- Ed Atkins born 1982
- Software, 2 projections, colour and sound (stereo)
- Overall display dimensions variable
- Purchased with funds provided by the European Collection Circle 2021
Refuse.exe 2019 is a two-screen projection generated using Unreal Engine – a graphics software programme widely used for video game development – and run off a custom-built PC. This two-channel real-time 3D simulation produces images of objects ranging from a ship’s anchor and chain to household materials and organic matter, which fall down through a building represented in the upper screen, freezing momentarily before landing in a large pile on a theatre stage in the lower screen. Various materials fall in the same sequence, but their downward trajectory differs each time because the loop is uniquely rendered by the algorithms of the physics engine. The shower of objects is accompanied by torrential rain, lightning, the sound of thunder and, on occasion, softly falling snowflakes. The symbolic structure of repeated descent induces a sense of theatrical melancholy, of being caught in an endless loop or state of collapse. This is amplified by the accompanying musical score written by the artist.
According to Atkins, ‘Refuse.exe dramatises the return of repressed, deferred and otherwise figured things, by way of a play as a computer program.’ It can also be understood as an investigation into the structure of theatrical performance, where the ‘play’ is reduced to a series of directions – ENTER Drop, ACTION Fall, INTER-ACTION Land, DEATH Cease, REFUSE Remain, Repeat. (In Cabinet Gallery, London 2020, p.4.) An engagement with writing, grammar and syntax remains at the heart Atkins’s practice, yet his melodramas defy standard narrative convention. As Atkins has explained: ‘Building up an animation, for me, is not that different to building up a sentence – building up a narrative.’ (Email correspondence from Cabinet Gallery, London to Tate curator Clarrie Wallis, January 2020.) In its visual and acoustic intensity Refuse.exe further develops this interest and characterises an important shift in the artist’s practice away from the use of avatars as isolated protagonists, seen in works such as Hisser 2015, also in Tate’s collection (Tate T14665).
Refuse.exe exemplifies the way in which Atkins’s moving image works foreground computer programming and video technologies, more recently addressing issues relating to the post-digital present, in particular ideas around materiality and corporeality. He also creates large-scale ambitious installations that often include writing, paintings and embroideries.
The work exists in an edition of eight of which Tate’s is number three.
Julia Peyton-Jones and Hans Ulrich Obrist (eds.), Ed Atkins: A Seer Reader, Cologne 2014.
Thomas D. Trummer (ed.), Ed Atkins, exhibition catalogue, Kunsthaus Bregenz, Austria 2020.
Ed Atkins: Three pieces of bread: Lists and algorithms for Refuse.exe, exhibition catalogue, Cabinet Gallery, London 2020.
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