An aerial view of two square wooden structures in an empty black box studio.

Jacqueline Kiyomi Gordon

The Only Thing that Makes Life Possible is Not Knowing What Comes Next

In this work-in-progress installation, sound artist Jacqueline Kiyomi Gordon investigated how one’s perception of sound can be changed as he or she moves through space. Using an interconnected series of listening rooms, each built with a variety of materials (stone, metal, wood, cloth, etc.), Gordon created a perpetually shifting audio experience from diffused sound projected from a ring of loudspeakers. As listeners moved through the space, they were made aware of the parameters of the room and how they can actually control what they are hearing by altering their movement. 

Gordon is a visual and sound artist who integrates audio technologies into sculptural forms to question relationships of affect to an environment. She has had solo shows at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (2014), Pro Arts Gallery (2013, Oakland), Eli Ridgway Gallery (2012, San Francisco), and Queens Nails (2009, San Francisco). She is also a member of the music and performance collective, 0th. 

a rainbow of prismatic light

The Vision Machine

Melvin Moti

The Vision Machine is a kinetic light sculpture that produces a 20-minute film based on the behavior of light in prisms. Drawing on optics and material science, this optical box harnesses the same physical principles that give rise to everyday atmospheric effects such as rainbows and sundogs by shining light through a series of rotating prisms and focusing it back onto a wall with a lens. The Vision Machine is conceptually based on Riccardo Manzotti’s idea of the “Spread Mind,” which proposes that consciousness is spread between physical phenomena and the individual. The viewer doesn’t see the world; he is part of a world process. In the installation, diffracted light serves as a metaphor for our consciousness as an interrelated process of worldly phenomena, partly external and partly internal, but never static. Melvin Moti worked collaboratively with a team of Rensselaer undergraduate physics and engineering students to create The Vision Machine.


Dec 4, 12–9PM Dec 5, 12–9PM Dec 6, 12–10PM


Main Image: Prismatic light created by Melvin Moti's The Vision Machine. Film still: EMPAC/Rensselaer.

A miniature model of a waterslide on a hill on a white pedestal with a cct camera pointing at it


Jennifer + Kevin McCoy


Index was an EMPAC-commissioned public art installation by Rensselaer arts alumni Jennifer and Kevin McCoy, consisting of multiple sculptures filmed via small cameras. The resulting live video projections, as well as the models, were presented throughout EMPAC’s public spaces during an extended residency with the artists. Inspired by a J.G. Ballard short story that consists primarily of an alphabetized index of people and places suggesting a global conspiracy, the McCoys’ list spans the 1960s to today, referencing globalization, technology, mass migrations, and war. Corporate campuses, film sets, Spanish Colonial Revival architecture, and factories all collide in a globalized, mediated framework that exists to support utopian goals, even as it rests upon resource depletion, financial instabilities, and entropic decay.

Jennifer and Kevin McCoy’s multimedia artworks examine the genres and conventions of filmmaking, memory, and language. They are known for constructing subjective databases of existing material and making fragmentary miniature film sets with lights, video cameras, and moving sculptural elements to create live cinematic events.

Quote Unquote was an interdisciplinary series presenting work by artists that use an existing text as a departure point for time-based works including installation, film, and performance.

Main Image: Installation detail: Index (2012). Photo: Kris Qua/EMPAC.

A black and white sketch model of the concert hall set in front of the completed concert hall.

The Periphery of Perception

Ryan + Trevor Oakes

Identical twins Ryan and Trevor Oakes engage in probing studies of visual perception and light through material investigations, discovering methods that constitute key advancements in the representation of visual reality. This winter they will be in residence, creating a commissioned drawing of our Concert Hall. This drawing will mark the first time the Oakes brothers re-envision the structure of their drawings to trace the perimeter of binocular vision. This new work will be shown as part of The Periphery of Perception — an exhibition looking at the development of the Oakes’ work over the past 10 years.

Panel Discussion

A conversation on optics, the nature of light, and the rendering of visual reality with writer Damien James, photographer Michael Benson, and artists Ryan and Trevor Oakes.

Main Image: Installation view: The Periphery of Perception, 2012. Photo: Kris Qua/EMPAC.


Jennifer + Kevin McCoy


Index is an EMPAC-commissioned public art installation by Jennifer and Kevin McCoy, which consists of multiple sculptures filmed via small, live cameras. The resulting video projection, as well as the models, will appear throughout EMPAC’s public spaces during an extended residency with the artists. The first works will be exhibited on April 2.

Inspired by a J.G. Ballard short story called “The Index,” in which an alphabetized list of people and places are turned into an implied, overarching narrative, the McCoys’ list spans the 1960s to today, referencing globalization, technology, mass migrations, and war. Corporate campuses, film sets, Spanish Colonial Revival architecture, and factories all collide in a globalized mediated framework that exists to support utopian goals, even as it rests upon resource depletion, financial instabilities, and entropic decay. These problems of environmental and economic collapse persist in the face of the never-changing rhetoric of the assumed benefits of the technological future.

A stack of newspapers dates Saturday, April 30, 2011.

The Confidence Man

Graham Parker

In this collection of projects by New York-based artist Graham Parker, new film and audio work, made by the artist while in residence at EMPAC in spring 2010, is shown alongside a series of alterations to the building’s environment that range from the theatrical to the virtually invisible. Parker has long been interested in spectrality—the concealing of one set of operations behind the appearance of another. His 2009 book Fair Use (Notes from Spam), explored spam emails as the latest manifestation of a longstanding mode of deception that has accompanied nearly all new developments in human transport and communication networks (the book touched on such phenomena as Nigerian spam, 19th century railroad cons and medieval beggar gangs). The Confidence Man features work that has grown out of that research—including hacked ATM machines, rogue WIFI networks, monologues drawn from spam emails and a tribute to the 1973 film The Sting

Graham Parker is a New York-based multimedia artist and writer. His work considers contemporary digital phenomena against the historic contexts and antecedents from which they emerged—often finding unexpected, even uncanny connections between these different moments and modes. His work has been commissioned by the Tate Gallery, Henry Moore Institute, Center for Understanding the Built Environment, Foundation for Art and Creative Technology, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council and the Arts Council England, among others, and is held in public and private collections around the world. His 2009 book Fair Use (Notes from Spam) was described in Artforum as “meticulous historical research... a superb analysis.”

A street sign reading It Will End In Tears in front if the exterior of EMPAC

Uncertain Spectator

A group exhibition confronting anxiety in contemporary art, Uncertain Spectator asks individuals to cross a threshold — to place themselves in situations riddled with tension, confront deeply charged emotional content, and grapple with feelings of apprehension. The works presented deal with a general mood of uneasiness arising from recent political and economic events that frames a future rife with imminent threats. Uncertain Spectator not only responds to these unsettling situations, but also creates them by challenging individuals to step outside of a place of comfort both physically and emotionally.

The exhibition incorporates media works in the broader context of contemporary art landscape through the work of 10 artists spanning the genres of video, installation, sculpture, and interactive media. Occupying EMPAC's lobby, Marie Sester's commissioned installation Fear consists of a seating area with a table that pulses with a warm inviting light, until the viewer attempts to approach it. Anthony Discenza creates street signs that do not communicate a set of rules for public space, but instead convey doomsday predictions and poetic reflections on doubt. Jesper Just's black and white film, A Vicious Undertow, presents an enigmatic and open-ended narrative, which never allows the viewer to achieve closure.

Uncertain Spectator is contextualized by an exhibition catalog that considers the role anxiety has played in philosophical discussions of existentialism, psychoanalysis, and ethics. An accompanying blog, Uncertain Spectator(s), invited select philosophers, cultural theorists, and artists to focus on the prevalence of anxiety in current events, as well as its expression in philosophy and contemporary art.

Anthony Discenza's It Will End In Tears installed on the EMPAC East entrance traffic circle as part of Uncertain Spectator in 2010.

A red barn like structure in mid construction on the bustling RPI campus.

All Raise This Barn (East)


Using 21st century techniques, MTAA (artists Michael Sarff and Tim Whidden) conduct an old-fashioned barn raising on the Rensselaer campus. All Raise This Barn (East) is a group-designed and assembled public structure created in response to a public vote by the Rensselaer campus and local community. Using a commercially available barn-making kit as the starting point, online voting determines architectural, aesthetic, and labor choices, as well as whether the assembly is collaborative or competitive.

Part construction project, part participatory performance, All Raise This Barn (East) explores the positive and also persuasive power of the community vote and its prevalence in contemporary society, from the Internet to reality television competitions. MTAA invites the public to participate in the group assembly/performance of the final work, which will be raised in one day starting in the early morning hours on October 1st and will culminate in a ribbon cutting ceremony at 5:30 PM. Vote for the artbarn!

Main Image: All Raise this Barn (East) as part of Filament in October, 2010.