The Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center

The Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute | Troy, NY
Master Electrician / Lighting Supervisor
January 2013 - September 2016

EMPAC Website

Recursive Frame Analysis

by Mark Fell
with choreography made in collaboration
with Brittany Bailey and Burr Johnson Performed by Brittany Bailey and Burr Johnson

Argeo Ascani - EMPAC Curator, Music
Ian Hamelin - Production Coordinator
Daniel A. Swalec - Lighting Supervisor
Eric Lin - Lighting System Engineer

October 08, 2015 | EMPAC Theatre

Returning to EMPAC after his 2013 multi-venue installation and performance, British artist Mark Fell presents Recursive Frame Analysis, a new work for light, sound, and human movement. As with many of Fell’s previous works, Recursive Frame Analysis emphasizes highly formalized aesthetic strategies: arrangements of intensely saturated light, raw synthetic sound, disrupted rhythmic structures, and kinetic systems that urge the audience to their perceptual and cognitive boundaries. 
Taking its title from a therapeutic technique (RFA) developed in the 1980s, Recursive Frame Analysis refers to the cognitive patterns around which behavioral relationships and interactions develop; typically these are thought of as “stuck” and therefore also somehow problematic. The frame in the case of this performance could refer to the semiotic or the phenomenological. The work engages with and responds to vocabularies of shapes developed by New York-based choreographer and dancer Brittany Bailey.

About the Artists:

Mark Fell is a multidisciplinary artist based in Sheffield, UK. He is widely known for combining popular music styles such as electronica and techno with more academic approaches to computer-based composition, with a particular emphasis on algorithmic and mathematical systems. As well as recorded works, he produces installation pieces, often using multiple speaker systems. He started his career in the ’90s house and techno scene as one half of electronic duo SND and released The Neurobiology of Moral Decision Making earlier this year on label The Death of Rave.

Brittany Bailey has worked as a dancer/choreographer in NYC since 2008. She graduated from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts in 2008 and went on to train with Merce Cunningham. Bailey has performed with Marina Abramovic, Michael Clark Company, and Robert Wilson. Along with creating performance works for her dance company, Bailey is currently the choreographer on performances with Christopher Knowles, Mark Fell, and a solo dance with visuals by Louise Bourgeois and text by Gary Indiana.

text and logo from EMPAC website | Photos by Kris Qua, courtesy of EMPAC


Photos by Kris Qua, courtesy of EMPAC

During this residency period, the artist wanted to focus on precise control of Martin Atomic 3000 Strobe lights. These entertainment lighting fixtures that were likely to be more familiar on a concert stage, were already a part of the EMPAC fixture inventory. They were also fixtures that the artist had used previously and ones he knew to be available worldwide. It was during these previous uses that Mark had realized that controlling these fixtures using the standardized DMX protocol for control of entertainment lighting fixtures, the response time from his control software (max) through his DMX converter and into the fixture had a bit of a lag to it. This was an issue with this system on multiple occasions prior to the inception of this specific project and was a primary concern in the early phases of development of the work.

During the first meeting about this collaboration between Mark and unknown collaborator (at this point in the process, a choreographer and dancer yet to be named) it was determined that a different control method would be desired. My colleague, Eric Lin devised a system using a solid-state relay to close a control circuit, after we determined that a manufacturer included the opportunity to trigger the strobe to flash simply by shorting two pins on the data input connector.


photos by Daniel A. Swalec

After an initial phase of testing, we determined that the theory worked and Mark, Eric and I worked together to layout a control system through an Expert Sleepers ES-3 module that allowed for the output of control voltage from an ADAT lightpipe input to a coupled DC voltage output.  This DC control voltage would open and close the solid-state relay which would short the DMX pins and flash the strobe light at a surprisingly fast speed. I later finessed the design and fit the entire system into a euro-rack style enclosure with custom Ether-con to 5-pin DMX breakout connectors sending short circuit bursts to the Atomic 3000 strobe lights in line. The final device was provided to Mark Fell with a custom engraved faceplate sporting his name, the name of the project, and the EMPAC logo.

Video from EMPAC website

More projects from EMPAC

Ben Frost’s music is not just heard; it’s felt
Already among the most well-known musicians of their generations, Mariel Roberts (cello) and Nate Wooley (trumpet) have quickly developed international reputations for their dedication to the advancement of music.
On the final evening of Cally Spooner’s EMPAC production residency, in which she will be shooting her new film work And You Were Wonderful, On Stage in Studio 1, the artist invites you to be part of a live studio audience
Returning to EMPAC after his 2013 multi-venue installation and performance, British artist Mark Fell presents Recursive Frame Analysis , a new work for light, sound, and human movement.
Almost every object struck, plucked, or blown in Memory Palace, a 22-minute work for amplified percussion and electronics, has to be made by the percussionist.
The Mivos Quartet, one of the most sought-after string quartets in the international new music scene, will be in residence at EMPAC to develop and perform a new work by American composer Eric Wubbels.

Thoughts, Ideas, or Suggestions?