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Charles Atlas

New York, NY

Born 1949, St. Louis, Missouri

Video Artist, Film Director, Lighting, Set and Costume Designer

My primary artistic medium is video, and by virtue of a taste for exploration and experimentation, my work has encompassed videotape, broadcast, installation and live performance. Whatever the format, though, the animating interest to which I invariably return lies in the nexus of portraiture, performance (especially dance), and time. Although I have a deep interest in form and craft, the essence of my work resides ultimately in the relationships that develop with my subjects and my collaborators. My principle concerns and what I believe emerges in the creation of my works include (but are not limited to): truth to the situation/subject, precision, playfulness, reflection of contemporary life, color, multiplicity of meanings, and having fun.

Collaboration then has always been central to my practice. Over the years, I have worked with many different artists, and I have found that each collaboration possesses its own unique characteristics, and each imposes its own distinct process, one that demands that I engage in continual self-reflection in order to find new shadings or blends for my "voice" appropriate to the project. My long-standing collaboration with Merce Cunningham, which began in 1974, constitutes the "gold standard" by which I judge all the others.

From the beginning, I have been making portraits. From Mayonnaise (1973), film interpretations of several of Edouard Manet's painted portraits, to More Men (1980-2), a double-screen video portrait of my father and a host of fictional sons, to Hail the New Puritan (1986), a made-for-television "mockumentary" of a day in the life of Michael Clark, to Turning (2004-6), a concert-event with Antony and the Johnsons that incorporates live, projected video portraits of a select group of women -- I have continued to explore the possibilities of time-based portraiture. I sometimes even think of my collaborations with choreographers and performers as "portraits" of their work.

As video technology has evolved, in 2003 I started to experiment with live electronic performance, and I have finally begun to understand what all of David Tudor's black boxes were meant to do. Using these new digital tools to compose and edit video in real-time has been challenging and invigorating, and has changed the way that I work and think about image creation. It has indicated new directions, and has already presented me with more possibilities than I care to think about.


2004 Turning, live video performance in collaboration with Antony and the Johnsons, St. Ann's Warehouse, Brooklyn, New York

2003 Muscle Shoals, live video and costume design; collaboration with Douglas Dunn and Steve Lacy; performed at Theatre de la Bastille, Paris and Danspace Project, New York

1994 Delusional, multi-media performance/theater work; collaboration with Marina Abramovic; co-produced by Theater Am Turm (Frankfurt), Munty Theater (Antwerp), and Consort (Amsterdam)


2003 Instant Fame, installation and real-time video performance, Participant, Inc., New York

2002 Rainer Variations, video montage. First shown as an installation at Rosenwald-Wolf Gallery, University of the Arts, Philadelphia, PA

2002 The Legend of Leigh Bowery, documentary film, commissioned by ARTE France. First theatrical showing: Cinema Village, New York

2000 Merce Cunningham: A Lifetime of Dance, documentary film, commissioned by ARTE France, BBC, WNET-TV. Acquired by the Museum of Modern Art

1997-99 The "Martha" Tapes, video collage. First shown at "Mother," New York

1997 The Hanged One, four multi-channel video works installed at the Whitney Museum, New York

1994 Superhoney, eroto-horror video/dance collaboration with Thomas Hejlsen. Commissioned by The National Film Board of Denmark

1992-98 Teach, video portrait/installation, XL Gallery, New
York. Collection Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin, Germany

1991 Son of Sam and Delilah, video feature. Produced in
association with The Kitchen, New York

1986 Hail the New Puritan, "mockumentary" broadcast featuring
Michael Clark. Commissioned by Channel Four Television, London

1983 Secret of the Waterfall, video/dance collaboration with choreographer, Douglas Dunn and poets, Reed Bye and Anne Waldman. Commissioned by New Television Workshop, WGBH-TV, Boston, MA

1981 Channels/Inserts, 16mm film, collaboration with Merce Cunningham. Produced by Cunningham Dance Foundation.


2003 Melbourne Queer Film Festival, Best Documentary for Legend of Leigh Bowery

2000 Dance Screen, Best Documentary for Merce Cunningham: A Lifetime of Dance

1998 Bessie Award for The "Martha" Tapes

1988 John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship

1987 Bessie Award for Sustained Achievement in Video

1986 Bessie Award for Costumes for Michael Clark Dance Company

Year Awarded 2006
Category John Cage Award