IMPRESSIONS: "Charles Atlas: The Mathematics of Consciousness" at Pioneer Works
Charles Atlas: The Mathematics of Consciousness runs through November 20, 2022
Reservations are FREE but required, click for info
Featuring Dancers: Michael Clark, Merce Cunningham, Karole Armitage
Performance Artists: Leigh Bowery, Marina Abramovic
Music: Lazar Bozic
September 9, 2022
If Charles Atlas subbed as your physics professor, your class might become giddy with ideas and noisy with snickers. The steady eddy of experimental video Atlas delivers — a video lecture that embraces the speed of thought, connections, and play (physical, sexual, and mental) — manages to bend our depth perception. Atlas throws numbers at us, then pulls them back, assembling dazzling graphics with dizzying variety.
Installation view of Charles Atlas: The Mathematics of Consciousness at Pioneer Works; photo by Dan Bradica
This physics professor as master juggler takes an unpretentious, distinctly personal approach to neuroscience, seducing us with graphic precision within a chaotic, ever-changing universe. Or, perhaps the sense of chaos is our response to his swing between visible (dance) and invisible (the brain), conscious/subconscious.
Installation view of Charles Atlas: The Mathematics of Consciousness at Pioneer Works (images of Marina Abramović); photo by Dan Bradica
Having taken the romantic route to Red Hook, Brooklyn, via ferry from Wall Street to Pioneer Works, I stepped away from the glimpse of the full moon rising through a strawberry sunset into Atlas’ installation. I caught the image of the late performance artist, Leigh Bowery, midway, with its disturbing stills - large and small - of his outsized lips, lashes and pierced cheeks stretched across Pioneer Works’ 100’ brick wall. Soon thereafter, came videos - gif length - of the charmingly provocative British dancer, Michael Clark, in his twenties.
Installation view of Charles Atlas: The Mathematics of Consciousness at Pioneer Works (images of Leigh Bowery); photo by Dan Bradica.
The Mathematics of Consciousness is, after all, the rhythmic creation of a video artist whose archives stem from the deadpan geometric work of his long time collaborator, Merce Cunningham, to an affection for punk exhibitionists. In this funhouse, we are surrounded by videos, graphics, and stills of neurons, that like lusty octopi, continually change colors. Atlas shows our brain dancing, pulsing, and continuously enjoying a wild ride.
Installation view of Charles Atlas: The Mathematics of Consciousness at Pioneer Work; photo by Dan Bradica.
A longtime NYC based artist, he notes, “I have been making large-scale, site-specific installations since 2007, and animating the architecture of Pioneer Works represents my biggest challenge to date. I created twenty-six distinct videos projected to fit the windows, and filling the voids in between. I consider space and time to be my media, and this has led me to a fascination with physics, consciousness and cosmology — scientific themes woven together with my sustained interest in portraiture, performance and dance.”
Installation view of Charles Atlas: The Mathematics of Consciousness at Pioneer Works; photo by Dan Bradica.
The score by musician and collaborator Lazar Bozic washes over the projections which were completed over the past few years, including Geometry of Thought (2019) presented on the 2.5-acre facade of Chicago’s Merchandise Mart and Angel Dust (2021) on a free-standing, 19th-century Indian Pleasure Pavilion at Luhring Augustine Gallery. On the space behind chairs facing the wall of projections is a cage with a pierced hand designed by artist Mika Tijma, that seems a world apart from the projections.
Installation view of Charles Atlas: The Mathematics of Consciousness at Pioneer Work; photo by Thomas Barratt
While the search for formulas and proofs to explain consciousness continues, Atlas’ playful installation may trigger debate among philosophers and scientists as to its contribution. For the man on the street, it may be remembered as a pioneering case example of an artist offering up a map of his own mind, memories, and loves, with a wink and a smile.