Ed Atkins. Death Mask III (extract)

Death Mask III, HD Video, 34 minutes 46 seconds (extract above: 6 minutes 42 seconds), 2011, courtesy Cabinet Gallery London

British artist ED ATKINS works with high definition video, sound, drawing and writing. By exploiting the technology, the conventions of cinema and literature, he attempts to materialise the body of the imagery, the equipment and the figure behind the camera.

‘His films are a fantasy of affectivity and intimacy, poised between the intimate horrors of viscera – of the body in close-up – and the indifferent distance of generic affect and the digital moving image. In the representative act – hyped-up through contemporary technologies of production and editing – the materiality of the image and its display undoes the reality of that which is being represented’.

The Death Mask films all had scripts that then became discrete screenplays. But they are so far away from the final product of the film; they are almost unfilmable in themselves. They push towards literature again, rather than realization as a film. A single line might describe a shot lasting for six hours; it might describe impossible movements of the camera and the body of the cameraperson…Writing is the way I think; I think through writing. I don’t draw to think. I do the odd drawing, but they are not to think. They are the opposite of thinking.

A recurring motif is the back of a head, which is in almost all of the videos, and which acts for me as a kind of pseudo-protagonist. I found it very difficult to film someone’s face. It seemed as if as soon a face appears, so much collapses. The face alone becomes the focus; it comes to define everything. You don’t really notice the structure anymore, the subtleties that surround and support the apparent apex. And the back of the head would also describe someone looking in, something that you desire to turn around, to collapse, to become narrative, but which would also always resist that desire. – ED ATKINS in conversation with HANS ULRICH OBRIST via Kaleidoscope

Chisenhale Gallery in London is currently presenting a new commission by ED ATKINS in his largest solo exhibition to date, Us Dead Talk Love, on view until 11 November 2012. Additionally an expanded version of the script for Us Dead Talk Love is available to download. Please click here.

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