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Staying Connected

The Opening — an Opening

EMPAC’s opening celebrates the Renaissance at Rensselaer | By Johannes Goebel

Image by Workspace Unlimited
We open one door and we find a dozen new doors to be opened. We discover new worlds within our world; we discover new worlds outside of our own world.

We experience every day that there is something outside of what we saw as given, finite, or unquestionable. It evokes us to change: to change our responses, our ways of thinking and acting, to change what we saw as without need for change. We may encounter this unexpectedly—at the work place, in our family, or when our GPS navigation system fails us and we land on a dead railroad track instead of at the intended destination. But we can also set the stage for new opportunities, challenges, and change in a very intentional way by creating platforms for the envisioned but still unknown.

In these opportunities—unexpected or carefully developed—our creativity unfolds; the opening for seeing what we could not see before; the opening in the thicket of “been there, done that.” The clearing in the woods that allows us to see the tree in its full glory and discover this one branch at the very top that seems to defy gravity.

Let’s climb up there and check it out.

Once up there, we discover a tiny insect living on this singular branch and at the same time we now can see at the horizon a distant mountain we want to climb to look beyond the horizon.

Creativity is the very essence of our human life. We all have this potential if we are taught and given the opportunity to discover the elasticity of our minds, hearts, intellects, and feelings—if we accept this potential as a responsibility.

This responsibility is both for ourselves as creators and for others as “co-creators”; it arises both in seemingly small everyday situations and in grand scientific, technological, or social challenges; it is driven by the never-ceasing desire to find the meaning of it all.

EMPAC provides the space to experience that which our creativity can generate. It is home to a new community of creators—artists and scientists, experimenters and engineers, dreamers and doers—who will stimulate an influx of new ideas emerging on the bridges between science, engineering, and the arts.

With EMPAC, Rensselaer has realized an audacious, singular creation that is part of a rebirth: the Renaissance at Rensselaer.

Following the medieval ages in the old world, the Renaissance resulted in a new view of us humans as individuals. Self-consciousness was brought into a new relationship to creation, to the world around and within us. We developed a new way of saying “I.” Based on this change, we transformed ourselves and our world during the following centuries through unprecedented revolutions in science, technology, philosophy, economy, and politics.

And indeed, we are finding ourselves again at a point where the relationships of “I” and “us” and “you” and “them” need redefinition, where a new perspective has to be won that connects the highly diversified, specialized expertise of the post-industrial information society with the fundamental understanding of us humans as the creators of our condition.

The opening weeks of EMPAC will be a celebration of the Renaissance at Rensselaer. An exciting program will catch our fantasy in many different ways, igniting the whole building: in the concert hall, great musical performances, from a symphony orchestra and choir to jazz music, a piano recital with three grand pianos and film premieres on its super-sized screen; the theater comes alive with a theatrical poem by a Japanese performance company; one of the black-box studios will be filled with interactive cinematic works for a panoramic 360-degree screen and the other studio space with a production by a Norwegian multimedia performance group.

There will also be exhibitions and installations ranging from scientific to artistic throughout the building. The following Symposium Weekend will enlighten us by way of both invited guests and Rensselaer experts as to how research, design, and the arts may meet, again surrounded by outstanding national and international performances and exhibitions. Family and Homecoming Weekend will embrace the new building as a center for student performances and activities and as a meeting space for the great Rensselaer community. And should you not be able to come to the opening weekends—plan to visit EMPAC on one of your next trips to campus; sit in the café and overlook the great hillside of the old Rensselaer Approach, or attend a lecture or presentation.

So, let’s—I and you, them and us—climb up there and check it out.

Johannes Goebel is the director of EMPAC.

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Rensselaer (ISSN 0898-1442) is published in Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter by the Office of Strategic Communications and External Relations, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY 12180-3590. Opinions expressed in these pages do not necessarily reflect the views of the editors or the policies of the Institute. ©2008 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.