NARRATOR: Charles Atlas began making films and videos of postmodern dance in the mid-1970s. From early on he was a collaborator rather than a simple documentarian. One of his most important partnerships was with the late dancer and choreographer Merce Cunningham. Their final work together, Ocean, will be on view during the first week of his residency.
CHARLESATLAS: I started out with Merce Cunningham, so I was very lucky. And he taught me a lot. In the course of our collaboration, we collaborated on about fifteen films that we made together for film or video. And I learned to see from him, from the beginning. So it really—when I decide how I’m going to film some dance, I try to watch myself watching, and see what I look at and then translate it into a filmic sense.
NARRATOR: In the past decade, Atlas has begun doing live, improvisational video performances. During the second week of his residency on the Whitney’s fourth floor he and his collaborators will perform each day.
CHARLESATLAS: The performances consist of the musician and I doing a duo improvisation. He works off of electronics, and I work off of loop-based video. And I typically have two laptops, some DVD players and a hardware mixer. And I use all sorts of materials. Material I’ve made, material I’ve found in films, on the internet. And I have a kind of idea in my head about what the structure might be, but it’s an improvisation. I listen to the music, and he watches the film.
I never was a performer, so it’s a new role for me. I was always a behind-the-scenes kind of guy. And it’s fun [laughs]. Fun for me and I hope interesting for the audience.