EMPAC Program Affected by President Trump’s Visa Directive

February 3, 2017

In the coming months, EMPAC had planned to hold two distinct events with Iranian artists: a concert and an artist residency including a student workshop. As a result of President Trump’s executive order preventing travel to the US from a number of countries, we will not be able to obtain the necessary artist visas for either event.

Iranian hand drummer Mohammad Reza Mortazavi was scheduled to perform in the EMPAC Concert Hall on March 3. He is considered one of the best Tombak players in the world, the Tombak being considered the principal percussion instrument of Persian music. At the age of 9, he won first prize in the prestigious Iranian Tombak competition, and continued this streak for another 6 years. He has developed over 30 new striking and finger techniques and revolutionized the traditional way of playing–something that has not always been appreciated by the old masters. Since moving to Berlin in 2001, he has performed across the world.

Also from Iran, Ali Moini is a France-based choreographer and performer who works with digital projection and interaction, as well as objects ranging from knives to magnets. The artist uses these media as extensions of his body to tell stories and question physical boundaries. For Rensselaer’s new Summer Arch program, Moini was scheduled to hold a two-day workshop for students focusing on movement and Kinect technology. EMPAC also planned to host him for a second residency and performance this coming fall. Moini has shown his work at New York Live Arts as a part of FIAF's annual fall arts festival, along with many festivals and venues including Festival d'Automne Paris, Montpellier Danse, Théâter National de Chaillot Paris, Théâter de la Cité international in Paris, and Villa Stuck in Munich.

Artists from all over the world have developed and presented new works at EMPAC. Over more than 10 years of programming, EMPAC has contributed to Rensselaer's objective of cultural and intellectual diversity and inclusiveness as a major part of the university's educational goals. EMPAC's events, lectures, residencies, and workshops have opened the aperture for a nexus of technological, aesthetic, cultural, and political perspectives and positions on our campus. We will continue to pursue this programming, which has resulted in high student and community engagement.

As the current political situation continues to unfold, we will plan a creative alternative to the scheduled concert on March 3 and a new approach for the summer workshop.