Ed Atkins Ribbons

Film still from Ed Atkins’s Ribbons. © Stefan Altenburger Photography Zurich.

Their skin may be flawless, their digitally rendered bodies incorruptible, but the characters the British artist Ed Atkins brings to life in his eerie videos are anything but. Ribbons, the centerpiece of his first major U.K. show, at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery June 11 through August 25, explores social networking’s ugly side—those message board agitators dubbed trolls. Atkins depicts an alcoholic skinhead in a bar who croons introspective drinking songs, peeps through holes, and pees in his tumbler. In place of the virtual world’s smooth surface of preening selfies and crafted chatter, Atkins’s messy misanthrope offers what Atkins calls “a rupture in the consensual, generic and fluent, where some other sort of contact rushes through, if only for a moment.”