Following the Trump administration’s executive order limiting travel from seven countries, the Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute finds itself unexpectedly changing plans for a scheduled concert on March 3 and their 2017 artist residency program.
Two artists scheduled to participate in EMPAC’s 2017 programming, hand drummer Mohammad Reza Mortazavi and choreographer Ali Moini, are originally from Iran – one of the countries affected by the travel ban. Though recent court rulings have temporarily stayed the travel ban, the ensuing uncertainty has affected EMPAC’s ability to procure visas and made this highly anticipated programming impossible.
For over more than 10 years, EMPAC has contributed to RPI’s objective of cultural and intellectual diversity and inclusiveness through events, lectures, residencies, and workshops. EMPAC’s programming, which regularly results in high student and community engagement, focuses on opening avenues for discussion of the intersection of technological, aesthetic, cultural, and political perspectives and positions on campus.
The March 3 concert would have featured Iranian hand drummer Mohammad Reza Mortazavi, who is widely considered one of the best Tombak players in the world. Mortazavi has been living in Germany since 2001 and has performed across the world. His instrument, the Tombak, is the principal percussion instrument of Persian music. He won first prize in the prestigious Iranian Tombak competition at age 9 and continued his winning streak for six years. Over the course of his career, Mortazavi has developed over 30 new striking and finger techniques and revolutionized more traditional methods of playing.
Ali Moini, also from Iran, would have joined the new Summer Arch program at RPI to provide a two-day summer workshop for students focused on movement and Kinect technology and, later in the fall, a second residency and performance. Moini is known for his choreography, performance art, and music that uses the interaction of digital projection, objects, and bodies to tell stories that question physical boundaries. Moini has shown his work at New York Live Arts, Festival d’Automne Paris, Montpellier Danse, and more.
The new March 3 concert program has not yet been announced.