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HD computer-generated images, 3d animation and motion capture processing, elaborate soundtracks, perfect editing and a haunting, flawlessly recorded voice, that hovers above everything — Ed Atkins’ video installations combine a not yet seen subtle use of language with the application of the latest video processes. Thus Atkins is one of the most exciting representatives of a younger generation of artists, rethinking subjectivity in the present. Mostly these video installations, the centrepiece of Atkins’ work, flanked by drawings and prints, have avatars as their starting point — that is, artificial humans represented by bits and bytes, animated by Atkins’ movements and voice. in defiance of all technological finesse and production values, Atkins’ figures, with their seemingly authentic personalities are just a little too smooth to be real and appear to spring directly from the »uncanny valley«: the term is used in robotics to designate how the degree of anthropomorphism in images of artificial humans determines their rate of acceptance, as viewers generally find it easier to accept representations that are either simplified visual abstractions or ultra- realistic. In contrast, the »uncanny valley« inhabits the space between the two poles, where artificiality is marked by its very similarity to the real.
These avatars move through high-definition scenarios that are carefully crafted yet lifeless: they pass through rooms and empty apartments, sit at bars or float through artificial, abstract worlds marked by a default aesthetic. A head tumbles down the stairs without its body in a continual loop; later, another body-less head speaks while hovering in the middle of an airless blue screen. They give the weather report, perform monologues about loneliness or more mundane concerns, or hold forth on the philosophy of love and affection. they sing Bryan Adams songs or drunkenly wax nihilistic — as in »Ribbons« (2014), Atkins’s most recent work — about the meaning of life, with a drink in one hand and a cigarette dangling from their lips. and despite — or, rather, because of — the heightened artificiality on display, Atkins’ videos attain a deeply immersive quality and appear to project authentic feeling. This can be attributed to the texts and Atkins’ form of storytelling: significant sentences emerge now and then from the full-frontal flow of verbiage, with all of its digressions, flotsam and dead ends. That’s when we see it, the reality effect: thus the lifeless entity becomes a bearer of emotion in its own right.

Installation view: Ed Atkins, 'RIBBONS', Galerie Isabella Bortolozzi, Berlin, 22.11.14 - 24.01.15
Courtesy the artist, Galerie Isabella Bortolozzi Berlin and Cabinet London (Photo: Nick Ash)
Text: Dominikus Müller
Translation into English: Amy Pradell
Camera/editing: Uli Aumüller, Sebastian Rausch


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