Upstate Performing Arts: EMPAC

I’m back from Germany. Especially (but not only) from a performing arts perspective, this pains me everyday. However, there is at least one bright on the otherwise bleak horizon for performing arts north of New York City– RPI’s new centre EMPAC. As the photos display, it’s a beautifully unlikely addition to Albany’s cityscape. If nothing else, it is a splendidly sleek example of world-class architecture.

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Despite such architectural grandeur, I must admit that exteriors don’t matter so much to me– I’m as dazzled by the dollar signs that were evidently poured into its construction, regardless of its artistic merit as a building, (which I also feel loathe to evaluate, a fact that leaves me suspicious and wary of lurking ideologies.) Berlin’s best theatre, HAU, is utterly unremarkable, but is the city’s most flexible, innovative performance space. In short, it’s what inside that matters, and given the unfortunate fate of other northern institutions, such as Mass Moca, their schedule will tell all.

And what’s inside at EMPAC? Well, of course, as befits its host institution, RPI, which is best known as an engineering school, it’s technological-based performance. Such work can be a bit trendy, but it undoubtedly exceeds the purview of most conventional theatres. Here’s a more immediate measure of quality: what is on this season, and even, this semester? Outside of experimental bands (Boredoms), and some odd experimental films, what are the main performing arts events en route?

Here’s my wish list:

1) Chunky Move, Glow: Yes, they’re on tour everywhere in the U.S. this fall, but I find their work, at least as seen on the Internet, extremely seductive. I showed this clip very briefly on the first day of my current class:

2) A performance installation by a Belgian new media group called Workspace Unlimited. I’ve never heard of them, (whatever that’s worth,) and this installation, They Watch involves Second Life, of which I’m always skeptical. (Second life is such a facile artistic/academic subject…) However, upon briefly examining their website, I was struck by the– here’s this word again– seductive quality of their immersive spaces.

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3) I am intrigued by immersive spaces. It’s not the fact of immersion that interests me, but rather the idea of enclosure, which I discuss in my response to Rudi Laerman’s ” ‘Dance in General’ or Choreographing the Public, Making Assemblages.”

4) Immersive space also appears to be the principal quality in German sound artists Daniel Teige and Volkmar Klein’s upcoming installation works here. Sound art is definitely on the horizon for me…

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