Ed Atkins: Get Life/Love’s Work


This new commission by British artist Ed Atkins is part of the Experiments in Art and Technology (E.A.T.) program relaunched by Nokia Bell Labs in partnership with the New Museum.

Cover Image:

Ed Atkins, Production still, 2021

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The New Museum is proud to present “Ed Atkins: Get Life/Love’s Work,” which will be on view from June 30 to October 3, 2021. A new commission by British artist Ed Atkins (b. 1982, Oxford, United Kingdom), “Get Life/Love’s Work” will be the culminating exhibition in a series of collaborations between the Museum and Nokia Bell Labs designed to develop meaningful exchange between the fields of art and technology.

Over the past decade, Atkins has created a complex body of work that considers the relationship between the corporeal and the digital, the ordinary and the uncanny, through high-definition computer-generated (CG) animations, theatrical environments, elliptical writings, and syncopated sound montages. With these filmic and text-based artworks, Atkins tracks forms of feeling, living, and communicating hidden behind or curtailed by technological representation, which unfold into sensitive and often somber narratives.

At the New Museum, Atkins will premiere a new project that focuses on the ways bodies and technologies are intertwined, particularly in the field of digital communication and telepresence. As always in Atkins’s work, technology is analyzed as a theoretical and even allegorical interrogation of itself, rather than in any literal terms.

Installed in the Fourth Floor gallery, the exhibition will debut a new body of work made with technologies that profess to “capture” life. The central piece of the exhibition is a CG animation recorded using motion- and facial-capture technologies, which documents an interview between the artist and his mother—shot during the isolated months of lockdown that have defined the Covid-19 pandemic.

Weaving together a variety of references—ranging from British playwright Dennis Potter’s last televised interview to English philosopher Gillian Rose’s memoir Love’s Work, along with autobiographical notations and confessional digressions—the exhibition composes what the artist describes as an “essay about distance.” The show reflects on the ways in which technologies designed to facilitate connection and representation, paradoxically expose loss and underscore separation, oftentimes amplifying corresponding feelings in a manner that—according to the artist—“mirrors the travesty of the representation.”

The newly commissioned video will be presented within an impoverished and estranged domestic scene of embroideries, paintings, and text compositions—the latter made in collaboration with the anonymous author project, Contemporary Art Writing Daily. This staging will not only interrogate certain limits of communication and empathy, but also reimagine constituent technologies simultaneously as forms of sustenance and existential threat. Combining computer data and concrete matter, Atkins tests the borders of digital simulation and proximity, looking to the ways in which technologies both mediate intimacy and shape human relationships. “I think of it as augmented and simulated sentiment, comparing and supplementing it with those objects and materials we might more familiarly expect to surrogate our love,” the artist explains.

Atkins’s is the culmination of a series of exhibitions produced in collaboration with scientists, engineers, and researchers from the Experiments in Art and Technology (E.A.T.) program at Nokia Bell Labs. Inspired by the pioneering legacy of E.A.T., the series aims to channel the interdisciplinary spirit initiated in the 1960s by Bell Labs engineers in collaboration with artists such as John Cage, Lucinda Childs, Marta Minujín, Robert Rauschenberg, and Stan VanDerBeek.

This partnership also builds upon Nokia Bell Labs’s support of the E.A.T. track at NEW INC, the New Museum’s cultural incubator, which provides artists, technologists, and others with the tools to make and research born-digital art through mentorship from staff at Nokia Bell Labs and Rhizome, the New Museum affiliate that champions born-digital art and culture. Through its relationship with the Museum, Nokia Bell Labs provides artists with access to cutting-edge motion-capture and communication technologies, alongside the support of experts in the field. In turn, through the resulting interdisciplinary collaboration and intellectual exchange, participating artists also inform new research paths for those technologies.

“Get Life/Love’s Work” is curated by Massimiliano Gioni, Edlis Neeson Artistic Director, and is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue published by the New Museum. The catalogue includes newly commissioned texts by Erika Balsom and Mark Leckey; an interview with the artist, conducted by Gioni; a conversation between Julie Martin and Madeline Weisburg; and a series of the artist’s writings.

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“Ed Atkins: Get Life/Love’s Work” is an artist residency and commission sponsored by Nokia Bell Labs.

Major support for this exhibition is provided by the International Leadership Council of the New Museum.

Generous support is provided by:
Shane Akeroyd
Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo

We gratefully acknowledge the Artistic Director’s Circle of the New Museum: Dakis Joannou, Co-Chair; Eugenio Lopez, Co-Chair; Gael Neeson, Co-Chair; Tom and Janine Hill, Elisabeth Karpidas, Richard Mumby, Elham and Tony Salamé, and Beth Swofford.

Education and community programs are supported, in part, by the American Chai Trust.

Special thanks to the Bowery Hotel.

Support for the publication has been provided by the J. McSweeney and G. Mills Publications Fund at the New Museum.

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