Ongoing installations: enjoy three for free at EMPAC

This semester marks the first year the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center has included long-term exhibits. Beginning with Take a Day for Yourself, by Danish artist Mads Lynnerup, EMPAC has welcomed two more ongoing installations since October 1: Body/Traces, by Sophie Kahn and Lisa Parra, and They Watch, by Workspace Unlimited. Wanting to see something new, I decided to head over to EMPAC to see what these installations were about and to see if they were any good.

They Watch is a good example of what EMPAC has to offer; it is a very “experimental” exhibit that a student would imagine is currently being featured at the Center. Now, I don’t mean that in a bad way. On the contrary, They Watch was fun to visit—just really creepy.

The installation uses EMPAC’s Studio 1 to its full effect. The Studio, which is a round room, is equipped with speakers and projectors that produce sounds and images that completely envelop the visitor. Around the room are multiple images of a male and female—digital portraits of the artists—looking at you while you look at them. Visitors are then allowed to get closer to the screen, stand still, or run around the room while the giant avatars continue their relentless gaze for six minutes.

I used the word “creepy” to describe this exhibit because that’s exactly what it is. Aside from the fact that you’re continuously eyed by digital people, the avatars’ soundtrack is pretty uncanny. Phrases like “I just want to say, I love you” will come out of nowhere, making you feel a little odd. The static-y sound and Matrix-like background only added to the creepy feeling I got while participating in the six-minute installation.

Body/Traces is another example of a creepy, experimental exhibit. The installation, which is located on the fourth floor, allows viewers to enter another dark area with a projector showing images of a dancer in 3-D stop-motion animation.

It weirded me out to go into another small, dark space. It weirded me out that the soundtrack consisted of breathing, and percussion that sounded like a heartbeat. It weirded me out that the images were very ghostly. The whole thing weirded me out for seven minutes.

Take a Day For Yourself is a direct contrast to the other two exhibits in that it is very simple and not creepy; it is the least “out there” of all the displays. Located on the EMPAC Mezzanine, the installation consists of posters and videos that highlight the day of eight people from around the Troy area who decide to break away from their daily routines.

If you’re running low on time or simply want to multitask, there are booklets around the exhibit that feature every poster, so you don’t have to walk around the room or get up from one of the beanbag chairs while you watch the exhibit. For 12 minutes, three screens present the sights and sounds of the eight people as they go through their day. It is entertaining to watch someone horribly lie on the phone to get out of work, or see old people move to the lively music of the “Chicken Dance.” It is very relaxing to watch people relax.

It took less than an hour for me to visit all the exhibits. Even though I would describe myself as a person who is not the biggest fan of abstract or modern art, I found myself feeling content after visiting each exhibit. It’s important to try new things and keep an open mind; I encourage everyone at RPI to see these installations while they are still around. Besides, all of the exhibits are free and only take a small amount of time away from your day.