New EMPAC installation wows reporter

Minimalist performance proves simplicity still matters

THE PERFORMER MOVES elegantly through the space. The experience was both mundane and exciting, and it proved hypnotic to watch a skilled artist in his element.

This past Saturday, I had the pleasure of attending another one of the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center’s newest experiences. The combination performance/installation, titled “Studio 1,” was an abstract, modern take on avant-garde principles used by artists for years. Its automatistic approach, combined with the proletarian ideals evoked by the performance, generated an entirely novel experience—one that may very well have been the first of its kind altogether.

There was very little information about the event anywhere; in fact, I only heard about it from word of mouth that evidently, an EMPAC performance would be put on. After heading down to the 5000 level, I found the room of the exhibition. No one else was there, and no one else showed up, which added to the notion that this event was an exclusive, low-capacity showing.

The room the exhibition was in was barren and devoid of items except a few chairs and tables. It simply consisted of the reflective sound panels, the floor beneath my feet, and the ceiling, hid in the shadows cast by the harsh lights. I walked around the space, contemplating and examining the anonymous artist’s usage of the volume of air to craft a physical manifestation of what appeared to be glass or water, without the distortion. The use of space was exquisite; the area crafted by the room abstractly contrasted with the darkness of the walls and ceiling

The venue may have been a poor choice, however. I continually felt that the installation was constrained by the walls that bounded its volume, and that the ceiling and floor were harsh constraints on the art that were contained by them. The room felt like a too-small canvas for a masterwork of a painting, almost as if one of Michelangelo’s expansive frescos was condensed down to the size of a postage stamp.

About two hours after I arrived at the installation, the performance portion of the exhibition began. A man in his thirties, dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, entered the room with a vacuum cleaner and a dust mop and began to use the former to “clean” the floor. He took on the appearance of a janitor, but I somehow knew that he was, in fact, the artist of this wondrous installation. His dedication to his task was quite impressive; I cornered him after his performance in the room and asked him about it, but he simply responded that he was just doing his job—which, according to him, being “sweeping floors, dusting, vacuuming, that sort of thing.”

His performance really spoke to the meaning of the performance. The exemplary mix of anatomical figures and cleaning systems created an atmosphere that depicted a sense of desperation—a theme that reminded me of an artist’s plight. The custodial motif of the artist’s costume provided a contrast to the minimalist, bourgeois lines of the room.

All in all, this performance was, figuratively speaking, quite scintillating; coming out of the room was, my mind was completely blank. I’m not sure if the sense of wonder and surprise I received from the installation and performance was from the mind-numbing sensory deprivation I experienced inside the room or simply the extreme profundity of the experimental event, but I believe that it shouldn’t matter either way. In the end, all that matters is the fact that an artistic experience can move oneself, and in this instance, it excelled magnificently.