Ed Atkins makes all kinds of convolutions of self-portraiture. He writes uncomfortably intimate, elliptical prophesies, draws horrible caricatures, and makes realistic computer generated videos that often feature male figures in the throes of unaccountable psychical crises. In the Arsenale, the installation Old Food (2017-2019) is wadded with historicity, melancholy, and stupidity. Here, Atkins has expanded his emo terrain, tempering affecting autobiographical figuration with broader issues and citations.
The drawings that constitute Bloom (numbered one to ten and showed in the Central Pavilion) feature tarantulas disembarking tentative hands or otherwise perching on a posed foot, each with the shrunken head of Ed Atkins where the spiders’ abdomen should be. Wreathed in arachnid hairs, Atkins’s face breaks the fourth wall and gawps at us, wearing an ambivalent, questionably conscious expression.