ArtBeat: Dancing on the Ceiling: Art & Zero Gravity @ EMPAC, 3/18/10


Xu Zhen: In Just a Blink of the Eye
Xu Zhen: In Just a Blink of the Eye

Dancing on the Ceiling: Art & Zero Gravity, currently showing at EMPAC in Troy, is a group show in which contemporary artists delve into themes of weightlessness and lightness as cultural metaphors. Staged throughout the public areas of EMPAC and rife with technology, it offers a cutting edge look at concepts of transcendence. Here’s just a few of the works that bowled us over:

Xu Zhen’s “In Just a Blink of the Eye” features a Chinese-American student supported on a concealed steel frame in order to capture a single moment in the act of falling. Stretched out towards infinity, the moment becomes a commentary on a delicate balance between two cultural worlds.

This “in-between” moment is also captured by photographer Denis Darzacq’s portraits of young hip-hop dancers suspended in the air, about to fall, as well as Julia Fullerton-Batten’s photographs of young women, awkwardly suspended on the cusp of adulthood.

Weightlessness signifies freedom in Jane and Louise Wilson’s claustrophic video installation “Stasi City,” where a camera slowly pans through the now abandoned rooms and hallways of the infamous East German secret police while a woman slowly floats upwards, freed from the restraints of gravity, and oppression.

Thom Kubli’s new commission, “FLOAT! Thinktank 21, 2010” features a sleek, egg-shaped flotation/isolation tank with a custom underwater sound system that plays audio recordings on the subject of politics and zero gravity. It seeks to explore whether an individual, freed from the restraints of gravity, could also be freed from societal and political restraints. You can try it yourself – a limited number of viewers may make an appointment to float in the tank. (NOTE: The appointments to float in the tank are currently sold out, but EMPAC is looking into offering additional appointments by extending the exhibition hours. Give them a call tomorrow afternoon [Tuesday] at 518-276-3921 to inquire.)

There are less overtly serious works as well. Edith Dekyndt’s “Ground Control” features a 59-inch wide black balloon filled with a mixture of air and helium that floats and moves around the room depending on its audience (audience particpation is encouraged) as well as air temperature and circulation. It’s an investigation of space that fascinated the audience who, with childlike glee, experimented with passing the balloon back and forth across the gallery.

“Method Air,” a newly commisioned work by Chris Doyle, is a huge rotoscoped video of Capital District skateboarders zooming seemingly effortlessly through space. It’s projected on the south side of the building, so it’s only viewable at night.

And there’s a large television screen playing music videos that focus on images of weightlessness (yes, including Lionel Ritchie’s “Dancing on the Ceiling.”)

Go see this show. Here’s the online catalog. Curated by EMPAC’s Kathleen Forde, it’s a well-designed, deeply resonant show that that alternately moved us and delighted us, and we floated out of the building.

Edith Dekyndt: Ground Control
Edith Dekyndt: Ground Control

Thom Kubli: FLOAT! Thinktank 21, 2010
Thom Kubli: FLOAT! Thinktank 21, 2010

Here’s a short preview video of Chris Doyle’s “Method Air,” projected on the side of the building:

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