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Ed Atkins, Stills from the three-channel HD video Ribbons (2014) © 2014 Ed Atkins. Courtesy of CABINET, London and Galerie Isabella Bortolozzi, Berlin

LONDON.- One of the most prominent artists of his generation, Ed Atkins works primarily with High Definition video and text, exploiting and subverting the conventions of moving image and literature. Centred around an augmented and appended version of the new multi-screen video work Ribbons, Atkins’s exhibition transforms the Serpentine Sackler Gallery into a submersive environment of syncopated sounds, bodies and spaces. This is his largest solo exhibition in a UK public institution to date. 

Ribbons (2014) is having its UK premiere at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery in a site-specific adaptation. Presented alongside installations of text and images, accompanying videos and tourettic interjections, the exhibition underscores the ambivalent relationship that exists between real and virtual objects; between real and virtual conditions. 

Ed Atkins, said: “The Sackler exhibition will re-possess some sort of sub-horror genre; the old powder rooms, haunted by the phantom smell of gunpowder, paranoia and anticipation of violence, will emphasise a particularly phantasmatic aspect of Ribbons; the protagonist’s questionable corporeality, their presence, their performance of loss and monstrousness” 

Sounds from a suite of synchronised projections positioned throughout the Gallery will lead the visitor through the space, with glimpses of song, swells of orchestra, murmuring voices and waves of sub-bass. Ribbons is part musical, part horror, and part melodrama; Bach’s Erbarme Dich and Randy Newman’s I think it’s going to rain today are two of the songs featured. Naked, lonely and misanthropic, the palpable melancholy of Atkins’s Computer Generated avatar hero is ‘rendered’ as HD graphic, troll, voyeur and, perhaps, artist. 

Julia Peyton-Jones, Director, and Hans Ulrich Obrist, Co-Director, Serpentine Galleries, said: “In ghostly echoes of a world where the digital has crept under our skin and into our dreams, Atkins’s seamless mix of video, audio and text coalesce into a deeply visceral examination of the contemporary experience of physical and digital corporeality. While flickering HD screens and lonely avatars dominate the Serpentine Sackler Gallery this summer, this exhibition by Ed Atkins promises to be anything but two dimensional.” 

Atkins’s work draws attention to the way in which we perceive, communicate and filter information. His videos combine layered images with incomplete or interrupted excerpts of singing, speech, subtitles and handwriting. Working with a specialist in computer generated animation, Atkins exploits the hyperreal surfaces produced by new software systems to create complex, nightmarish environments populated by virtual characters, avatars of ambiguous provenance and desires. Atkins has described the male figure that appears in these works as ‘a character that is literally a model, is demonstrably empty – a surrogate and a vessel’. Despite the emotive music and poetic syntax of the protagonists, their emptiness serves to remind the three-dimensional, warm-bodied viewer of their own physicality. 

The experience of the physical body in Atkins’s show is contrasted with and complemented by the durational performance being undertaken by Marina Abramović, whose exhibition runs concurrently at the Serpentine Gallery. 

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Installation view of Ed Atkins, Ribbons at Serpentine Sackler Gallery, London (2014) Photograph © READS

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Ed Atkins, Ribbons (2014). Stills from the three-channel HD video © 2014 Ed Atkins

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Ed Atkins, Ribbons (2014). Stills from the three-channel HD video © 2014 Ed Atkins

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Installation view of Ed Atkins, Ribbons at Serpentine Sackler Gallery, London (2014) Photograph © READS

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Ed Atkins, Ribbons (2014). Stills from the three-channel HD video © 2014 Ed Atkins

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Ed Atkins, Ribbons (2014). Stills from the three-channel HD video © 2014 Ed Atkins

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Ed Atkins, Ribbons (2014). Stills from the three-channel HD video © 2014 Ed Atkins

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Ed Atkins, Ribbons (2014). Stills from the three-channel HD video © 2014 Ed Atkins

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Ed Atkins, Ribbons (2014). Stills from the three-channel HD video © 2014 Ed Atkins

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Installation view of Ed Atkins, Ribbons at Serpentine Sackler Gallery, London (2014) Photograph © READS

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Installation view of Ed Atkins, Ribbons at Serpentine Sackler Gallery, London (2014) Photograph © READS

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Ed Atkins, Ribbons (2014). Stills from the three-channel HD video © 2014 Ed Atkins

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Installation view of Ed Atkins, Ribbons at Serpentine Sackler Gallery, London (2014) Photograph © READS