Ed Atkins: Old Food

Exhibition, Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin, Germany.


From September 29, 2017 until December 10, 2017
Ed Atkins creates computer-generated films that have a heightened artificiality, depicting protagonists who are shabby, disarmingly intimate, and lonely. His works feel like prefabricated animations, showing new digital media itself, as well as the synthetics of computer-generated figures and their worlds. In Atkins’s works, viewers can never forget their own viewing of the medium – image disturbances and apparent misconceptions get under one’s skin, just as the mere idea of ‘old food’ causes a physical reaction. Here, he has created a new series of works that allegorise desire, conflict, learning, and dumbing-down.
This exhibition you'll see a gigantic baby, a foppish boy and a drowned man weep, drool and eat grotesque sandwiches of shit, corpses, flags and masks, failing to learn anything. A nameless crowd careens down a hole, forever – or forms letters in choreographed formation. A spartan, looping piano piece by Jürg Frey is performed in a concrete cell, a hermit’s cot and a bucolic garden in midsummer. Reflexive information panels by “Contemporary Art Writing Daily” essay a barbaric real world entirely absent from the exhibition. Credits roll to denote an ending that never begins, and social media corporations sponsor everything, seemingly unbidden.
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