Take off your shoes, place your belongings in the tray and empty your pockets. What happens when we unquestioningly subject to airport security regulations – or other, less overt protocols in society? This is one of the questions addressed by artist Ed Atkins in a new work produced especially for the x-rummet venue at the SMK.
The video work Safe Conduct by British artist Ed Atkins is a burlesque of airport security instruction videos. Atkins mixes appropriated and CGI footage of the artist’s own devising, set to Ravel’s ‘Bolero’. A carousel of protocol, rendered bodies – both literally and metaphorically – abattoirs and metal detectors.
The title conjures a parlance of specious administrative directives; an exceptional state-administered document that affords protection to the carrier, as well as the similarly named autobiography of the Russian poet, Boris Pasternak.
Between illusion and verity
The protagonist is a bruised archetype, a digital surrogate animated by Atkins’s own facial expressions, transferred by means of performance capture technology. Atkins takes a broad interest in such gaps between illusion and verity, between what looks and what is real. Atkins points to and takes a critical view of such collapses, which have become a typical trait of our digital reality where everything is rendered and mediated.
In Safe Conduct, ‘rendering’ is a key word: a term that means both the final process by which a computer generated image is produced, and the means by which waste animal tissue is salvaged and turned into stable, value-added product.
This slippage, through language, from the digital to the visceral and back again, is the symbolic order and critical mode of Atkins’ work.
17 March – 4 September 2016
Free admission to the exhibition Ed Atkins. Safe Conduct.
You will find the entrance for the x-rummet in the Sculpture Street.
A stella career
Ed Atkins has enjoyed a stellar career in recent years.
He is particularly well known for his video installations that combine hyper-realistic depictions of familiar figures and everyday settings with computer-generated animations.
Repetition and submission
The Bolero serves as a delirious and insistent familiarity throughout, a cultural theme tune to which the triptych of videos are brutally choreographed, beholden to a force of repetitious, insistent convention, production and texture, whose increasing hysteria belies both the psychic and corporal trauma of the kind of proper compliance that the protagonist – a battered and bruised digital surrogate – is forced into.
Airport security animations repeatedly tell you what to do, how to behave: take off your shoes, place your belongings in the tray, empty your pockets, put your arms above your head, spread your legs.
These animations not only poorly camouflage anxiety, risk and paranoia behind their cartoonish cheerfulness, they also veil the fact that you are submitting to a code of behaviour that is essentially violent.
Atkins lampoons such security video instructions with Safe Conduct – which at the same time becomes a metaphor for a more general state of affairs; a contemporary human condition where we are imperceptibly subjected to more or less explicit regulation, conventions and procedures, written and unwritten rules, administered by an overwhelming wealth of technologies: linguistic, ideological, digital.