Magazine article Artforum International

Ed Atkins

Magazine article Artforum International

Ed Atkins

Article excerpt

The end of a night like any other, facedown on the bar with a cigarette turning to ash between two fingers, singing a perfectly acceptable rendition of the aria "Erbarme dich" from Bach's St. Matthew Passion before your head deflates and everything goes dark. We've all been there, right?

This blackout into canonical bathos is the repeated fate of the computer-animated protagonist of Ed Atkins's video work Ribbons, 2014, the centerpiece of his recent solo exhibition, a triptych of simultaneously projected roughly thirteen-minute-long video works. These played on a synced loop along the back wall and in the crypt-like vaults of the darkened arsenal, with a short intro sequence and concluding. blue screen accompanied by synthy reference music giving you time to move between them, as if binge-streaming some particularly dark Net-flux sitcom. At the Sackler, they were flanked by two parergal flat screens on either side of the gallery entrance that showed loops of lopped-off heads with anatomically accurate neck cross sections bouncing down endless flights of stairs, and supersize placards covered in marked-up text related to Ribbons' dialogues. Atkins's avatar, as in his previous Warm, Warm, Warm, Spring Mouths, 2013, is "Dave," who can be had by anyone for $399 on Turbosquid, a website selling 3-D models to "creative professionals around the world." Atkins and his collaborator Adam Sinclair scuff up the perpetually nude Dave with aftermarket tattoos and suture Atkins's voice to the slightly awkward motions of his mouth. Using an off-the-shelf avatar as the conduit for one's own voice speaks to a sense of alienation from new means of production--as the avatar in the earlier piece says, "What I wanted to say is that none of us could make a fucking computer"--and to doubts as to what room there might be for genuine thought or affect in the pret-4-porter toxic straitjacket of pop materials. One begins to think of the prefab mouthpiece as allover visual karaoke, and to wonder what that karaoke becomes when the music cuts out, leaving Atkins's voice as naked as Dave's body.

Ribbons is in part a comment--empathic and scathing--on 11K drinking culture, on its misogyny and aggressive self-pity ("Help me communicate outside of peremptory assault, my love"). …

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