Kevin Atherton: In Two Minds

‘In Two Minds’ was first performed at the Project Arts Centre in Dublin in 1978. For this video/performance, Kevin Atherton recorded a series of questions-to-camera in the gallery during the daytime which he then answered live in front of an audience the same evening. Sitting opposite the playback of the video recording, screened on a monitor facing him, Atherton answered the questions to the amusement of the audience sitting either side of him at the gallery. Within weeks he repeated the performance in Belfast and in Farnham, each time recording a new ‘question tape’. These ‘question tapes’ varied from one another, picking up on the specifics of the different venues, but in general, in all the artist talked about issues to do with performance and video art as emerging art forms. To save money the tapes were recorded over and consequently lost forever.

In the spring of 1978 Atherton was selected by artist Stuart Brisley to be in a group exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery in London. For this exhibition, Atherton decided to re-make ‘In Two Minds’ as a two-monitor installation with the recorded questions on one monitor and the recorded answers on the other. The monitors faced one another across the space, continuously playing his questions and answers in sync, whilst the audience could sit on benches on either side of the gallery following the installation ‘Wimbledon style’.

With one or two exceptions (eg. a performance at De Lantaren, Rotterdam, 1980), Atherton left the work alone for a number of years thinking that the installation at the Serpentine Gallery had brought it to its natural conclusion. It wasn’t until 2000, when invited to give a lecture, that he realised that rather than talking about ‘In Two Minds’ in retrospect, he could talk to ‘In Two Minds’. By answering the 1978 questions live in 2000 in the lecture theatre, he created a new viewing experience and opened up a number of aspects to the work that emerged since its conception because of the passage of time. Further live performances happened in Tate Britain 2006, FACT 2007.

All new versions of the work since 1978 (including live performances in Tate Britain 2006, FACT 2007, Newcastle, 2011, Tate Britain, 2012, and Sirius Art Centre, Cork 2018; and installations at MOMA, San Francisco, 2009, the Irish Museum of Modern Art, 2014) with the time gap ever-widening, have used the surviving 1978 Serpentine installation ‘Question Tape’ as the recording that Atherton responds to.

In addition, in 2011 the artist exhibited 3 video versions of the work at once as part of ‘IN TWO MINDS x3’ exhibition at Golden Thread Gallery, Belfast. This exhibition not only included ‘The original version’ (1978) alongside a ‘Past Version’ (1978-2006), but also a ‘Future Version’ (1978-2031)’, in which the 56 years old artist talks to his future ‘virtual’, 81-year self, discussing artworks and events yet to occur.


Artist: Kevin Atherton
Title: In Two Minds
Year: 2014
Archive: Courtesy of the artist

Fragments coming together to constitute new realities and new futures #1

By: Miriam Mallalieu

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