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Research Paper on Charles Atlas - the Film Director and Artist

4 pages
1025 words
University of Richmond
Type of paper: 
Research paper
This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers.

Since time immemorial, different people have gone to great extends to express their artistic skills, making it a lifetime hobby and occupation for some individuals. Art is a humanistic mimicry of the surroundings, which includes a diverse range of activities such as painting, photography, tapestry, drawing, video production, architecture, and calligraphy among others. Over time, the society has come to acknowledge the importance of art, for it is a vital component to empowering the hearts of people as well as depicting culture from all parts of the world. Art is therapeutic. It is through art that the society gets to learn, be inspired, and be entertained by the works of iconic artists like the late Michael Jackson, Duke Ellington, Nina Simone, and Pablo Picasso among others. Hence, in pursuance of knowledge to study more about art and architecture, this paper will cover a research on Charles Atlas, a film director/artist, analyzing his journey and achievements as an artist.

Who Is Charles Atlas (artist)?

Charles Atlas is an active American revolutionary film director, video artist, lighting, set and costume designer, who was born back in the year 1949, at St. Louis, Missouri, in the United States. For almost four decades, he has directed over eighty movies, documentaries, and videotapes. He has generated dance productions, television visual arts, extensive documentaries, multi-channel video systems, and live improvised electronic performances. Atlas is an inventor in the development of media-dance, a kind in which the camera moves in concert with the dancing body, rather than remaining static and giving viewers a straightforward shot of a dance performance on a theatrical stage (The Museum of Modern Art). Charles Atlas resides and works both in New York City and Paris.

Regarding filmography, Charles Atlas has created various productions for theatre, screen, arts center, and television. His journey in the film industry started while he was about 20 years old, when he was recruited to be an assistant stage manager and later a lighting designer at the Merce Cunningham Dance Company. In collaboration with the company where he left in 1983, he created films like the Changing steps (1973), Blue Studio: Five Segments (197576), Fractions I (1977), Locale (1979), Torse (1977), Romin' I (1978), Coast Zone (1982), Channels/Inserts (1982), and Melange (1999) among others (Foundation for Contemporary Arts). However, the most recognized film that he produced with Cunningham was Merce Cunningham: A Lifetime of Dance, a global co-production for TV, as it won a "best documentary" award at Dance Screen Monaco in 2000. All the same, Atlas has come up with several large-scale, mixed media video installations, which focus on capturing motion pictures and manipulating performance. For example, The Hanged One is a show that had 15 channels of video, programmed lighting, and kinetic sculptural element. It is a work inspired by representation from the Tarot and foot-fetish culture, fused with numerous video elements along with rotoscopes, motor-powered mannequins, and stage lighting. It was displayed at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1997 (Video Data Bank). His recent work is a documentary by the title Turning, which he directed and was produced in 2012. The film is Atlass first film to receive a traditional theatrical release, and it features Antony and the Johnsons. Turning covers the theme of identity and performance (Dallas).

Atlas has also explored new technologies to produce independent works. For instance, in 2003, he created Instant Fame, an interactive show that presented individuals with a chance to make their own short film, of which Atlas transforms through the use of graphic touch and video technology. In turn, he was rewarded with the FCPA grant, a move to support his independent works (Foundation for Contemporary Arts). Nevertheless, he has worked along with various choreographers, dancers, and performers such as Marina Abramovic, Karole Armitage, Leigh Bowery, Michael Clark, Douglas Dunn, Antony and the Johnsons, and Yvonne Rainer to further his career. For example, in 2003, he had a live cinematic and costume design show, Muscle Shoals, where he worked together with Douglas Dunn a choreographer and Steve Lacy and performed at Theatre de la Bastille in Paris and Danspace Project in New York.

To name but a few, Atlas has received several awards and grants such as Bessie Award for Costumes for Michael Clark Dance Company in 1986, Bessie Award for Sustained Achievement in Video in 1987, John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship in 1988, Bessie Award for The "Martha" Tapes in 1998, Dance Screen, Best Documentary for Merce Cunningham: A Lifetime of Dance in 2000, Melbourne Queer Film Festival, Best Documentary for Legend of Leigh Bowery in 2003, and the John Cage Award in 2006.

His work has not been in vain as it has been displayed at various museums, including the Hirshhorn Museum and the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia in Madrid inter alia. Moreover, the John Cage award in 2006 boosted his recognition as his work was featured in solo and set exhibitions such as the Tanks at Tate Modern in Holland, the Bloomberg Space in London, Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, and Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam (Art21).

Attached below is an image of Charles Atlas

Image retrieved from


In summary, it is conclusive that Charles Atlas was born a talent, for his works have brought together dance, enactment, and television in the filmmaking industry. As discussed, his ambition as a filmmaker and an artist has made him produce a lot of classic films, including the legendary Turning documentary that features Antony and the Johnsons. Consequently, his outstanding efforts have gained him recognition as he has scooped several awards and grants such as the Bessie Awards. Most of all, he is remembered as the pioneer of media-dance.


Works Cited

Art21. Charles Atlas., 2017, Web accessed 05 Dec. 2017.

Dallas, Paul. A Rogues Gallery of Gorgeousness: Charles Atlas and Antonys Turning., 2012, Web accessed 05 Dec. 2017.

Foundation for Contemporary Arts. Charles Atlas., 2017, Web accessed 05 Dec. 2017.

The Museum of Modern Art. Charles Atlas., 2017, Web accessed 05 Dec. 2017.

Video Data Bank. Charles Atlas., 2017, Web accessed 05 Dec. 2017.


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