Since the early 1970s, Charles Atlas has been an innovator in combining dance and performance with film and video. His documentaries, TV productions, multi-channel video installations, and live electronic performances all reflect a unique approach to creating and capturing movement with the camera. Over his long career, Atlas has collaborated with leading figures in dance as well as music and art, including Marina Abramović, Antony and the Johnsons, Leigh Bowery, Michael Clark, DANCENOISE, Douglas Dunn, Fennesz, John Kelly, Yvonne Rainer, and, most recently, Mika Tajima and New Humans.
Atlas’s multimedia installation Joints Array explores time-based portraiture, the body, fragmentation, and movement: all subjects the artist has engaged for much of his work. The central four videos of the installation show early experimental footage of legendary dancer and choreographer Merce Cunningham. Atlas began working for Cunningham in the early 1970s and collaborated with him on films and videos from 1974 to 1983. During that time, Atlas invented the term “mediadance” to define the art of dance conceived specifically for film or video, an area in which he and Cunningham were pioneers.
On the occasion of Cunningham’s death in 2009, Atlas revisited his earliest films of the dancer. Recorded during a break from rehearsals, the footage is comprised of close-up shots of Cunningham’s wrist, elbow, ankle, and knee, capturing his unique style of movement. The soundtrack features unpublished ambient recordings by Cunningham’s life partner, the avant-garde composer John Cage. In Atlas’s installation, this urban noise becomes a chance accompaniment to the dancer’s movement in a manner that honors the music Cage provided for many of Cunningham’s dances. A fractured portrait of motion and form, varying in tempo and scale, Joints Array transforms a casual interaction between dancer and filmmaker into a vivid performance of personal and cultural significance.
Charles Atlas was born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1949. His work has been exhibited at museums and galleries across the United States and Europe, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Tate Modern, London; and the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris. He is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, three “Bessie” awards, and a Foundation for Contemporary Art’s biennial John Cage Award. Atlas lives and works in New York, NY.