Live Stage: From Milton Cohen’s Space Theater to EMPAC [fr Paris]

once.jpgFrom Milton Cohen’s Space Theater to EMPAC by Franck Ancel :: January 7, 2008; 6- 8 pm :: ARIAS / INHA 2, rue Vivienne 75002 Paris France

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 2007, 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

THX to Harold Borkin, Karen Dorn, Johannes Goebel, Gordon Mumma, Pat Oleszko, Jacques Polieri, Richard Trythall, Karen Tsao, The Wooster Group, Gene Youngblood.

Biography of Franck Ancel: Franck Ancel has been raising questions about technology for twenty years, tracing a line from the avant-garde art movements of the last century to the recent changes in creation on a planetary scale. He has organised and coordinated conferences, exhibitions and performances, including a retrospective of /”Jacques Polieri: creator of a modern scenography”/ at the French National Library in Paris in 2002. Since the 9/11 attacks, he has set up an interactive, collaborative triptych called “A.I.T.”, which raises questions about architecture, images and technology, on 20th century heritage sites. In 2005, he concluded a cycle of five communications for five continents entitled “From scenography to planetary network” with a world premiere on the Internet, from a plane in flight from Shanghai to Munich. In 2006, he held a conference /”From scenography to planetary network for Shanghai 2010/” in Silicon Valley during the ISEA/ZeroOne Festival. In 2007, it will celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the first satellite sent into space with the performance “From Sputnik Satellite to Explorer Art” in the huge ONERA wind tunnel in France.

The art of theatre and new technologies Cycle of conferences conducted by Beatrice Picon-Vallin and Clarisse Bardiot;
Presentation by Beatrice Picon-Vallin: The art of theatre has always revelled in technological progress. For instance, the conversion of lighting from gas to electricity profoundly modified stage procedures. New changes are underway with computer science and digital technology. Artists-researchers will be at the heart of the questions being asked that must attempt to mark the course of the commitment of the art of theatre today. They must enable an analysis to be made of the new relationships that link creation team members, which are increasingly numerous and complex. They must define the functions of technologies employed and their contribution, and, finally, they must reflect on the evolution of the role of the director and on the transformation of the role of the actor. During this cycle of conferences we must try to understand the new facts of the current perspective, by linking them to the history of technologies that the theatre has always succeeded in integrating.

Jan 2, 19:38
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6 Responses

  1. Caroline Cohen:

    Excellent to see Milton receive acknowledgement of the recognition he deserves. While I think he would argue for a clear distinction of purpose and mission between Space Theater and the ONCE Group, he would certainly agree to the remarkable symbiosis.

  2. lucas de vries:

    To Caroline Cohen

    A long time since the heady mid sixties. Great memories.
    How have you been?


  3. Franck Ancel:

    I’m indeed looking for documents, pictures and all types of interviews that will enlighten my research.

    Don’t hesitate to contact me for any questions or additionnal informations.

    Best regards from Paris — Franck Ancel

  4. David Stevens:

    I knew Milton during the late 60’s and early 70’s.

    I saw at least one of his performance pieces at the Architecture Auditorium. I think it was part of the Ann Arbor Film Festival in about 1965 or 66.

    Milton became friends with my grandfather O.M. Pearl, professor of Classical Studies at the U. of M. I was living at my grandfather’s house when Milton rented a room there for a few months. I had a chance to get to know him at parties there.

    In 1972, I visited Milton at a farmhouse he rented in Barga Italy (in Tuscany). I stayed there twice, once in July and again in December.

    Milton had spent the previous summer (I think) in beautiful Hania, Crete and he filmed the strange windmills of Crete there. He used this film as part of a performance in a convent in Barga, which I witnessed. He blew away the nuns.

    Milton ‘sent’ me from Barga to Hania, which was the beginning of a great adventure. “Unsolicited travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God.” – Kurt Vonnegut

    Nice to see Milton get some recognition for his unique artistic creations.

    David S.

  5. Robert Ashley:

    Hi, Caroline, If you read this please get in touch. A musicologist is at the moment writing a history of the ONCE Group. I’m sure he would like to speak to you. OR anybody else who knows how to get in touch with Caroline.

  6. katharine hartwig dahl:

    How thrilling to see this information!! Milton was my hero/mentor/
    portal to a new world when i attended UofM 57-61. I always regretted losing touch with him tho my life life was forever changed because of him. We sat one day in the law Quad and he said to me “To draw a tree, you must become a tree”. whew.

    Thank you!!!!! Katharine HD

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