a steel volcano sits in the middle of the concert hall on a platform

Shifting Center

November 3–18, 2023
Tues–Sat 11AM–5PM
Sat November 18, 11AM–6PM

November 18, 2023 at 6PM

Standing on a beach, facing the fierce south seas of Yogyakarta, Julian Abraham “Togar” captures the sound of a rock and films himself in the process. His microphone picks up the wind and the waves as they reflect their rhythm off the stony surface. As the recording is played back in Rocker’s Gonna Rock (2021), a question emerges: can we tune in to the rock or do we only hear the sea?

Drawing its title from a term in the field of acoustics that describes the perceived dislocation in the position of a sound source, Shifting Center stages processes of listening to infrasonic landscapes, acoustic architectures, and unsounded instruments across multiple scales of time. The exhibition poses sculpture as time-based and presents it with moving-image and spatial-audio installations across the concert hall, proscenium stage, and studios at EMPAC.

Research conducted alongside the exhibition by its curators Vic Brooks and Nida Ghouse considers two opposing tendencies: dislocation, or how objects, artworks, and cultural belongings are taken from their context and often silenced through museological mechanisms of preservation and display; and location, or how architectural acoustics impact exhibitions as resonant spaces of situated listening. Today, despite attempts to design “flexible” galleries for sound-making artworks as well as for performative or communal projects, contemporary exhibition spaces continue to inherit their sonic inadequacies from the visual priorities of the colonial museum.

Shifting Center engages the unique technical capacities of EMPAC, including its distinct acoustic properties, to address and destabilize some of these conventions. The exhibition plays with theatrical infrastructure and object-based sound technologies, such as higher-order ambisonics and wave field synthesis, to propose alternate techniques and practices to locate and listen to contemporary artworks that are themselves locating and listening to past events in the ever-changing present.

With contributions by Julian Abraham “Togar”, Tania Candiani, Padmini Chettur & Maarten Visser, Beatriz Cortez, Guillermo Escalón & Igor de Gandarias, Hugo Esquinca, Maurice Louca, Cannupa Hanska Luger, Nancy Mounir, Gala Porras-Kim, Micah Silver, and Clarissa Tossin & Michelle Agnes Magalhães, Shifting Center is choreographed not just in space but also time. It reaches across the disciplinary boundaries of the visual and performing arts to simultaneously inhabit their attendant temporalities, that is the event-based expectation of performance with the durational scale of an exhibition. It engages earlier experiments of deep listening and psychoacoustics by Pauline Oliveros (1932–2016) and Maryanne Amacher (1938–2009) at EMPAC through new works that approach the building as an instrument in itself.

The artworks in Shifting Center engage in the speculative construction of premodern and Indigenous instruments and repertoires, as well as the reconsideration of both geological formations and built architecture as actual sources of sounding. They listen to the material traces of not just cultural belongings but also tectonic and meteorological events. If the museum withdraws objects from their social uses and freezes them in time and place, the works follow such traces across multiple sites and extended temporal frames, moving between the seismic and the musical, the archeological and the cosmic.

Whether or not we can tune into the rock through the sounds of the sea, or to what degree we can listen to the histories carried by an object, the exhibition nonetheless attends to this acoustic potential. As Cannupa Hanska Luger puts it, a handful of clay can fill an entire room when modeled into a whistle, and as Igor de Gandarias’ transformation of subterranean infrasounds into an orchestral composition reminds us, the volcano performs for us every day as an instrument of the earth.

Shifting Center is curated by Nida Ghouse (curator-in-residence) and Vic Brooks (associate director of arts and senior curator of time-based visual art) with Katherine C. M. Adams (assistant curator) and M. Elijah Sueuga (curatorial fellow).

Main Image: Beatriz Cortez, Ilopango, the Volcano that Left, 2023. Pictured in Shifting Center, EMPAC / Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center at Rensselaer, Troy, NY, 2023 (installation view). Courtesy the artist and Commonwealth and Council. Photo: Shannon K. Johnson/EMPAC.

Program Notes

October 27–November 18, 2023


November 3–18, 2023
Tuesday–Saturday, 11AM–5PM
Saturday, November 11, 2023, 5–10PM
Saturday, November 18, 2023, 11AM–6PM


Saturday, November 18, 2023, 6–7PM, RSVP


Saturday, November 11, 2023, 5PM w/ Curator Vic Brooks
Saturday, November 18, 2023, 11AM w/ Curators Nida Ghouse and Katherine C. M. Adams


Friday, November 3, 2023, 6–10PM


October 27–29, 2023

Presented By

EMPAC Fall 2023

Event Type

Press Mention

The Times Union
The New York Times



Friday, November 3, 2023, 6–10PM


Shifting Center is made possible with major support from Teiger Foundation, with lead support by a Curatorial Research Fellowship from The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, with project support from the Simons Foundation, with support also from New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Governor and the New York State Legislature, and is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts. To find out more about how National Endowment for the Arts grants impact individuals and communities, visit

Concert Hall
Time-Based Visual Art, Commission, Exhibition
Beatriz Cortez, Nancy Mounir, and Cannupa Hanska Luger
Time-Based Visual Art, Commission, Exhibition
Padmini Chettur & Maarten Visser, Guillermo Escalón & Igor de Gandarias, and Micah Silver
Studio 1—Goodman
Time-Based Visual Art, Exhibition
Tania Candiani, Clarissa Tossin and Michelle Agnes Magalhães, and Clarissa Tossin
Studio 2
Time-Based Visual Art, Commission, Exhibition
Julian Abraham “Togar”, Maurice Louca, and Gala Porras-Kim

EMPAC Fall 2023

Performance, Commission
Hugo Esquinca
October 27–29, 2023

EMPAC Fall 2023

Time-Based Visual Art, Commission
Beatriz Cortez
September–November, 2023

EMPAC Fall 2023

Music/Sound, Talk, Tour
Shifting Center