Recap: Lucky Dragons at EMPAC

A disclaimer in the arts is a double edge sword. Especially prior to the exposure of a performance or a piece of a creative nature. On one end, some people simply gravitate towards an artist’s written statement of a theory or explanation or introduction to help them ‘digest it’, ‘get it’ or help ‘guide’ them along the way. It is meant to be helpful but as with any good intention, sometimes it can also turn off the viewer regardless of an optimistic open-minded nature. Art is subjective, music is subjective and Lucky Dragons’ Actual Reality is subjective.

That being said, their written statement in the printed booklet last night was my saving grace at the Experimental Media Performing Arts Center in Troy. Their explanation of, (and curiosities towards) “actual reality” was something that I read multiple times during the performance and really ended up being a key ingredient I depended on to enjoy myself and react to their piece on a cognitive level.

Their statement mentioned how they’ve had a Google alert for the term ‘actual reality’ for years, and how it is a ‘candid’ and ‘democratic’ view of the Internet. It is a term used by diarists, pundits, analysts, self-help gurus, etc. as what the artists call a “let’s-get-serious reference to the common background against which imaginary things come together momentarily. Everyone should be able to recognize actual reality, or compare things against it, to measure when we’ve moved too far from it.”

Oohhhh ok. As for the actual performance, it was in the room in EMPAC that we saw Four Tet in, but with the comfiest chairs (like, ever) put in a circular layout. Four flutists, one bassoon player, one percussion player and Sarah Rara (video) and Luke Fischbeck (audio) comprise Lucky Dragons, and circled the room behind the seated audience playing their associated instruments. The sound blended from its source as visuals projected on a giant screen front and center, as well as on the center ceiling. It was a slow start, in my opinion, and I couldn’t help but think that it was funny how I completely misjudged what the performance would be. It was soothing, relaxing and pensive, which made for a pleasant shift from an energizer bunny like me.

The music was beautifully constructed and beautifully interrupted. Sharp cuts of a flute related to escaping smoke on the projector screen. Strong, distorted audio snippets rang loud as a diamond pattern raced across the ceiling. It was a dialogue of sorts, but with speaking with instrumentation instead of words. Playful, dramatic silent pauses made me thankful my cell phone didn’t accidentally ring.

The biggest question of “actual reality” is one that is unanswered. My thoughts digesting the concept became more about the process of thinking than the actual end thought or final understanding. To me, there was no ‘aha’ moment. Maybe I actually ‘didn’t get’ it. My mother, for example, would have rather attended the most boring meeting imaginable than go to an abstract art performance such as this.
My attention span often betrays me, but at the very least, it was nice to escape my reality, and enter theirs, wherever the hell it was.

As always, the sound at EMPAC was immaculate and I would say, even if you’re not someone who is normally into conceptual or experimental/abstract performances, EMPAC is worth checking out for the facility alone. Check out EMPAC’s schedule and be sure to get out to some upcoming events, especially if you haven’t had an experimental taste yet.

The performance ended in a halt that felt abrupt, and the performers exited without speaking a word. People kind of lingered, myself included, wondering if there was anything else yet to come. There wasn’t; we were left alone in our thoughts.

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