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.