EMPAC Announces Fall Season of Concerts, Theater, Film & More


EMPAC at RPI in Troy is celebrating its tenth anniversary this fall with a a full season of concerts, theater, dance, film, lectures and lots more – often all intermingled together. And the centerpiece of the season is 10YEARS, a three-day celebration from Thursday-Saturday, October 11-13, featuring a diverse schedule of newly commissioned performances.

Here’s the complete schedule for EMPAC’s fall season of performances:

DANCE: “Listening Creates an Opening”
September 12–15, 5:30pm
$18; students/seniors $13
Over the course of four evenings and across a range of sites, Mary Armentrout Dance Theater will perform the roving work “Listening Creates an Opening.” Members of the group — choreographer Mary Armentrout, video artist Ian Winters and composer Evelyn Ficarra — have been working in residence over the last two-and-a-half years to conceive and produce the EMPAC commission focusing on how various types of technology impact our physical experience of moving through the world.

TALK: Creating Time Through Design
Thursday, September 20, 7pm
Dawna Ballard presents a talk on “chronemics,” the study of the relationship between time and human communication. Ballard’s research focuses on how communication affects communities, organizations and individuals, exploring the history and context of work-life balance in our contemporary “always-on,” information-overloaded, 24/7 multitasking culture. Particular to EMPAC, Ballard will explore a new perspective of chronemics in relation to time-based arts.

MUSIC: Park Jiha’s Communion
Tuesday, September 25, 7:30pm
$18; students/seniors $13
The music of composer/performer Park Jiha blends classical minimalism and improvised music with traditional Korean instruments like the piri (double-reed bamboo flute), saenghwang (bamboo mouth organ) and yanggeum (hammered dulcimer). Deftly combining the instrumentation and complex expression of traditional Korean music with an array of contemporary forms and sounds, Park Jiha performs material from her Communion album with Chris Varga (vibraphone), Jeon Jekon (double bass) and Kim Oki (bass clarinet, saxophone).

MUSIC: Formosa Quartet
Thursday, October 11, 7pm
$18; seniors/students $13
Kicking off the 10YEARS celebration, Formosa Quartet leads guests on a unique musical journey throughout the EMPAC building. Performing in all four EMPAC venues — the Concert Hall, Theater, Studio 1 and Studio 2 — the ensemble will showcase classical repertoire particularly suited to the distinct acoustic profile of each space. Committed to championing Taiwanese music and promoting the arts in the land of their heritage, as well as exploring diverse and adventurous mediums for string quartet, Formosa have performed in major venues throughout the United States, Asia and Europe.

October 12 & 13, 12noon-11:30pm; October 15–19, 12noon-5pm
The U.S. premiere of Maria Hassabi’s moving-image installation was commissioned for EMPAC’s 10YEARS celebration. Partially filmed while Hassabi and her dancers were in residence this spring, the work features material from Hassabi’s live installation, “Staging,” which was presented internationally in public spaces, museums and exhibition contexts. Blending collage and post-production effects, “Slow Me Down” builds a hyper-real frame that augments this footage and participates in the construction of what Hassabi calls a “performative surreality.”

FILM/VIDEO: “If It Bleeds”
Friday, October 12, 7pm
Commissioned and produced by EMPAC, Isabelle Pauwels’ “If It Bleeds” is a moving-image work inspired by recent events in the world of Mixed Martial Arts, following the fighters, commissioners, reporters and a promoter as they battle through post-fight pressers, promotional tours, and disciplinary hearings. The narrative unfolds in a game of one-upmanship as the characters are seduced by their public image and driven by the fiction that everything happens “for a reason.”

THEATER: Yara Travieso
Friday, October 12, 8pm
$18; students/seniors $13
The world premiere of Yara Travieso’s immersive theatrical experience designed for the EMPAC Concert Hall. Commissioned for 10YEARS, the new work uses monumental staging, experiential cinema and sound to ignite the ceiling, side galleries, balcony and stage of the Concert Hall with a sprawling live performance meant to stretch the parameters of the hall and expectations of its audience.

DANCE: “In the Mood for Frankie”
Friday, October 12, 9:30pm and Saturday, October 13, 7 & 10:30pm
Choreographer Trajal Harrell’s “In the Mood for Frankie” is a dance trio that he performs with Thibault Lac and Ondrej Vidlar along a runway-style stage in EMPAC’s lobby. Featuring fluid, sultry movements atop three square platforms — two of which are connected by a stream of swimming goldfish — the performance revolves around the figure of the muse – butoh artists Tatsumi Hijikata, Kazuo Ohno and Yoko Ashikawa, as well as others.

TALK/DEMONSTRATION: The Cognitive and Immersive Systems Lab
Saturday, October 13, 2pm
In this presentation, Director Hui Su will introduce the vision of CISL (a collaboration between Rensselaer and IBM Research for the research and development of immersive cognitive systems), the progress made by the CISL team in a few technical areas, and several technical demonstrations such as an occupant-aware cognitive environment enabled with multimodal interactions, cognitive and immersive environments for language teaching and decision making, and immersive narrative generation.

TALK: “Down the Rabbit Hole: A Time Capsule for Digital Texts, Images and Sounds”
Saturday, October 13, 4pm
EMPAC director Johannes Goebel considers that over thousands of years, humans have carved into stone, painted on canvas, printed words in books, and captured images on film in order to pass information down the chain of generations. With digital data storage, we have reached the point where what is precious to individuals, families, and institutions only holds up for a fraction of a generation without constant care and expensive maintenance. For the ease of digital storage comes the cost of rapid obsolescence and “bit rot,” an ironic turn for a media format that seemed to promise longevity, if not permanence.

MUSIC: “Lost Highway Suite”
Saturday, October 13, 8pm
$18; students/seniors: $13
Composer Olga Neuwirth’s “Lost Highway Suite” — derived from her opera of the same name, itself inspired by David Lynch’s cult classic film — evokes a mysterious tone and structure in a concert performance featuring immersive surround sound. Using a 64-speaker Ambisonic dome, built around the audience in the EMPAC Concert Hall, the suite distills Neuwirth’s 2003 opera to its instrumental core. Mixing live performance by the 35-member International Contemporary Ensemble with electronic sounds that swirl around the listening space, “Lost Highway Suite” creates a hallucinatory experience not unlike the warped plotline and surreal characters of the Lynch epic.

PERFORMANCE: “One Image is a Lie, the Other Unavailable”
Saturday, October 13, 9:30pm
$18; students/seniors $13
A newly commissioned ensemble performance for EMPAC’s 10YEARS celebration, “One Image is a Lie, the Other Unavailable” explores the interplay between the live and the pre-recorded. Moving fluidly between voice, movement and image, Moved by the Motion (featuring Wu Tsang and boychild with Patrick Belaga, Josh Johnson, Asma Maroof and Jeff Simmons) resists the structural hierarchies inherent within and between artistic disciplines and reflects the spirit of the continually shifting improvisational ensemble.

TALK: Cancellations
Thursday, October 25, 7pm
During her EMPAC production residency, artist Ghislaine Leung is experimenting with spatial audio for her upcoming exhibition at London’s Chisenhale Gallery. For this talk, Leung is joined by EMPAC’s lead audio engineer Todd Vos to discuss the technical and aesthetic considerations of “sound cancelation.” The method of “active sound cancellation” is common in the design of noise-cancelling headphones in order to eliminate unwanted environmental sounds. Leung is translating this technology into an architectural installation to experiment with its potential to produce an as yet unknown reality of sound.

TALK/WORKSHOP: Sonification: Making Data Sound
Thursday, November 1
Talk at 6pm; workshop at 7:30pm
Computers and music have been mingling their intimate secrets for over 50 years. These two worlds evolve in tandem and where they intersect they spawn practices that are entirely novel. One of these is “sonification,” turning raw data into sounds and sonic streams to discover new relationships within the data set by using a musical ear. A key advantage with sonification is sound’s ability to present trends and details simultaneously at multiple time scales, allowing us to absorb and integrate this info the same way we listen to music. Chris Chafe’s talk will present an in-depth look into the potential and application of sonification. The hands-on workshop will offer participants an opportunity to work with their own data sets and explore sonification as a new approach to their data.

DANCE: Alice Sheppard / Kinetic Light’s “Descent”
Thursday, November 15 & 16, 7:30pm
$18; students/seniors $13
“Descent” reimagines the story of Greek mythical figures Venus and Andromeda as an interracial love story with choreography that conjures the aesthetics of August Rodin’s sculpture Toilet of Venus and Andromeda. Performing in wheelchairs, dancers Alice Sheppard and Laurel Lawson traverse a stage built with hills and curves. Through emotional peaks and valleys, “Descent” explores themes of disability, race and beauty to reveal how mobility is fundamental to participation in civic life.

FILM/VIDEO/TALK: What we left unfinished
Thursday, November 29, 7pm
A work-in-progress screening of Mariam Ghani’s feature film, “What We Left Unfinished,” which is currently in post-production at EMPAC. Following the screening, Ghani and the film’s composer Qasim Naqvi will discuss the relationship between sound and image in the film. Based on the history of the Afghan Film Archive, the film reconstructs hidden and parallel narratives of both state propaganda and the experience of the Afghan Film Archive’s management and film directors during the period of Afghan Communism.

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