Johannes Goebel imparts his vision of EMPAC at the NYC launch

November 17, 2003

NEW YORK, N.Y. - I would like to relay to you that EMPAC is not only a vision, a building or a program - but that EMPAC is a building and a program. The integration of the future program with the current design and building process is the greatest challenge.

The vision of EMPAC is unique. There is no other university, such as Rensselaer, that combines innovation and success in the areas of research, science and education with an equally sophisticated and demanding cultural environment. Viewed from the world of the arts, the scope of the building and the program is unheard of on such scale - - a reason for joy. From the view of the world of science and engineering, the question of "why" may be raised. Why is the oldest engineering institute in the United States initializing a project that seems to be outside of its core program? There is a seemingly simple answer to this: The sum is to be more than the individual parts. The place where this non-mathematical addition is realized is where the parts can interact in unexpected, unpredictable but well-supported ways. This is the territory of EMPAC, the territory where people who are experts and motivated in areas spread wide apart in the spectrum of human activities can convene, exchange, collaborate, watch, listen, think, allow themselves be challenged and create. This experiment is based on a trust that we as humans can go outside the box each one of us creates around ourselves. A trust that we can change. Moreover, that such a change does influence all aspects of our lives, including our research, our artistic creation or our political perspective. This trust is what we call "culture" - this is what EMPAC is based upon.

EMPAC will be a performing arts center, set aside from traditional performing arts centers by the prefix "experimental media". Let's assume for a moment we know what "experimental media" means. The EMPAC building and its venues - ranging from a concert hall to a theater to an array of large and small studios - indicates this will be equally as well endowed for the traditional program of a performing arts center as for the performance and production of contemporary and experimental works. However, EMPAC will not guide its program from the traditional performing arts in the direction of the artistic practices of today. The points of departure are the artistic expeditions of today. EMPAC will focus on the production and evocation in the here and now, which then may attract the past as well as what is to come. EMPAC will not be fixated on more of the same - EMPAC will be focusing on that which differs. EMPAC will be a platform for "the other" - "the other" for our intellect, "the other" for our view of the world, "the other" through our experience of works of art,

One of the major parts of EMPAC's program will be the artist-in-residence program. This program will be open for individual artists as well as for dance companies, theater groups, musical ensembles or other kind of collaborative groups. The duration of such residencies will depend on the individual projects. The stays will not be for just putting a "finishing touch" on a project. The residencies may last for an extended time, several weeks and months. They may be structured in several stays spread over a year or two. We hope to support projects from their very beginning all the way to the end. Imagine a dance group wanting to integrate complex visuals with conventional lighting and interactive technology. EMPAC could provide a professional stage with fly tower or a black box environment, supported by professional video and audio studios and highly integrated technology. Faculty, staff or students of Rensselaer may be an integral part of the project group to develop content, technology and performance in an intertwined process.

Individual artists may come for several months and work in a studio of their own equipped specifically for their project. There will be four of such studios in the building. They can move to the larger venues for parts of the project or for its final production phase. Imagine a composer being able to develop a piece for instruments, digital sound processing and film in one of these smaller studios and then being able to move to the concert hall to work with musicians in a full-scale environment.

Yet, another collaboration may develop a work, which only exists in the virtual world of computer networks.

Because of its unique configuration of venues and technology, EMPAC will be able to co-produce with other arts institutions and festivals and offer extended stays for the development of new works, which then can go on tour. Being part of a research university will allow collaborating with a scientific and technological expertise, which is usually not within reach for new artistic works.

In addition, EMPAC will facilitate prime spaces for research, which is focused on our senses, on seeing, hearing and moving in space. "Immersive environments" is one of the buzzwords in the development of media technology. For instance, scientists have a high demand for complex visualization technologies, acousticians research, analyze and synthesize auditory cues and spaces, and engineers develop movement-capturing systems. All of these areas will find their perfect arena at EMPAC - because the point of departure and the goal of all spaces at EMPAC is seeing, hearing and moving. Our human senses define the criteria for EMPAC as a building. The building and technology are serving our senses, and thus support the creation of sense. This is where the building and program are one.

Sound comes out of silence, light needs darkness and movement explores space. At EMPAC, all venues and productions spaces are built to the same basic criteria. The visualization studio is designed to be as quiet and acoustically superb as the concert hall, the audio recording studio can be as bright as the theater; a dance floor can cover any stage or studio. Ever noisier computer equipment will disappear in a machine room, which is associated with each space. Many video projectors may be positioned anywhere in a studio, but they are silenced by encasing their noisy fans. And, most certainly you get all the networked connectivity you desire, all surround loudspeakers and 360-degree image projections or broadband connections you may need. And a music-stand for the cellist...

The only way such a goal can be reached is by paying attention to the smallest detail in the planning, building and programming process. I invite you to bring your notes from today to the opening festival in 2007. And then, we should have an interesting discussion.

About Rensselaer

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, founded in 1824, is the nation's oldest technological university. The school offers degrees in engineering, the sciences, information technology, architecture, management, and the humanities and social sciences. Institute programs serve undergraduates, graduate students, and working professionals around the world. Rensselaer faculty are known for pre-eminence in research conducted in a wide range of research centers that are characterized by strong industry partnerships. The Institute is especially well known for its success in the transfer of technology from the laboratory to the marketplace so that new discoveries and inventions benefit human life, protect the environment, and strengthen economic development.