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Charles Atlas: Hail the New Puritan (Dirty Looks: On Location)

  • Location:
    Le Petit Versailles, 346 E. Houston St., New York, New York, 10009, US

1986, 16mm on video, color, sound
Curated by Paul Dallas

Le Petit Versailles

This seminal queer work—a hybrid of performance and film, documentary and fiction, portrait and evocation—is an exuberant and fascinating fantasy tour through London's 1980s post-punk queer underground with avant-garde choreographer Michael Clark as the beautiful, charismatic guide. Structured as a day-in-the-life portrait of Clark, then a rising star of downtown dance, Charles Atlas transforms a BBC television documentary commission into a faux-verité playground that forgoes any conventional logic. Instead, he creates a portrait as a constellation — Atlas freely mixes stunning dream sequences, stylized performances (care of Leigh Bowery's production design), staged interviews, visual jokes and off-hand observation to evoke Clark's variously erotic, flamboyant and self-conscious universe.

Artist and filmmaker Charles Atlas was born in St. Louis and has produced a pioneering body of films, videos and collaborative projects. Atlas worked as the resident filmmaker for Merce Cunningham's company for ten years before making Hail the New Puritan, his landmark portrait of dancer Michael Clark. He has collaborated with dancers and performers, such as Yvonne Rainer, Marina Abramovic, Diamanda Galas, John Kelly, Leigh Bowery, and Antony. His work has been shown at international institutions, including MoMA, New York, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, and Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam. His films were recently screened as part of the 2012 Whitney Biennial, his third inclusion in the bi-annual exhibition.

Le Petit Versailles (LPV) is a community garden in the East Village that presents exhibitions, performance, music, film/video, theater and workshops. LPV is a rare hold-out in a neighborhood where rapid gentrification has forced out local artists and lead to cultural homogeneity, programmed by Jack Waters and Peter Cramer–long-time East Village residents and singular figures in the cultural and artistic history of the neighborhood. Inspired by artist collective Co-Lab's legendary upstart Times Square show in 1980, which transformed an abandoned Mid-town space into a seminal art show, LPV continues their commitment to creating community through art and activism and remains one of the truly queer sites in the city.