Don't be surprised during the next month if you are walking down rue Hanson near Brewery Creek in old Hull and you see something mighty strange through the big picture window on the old hosiery mill now known as La Filature.
You just might see through the streetside window a lithe, shaven-headed man twisting and turning energetically in front of a mirrored satellite dish more than three metres in diameter.
That same man, a light-and-sound rock band roadie in his youth, may be discovered on other occasions dancing in a more enclosed part of the old building. In those instances, his movements will be paired with the dramatic sounds from a continuum, a synthesizer-like contraption capable of producing most any sort of musical sound you have heard and many you have probably never heard.
Welcome to the world of Kenneth Emig. He's an Ottawa phenomenon. He is part acoustic designer, part visual artist and part dancer. (He's currently working on a commission for the 2008 Canada Dance Festival).
These various creative disciplines are not incompatible for Emig. They are, in fact, interconnected. And while he likely never danced his way around the lab when he worked for Bell-Northern Research, he certainly incorporated his acoustic wizardry into his unique dance performances and sculptures.
Emig's world goes on display, beginning Sept. 12, at Axe Néo-7 in La Filature. Axe Néo-7 is that most contemporary of the capital region's contemporary art galleries. The gallery offers large exhibition rooms, exactly the kind of spaces Emig needs for his artworks to breathe and his body to dance. The musical accompaniment will come from Edmund Eagan, a prominent Ottawa composer whose continuum almost seems intelligent enough to make music on its own. It's unclear at times whether Eagan or the machinery is in control.
The aforementioned satellite dish, titled Convergence, is one of three sculptural installations Emig was preparing for Axe Néo-7 during a recent visit to his cluttered studio in the Enriched Bread Artists collective in Ottawa.
The dish reflects sound and light in intriguing ways. Conversations taking place in front of the dish might be audible to someone standing far away at just the right angle. Likewise, the angled mirrors on the dish create reflections that change with every angle.
A second room at Axe Néo-7 is to contain a glass-covered cube reflecting fluorescent tubes ad infinitum. Each side of the cube is one metre. The cube is to be suspended from the ceiling, slowly twisting and turning from normal air currents in the building.
The untitled work to be put in the third room is a series of large framed "windows" that will give visitors a look into an impossible world of parallel light sources. It's an impossible world because there is no easy explanation as to how this magic is created behind the "windows."
"How does it work?" Emig expects people to ask. Such a question would be a good sign because it shows people are really thinking about the work. "You can't ask for more."
(Emig showed me exactly how it works but swore me to secrecy. He's like an author who begs you not to reveal the ending of a new novel).
Emig's work is more than just games in a funhouse. The purpose of the exhibition, named Continuum, is to explore "the nature of space" as it relates to the human body and its senses.
Space, it turns out, is not what you thought it was. Space, in Emig's world, is elastic. Sculptures are not immovable.
They cast light or sound around the room and even into fictional spaces. A dance performed around a sculpture becomes an extension of the seemingly static object, altering the way it casts light or sound and turning what we all thought was an inanimate object into a living, breathing one.
Now, everyone may not see all these layers in Emig's works. However, they can still be enjoyed purely for their funhouse possibilities. But if you are willing to work a little in figuring out his message, the experience will be more rewarding.
Continuum will continue at Axe Néo-7 until Oct. 28. There will definitely be a dance performance Sept. 26 at 8 p.m. Other performances will occur randomly.