Ed Atkins is one of the most distinctive representatives of a generation of artists explicitly responding to digital media’s ever-increasing ubiquity; Atkins creates worlds of crazed artificiality and desperate realism. His computer-generated videos feature shabby, lonely protagonists with disarming and marked fidelity. His animations demonstrate their digital constitution – their near-total artifice – even as they simultaneously strive for a disturbing level of lifelikeness. Atkins’ works get under the viewer’s skin, rendering a queasy corruption of substance, both material and concept – just as the idea of "Old Food" raises a suspicion of use squandered, of goodness spoiled.
For his exhibition at the Martin-Gropius-Bau and the programme Immersion, Atkins has created a new series of works that build upon the allegorical possibilities of his particular brand of video making, shifting the aesthetic into ever more precarious areas of desire, historicity, melancholia and stupidity. "Old Food" is Atkins’ largest installation to date. Videowalls and flat screens depict a choreographed chamber drama of dubious sentimentality and historical inaccuracy. The world of "Old Food" is always-already lost, persisting regardless, with no mortal redemption in sight. Like McDonald’s hamburgers, "Old Food" never rots, never moulders – it simply persists, a world of melancholy where what was lost remains outside the possibility of ever being understood, let alone retrieved.
These new computer-generated video works are installed alongside a vast display of the Deutsche Oper Berlin’s costume archive, presented as objet trouvé in the manner in which they are stored. Part perverse mise-en-scène, part practical acoustic treatment, the costumes invite a reading of the videos as aspirationally operatic and as compromised historical dream – both in their failure to sufficiently address their contemporary moment, and their presumed locale, from 11th century Scotland to ancient Egypt to Berlin, and the world, today.
In the programme Immersion, the Berliner Festspiele present artistic works which often occupy the grey zone between performance and exhibition.
The programme Immersion was made possible by an initiative of the German Federal Parliament and thanks to the support of the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media.
Ed Atkins „Old Food“
29.09.17 – 07.01.18
Martin-Gropius-Bau, Niederkirchnerstraße 7, 10963 Berlin