In collaboration with the Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, the Castello di Rivoli Museo d’Arte Contemporanea presents a solo exhibition of the British artist Ed Atkins, which runs from 27 September 2016 to 29 January 2017.
Considered one of the most prominent and active young artists exploring subjectivity in the digital age, Ed Atkins (born Oxford, 1982) creates video installations, performances and objects in various materials, as well as poetry and critical writings that explore the condition of our contemporary existence. Through his work, our contemporary culture, accustomed to spending a considerable amount of time online, is bound even closer to a personal, emotional vitality positioned between authenticity and performance.
Using a “poor” do-it-yourself laptop technique and HD video, and experimenting with cutting-edge digital production and editing practices, Atkins’ works salvage the anxiety and autism of the present, recreating a dimension caught in the folds of reality between corporality and absence.
Mainly installed in five large galleries on the top floor of the Castello building designed by Filippo Juvarra in the 18th century, this exhibition is retrospective in nature. It evolves as one holistic installation by way of an innovative arrangement of existing works, including Even Pricks (2013), Warm, Warm, Warm Spring Mouths (2013), Ribbons (2014), Hisser (2015), and Happy Birthday (2015), as well as several new interventions by the artist. Another section, housed in the Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, is dedicated to the work, Safe Conduct (2016), and features new sculptural wall elements.
Atkins’ works transform these spaces into an immersive, hypnotic and hyper-real experience, joining images, space, sound, language and colour into one seamless narrative.
In addition to the spectacular work, the original aspect of the exhibition lies in its curatorial approach, which focuses on the emotional, historical and architectural features of the location in which the show unfolds. Curated by Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev with Marianna Vecellio at the Castello di Rivoli and Irene Calderoni at the Fondazione Sandretto, with the support of Castello di Rivoli project manager Chiara Bertola, it also reflects upon the immaterial nature of the digital world.
More specifically, it considers the combination of tangibility and absence found in the phantasmagoric dimension of the venue itself. Situated as if “under a spell” in an ancient castle, with its symbolic quality as a magical, perhaps ghostly, space, the exhibition leads indirectly to the material intangibility the artist seems to highlight in the “real life” HD video his works explore.
The exhibition is presented on the top floor of the museum, the neurological centre of thought that affects the building-as-body. The spacious rooms, with their ceilings of exposed wooden beams, and the red brick fireplace’s ascending central column, which once served as the Savoy soldier barracks, contrast starkly with the overlapping sounds from different video installations—at times a supernatural and distressing cacophony. This creates a metaphorical, ancestral space where presence and absence create a feeling of being inside a “bewitched” space and where the coexistence between the ancient and contemporary becomes the main mode of expression.
In juxtaposition, Atkins’ work, Safe Conduct (2016), which focuses on our passage through strict control systems in airports that infringe on our privacy while providing a sense of safety, is presented in the new architectural design of the Fondazione Sandretto.
The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue edited by Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev and Marianna Vecellio, and published by Skira. The publication is a visual novel conceived by Atkins as an artist’s book. It brings together secret and never before seen images and sources from his works, including notes and scripts. The artist’s book is accompanied by a scholarly timeline and anthology, which features a vast collection of writings on, and by, the artist, including essays, interviews and a complete bibliography.