Charles Atlas is one of the premier interpreters of dance, theater and performance on video. Working in film, video, installation, theater and performance for over four decades, he has created works for screen, stage, gallery, and television. A pioneer in the development of media-dance, he has expanded this genre into an original new form, inventive pastiches of narrative and fictional modes with performance documentary.
Collaboration is a major aspect of Atlas' expansive practice. He has collaborated with important figures from the worlds of dance, art, performance, music and theater, including Michael Clark, Leigh Bowery, John Kelly, Marina Abramovic, Antony Hegarty, Yvonne Rainer, Fennesz, New Humans (Mika Tajima and Howie Chen), Karole Armitage and Bill Irwin. For Atlas, the theatricality of dance and performance is a point of inquiry into artifice, fiction and reality.
After first working in film, Atlas was a pioneer of videodance, collaborating on performance works created specifically for the two-dimensional space, intimate scale and temporality of video. His groundbreaking early works, including the seminal Blue Studio: Five Segments (1975-76), evolved from a unique collaboration with Merce Cunningham, for whose dance company he was filmmaker-in-residence from 1978 to 1983.
Since then, Atlas has worked on numerous international productions for television with choreographers, artists and musicians. In these extravagantly stylized "documentary fictions," Atlas manifests his fascination with what he terms "narrative, psychology, dance and flights of fantasy." Typified by a provocative, postmodern performance sensibility and an ironic urban insouciance, Atlas' works transform performances into vivid time capsules of contemporary culture.
Atlas' works have included a 1994 multi-media performance/theater work entitled Delusional, which was a collaboration with Marina Abramovic, and a 1997 mixed-media installation, The Hanged One, which was exhibited at the Whitney Museum of American Art. He has directed several feature films, including The Legend of Leigh Bowery (2001), about the groundbreaking performance artist, and Merce Cunningham: A Lifetime of Dance (2000). In 2011, he completed a feature-length documentary film on his collaborative performance with Antony Hegarty, Turning. Charles Atlas was born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1949. He has been commissioned to produce works for television in Great Britain, France, Spain, Ireland and the United States; these works have been broadcast internationally. In 1989, the Museu de Arte de São Paulo and FestRio in Brazil presented a major retrospective of his work. Since then, retrospectives have also been presented at the video gallery Galleriet in Copenhagen, Denmark (1991), which toured to institutions throughout Scandinavia; La Cinémathèque Française, Paris (1992); Tate Modern, London (2006), and Vilma Gold, London (2008). Recent solo exhibitions include Luhring Augustine Bushwick, Brooklyn, New York; New Museum, New York; De Hallen, Haarlem, The Netherlands; and Bloomberg SPACE, London. Atlas was featured in the 2012 Whitney Biennial. Atlas' films and video works have been exhibited around the world, at festivals and institutions including the Jerusalem Film Festival; Centre Pompidou, Paris; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Walker Arts Center, Minneapolis, MN; The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, MA; World Wide Video Festival, The Hague, Netherlands; the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; and Participant, Inc., New York.
Atlas is the recipient of numerous awards, including a Foundation for Contemporary Arts Biennial John Cage Award, a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, and three Bessie Awards, as well as grants from the Jerome Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, among others.
Atlas lives and works in New York.