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Grid of video projections of 1 man
Grid of video projections of 1 man

Charles Atlas, rendering of The Mathematics of Conscioussness, 2022.

“I’m addicted to TikTok, just so you know,” said the 73-year-old filmmaker and video artist Charles Atlas, speaking by Zoom on a recent afternoon. “My algorithm seems to go toward dance and drag queens. I’ve never seen an episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race, but I feel like I know everyone that’s on there.”

Atlas was taking a break from working on his most ambitious piece to date, which is set to appear at Pioneer Works in Brooklyn this September. He’s been obsessed with filmed images of dancers at work for years, capturing the iconic experimental choreographer Merce Cunningham and others in a series of game-changing, if somewhat under-recognized, video pieces. And so it makes sense that he’s grown attached to TikTok, which seems to bring with it a new dance trend each week.

The Pioneer Works installation, titled The Mathematics of Consciousness, will involve a technically complex series of projections cast against a 100-foot-long brick wall punctuated by two rows of windows. Atlas doesn’t complete his pieces until just before they go on view, but the piece may ultimately include images representative of each stage of Atlas’s career: archival imagery of performers like Leigh Bowery and Cunningham, sequences of numbers that rapidly ascend, abstract imagery, and more. In that way, it could almost function like a career retrospective for Atlas, who’s never had one.

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