Image
persons on a stage with robotic appliances attached

Hammers, Paintbrushes, Robots, and Glitter

Embracing Duality in Movement Design and Creating New Tools for Expression with Artist-Engineer Teams

Which tools are more useful: hammers or paintbrushes? Robots or glitter? This talk will share a notion of duality between function and expression that challenges the traditional answers to these questions, highlighting how expression supports function (and vice versa) and pointing to ways that traditional value models can create counter-productive imbalance, especially in movement design. Collaborations between artists and engineers, such as the work of Leonardo Da Vinci, the Bauhaus School, and Apple, often reach legendary status, seeming impossible or impractical to emulate. However, the talk will offer solutions to the real, pragmatic challenges of working across these disciplines, providing examples of work by artist-engineer teams that have contributed to research in robotics: designing styles of artificial gait for bipeds; translating movement between natural and artificial bodies; and building installations that give the public creative experiences with robots. Thus, the talk motivates constructing balance between art and engineering through collaborative work — work that reveals the practical value of play, the utility of dance, the urgent importance of glitter.

This event is a co-production with Rensselaer's departments of Electrical, Computer, and Systems Engineering and Industrial and Systems Engineering. 

Amy LaViers is the director of the Robotics, Automation, and Dance (RAD) Lab at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Her choreography and machine designs have been presented internationally, including at Merce Cunningham’s studios, the Ferst Center for the Arts, Joe’s Pub at the Public Theater, and the Performance Arcade. Her writing has appeared in Nature, American Scientist, and Aeon. She is a co-founder of three startup companies: AE Machines, an award-winning automation software company; caali, an embodied media company; and, most recently, Soma Measure, a wearable device company. Her teaching has been recognized on the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC)’s list of Teachers Ranked as Excellent by Their Students, with Outstanding distinction. She is a recipient of DARPA’s Young Faculty Award (YFA) and Director’s Fellowship (2015-2018). She has held positions as an assistant professor in mechanical science and engineering at UIUC and in systems and information engineering at the University of Virginia (UVA). She completed a two-year Certification in Movement Analysis (CMA) in 2016 at the Laban/Bartenieff Institute of Movement Studies (LIMS) and her Ph.D. in electrical and computer engineering at Georgia Tech in 2013. Her research began with her undergraduate thesis at Princeton University where she earned a certificate in dance and a degree in mechanical and aerospace engineering in 2009. From 2002-2005 she toured internationally as a member of the Tennessee Children’s Dance Ensemble (TCDE).

Main Image: "Babyface" by Kate Ladenheim x The RAD Lab. Photo by Colin Edson.

Image
a dancer with a microphone on a black stage in a circle of microphone wires and turntables

Graveyards and Gardens

Vanessa Goodman & Caroline Shaw

With this work, Vanessa Goodman and Caroline Shaw offer many pleasures, but two are of special note. Firstly, there is the chance to see a visual and sonic album emerge before one’s eyes: what these two artists make will live on, and this live-streamed genesis is, among other things, a powerful display of the creative process.

The second pleasure is a unique, revelatory melding of movement and sound. In Graveyards and Gardens, what is heard and what is seen do not merely complement each other, as they might in a more conventional dance performance; instead, they are fused in such a way as to make their effects seem indistinguishable.

The performance takes place among 400 feet of orange sound cables and an arrangement of plants—nature and technology being another synthesis the artists explore. Things begin with a long passage featuring an array of sounds—some come from tape decks, some from a record player, some from old Edison wax recordings.

This auditory wash slowly diminishes until only one part is left; the energy then shifts, and dance mixes with music until they become one. Entrancing, enveloping, and ultimately liberating in its innovations, this is experiential art at its best.

Main Image: Graveyards and Gardens, 2020. Photo: David Cooper.

Media

Graveyards and Gardens Trailer

Image
a flat lattice of wood in shadow

Annie Saunders & Wild Up

In conversation with Ashley Ferro-Murray on their upcoming new work, Rest

Theater maker Annie Saunders collaborates with theater/pop/new music band Wild Up and composer Emma O’Halloran on a new work called Rest. The work engages an audience with simple guidance on how to interact with each other and the performance space. Overall, Rest interrogates sensory overwhelm, sensory deprivation, hallucinations and the nature of consciousness. The audience experience is inspired by the idea that our perception of reality depends on agreements and disagreements with other people. 

Light and sound are central to the staging of Rest. These elements help to sculpt a performance environment that includes moments of near-silence, music, and field recordings from a diverse set of conversations. Materials include conversations with consciousness experts, people sharing their early sense memories, and reflections on our relationships to our smartphones. The work provides a visceral opportunity to feel and consider what ‘rest’ means to us in the modern world.

The artistic collaborators are in remote residence this fall to develop an EMPAC-commissioned online iteration of Rest. The commission will provide the artists an opportunity to explore their archive of material. The outcome is unknown, but the process of building and experiencing this online work will provide a look inside immersive, multidisciplinary theatrical practices.

The commissioned work will premiere in January 2021. Join us on December 3, 2020 for a conversations with the artists who will discuss the making of the work. 

Listen now on Anchor.fm, Breaker, Apple Podcasts, Pocket Casts, RadioPublic, Spotify, Castbox, and Tunein.

Main Image: Courtesy the Artist. Photo: Annie Saunders

Media
Image
a woman talking to a man in front of a blackboard

Rest

Annie Saunders & Wild Up

Theater maker Annie Saunders collaborates with theater/pop/new music band Wild Up and composer Emma O’Halloran on a new work called Rest. The work engages an audience with simple guidance on how to interact with each other and the performance space. Overall, Rest interrogates sensory overwhelm, sensory deprivation, hallucinations and the nature of consciousness. The audience experience is inspired by the idea that our perception of reality depends on agreements and disagreements with other people. 

Light and sound are central to the staging of Rest. These elements help to sculpt a performance environment that includes moments of near-silence, music, and field recordings from a diverse set of conversations. Materials include conversations with consciousness experts, people sharing their early sense memories, and reflections on our relationships to our smartphones. The work provides a visceral opportunity to feel and consider what ‘rest’ means to us in the modern world.

The artistic collaborators are in residence this fall to develop an EMPAC-commissioned online iteration of Rest. The commission will provide the artists an opportunity to explore their archive of material. The outcome is unknown, but the process of building and experiencing this online work will provide a look inside immersive, multidisciplinary theatrical practices.

--

All current EMPAC residencies are being hosted remotely with support from EMPAC curatorial, administrative, and production staff and resources. While no artists are on site in Troy, our staff is continuing to collaborate with artists toward the development of new works.

Main Image: Courtesy the artist. Photo: Johnathon Potter.

Image
A black man in bright dancer tights strutting in a New York City park

Desire Lines

Rashaun Mitchell & Silas Riener

A path emerges when the same section of land is trodden repeatedly; where the grass has been trampled or the dirt stomped. These paths are called desire lines, which are alternate, unofficial routes or trails in nature and landscape architecture. Choreographers Rashaun Mitchell and Silas Riener apply this concept to a dance improvisation practice that maps individual and collective action. The resultant social and movement interactions between dancing individuals produce a choreographic world that is built of its own desires. The project, titled Desire Lines, is an extended work that the artists have developed over years. They have staged the practice for audiences in a theater, a gallery, and outdoors. With each iteration, shifting models for coexistence, assimilation, and rebellion emerge.

Rashaun Mitchell & Silas Riener have been working together since 2010 when they worked in the Merce Cunningham Dance Company. Since then the duo has developed numerous small and large scale works that have been produced worldwide. The artists were last at EMPAC with Charles Atlas for Tesseract curated by Vic Brooks in 2016.

--

All current EMPAC residencies are being hosted remotely with support from EMPAC curatorial, administrative, and production staff and resources. While no artists are on site in Troy, our staff is continuing to collaborate with artists toward the development of new works.

 

Main Image: Desire Lines in Madison Square Park, 2017. Photo: Paula Lobo.

Image
a young black womans head with paper eyes tapes over her eyes

3 RITES: Life

DELIRIOUS DANCES/Edisa Weeks

DELIRIOUS Dances/Edisa Weeks will meet with the EMPAC production team to explore set and lighting design for 3 RITES: Life, which is part of a trilogy about life, liberty, and happiness.

Weeks is a multi-disciplinary artist whose work integrates theater, dance, food, discussions, music, and visual illustrations to create interactive performance experiences.

With her collaborators, You-Shin Chin (set), Tim Cryan (lighting), Sarita Fellows (costume), and Marýa Wethers (Producer). Weeks considers different proposals for a tour-able and environmentally sustainable set. The design will help to communicate the enormity of plastic waste in our contemporary culture; and how the production and consumption of plastics are impacting life, especially in communities of color. 

--

All current EMPAC residencies are being hosted remotely with support from EMPAC curatorial, administrative, and production staff and resources. While no artists are on site in Troy, our staff is continuing to collaborate with artists toward the development of new works.

Main Image: Work in progress showing. Photo: Rebecca Fitton.

Media
Image
a woman with paper eyes stick her tounge out with dancers in the background

Courtesy the artist. Photo: Edisa Weeks

Image
Jaamil Olawale Kosoko as an infant

Chameleon (The Living Installments)

FAQS and Instructions for Participation

Choose one of the following options:

OPTION ONE: WATCH THE LIVESTREAM

  • Just head over to the Chameleon event and find the on the livestream at the beginning of the page starting at 11AM.
  • You do not need to join in the Discord conversation, it will be streamed along with all the other events.

OPTION TWO: INTERACT ON DISCORD

  • What is DISCORD?
  • Discord is an application we will be using that has both text and voice chat capabilities to create a more interactive experience. If you are familiar and comfortable with apps such as reddit or teamspeak, then you'll be right at home in Discord.
  • I want to participate with the Discord app, can i sign up now?
  • YES! You can sign up anytime. In fact, we will be available to help you learn how to use the application on April 21 at 3PM EDT.
  • How do i get started with Discord?
  • Step One: If you haven't used Discord before, create an account.
  • Step Two: You can then install the app on your device and login. We invite you to do this set up now so that you are ready to roll on April 22.
  • Step Three: Have your account created, downloaded the app, verified your email, and logged in? Then just come find us by tapping the button (and don't forget to come visit us there on April 21 to test!).
  • DISCORD SIGNUP DEADLINE: WEDNESDAY, 4/22 9AM EST

FAQS

  • Do I have to create my own server?
  • You do not have a create your own server to join Chameleon. If prompted to do so you can press “skip” and move forward in creating your login.
  • I can't hear anything and nobody can hear me!
  • If for some reason you are unable to talk or hear anyone you might want to try a different web browser or a different device.
  • What about?!?!
  • If you encounter individual obstacles sometimes a quick google search will provide troubleshooting options, or you can explore the Discord help links below.
  • I'm Lost
  • It's OK. Join us for the livestream!

DISCORD HOW TO VIDEOS

Main Image: Jaamil Olawale Kosoko, Personal Archive, 1983. Courtesy the artist.

Image
A shirtless african-american hangs upside down with a bejeweled mask on, arms crossed.

Jaamil Olawale Kosoko during one of their many residencies at EMPAC working on the Chameleon projectCourtesy the artist.

Photo: Sara Griffith/EMPAC. 

Chameleon (The Living Installments)

Jaamil Olawale Kosoko

A co-production by The Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC) and New York Live Arts.

Jaamil Olawale Kosoko and a team of collaborators including Everett-Asis Saunders, Nile Harris, and mayfield brooks present a series of remote events on Earth Day, April 22, 2020.

Chameleon is a multimedia live artwork that explores the ever-evolving ways in which digitality intersects the fugitive realities and shapeshifting demands that Black queer people employ to survive and heal within the contemporary moment. Kosoko and collaborators seek to locate space for healing both online and off. They will host a series of events that aim to hold grief while also centering themes of liveness, beauty, humor, care, and joy.

This one day of public engagement will be a series of live streamed remote events on YouTube Live. Audience members interested in an interactive experience can join Kosoko and collaborators in Discord  , which will offer a shared online space for performers and audience to collectively be together.

Main Image: Jaamil Olawale Kosoko during one of their many residencies at EMPAC working on the Chameleon project. Courtesy the artist. Photo: Sara Griffith/EMPAC. 

Image
A man draped in bronze fabric

Chameleon: A Biomythography

Jaamil Olawale Kosoko

This event has been postponed to follow University policies that have been put in place in light of new developments related to the coronavirus.

Artist Jaamil Olawale Kosoko is at EMPAC for the world premiere of Chameleon: A Biomythography. The result of four technical development residencies at EMPAC, Chameleon is a multimedia live artwork that explores: “the fugitive realities and shapeshifting demands of surviving at the intersection of Blackness, gender fluidity, and queerness in contemporary America.” In this new work, the stage is saturated with melanated tones and pigments—intensified by Africanist texts and iconography from Luther Vandross to Audre Lorde’s Zami: A New Spelling of My Name, where the term “biomythography” originates.

The stage becomes a site of ecstatic spiritual fantasy in which grief is punctuated by moments of beauty, care, and pleasure. The setting features live and recorded performers who embody, film, document, and re-embody sources of curated archival imagery. Drawing from an ongoing fascination with Black diasporic spiritual practice and by what the artist calls “erotic digitality,” Kosoko uses the apparatus of the theater to conjure an environment of disarming emotional complexity.

Main Image: Jaamil Olawale Kosoko, Chameleon: A Biomythography. Photo: Michael Valiquette/EMPAC.

Image
Michelle Ellsworth

Michelle Ellsworth

Work in Progress

Choreographer Michelle Ellsworth has a prolific body of work that skirts the disciplinary perimeters of dance, theater, film, carpentry, web design, and more. She has a knack for mixing humor and candor to perform elaborate systems with physical materials like wood and gears. Her work cleaves—paradoxically meaning both “divide” and “adhere”—the body and technology.

Ellsworth and her technicians will work with the EMPAC team in an exploratory collaboration. Residencies immerse us in the creative process of artists we trust and whose work we cherish as they work with our team to discover new ideas and approaches.

As a part of this residency and to introduce the artist to EMPAC audiences, Ellsworth will be in conversation with curator Ashley Ferro-Murray at a work-in-progress event to contextualize her body of work and illuminate her creative process in developing the new project.

Work-in-progress events offer a window into the research, development, and production of new works by artists in residence at EMPAC. These free events open up a dialogue between our audiences, artists, and EMPAC staff.

Refreshments will be served.

Main Image: Michelle Ellsworth. Photo: Max Bernstein.