a large scale projection on a bright yellow screen in a town square reading TMWRK MKS

Tony Cokes

In conversation

Please join us for an online presentation with American artist Tony Cokes. 

Through a rigorous analysis of images and language, Tony Cokes dissects the often-obscured power dynamics at work in the cultural and political representation of histories of Blackness, class, and the war on terror. 

Cokes’ distinctive artworks and installations center on videos that foreground textual statements, often overlaid onto colorful monochromatic backgrounds with pop, punk, and electronic music soundtracks. Quoting language from across the political spectrum—from philosophical statements to news, art criticism, advertising, and song lyrics—Cokes mixes linguistic, visual, and sonic oppositions in a pared back approach that refuses the easy desire for a spectacular image. Shot through with wry humor and the aesthetics and upbeat music of popular culture, the videos project unstable meanings that deconstruct how we receive and read images.

The talk will be followed by a Q&A with the artist.

Main Image: Tony Cokes, HS LST WRDZ  from 4 Voices / 4 Weeks (2021), Courtesy the artist, Circa Art, London, Greene Naftali, New York, Hannah Hoffman, Los Angeles, and Electronic Arts Intermix, New York.

a screen that reads "but also of the seductions and sorcery of his performance"

Tony Cokes, Untitled (m.j.: the symptom) from If UR Reading This It’s 2 Late: Vol. 2, (2020), Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, Courtesy the artist, Greene Naftali, New York, Hannah Hoffman, Los Angeles, and Electronic Arts Intermix, New York. Photo: Julia Featheringill / Stewart Clements.

a silouette of a man in the passenger side of a car with the window and sunroof open

Sky Hopinka

In conversation with Mariana Fernández

Please join us for this online event featuring the artist and filmmaker Sky Hopinka in conversation with curator Mariana Fernández. 

Over the past decade, Hopinka’s videos and films have been animated by an exploration of language as a way to formulate questions of identity and belonging. Hopinka’s filmmaking career began around the same time he started learning Chinuk Wawa, an almost extinct creole trade-language spoken in the Pacific Northwest, and Hočąk, the endangered, Indigenous language of the Ho-Chunk peoples. His works often overlay English, Chinuk Wawa, and Hočąk to move beyond static ideas about language and cultural identity. 

As the third in EMPAC’s Decolonizing Language series of conversations seeking to destabilize linguistic hierarchies and present strategies of Indigenous language revitalization, Hopinka will discuss his use of language in crafting alternative understandings of place, community, and knowledge transmission.

Main Image: Still from Jáaji Approx (2015) by Sky Hopinka. Courtesy of the artist.


Sky Hopinka in conversation with Mariana Fernández. May 3, 2021.

Berthe Grimault

Berthe: "Pig girl among the debs"

Carolyn Tennant

Please join us today — Friday April 2, 2021 at 3:30PM EST — Live on ZOOM for a live screening and Q&A to follow.

ZOOM Information:

On a computer: Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 859 9003 0639
Passcode: 411921

On a phone:

+16465588656,,85990030639#,,,,*411921# USA
+496938079883,,85990030639#,,,,*411921# Germany

Find your local number:

For more information about this event please visit

Every year, the Rensselaer Department of the Arts programs seven events utilizing the infrastructure and support of the production teams at EMPAC. These productions often include final graduate thesis projects that are developed in the venues themselves.

Main Image: Berthe Grimault. Courtesy the artist / Berthe Grimalt Archive.

Break Out 2021

THE UNDO FELLOWSHIP / Break @ut 2021

UnionDocs: Center for Documentary Art

Break @ut is a symposium (of sorts) that celebrates the research, writing, and filmmaking initiated during THE UNDO FELLOWSHIP and presented by our partners UnionDocs: Center for Documentary Art. Four ambitious research topics will be explored through a set of online screenings, study groups, and public dialogues. We are excited to share the ideas resulting from the inaugural year of this endeavor. 

Five artists — all extremely different in their curiosities, aesthetics, methods, and personalities, but more or less aligned in their efforts to break out of the patterns and preconceptions that dominate the documentary form — paired up with four intellectually adventurous writers. Together they proposed a research topic inspired by the artist’s practice. Having stewed on these thorny questions in regular dialogue with the whole group of brilliant fellows, their drafts now seek readers.

So, Break @ut with UnionDocs! Choose a single thread of inquiry, or weave connections between them all. Tune into the stream to watch and listen in, or sign up for an UNDO STUDY GROUP to get the reader and join a rigorous and creative discussion.

Main Image: Break ꩜ut 2021, a symposium presented by UNIONDOCS: Center for Documentary Art

a Vietnamese woman laying on a beach in a red dress with a tiara

Erie County Smile (Screening and Q&A)

Van Tran Nguyen

For more information about this event please visit the more info links below.

Every year, the Rensselaer Department of the Arts programs seven events utilizing the infrastructure and support of the production teams at EMPAC. These productions often include final graduate thesis projects that are developed in the venues themselves.

Still from Erie County Smile, 2021. Courtesy the artist.


Erie County Smile

Sisters with Transistors

Lisa Rovner and Marcus Werner Hed

Please join us for a talk by the director Lisa Rovner and producer Marcus Werner Hed of Sisters with Transistors: Electronic Music’s Unsung Heroines, an award-winning documentary that maps the history of twentieth century women experimental music pioneers. 

Narrated by Laurie Anderson, Sisters with Transistors features the work of visionary composer and Rensselaer professor Pauline Oliveros alongside Clara Rockmore, Daphne Oram, Bebe Barron, Delia Derbyshire, EMPAC-alum Maryanne Amacher, Eliane Radigue, Suzanne Ciani, and Laurie Spiegel. Through rigorous research, interviews, and archival footage, the film follows the electronic music composers’ radical experimentations with machines that redefined the boundaries of contemporary music.

The talk will include an educational screening of the film in Zoom. Students, staff, and faculty at Rensselaer can also access the film throughout the semester by registering

Sisters with Transistors opens at Metrograph on April 23.


Talk recording, Sisters with Transistors with Lisa Rovner and Marcus Werner Hed, March 18, 2021.

Trailer: Sisters with Transistors

Pauline Oliveros discusses Deep Listening at Tedx Indianapolis, 2015. 

a bucky dome in the foreground, biosphere 2 in the background on a desert plain with a double rainbow in the sky

Spaceship Earth

Matt Wolf

Please join us for a screening of Spaceship Earth by award-winning documentary filmmaker Matt Wolf. The film brings a fresh perspective to the famed 1991 habitation experiment in which eight volunteers lived within a biosphere that replicated the earths ecosystem at the earth system science facility in Oracle, Arizona. By asking why these people wanted to embark on such a self-imposed quarantine in a closed-sustained environment, Spaceship Earth reminds us of the utopian promise and environmental ambition of Biosphere 2, the “brainchild of this countercultural group called the Synergists.” 

The screening will be followed by a question and answer session with Wolf on the history and production behind the project on Zoom. 

Main Image: Biosphere 2. Courtesy of NEON.

a group of biosphere participants in red jumpsuits inside the biosphere in a giant garden

Biosphere 2.

Courtesy of NEON

Official Trailer. Courtesy NEON.

a woman in a white tanktop sitting in a theater alone, staring at the stage with wide eyes

Alexa Echoes

Amanda Turner Pohan

Alexa Echoes is a film in the mode of a chamber opera by visual artist Amanda Turner Pohan in collaboration with composer Charlie Looker, choreographer Dages Juvelier Keates and performer Katy Pinke. The first iteration in a series of three performances, Alexa Echoes recasts the relationship between cultural movements and commercial technologies through the history of women’s devocalization and disembodiment. It begins with mythical Greek figures, such as Echo, and leads up to Amazon’s smart speaker and digital voice-based assistant, Alexa. 

In this film, EMPAC is concurrently the site of production, setting, and subject that surrounds three manifestations of the voice: candid, staged, and disembodied. As in much of Pohan’s interdisciplinary oeuvre, the film looks at the body’s complicated relationship to technology as it relates to autonomy, animation, and the melismatic sound of breath. Alexa Echoes incorporates movement, speech, and an orchestral score to abstract the gendered decisions that frame new media technologies, gesturing to the corporate entities which choreographed them.

The film will be released on EMPAC’s website on Thursday, February 4 at 5PM (EST) followed by a conversation between Amanda Turner Pohan and curator Marisa Espe. This project is accompanied by a text version of the project’s script. 

Alexa Echoes is organized by Muheb Esmat, Marisa Espe, Bergen Hendrickson, Ciena Leshley, Ana Lopes, Liz Lorenz, Brooke Nicolas, Elizaveta Shneyderman, and Rachel Vera Steinberg from Bard College’s Center for Curatorial Studies class of 2020, working with EMPAC curator Vic Brooks.

Main Image: Production still from Amanda Turner Pohan's Alexa Echoes. EMPAC Theater, October 2020.
Photo: Sara Griffith/EMPAC.


Alexa Echoes, 2021.

a single woman on stage in a white jumpsuit

Alexa Echoes, 2021 (still). Image courtesy of Amanda Turner Pohan. Photo: EMPAC/Sara Griffith.

a whisp of white light in solid darkness


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. Rest interrogates sensory overwhelm, sensory deprivation, hallucinations and the nature of consciousness with respect to the feeling and understanding of “rest” in our modern world.

Saunders, along with Wild Up, O'Halloran, Andrew Schneider, and additional collaborators were in remote residence this fall to develop an EMPAC-commissioned online version of Rest. The commission provided the artists an opportunity to explore their archive of material and whether Rest might have a digital life; an iteration for audience members to experience on their own on a mobile device.

On January 25, the artists will premiere the proof-of-concept film that came out of this residency time, created collaboratively with the EMPAC team, with concept and direction by Annie Saunders, composition by Emma O'Halloran, visual concept creation, direction of photography and editing by Andrew Schneider, music direction by Christopher Rountree, dramaturgy by Adah Parris, Rita Williams, and Rachel Joy Victor, and creative consultation from Jackie Zhou, Mike Merchant, James Okumura and Brian Hashimoto, as well as over twenty thinkers and experts who were interviewed about sensory experience and the nature of consciousness. The music is played by members of Wild Up, Jiji, Jodie Landau, Allen Fogle, and Archie Carey, with mixing by Lewis Pesacov.

The work is featured in the Sounding Darkness Festival as presented by collaborator Wild Up.

Light, shadow, and sound help to sculpt a “performance" environment that you will experience in this proof-of-concept. The work includes moments of near-silence, music, and field recordings from a diverse set of conversations. Source materials included conversations with consciousness experts, people sharing their early sense memories, and reflections on our relationships to our smartphones. You will be able to access the Rest proof-of-concept here on January 25 at 8PM.

Read an interview with Annie Saunders and her collaborator on the moving-image content of this work, Andrew Schneider.

Additionally, please join us on the Wild Up Instagram for a series of live conversations with the artists from 2:30-3:30PM EDT on January 25.

Main Image: Proof-of-concept production still from Rest (2020). Courtesy the artists.

Jaamil Olawale Kosoko as an infant

Chameleon (The Living Installments)

FAQS and Instructions for Participation

Choose one of the following options:


  • 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.


  • 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!).


  • 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!


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