As EMPAC’s promotional literature puts it, “EMPAC’s building is a showcase work of architecture and a unique technological facility that boasts unrivaled presentation and production capabilities for art and science spanning the physical and virtual worlds and the spaces in between.”
Johannes Goebel is the founding director of the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC). He holds a tenured position as professor in the Arts Department and in the School of Architecture. He came to Rensselaer at the beginning of the design process for EMPAC to ensure architects and consultants would meet the vision of the building as an optimal bridge between the physical world of human experience and interaction and the potential of the digital domain. Parallel to the design and construction of the building, he developed the program of EMPAC by building the technical, curatorial, and operational teams, and initializing the artistic and research productions, residencies, and events.
Between 1990 and 2002, Goebel served as founding director of the Institute for Music and Acoustics at the Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie (ZKM) in Karlsruhe, Germany. With its studios, artist-in-residence program, productions, commissions, and festivals, ZKM is one of the leading production environments worldwide for music and technology. For ZKM’s new building, which opened in 1996 and comprises two museums, two research and production institutes, studios, and performance venues, Goebel coordinated the overall demands and specified the requirements and infrastructure of its performance spaces and the Institute for Music and Acoustics.
So it was no casual moment when he stepped onto the stage to observe the “Echo” box. He took a stroll around it and peered through the plexiglass, assessing the clutter of computers, monitors, lights, headphones, synthesizers, guitars and drums. With a hint of disappointment in his eyes observed by our director Kenneth Collins, Goebel glanced out towards the theater and than turned back to the box and said, “what do you need us for?” Taking into consideration the mans background and accomplishments, he’s got a point, but I think what lays underneath that statement is that maybe, just maybe, EMPAC needs us. Now I don’t mean to sound arrogant but isn’t always that way when something gets so big it becomes harder and harder for people to have access to it. Things like government, education, finance, real-estate, technology and not least of all Art. So my only answer to Mr. Goebel’s rhetorical question is, call it experimental media or performance art but it’s still rock n roll to us