• Kenneth Emig: Provocation of the Senses

    The monumental installations of Kenneth Emig lead to a perception of things that lies far beyond the border of appearances.

    Thursday, October 18, 2007
    Katy Le Van

    translated by

    Until October 28, AxeNéo7 presents the Continuum exhibition of multidisciplinary Kenneth Emig. This Toronto native has many strings to his bow, including a public art commission for the Eva-James community center in Ottawa, a series of dancing performances at national festivals, several years of experience in the audio design division. from Nortel, the establishment of the World Forum for Noise Ecology, an artist residency at the National Research Council of Canada, and more! This multifaceted baggage is easily discerned in its aesthetic practice, where sculpture, optics, dance, sound and technology collide for the pleasure of the spectator.

    It goes without saying that the immense rooms of the Spinning admire the creator's installations admirably. Three rooms, so three assemblies which, at first glance, turned out straight out of a science fiction world. There is a certain coolness due to the industrial reference evoked by the preferred materials, among others the neon light tube, steel and reflective glass. The geometrical recall of the constructed objects also has something to do with it: it is indeed a "round" saucer, a "rectangular" window, a "cube" suspended. Their masterful size allows spontaneous awareness of the surrounding place and at the same time introduces the interaction between the work and its viewer. This one approaches, observes, moves back, circulates around the composition, in short, it plays with it of its body and its spirit.

    Kenneth Emig's cube, 1998, mirror, fluorescent lights, steel, 100 cm x 100 cm x 100 cm.
    Facing Cube, a closer investigation of the central prism leads to the discovery of an infinity of returned images thanks to a skilful game of mirror reflections. Amazing that such a simple structure could seem to contain so much! And in the room, even the window, usually caulked to the taste of the exhibiting artists, fits easily into the layout of the premises. As for Convergence, it is a satellite saucer with a shimmering surface that reproduces the true portrait of the one who contemplates only if he is placed at certain precise angles. The changing acoustics are also dominant, the ambient tones becoming more accentuated or fading with each step taken.

    The sculptor's approach is empathetic towards an audience challenged to be moved by the space that surrounds it. The innovative man thus wishes "that visitors leave the gallery with a renewed curiosity that will accompany them in their daily lives". Obviously, it was successful.

    Ah yes!… It should be mentioned that Emig is part of the Enriched Bread Artists Center, located in the Little Italy district of Ottawa, which opens its doors to everyone for the 15th consecutive year starting on October 18. His studio is also a place to discover!

    Until October 28
    At AxeNéo7
    See visual arts calendar

    To see if you like / The works of James Turrell, those of Dan Flavin


  • Wizard of Sound and Light

    image from the Ottawa Citizen - 07.09.06
    Thursday, September 6, 2007
    Paul Gessell

    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.

  • Any way you slice it

    Ottawa Citizen Picture - 2001
    Tuesday, October 16, 2001
    Paul Gessell
    The Ottawa Citizen

    Just a few days ago, this ever inventive sculptor was trying to find a name for his latest creation, a three-metre wide satellite dish covered in mirrored acrylic plastic. Because of its shape and reflective surfaces, sounds and sights are altered radically as you approach the object. It’s an experience akin to falling down the rabbit hole. Definitely an A+ for this one.

  • Dredge City

    A performance at the 7A*11D International Performance Art Festival

    Dredge City
    Sunday, August 10, 1997

    by Tim Dallett, Kenneth Emig, John Lauder, Emmanual Madan, Thomas McIntosh, Phil Rose