A lack of humanness that pierces your soul: Ed Atkins at Isabella Bortolozzi Gallery

We’ve never seen an avatar so unhappy, so deeply disenchanted and hopeless like the one that inhabit Ed Atkins animated three-channel video installation Ribbons, currently on display at Isabella Bortolozzi Galerie.

The figure of a pale, naked and extensively tattooed male with shaved hair – in some way a typical british guy – finds himself in various situations of discomfort: totally drunk and intoxicated at a bar or locked up in a room that is way too small and where he has to wind his body around a pole. He speaks, he complains, he sobs and he sings sad songs (like Bach’s heartbreaking Erbarme dich or Randy Newman’s I think it’s going to rain today). He is so devastated!
We don’t get to know the reason why. First impression is that he has to suffer an almost unbearable lovesickness. But if you look closer at all the text that Atkins inverted into his film (through the words the avatar sings and speaks, the tattoos all over his body as well as subtitles), you get the impression that this poor man suffers a more general pain that is not dedicated to a lost person but to lost hope and meaning.

His blue colored eyes are empty. This emptiness seems to be something that constitute his whole being. At some point, you see him pointing at an empty glass and a subtitle says: ‚I’m just like that‘. Another time you see his head lying between more empty glasses and a full ashtray, but his gestalt looks like a balloon from which air is escaping.

Does Atkins want to introduce us to the contemporary ennui? Or are we confronted with the image of a male crisis? The official press text says this work is about ‚the ambivalent relationship that exists between real and virtual objects; between real and virtual conditions.‘ We like this explanation and would like to add a thought: by showing us massive emotions through an apparently artificial setting, Atkins’ work leads us back to our own humanness.

So, all you Berliners: rush, and go give some love to this great piece of video art. It will be on display until January 30!

And next week we’ll write about something more light-hearted. Promise!

Ed Atkins
Ribbons
Isabella Bortolozzi Galerie
Schöneberger Ufer 61, 10785 Berlin
opening hours: Tuesday—Saturday 12—6pm

All following images via Isabella Bortolozzi Galerie.

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