwise gloomy annus horribilis of 2016. These individuals have engaged me intellectually and spiritually and encouraged me with the work they have created.

1.

An Evening with DanceNoise

The performance duo of Anne Iobst and Lucy Sexton—who began making work in the 1980s—consider the effect of the AIDS epidemic on dance artists today. At St Mark’s Danspace they delivered a rousing, political feminist response that’s relevant, defiant and full of spontaneous joy.

2. 

to a simple rock and roll …. song

Photo: The Guardian

to a simple rock and roll … song at the Barbican. Photo: The Guardian

British choreographer Michael Clark mounted a show at the Barbican Theatre in London that’s part balletic perfection to the music of Erik Satie and part sexy rock and roll to the music of Patti Smith. Entertainment plus!

3. 

Yvonne Rainer’s The Concept of Dust

In her latest piece, this pioneering choreographer makes a piece that is part eclectic collage of movement, part spoken text, part nuanced consideration of mortality and aging. A rewardingly fresh work from a veteran.

4.

Silas Reiner’s Thinging

Subtitled Dance and Translation and the Work of Anne Carson, this former Merce Cunningham dancer presents a brainy and compelling combination of talking, thinking, and adventurous dancing.

 

5.

Stanley Love Performance Group’s Tapestry Truths

stanleylove

Stanley Love’s large company of performers of all sizes and skill levels dances in an installation of Martin Gustavsson’s large paintings with exhilarating effect. Watching this group always makes me want to move.

6.

Anohni’s Hopelessness

anohni

ANOHNI composes songs: political, confrontational music sung with an angry angel’s voice, accompanied by exhilarating electronics.

7.

Late Greats

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The final albums of Leonard Cohen (Make It Blacker) and David Bowie (Blackstar): sustaining great artistic achievement until the very end.

8. 

Lady Bunny in Trans-Jester

ladybunny

At the Stonewall Inn, the drag performer and Wigstock cofounder presents an X-rated combination of beyond-hilarious comedy, jaw-dropping songs, and political rants. I consider Lady Bunny a living national treasure.

9. 

Lia Gangitano

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Alvin Baltrop, Pier Photographs, 2016. Vitrine detail.
Courtesy of The Alvin Baltrop Trust, Third Streaming, and Galerie Buchholz, New York. Photo: Rhona Yefman

Participant, Inc., the always excellent non-commercial space, presents multigenerational contemporary artists and historic tributes. In 2016, gallery director Lia Gangitano brought in a range of alternative art and and artists, including Alvin Baltrop, Peter Hendrick, Justin Vivian Bond, Eve Fowler, and Ellen Cantor.

10. 

Women of Progressive Opinion

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Internet radio hosts Stephanie Miller and Randi Rhodes and blogger Digby of Hullaballoo: these progressive voices sustain me on a daily basis when I am feeling overwhelmed by the increasing ultra-conservative media environment.

 

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