Charles Atlas Variety Show Comes to The Kitchen

The Kitchen presents a multimedia project from Charles Atlas, continuing the institution's nearly 45-year relationship with the video art pioneer. In The Kitchen's gallery, two new video installations take a retrospective look at Atlas' work while offering a counterpoint to his interactive 2003 show Instant Fame! and its portraits of downtown figures (through May 12). The exhibition concludes with two weekends of performances in The Kitchen Follies, featuring Julianna Barwick and Jodi Melnick, Laurie Berg, Johanna Constantine, DANCENOISE, The Illustrious Blacks, Solo Termite, Stanley Love, and many others to present the ultimate variety show (May 3-5 and 10-12). The Kitchen Follies will be hosted by Tyler Ashley, The Dauphine of Bushwick, while Atlas records, mixes, and projects footage live. Organized by Katy Dammers and Tim Griffin.

The first work in the past is here, the futures are coming exhibit, 2003, is a combination of video portraits of artists based in New York City with found television footage from that same year. Ranging from performance artist Julie Atlas Muz and writer Eileen Myles to choreographer Yvonne Rainer, these pieces were first created in 2003 as part of Atlas's project Instant Fame! Working in the lower level of Participant Inc., Atlas created the portraits on-site in real time, simultaneously projecting a live mix of the material in the gallery space above. His second installation in the exhibit, entitled The Years, is a large-scale, multi-channel video graveyard that is a meditation on the relevance of Atlas' work in an unknown future.

Atlas' formative and continued involvement with The Kitchen began in 1974, when he appeared in an irreverent two-minute performance in Jean Dupuy's marathon soiree, Soup and Tart; over the decades, his work has become an indelible part of The Kitchen's history. Also beginning in the 70s, he collaborated with Merce Cunningham, ultimately making 39 film works that would decisively change our conception of how dance and video should behave together. As in Instant Fame! and now 2003, mediating other performers and artists through film would become a recurring element of Atlas' video art. He has collaborated with performers such as Leigh Bowery, DANCENOISE, Johanna Constantine, John Kelly, Hapi Phace, Mike Iveson, Lady Bunny, and Marina Abramovic, choreographers including Michael Clark, Diane Martel, Richard Move, Douglas Dunn, Yvonne Rainer, Mikhail Baryshnikov, and Merce Cunningham, and musicians including John Zorn, Sonic Youth, David Linton, Diamanda Galas, Christian Fennesz, William Basinski, New Humans, and ANOHNI. Throughout his career, Atlas's habitual use of multiple camera perspectives to capture his subjects would give rise to a multidimensional understanding of identity. His active presence in Downtown NY club culture of the '80s and '90s-and the often-queer aesthetics of performance therein-pervades his video works, which have "become a touchstone for documenting queer culture and performance" (Hyperallergic).

Atlas says of the upcoming performances at The Kitchen, "The Kitchen Follies is something I have wanted to do in some form or other for more than 20 years. Inspired by the performance art and club scene on the Lower East Side that I was involved with at the time, I had thought to make a 'Follies' feature film that...would have had a 'New York-centric' performance art 'variety show' at its core...This idea remained at that time an over-ambitious dream.As I look back it seems to me that over the intervening years elements of this idea have emerged sporadically in different forms in the films, installations and live performance works that I have created...I look forward to this project in collaboration with The Kitchen as both a continuation of my previous work and an opportunity to newly reconfigure the relationship of live performance and video."

The Kitchen Follies take place May 3-5 and 10-12 at 8pm at The Kitchen (512 West 19th Street). Tickets $25 General / $20 Members. With any questions, please contact the box office at boxoffice@thekitchen.org or by phone at 212.255.5793 x11.

About Charles Atlas

During the past four decades, Charles Atlas has continually expanded the parameters of film and video, forging new territory across genres, styles, and techniques. All the while, Atlas has cultivated remarkable collaborative relationships, having worked intimately with musicians, performers, and choreographers including Marina Abramovic, ANOHNI, Karole Armitage, Leigh Bowery, Michael Clark, Yvonne Rainer, and Merce Cunningham.

Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Atlas has lived in New York since 1968. Upon arriving, he immediately became involved in the downtown arts community, volunteering as a stage manager at Judson Memorial Church. Atlas soon started working with Cunningham in a similar capacity, beginning by blowing up Andy Warhol's silver pillows for the set of Cunningham's RainForest (1968), before designing the company's costumes and lighting, and eventually becoming filmmaker-in-residence. Teaching himself how to shoot and edit video, Atlas embraced a DIY inventiveness that would characterize his lifelong approach to art. Notably, by 1980, The Kitchen was already staging a retrospective of Atlas's dance videos, screening pieces he created with Cunningham as well as those done in collaboration with Douglas Dunn, Rainer, Valda Setterfield, and James Waring.

Atlas works with Cunningham include the celebrated Fractions I (1978), Channels/Inserts (1982), and Coast Zone (1983). Perhaps giving the greatest insight to their collaboration is Ocean (2011), which Atlas completed two years after Cunningham's death: filmed in a Minnesota quarry, Atlas deftly alternates between one- and two-camera views, permitting the audience to view the work in the round as intended by Cunningham.

Atlas's move to London in 1983 proved to be crucial, as the artist immersed himself in the city's vibrant club and underground art scene, working in particular with Bowery and Clark-whose idiosyncratic styles defined an era of eccentric expression while reaching broader pop audiences. (Atlas created lighting design and costumes for Clark, and was later commissioned by Channel 4 to create the feature-length Hail the New Puritan (1985-86), which included music by composers such as Glenn Branca.) Subsequently returning to New York, Atlas continued such work on the East Village club scene, collaborating with artists like DANCENOISE, Hapi Phace, and John Kelly. Invariably, many of these works-in particular Son of Sam and Delilah, shown at The Kitchen in 1991-addressed the AIDS crisis, joining a movement of artists who fearlessly critiqued the government's willful ignorance. In a similar vein, Atlas's most recent exhibitions at Luhring Augustine in New York, The Illusion of Democracy (2012) and The Waning of Justice (2015), wryly considered our contemporary political climate. His recent video installation The Tyranny of Consciousness (2017) was awarded a special mention for its inclusion in the Venice Biennale.

Since 2000, Atlas has worked with live video mixing of performance, creating reactive works in real time: With artists Mika Tajima and New Humans, for instance, he has turned the gallery space SFMoMA and South London Gallery into a hybrid film set, installation, and stage. Most recently Atlas has collaborated with choreographer Rashaun Mitchell + Silas Riener on Tesseract, an evening long work including a 3D film and live performance with real-time video capture, manipulation, and projection. In all such efforts, Atlas has continually pushed his viewers to be conscious of moments simultaneously live, recorded, and somewhere in-between, rendering his work more invaluable as our present becomes increasingly mediated.

Funding Credits

Charles Atlas: the past is here, the futures are coming is made possible with lead support from the National Endowment for the Arts; generous support from Luhring Augustine, Foundation for Contemporary Arts Emergency Grant, Suzy Coue-Wilson & Edward Wilson, Eileen & Michael Cohen, Jeffrey Deitch, and Barbara & Howard Morse; annual grants from Cowles Charitable Trust, Joseph and Joan Cullman Foundation for the Arts, Howard Gilman Foundation, Lambent Foundation Fund of Tides Foundation, Mertz Gilmore Foundation, The Jerome Robbins Foundation, The Fan Fox and Leslie R. Samuels Foundation, and Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts; and in part by public funds from New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council and New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

About The Kitchen

The Kitchen is one of New York City's most forward-looking nonprofit spaces, showing innovative work by emerging and established artists across disciplines. Our programs range from dance, music, performance, and theater to video, film, and art, in addition to literary events, artists' talks, and lecture series. Since its inception in 1971, The Kitchen has been a powerful force in shaping the cultural landscape of this country, and has helped launch the careers of many artists who have gone on to worldwide prominence.

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