Multi-Channel Video Installation | 2018-19

Artists Talk about Center-Surround

News and Events

Event: Center-Surround At Stevens Institute of Technology

Center-Surround was exhibited as part of the Reinventing Civil Defense project, funded by The Carnegie Corporation of New York at the Stevens Institute of Technology from August 9-10, 2019.

Center-Surround is a multi-channel video artwork by Eric LoPresti, which uses intimacy of martial arts to reframe the global violence of nuclear weapons. As part of this event, the artist spoke about the concept and creation of this piece on August 9.

Exhibition Location: Babbio Center at the Stevens Institute of Technology (Room 104),

Viewing Times: Friday August 9 from 9-6pm and Saturday August 10 from 9-2pm.

Artist Talk: Friday, August 9 at 11:15am, at SIT Room 122 Auditorium.

Admission is free to the public.

News: Center-Surround receives Grant

The Carnegie Corporation of New York funded an expansion on Center-Surround in 2019 via an innovative project called Reinventing Civil Defense.

This grant, administered by the Stevens Institute of Technology, enables additional exhibition dates at the in New York vicinity and beyond.

Event: Center-Surround Debuts in NYC at Fridman Gallery as part of New Ear Festival

Opens Wednesday January 9, 7-8pm (Free)
Thursday January 10 – Saturday Jan 12, during normal gallery hours (12-6 pm, Free)
Note that ticketed performances start nightly at 8pm.

Program Notes for the New Ear Festival

About this Artwork

Center-Surround is a multi-channel video juxtaposing video of a multiple-person martial arts practice with an animation of the name and date of every nuclear weapons explosion to date. Looping every two hours, Center-Surround uses the intimacy of hand-to-hand combat to reframe the impersonal violence of weapons of mass destruction.

The first video shows of a group of aikido practitioners continuously sparring and throwing each other onto mats (aikido as a modern martial art grew out of post-WWII Japan). They are practicing randori, a stylized free-style exercise in which multiple opponents attack in waves. In aikido, the defender avoids brute force and instead respond with movement, creativity and empathy for their opponent. Nonetheless, aikido randori is quite vigorous; as each opponent is thrown onto the mat their body makes the distinctive ‘slap’ sound of a breakfall.

On the opposing wall, a second video shows a succession of colored cards. Each card marks the name and date a nuclear explosion, starting from the 1945 Trinity Tests, Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings and each of the 2427 nuclear weapons tests to present.

The two videos are synchronized such that each card appears precisely at the time of a breakfall in the video. The ‘slap’ sounds propagate through the gallery like a soft thunderclap, while the colored cards infuse the gallery with light. Center-Surround loops every four hours, which is how long it takes the performers to represent each detonation as a breakfall.

Expansive in scope and minimal in style, Center-Surround is an empathy-building meditation on the apocalyptic sublime. The juxtaposed videos physically embody a level of violence which is usually experienced in the abstract: world-shattering apocalypse. Using martial artists to metaphorically re-enact the nuclear arms race within a stylized framework, Center-Surround invites viewers to feel, in a small way, each of these terrifying weapons, not as abstractions or cinematic fictions, but as complex interactions between very real human beings.

Watch Center-Surround Trailer (2m)

As exhibited at Fridman Gallery, 2019.

Exhibitions and Events

  • January 9 - 12, 2019 - Center-Surround included in the New Ear Festival at Fridman Gallery, NYC

  • October 2018 - January 2019 - Center-Surround is part of Superbloom, at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces NM

  • August 2019 - Stevens Institute of Technology as part of Reinventing Civil Defense, Hoboken NJ

Related Video


I had an enormous amount of help creating this artwork, and want to thank everyone who made this possible, including:

  • Aikido Video Production: Phil Cappello, Tom Piper, Jaime Kahn, Juan Carlos Figuera

  • Special thanks to Zach Biesanz, Damon Leary, Lisa Schilling and Robert Schwartz

  • Digital Animation: Alex Wellerstein (Nuclear Data, Code), Anna-Brit Schlaepfer (Code), Charlie Pontrelli (Code), Eric Dunlap (Video Sync)

  • Creative Consulting: Deborah Fisher

  • Aikidoists: Aleksandra Michalska, Deborah Fisher, Derek Wilson, Eddie Leung, Jeffrey Chi, JJ Montes, Juan Carlos Figuera, Keith Miller, Kevin Kanasaka, Kristina Wollschlaeger, Luis Marin Affonso, Neil Applebaum, Robert Madison II, Robert Schwartz, Ruth Peyser, Sam Taitel, Sarah Veysey

  • Special thanks to Shihan Hal Lehrman, Head Instructor of Aikido of Park Slope, where the aikido portion of this artwork was filmed, and to Yoshimitsu Yamada Sensei, Head Instructor of New York Aikikai

  • Very special thanks to Wood Huntley and Beirne Donaldson for their generous support.

  • Thank you Fridman Gallery and Burning In Water, NYC