Counter Magic

On the world premiere of Ed Atkins and Steven Zultanski’s play «Sorcerer

By Thomas Oberender

After attending a performance of Ed Atkins’ poetry in New York two years ago and the accompanying exhibition «I like to spit now» with new CGI video works by the artist, the critic Emily Watlington wrote: «If you take the CGI out of Atkins’ work, you’re still left with the poetry - which may actually be Atkins’ true medium». This is a bittersweet compliment for a visual artist whose CGI video works, in particular, have been exhibited in the world’s most important museums. But there is a kernel of truth in the remark, for Atkins is also a brilliant writer. Alongside many of his film projects, he has produced experimental narrative works such as ‘Old Food’, ‘A Primer for Cadavers’, ‘A Seer Reader’ and the play ‘Sorcerer’, which was recently published in book form by London-based Prototype.

Atkins has lived in Copenhagen for several years, and «Sorcerer» premiered there in March last year at the Revolver Theatre. The three-person play is a collaboration between Atkins and American writer Steven Zultanski, with whom he also co-directed and designed the set. At first glance, the set looked like a classic set for a social realist play. A replica of a newly built apartment stands on a flat platform in the hall-like theatre hall. The studio looks sober and clear, like a showroom in a furniture store.

There is a kitchenette in the background, a kitchen table with a chair and a laptop in front of it, a sofa and armchairs around a coffee table in the foreground, two floor lamps next to it, a television on the floor and a large screen at the back. There is a coat rack by the front door, everything looks aseptic and functional, and it is hard to tell if things are old or new. There is a bunch of keys on the tabletop, but nothing else to suggest anything personal about the person who lives here. The only unusual features are the pipes and radiators that run along the outer edges of the plinth, forming a free-standing frame for the room, but at the same time reminding us that the walls in front of which they are normally mounted have been removed and the closed world of this apartment is open to the gaze of the outside world.