Skip to content
Video projection of drag performer on a brick wall
Video projection of drag performer on a brick wall

Installation view of Charles Atlas: "The Mathematics of Consciousness" at Pioneer Works, Brooklyn, September 9-November 20, 2022. Courtesy of the artist and Pioneer Works. Photo: Dan Bradica

Charles Atlas may not yet be a household name, but one suspects that this iconic maker of moving images—already a legend in artistic circles—will one day be regarded as one of our most important artists of the past half-century. From Atlas’s earliest efforts as videographer-in-residence for the Merce Cunningham Dance Company in the 1970s to his more recent, large-scale installations exploring mathematics, few artists have so shifted the terms of video-making in art and culture at large. At a time when performance was typically documented in straightforward fashion, Atlas took creative liberties in consultation with his subjects. He expanded the context of performance by moving the camera, shifting the action offstage, and using other effects that would forever change how a performance could live beyond its time. Moreover, through extended portraits of New York’s most forward-looking art communities, Atlas has for decades broken down distinctions between artist and viewer—and between artist and artist—and presaged the ways that self-generated images and media, today, are transforming us all.

In The Mathematics of Consciousness at Pioneer Works, Atlas returns to his archive to present edits of previous artworks, each projected onto one of 26 window bays in the building’s massive warehouse space. He meditates on how the brain operates through cryptic, voice-over narration, while also approaching his own archive as a collection of “synapses,” joining together clips from the past in fresh ways. Viewers are prompted to examine the functioning of their own memories and brains, and how the apps we use to consume digital videos may be restructuring those operations now. Shortly after the show opened, the writer and curator Tim Griffin—who worked with Atlas while Executive Director and Chief Curator of venerable New York art space The Kitchen—sat down with the artist to discuss living in, and making art for, this moment; his turn to science and consciousness; the role of the archive; and TikTok breaking the boundaries of the frame.

Read full interview at

Back To Top