Ed Atkins

September 27, 2016 – January 29, 2017

Drafted by Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev and Marianna Vecellio

This exhibition was conceived by Ed Atkins (Oxford, 1982) as a holistic installation especially for the spaces of our museum. The ghostly aspect of the attic in our 18th century castle, with its wooden rafters exposed, is highlighted by the absence of divisions between the many video works which instead form a cacophonous crowd that come together and fall apart similarly, figured by the artist between a series of a apartments occupied by discrete individuals, and as competing thoughts within a dreaming brain. If the institution might be considered as a body, then the attic would be the subconscious where unmediated desires collide and frustrate one another. Installed in five galleries, the exhibition presents the video installations Even Pricks (2013), Warm, Warm, Warm Spring Mouths (2013), Ribbons (2014), Happy Birthday!!! (2014) and Hisser (2015), which was recently gifted to our permanent collection. In these artworks, the artist investigates existential conditions of contemporary life as filtered through the interactions of body and technology. Here, we might consider animation, literary figuration, music, performance and an underlying obsession with representing corporeality grotesquely faithfully. Atkins’ work is at once a disturbing diagnosis of a digitally mediated present-day, and an absurd prophecy of things to come. Ambivalent towards the promises of technology, the work suggests that it might be possible to salvage subjectivity through a sincere burlesque of love and hate, suspending a hysterical sentimentality within the desperate lives of the surrogate virtual characters Atkins creates.

Between 2002 and 2005, Ed Atkins attended Central Saint Martins College in London, studying in the “4D” department – with an emphasis on the moving image, performance, and sound. Until 2006, he collaborated artistically with Sally-Ginger Brockbank. Over the course of his Masters degree at the Slade School of Fine Art, Atkins began to write regularly, attending to a literary style of confessional, personal critique and to a bathetic tone – the style characterized by accidental jump cuts that from sublimity fail intentionally to the most ridiculous banality – that served to shape the ways in which his works would come to address their audience. He started to make videos on a computer, with the aid of an ever-expanding online, digital piracy and the particular modes of production fostered by contemporary desktop operating systems, adopting a mix of visceral jump cut and fluid montage, indebted to structuralist technique and Hollywood studio tropes both. Just before his graduation from the Slade in 2009, Atkins’ father, Philip, contracted cancer and passed away. To think about death, love, mourning, and masculinity is part of the experience you are about to have.


The exhibition is organized in collaboration with the Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo in downtown Turin, where a section of the project – Safe Conduct (2016)  –  is located.