Ripping open the universe in his brain. Visual artist Charles Atlas fuses his greatest hits with science in a new project.

On a hot day in July, the pioneering film and video maker Charles Atlas seemed a little anxious about his latest sprawling piece. ''The Mathematics of Consciousness.''

It is one of his largest installations, projecting multiple moving images across a 100-foot long brick wall lined with windows, and ranks as ''the most challenging of his career, said Atlas, 73, sporting his signature bright orange sideburns, a longtime signifier of his downtown ethos.

''I've been in a bad mood about this piece,'' he said, sitting at a computer in the long, narrow space as he tested out combinations of videos and tried to sync them up elegantly. ''I'm less worried now, but I don't know how it's going to turn out.''

Asked how long he would be making changes to his work, he replied, ''What time do we open?'' -meaning that it could be truly last-minute.

Atlas made his breakthrough as a filmmaker-in-residence for the legendary choreographer Merce Cunningham with early work like ''Walkaround Time'' [1973], as ode to Marcel Du champ that included both dance footage and behind-the-scenes moments.

Given his background in performance, curtain times still have a real power over Atlas, who is known for worrying over decisions in any case.

''He's the hardest-working person I have ever met,'' said Stuart Comer, the New York Museum of Modern Art's chief curator of media and performance art.

'' The Mathematics of Consciousness '' may run only a half-hour or so, but it is a complex mix. For the artwork, which runs through Nov 20, 

Atlas blends some of his own greatest hits from the last 50 years with new-computer generated images that touch on what he called ''science-y and math-y'' topics including quantum mechanics, an area of interest that is relatively recent.

Those themes fit well into science-and-technology inflected programming at Pioneer Works, which in July teamed up with Scientific American to do a talk about the James Webb Space Telescope.

Atlas has always been a nimble adopter of new technology and that extends to Instagram and TikTok videos of people dancing to Lizzo's ''About Damn Time.''

The variety of the selection demonstrates Atlas's unusual trajectory, from documenting with the camera to creating moving images like a more typical video artist - and then ending up in a hybrid form that also integrates elements of performance art.

As he worked, he filled 26 of the rectangular window spaces in Pioneer Works, as he did with his footage from 1973 work ''Mayonnaise Number One,'' in which the choreographer and dancer Douglas Dunn dons a red hat in a homage to Degas painting.

At other times Atlas's images - a jumbled field of numbers falling like snowflakes, a drawing of a human brain drifting to the left - covered both the windows and the bricks.

''It's about manipulating the architecture and making the wall alive,'' Atlas said.

The quirks of the space were a feature, not a bug, for the artist, said Gabriel Florenz, the founding artistic director of Pioneer Works, which is celebrating its anniversary this fall.

The World Students Society thanks author Ted Loos.


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