Tuesday, January 8, 2008

"From Milton Cohen's Space Theater to EMPAC"

Abstract by Franck Ancel
In 1957, a few years after the famous performance in the United States at Black Mountain College (1952) called "Untitled event", Artist Professor Milton Cohen created his "Space Theatre". In Ann Arbor - and mainly in his loft until 1966 - he experimented with a 360-degree form of theatre construction, presenting visual, light and sound shows in collaboration with other artists. These events eventually led to the creation of the "Once Festival" (1961-66) and later the "Once Group". The founding members of this group are the composers Robert Ashley, George Cacioppo, Gordon Mumma, Roger Reynolds, Donald Scavarda, and Bruce Wise; the architects Harold Borkin and Joseph Wehrer; the director George Manupelli; the painters and sculptors Mary Ashley and Milton Cohen.Some of the problems of future multimedia performances when dealing with electronic music arose here. (1)
Ten years after the official inauguration of the Centre for Art and Media Technology in Karlsruhe, Germany, this concept was continued in the USA with the construction in Troy, situated halfway between New York and Montreal, of a theatrical venue unique in the world: EMPAC, which became the first type of theatre to turn entirely towards our digital era, while maintaining a "traditional" layout. For its official inauguration during the first weekend of November 2008, one of the key projects was a 360-degree immersive environment especially created by a theatre company, The Wooster Group. (2)The conference was animated with visual documents (some never seen before), sound documents and interviews (in English) carried out or discovered during a research trip to Ann Arbor, Cambridge, New York and Troy, in November 2007, and was sponsored in part by the ARIAS Laboratories, CNRS (National Committee for Scientific Research).
One year after the conference held on the French scenographer "Jacques Polieri: beyond theatre", this historical and current study aims for a better understanding of the challenges of contemporary creation in the making.
(2) Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center http://empac.rpi.edu/

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