Charles Atlas has been designing lighting for the Michael Clark Company since 1984, though his primary work since the mid-1970s has been as a film director and video artist producing media/dance works, multi-channel video installations, feature-length documentaries, video art works for television, and live electronic performances. A selection of his films, videos and television works were screened as part of a retrospective survey of his career at Tate Modern in November 2006. He currently serves as a director for the Peabody Award winning PBS series ART 21: Art of the 21st Century.
He has collaborated with numerous performers and choreographers including Merce Cunningham, James Waring, Douglas Dunn, Karole Armitage, Phillippe Decouflé, Michael Clark, DANCENOISE, Bill Irwin, John Kelly, Richard Move, Diamanda Galas, Marina Abramovic, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Yvonne Rainer and Stanley Love.
Atlas worked as filmmaker-in-residence with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company for ten years (1974-83). His film, Merce Cunningham: A Lifetime of Dance, a 90 minute international co-production for television won a "best documentary" award at Dance Screen 2000 in Monaco. In recent years has been collaborating with the choreographer again on new video/dance, and documenting much of the Cunningham repertory culminating in the 2008 filming of his epic production of the 1994 work Ocean.
Atlas has created several portraits of the late performance artist/fashion icon Leigh Bowery: the video installation Teach (1998), the short film Ms. Peanut Visits New York (1999), the multi channel video installation Dizzy Remix at Kunstverein Hannover in Germany (September 2008), and the documentary feature The Legend of Leigh Bowery (2002) which had a theatrical release in the US in 2004 and is now in release on DVD.
Atlas has created several large-scale gallery installations which have been exhibited at the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Aldrich Museum for Contemporary Art, CT; and the Centre Pompidou, Paris. Other installation and video work has been shown at galleries and museums in New York and throughout Europe and the US. His most recent multi-channel video installation was Tornado Warning! shown at the Vilma Gold Gallery in London (November 2008).
Since 2003, Atlas has been interested in exploring different contexts that exploit the use of live video. Instant Fame (2003), shown at Participant, Inc. in New York and then remounted in London (2006) at the Vilma Gold Gallery, consisted of a series of real-time video portraits of performers and artists created live in the gallery space. He created the live video component for Turning, a collaboration with Antony and the Johnsons which premiered at St. Ann's Warehouse in Brooklyn in 2004, and then toured in Europe in 2006. Most recently he collaborated with Mika Tajima/New Humans on Today is Not a Dress Rehearsal (2009), a 3 day continuous installation/performance presented at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
Atlas currently has been collaborating with musician Christian Fennesz on a live video/ music improvisation piece which they have been performing in Europe, most recently performed at Roma Europa (October 2008). He has also collaborated with other musicians presenting work in NY, Toronto, and Europe.
He is now finishing a documentary feature about Antony and the Johnsons and the Turning show on tour.
Atlas has received three "Bessie" (New York Dance and Performance) Awards and was the 2006 recipient of the Foundation for Contemporary Art’s biennial John Cage Award.