chalk figures in a VR environment

Chalkroom

Laurie Anderson

Laurie Anderson with artistic and technical collaborators Jason Stern, Amy Koshbin, Jim Cass, and Bob Currie, were in residence recreating the virtual reality work Chalkroom into a human-scale video installation for the Hirshhorn Museum, Washington, DC.

Main Image: A rendering inside the VR experience of Chalkroom. Rendering courtesy Laurie Anderson. 

an film image projected in the theater.

What We Left Unfinished

Miriam Ghani

Spring 2019

Mariam Ghani is in residence to finish the post-production for her new film What We Left Unfinished, based on the history of the Afghan Film Archive—the state film institute based in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Fall 2019

Artist Mariam Ghani is in residence to finish the post-production audio and color mastering on her feature film What We Left Unfinished. She will be joined by composer Qasim Naqvi (Dawn of Midi), who has scored and recorded soundtracks for Ghani’s moving image works for over a decade. The two will screen and discuss the new film on Nov. 29.

Fall 2019

Mariam Ghani is in residence to work on the post-production audio and video for her new film What We Left Unfinished, based on the history of the Afghan Film Archive—the state film institute based in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Main Image: Miriam Ghani What we Left Unifinished, Production still, 2018. Courtesy the artist. Photo: Mick Bello/EMPAC.

Only Breath, Words

Anna Craycroft

Spring 2020

Anna Craycroft is in residence to continue production on her new theatrical work Only Breath, Words, which plays with the identification and manipulation of the source of a speaker’s voice. From harnessing the sonic potential of the air-handling system and the acoustic character of room to sculpting light sources and projection, the performance activates every part of the theater’s architecture.

Fall 2018 — Fall 2019

Catskills-based artist Anna Craycroft will be in residence in the Theater to begin work on Only Breath, Words, a theatrical event that takes the embodied language characteristic of now-outmoded oral traditions as its starting point. She will be developing theatrical lighting rigs to project words and phrases onto the stage, and collaborating with EMPAC’s production team to develop a site-specific sonic work that utilizes the Theater’s plenum and air handling system.

a muslim woman singing into a microphone.

Dicen que cabalga sobre un tigre (They say she rides a tiger)

Beatriz Santiago Muñoz

Dicen que cabalga sobre un tigre entwines the linguistic structure of Monique Wittig’s iconic 1969 feminist novel Les Guérillères with the material and conceptual ground of the Caribbean. It visualizes the ecstatic potential of a near-future, non-binary world order through the struggles of its protagonists to imagine a new sort of sensorium—an autonomous language of post-colonial and post-patriarchal society. 

Animated by a shifting cast of collaborators from music, performance, art, and poetry, Dicen que cabalga sobre un tigre is being produced in Puerto Rico and at EMPAC, where the center’s theatrical infrastructure forms the backdrop to an iterative and recursive moving image work. 

Main Image: Production still from Dicen que cabalga sobre un tigre by Beatriz Santiago Muñoz. Photo: Mick Bello/EMPAC

a woman on a black stage facing forward with her arm raised in forward motion

Corin Sworn

Work in Progress

Working with domestic surveillance systems that claim to “tell a person from a thing,” artist Corin Sworn is in residence at EMPAC with two dancers to research the algorithms that purport to recognize “suspect” movement and gesture.

Using movement in order to test the “black-box” of the surveillance camera system, Sworn will choreograph a performance-installation that deliberately glitches the technology to reveal the system design. Through experimentation with frame-rate, speed, lighting conditions, and gesture, the artist utilizes the language of rehearsal to produce an aesthetic encounter that frames how these apparatus codify what is deemed neutral or natural.

Canadian artist Corin Sworn is based in Glasgow, Scotland, and works predominantly with moving image and performance.

Main Image: Courtesy Colin Sworn.

mayan figures on cement blocks

Clarissa Tossin

Work in Progress

This work-in-progress presentation will introduce artist Clarissa Tossin’s research into pre-Columbian wind instruments. Tossin is in residence with Mexican flautist Alethia Lozano Birrueta and Brazilian composer Michelle Agnes Magalhaes to develop the score for a new EMPAC-commissioned moving image artwork. Working with 3D-printed versions of these traditional instruments, which are held in US and Guatemalan museum collections, Tossin will discuss and demonstrate the prototypes she has produced in collaboration with anthropologist/archaeologist Jared Katz, the Mayer Post-Doctoral Curatorial Fellow for Pre-Columbian Art at the Denver Museum.

Tossin’s Chu Mayaa (2018) was screened at EMPAC as part of the Spring 2019 season. In the artist’s first moving image work to explore the appropriation of Mayan motifs in the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright, she collaborated with choreographer and dancer Crystal Sepúlveda, who moves in and out of the shadows cast by the pastiche of indigenous motifs at the architect’s famous Hollyhock House.

This new work not only explores the sonic potential of traditional Mayan forms to resituate Mayan Revival buildings in the context of Pre-Columbian Mesoamerican architectural lineage, but also reveals the ways in which this lineage is continuous in the cultural hybridity of contemporary Mayan communities in Los Angeles.

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.

Main Image: Clarissa Tossin, 21st Century Wisdom: Healing Frank Lloyd Wright's Textile Block Houses, At 18th Street Art Center. Photo: Brica Wilcox.

a round object on a table

Short Shadows: Thought Figures

Carissa Rodriguez / Marcos Serafim, Zé Kielwagen and Steevens Simeon / Calum Walter

The title of this screening is named after German thinker Walter Benjamin’s “thought-figures,” as he described the format of his 1929 essay collections Short Shadows. Like Benjamin’s thought-figures, each film entangles political narrative, aesthetic form, and technical subjectivity in an attempt to capture the essence of a place and time. In Gede Vizyon, a Haitian goat circles a labyrinthine Port-au-Prince graveyard, and a wayward drone strays from its intended path in Meridian, while a series of sculptures are lovingly captured by a ghostly lens in The Maid.

Calum Walter’s Meridian follows the last unit in a fleet of autonomous machines sent to deliver an emergency vaccine. The film shows footage transmitted by the machine before its disappearance, tracing a path that seems to stray further and further from its objective. Meridian is inspired by a real event that occurred in Washington, D.C. on July 17, 2017, where an automated security robot from the company Knightscope was found floating in a fountain at the building it patrolled. It had plunged into the water while on a routine patrol, spurring speculation about whether the machine had chosen to end its life or if this was just a glitch in an otherwise reliable new technology.

Titled after novelist Robert Walser’s short story that follows a maid as she searches for her lost charge, then dies of joy upon finding her, Carissa Rodriguez’s The Maid captures the places that house American artist Sherrie Levine’s Newborn sculptures. From storage crates to the glassy tables of art collectors, and from plinths to auction rooms, the intimate portraits of the artworks lay bare the architectural, social, and financial infrastructure that has taken care of them since they left the artist’s studio. Made from either crystal or sandblasted glass, they were each cast from the mold of Constantin Brancusi’s canonical egg-shaped sculpture Le Nouveau-Né, which was produced in 1915 in marble and subsequently in bronze. In producing these new versions, the artist not only takes authorship of an artwork from a celebrated male Modernist, but also imposes a shared parental position. Rodriguez’s film traces yet another transition by capturing the sculptures in their new homes.

The camera in Marcos Serafim, Zé Kielwagen, and Steevens Simeon’s Gede Vizyon is guided at riotous pace by one of the inhabitants of the Grand Cemetery in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Gede Vizyon is part documentary portrait and part magical realism. It entwines local folklore and Haitian Vodou culture with a portrait of a place whose  architecture  bears  traces of both the living and the dead. The “goat’s-eye” view carries us on a low, jagged path through a visual history of the site, charting the damage wrought by the 2010 earthquake, and the people, animals, plants, and traditions that continue to inhabit it. Gede Vizyon is narrated through poetry written in response to the images by Ougan (priest) Jean-Daniel Lafontant, his words entangled into a soundtrack of religious songs performed by Mambo (priestess) Jacqueline.

Please join us following the screening for a Q&A with curator Vic Brooks, filmmaker Marcos Serafim, and filmmaker / Rensselaer Arts faculty Zé (Jefferson) Kielwagen

Program

  • The Maid (2018)
  • Carissa Rodriguez
  • Meridian (2019)
  • Calum Walter
  • Gede Vizyon (2018)
  • Marcos Serafim, Zé Kielwagen, and Steevens Simeon

Main Image: Carissa Rodriguez, The Maid (2018). Courtesy the artist.

Media
a black abstract image

Meridian (2019). Courtesy Calum Walter.

a cemetery wall in Port-au-Prince.

Gede Vizyon (2018). Courtesy Marcos Joao Serafim, Zé Kielwagen, and Steevens Simeon.

a group of people in a wash of red light

Short Shadows: Second Time Around

Dora Garcia, Basir Mahmood, Deimantas Narkevičius

The final Short Shadows program of the season presents three moving-image works with narrative structures that orbit around performances from the past in order to make hidden histories visible. 

Deimantas Narkevičius’s Stains and Scratches focuses on found footage of an underground performance of Jesus Christ Superstar in Vilnius, Lithuania during the 1970s. The show was performed by students at the Vilnius Academy of Art from a score re-written by ear from an unsanctioned double LP. Narkevičius further dislocates the documentation by layering and doubling the film onto a scratched black celluloid background, the soft-montage composition highlighted and rendered sculptural in Stereoscopic 3D. 

One of a series of films produced during Basir Mahmood’s research into “Lollywood” (Pakistan’s center for cinema production in Lahore) history, the script for all voices are mine was derived from recollections of actors, filmmakers, and writers. The film is structured around reenactments of their scenes from previous films and is performed without dialogue, a dramaturgical approach that produces a film that is at once unfamiliar and recognizable. This collage technique produces an uncanny sense of a film that we have all seen, albeit one that is rehearsed only in memory. 

Spanish artist Dora Garcia’s first feature, Segunda Vez (Second Time Around), pivots around avant-garde theorist Oscar Masotta’s ideas concerning psychoanalysis, politics, and art in 1960s Buenos Aires. Structured by a series of interconnected re-enactments, re-stagings, and social experiments, the film shifts between documentary-style interpretations of past “happenings” and the fictional psychodrama of novelist Julio Cortázar. Segunda Vez weaves a complex narrative within the climate of surveillance and disappearances in Argentina, producing an acute sense of paranoia for what might happen the second time around. 

Whether anchored in real or fictional scenarios, each artwork presented in the Short Shadows series stretches beyond a singular moment or place to foreground the political importance of unexpected historical interconnections. Mostly produced within the last decade, the artists’ films, videos, poetry, and performances presented here shine a light on cultural and historical events that may otherwise remain in shadow. 

Program

  • all voices are mine (2018)
  • Basir Mahmood
  • 4K digital video
  • Courtesy the artist
  • Stains and Scratches (2018)
  • Deimantas Narkevičius
  • 3D digital video
  • Courtesy the artist and LUX
  • Segunda Vez (2018)
  • Dora Garcia
  • 4K digital video
  • Courtesy the artist and August Orts

Main Image: Dora Garcia, Segunda Vez (2018)Courtesy the artist and Auguste Orts.

Media
a man laying in prostrate on a carpet

Basir Mahmood, all voices are mine (2018). Courtesy the artist.

a black image with a small film still in the upper right corner

Deimantas Narkevičius, Stains and Scratches (2018), Courtesy the artist and LUX, London.

two screens with projections in a subterranean room

James Richards

In Conversation

Artist James Richards presents a sound installation and video works as part of a free event initializing his new EMPAC commission scheduled to premiere here in Spring 2020. Curator Vic Brooks will lead a conversation with Richards exploring his past works and approach to working in different curatorial contexts. The evening will include Migratory Motor Complex, a multichannel sound work exhibited at the 2017 Venice Biennale.

Richards’ new commission takes as its starting point an essay that accompanied his exhibition Music for the Gift for the Welsh Pavilion at the 2017 Venice Biennale. Produced in collaboration with Chris McCormack, the text moves back and forth between the first and third person and the experiential and the scientific, shifting registers to evoke the experience of the voice breaking during adolescence. Richards’ approaches the development of his artworks with a period of research and experimentation in order to grapple with material languages of image and sound production. At EMPAC, he will start by working with theatrical lighting in order to explore its affective, environmental, and performative potential in practice. 

James Richards’ artworks reveal connections between people, practices, and private, hidden, or suppressed histories through archival and online research. Working with a vast array of media materials, often generated during long-term exchanges with other artists, such as American media artist Steve Reinke and filmmaker Leslie Thornton, Richards produces sound and video installations that invite the audience into an intimate encounter with private worlds and queer communities. 

Program

  • I am (for the birds) text by Ian white.
  • Live reading
  • Migratory Motor Complex (2017)
  • Six-channel audio
  • Rosebud (2013)
  • Digital video
  • Not blacking out, Just turning the lights off (2011)
  • Digital video
  • Radio at night (2015)
  • Digital video
  • All works courtesy the artist

Main Image: James Richards, Installation view of Phrasing (2018). Courtesy the artist.

a building with wet roof in front

Short Shadows: Bahar Behbahani and Jon Wang

This event brings together the work of New York-based artists and filmmakers Bahar Behbahani and Jon Wang as part of Short Shadows, an ongoing moving image series at EMPAC curated by Vic Brooks. The evening will engage themes and processes of displacement and longing, as well as narratives of transformation that run through Behbahani and Wang’s work.

Bahar Behbahani's We Were Missing A Present is a meditative study on the social and topographical transformations of the cultural landscape. By exploring the site of the garden as a place of contest, Behbahani seeks an alternative dynamic between power and control. United by her research-based practice, the various components of this project including moving image, brush strokes, body movement, sound, text, and water are utilized by Behbahani to provoke spatial memory while observing the inherent complexities of material resources. We Were Missing A Present re-imagines the historical structure of landscape, botany, migration, and the processes of colonization. Behbahani expresses sincere gratitude to Imani's family for facilitating the garden visits in Shiraz, Iran, and dedicates We Were Missing a Present to the people of Shiraz in the wake of recent flooding this week.

New York-based Iranian artist Bahar Behbahani’s work addresses her long-term conceptual dialogues with memory and loss. Through painting, video, and participatory performance, she revisits Iran’s psychogeographic landscapes. The Persian garden, a contested space marked by colonialism and seductive beauty, is a reoccurring site for reflection and recovery.

John Wang's From Its Mouth Came a River of High-End Residential Appliances is comprised of drone footage of Hong Kong’s dragon gates, a series of gaps in modern high-rise buildings constructed to allow mythological dragons to fly from the mountains to the sea. Originally shot for a documentary, the work has since taken on a life of its own. In its different stagings, the footage has masqueraded as a personal screensaver (MUBI), wallpaper in a Chinatown motel (Images Festival), and as a location for a live soap opera taping (Triple Canopy). At EMPAC, a new iteration of Wang’s project will dematerialize into a wall of fog, finally revealing its true form as weather. As they describe, “fog is defined by a lack of visibility, but its opacity forms an image of its own.” The footage was originally developed with the support of Triple Canopy & Charlotte Feng Ford.

Jon Wang generates films, sculptures, and performances that question notions of representation and desire. Wang’s treatments of pace—at times drawing on techniques of voice-over narration, tenants of feng shui, and the day-to-day activities of silk worms—gesture towards the ways in which beings and their surroundings are in states of perpetual transition. In this sense, pace, as a techno-sensual material, both grounds and disrupts their atmospheric videos and installations.

Whether anchored in real or fictional scenarios, each artwork presented in the Short Shadows series stretches beyond a singular moment or place to foreground the political importance of unexpected historical interconnections. Mostly produced within the last decade, the artists’ films, videos, poetry, and performances presented here shine a light on cultural and historical events that may otherwise remain in shadow.

Program

  • We Were Missing A Present (2019)
  • By Bahar Behbahani
  • Sound: Maciek Schejbal
  • Text: Ghazal Mosadeq
  • From its Mouth Came a River of High-End Residential Appliances (2018)
  • Written & Directed by Jon Wang
  • Aerial Assistant: Hercules Lau
  • Sound: Alex Wang, Yllis Wang, and Aaron Sanchez

Main Image: Jon Wang, From it's Mouth Came a River of High-end Residential Appliances (2018). Courtesy the artist.

Media
an abstract image

Bahar Behbahani, We Were Missing A Present, Performance Installation, 2019. Photo: Courtesy the artist.