EMPAC, located at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, has unveiled their Spring 2023 season of performances. This series of events is a special opportunity to experience synthesizing productions that integrate artistic practices, and fuses both art and technology. Starting in January and running through May, artists in residence at EMPAC premiere shows that span dance, visual arts, performance-installations, multimedia concerts, new music, film, and hybrid theatrical productions.
Since its first commission in 2006, the EMPAC curatorial program has supported the commissioning, production, and presentation of ambitious performances and artworks that span time-based visual art, music, theater, and dance. The program’s polyvocal curatorial approach resonates through each project, generating time-based artworks that are diverse in content, method, technology, and audience experience. Alongside the curatorial program, researchers at Rensselaer use the infrastructure of EMPAC to expand the discourse at the intersection of digital technology and the human condition through a broad range of research projects in science and engineering that include cognitive computing, immersive visual and auditory environments, and physical computing.
This spring season at EMPAC hosts some of our largest and most intimate projects to date, all of which stretch sensory exploration and technical research in the arts in new ways. As we continue to welcome audiences back to EMPAC, our curators and engineers are excited to connect the people of our region to this polyvocal program of expansive new works by our artists in residence, many of which have been in development for several years at the Center.
Vic Brooks, EMPAC Associate Director of Arts and Senior Curator of Time-based Visual Art.
EMPAC (The Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center) grants artists the creative sovereignty to pursue collaborations with others working not only in the fields of visual and performing arts, but also in science, new media, and technology. T
he Spring 2023 season showcases programs by worldwide artists that binds disciplines, medium, and subject matter–sculptors working with composers, visual artists with sound artists, a music/documentary-theater hybrid with an 18-person live orchestra, and a large-scale dome installation currently being designed to host performances with integrations of immersive VR, projection, and spatial audio. With the assistance of new and evolving technology developed by EMPAC, artists explore political, social, and global issues. Alongside this search, artists are also attentive to how new art forms can open imaginative spaces for rethinking the future.
On January 11, Daina Ashbee, a Canadian choreographer, recognized and admired for her innovativeness will make the US Premiere of her first group show J’ai pleuré avec les chiens (Time, Creation, Destruction) at EMPAC in Troy, NY.. You can expect a transformative experience about the rebellious potential of the human body in performative spaces, which has already been staged in a handful of major cities outside the US. Two more performances follow at Gibney: Agnes Varis Performing Arts Center in New York City (January 13 & 14).
January 23 brings the live performance Cuando las nubes eran las olas / When the clouds were the waves by two EMPAC artists in residence, the Venezuelan-Ecuadorian artist Ana Navas and Venezuelan composer Mirtru Escalona-Mijares. The production explores the afterlives of the Venezuelan modernist art movement during a time of political and economic turmoil for the country. They pay homage to Alexander Calder’s panels in the Aula Magna, the main auditorium in the Central University of Venezuela in Caracas, and the commonalities the Aula Magna shares with the EMPAC concert hall, where the show will be installed and performed.
At Empact, the first program, A Kind Of Ache by music curator Amadeus Julian Regucera will be delivered on January 27. The production will be an hour-long performance by the contemporary, experimental chamber music duo The Living Earth Show. This duo is on a mission to emphasize the voices, perspectives, and bodies of non-white and queer artists that mainstream classical music traditionally exclude. Sarah Hennies, a composer and percussionist whose works explore queer and trans identity, composes the original score. Terry Berlier, who investigates queerness and ecologies in her art, designs a sculpture-turned-instrument that the duo and Hennies will perform on. This is the kick-off to The Living Earth Show’s multi-season residency with EMPAC, with another engagement slated for Fall 2023.
On February 25, the world premiere of Paper Pianos by Mary Kouyoumdjian, an Armenian-American composer and documentarian and Nigel Maister, a South African- American director and writer will be performed live on EMPAC. The production will be delivered by the acclaimed 18-person Alarm Will Sound orchestra with projections by Syrian visual artist Kevork Mourad. The evening-length music and documentary-theater hybrid explores the dislocation, longing, and optimism of refugees and the experiences of those who provide services to them.
Bora Yoon, a Korean-American electroacoustic composer, vocalist, and sound artist, and Joshue Ott, a creative technologist who designs custom softwares, apps, and interactive visual and audio experiences for concert halls, join forces to premiere their multimedia concert SPKR SPRKL, on March 18. Yoon and Ott use EMPAC’s Wave Field Synthesis Array to produce a visually and sonically stimulating composition based on a new imminent album by Yoon.
Later in the season, Transtraterrestrial, a prequel and premiere of The Unarrival Experiments – Unconcealment Ceremonies (April 6), a long-term collaboration between EMPAC and queer/nonbinary/trans multidisciplinary artist Sage Ni’Ja Whitson, is installed in the EMPAC building. The installation features embodied performance, integrations of immersive VR, projection, and spatial audio in a custom-built 40’ x 15’ dome covered in painted organic matter. The performance dome structure was developed by Whitson through discourse with architects, engineers, and astrophysicists. In dialogue with Yorùbá Cosmology, astrophysics, and research on the “blackest black,” this iterative artwork is designed to magnify the dark, centering the mysteries of dark matter and dark energy through a black, queer, and trans embodied lens. For the fifth year, EMPAC is collaborating with graduate students from Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College (CCS Bard) on a public exhibition. This year focuses on the black body in Detroit techno music, and is inspired by the work of scholar and music artist DeForrest Brown, Jr. The project engrossed recordings from the artist’s new album Techxodus, which operates as a musical successor to the ideas in his recent publication Assembling a Black Counter-Culture (2021). The world premiere of DeForrest Brown’s Speakers That Speak To You at EMPAC (April 28) makes use of EMPAC’s extensive spatial audio capabilities and is curated by Katherine Adams, Liv Cunibert, Mary Fellios, Abel González Fernández, and Sidney Pettice.
On May 8, 2023, the Canadian bilingual, multidisciplinary live art ensemble and winner of an EMPAC open call with CINARS, Theatre Junction, will be at EMPAC for a residency and work-in-progress showing. The production will guide an audience through four distinct rooms that feature live video feeds and live actors. The work is being developed at EMPAC and will premiere in Montreal in the Fall of 2023.
EMPAC’s Spring 2023 season also includes public tours, screenings, and conversations with film director Ayo Akingbade, artist Armando Guadalupe Cortés, artist/DJ M. Elijah Sueuga, and EMPAC’s Senior Curator for Theater/Dance Ashley Ferro-Murray, among others; and events presented in collaboration with iEAR Presents and the Sanctuary for Independent Media.
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