Purpose: To link research creation and public performance more fully with social activism through partnerships engaging universities with community-based and/or Art for Social Change (ASC) organizations. Encounters is a research creation project led by artist scholar Rachael Van Fossen. Building on two earlier projects, an ensemble of artists and students from a wide variety of cultural backgrounds, life experiences, and faiths are, through a series of workshops in both undergraduate and community settings, sharing personal stories and, through the act of performing another person across vastly different life experiences, building a performance.
Community collaborators advising research and participants include grassroots organizations promoting intercultural exchange and social equality across differences of racialization, immigration, gender, sexuality, age and other common marked and unmarked differences. This process provides an example of the utility of performance tools to build intercultural communication, and investigates aesthetic experience as a means to ‘understand’ and know difference and commonality. Data from this field study informs researchers on good practices for meaningful social engagement between university students, artists, and community organizations; and provides insights on partner capacity building, evaluation, and knowledge exchange. The data generated contributes to adaptable ASC processes and tools to continue a sustainable methodology in ASC intercultural and intergenerational communication into the future. This research draws on relevant discourses and practices in intercultural performance, and builds upon existing theorizing of engaged aesthetics. Partner Concordia University leads the collaboration with ASC organizations including Herencias, Teesri Duniya Theatre, and the MAI (Montreal, arts interculturels).
About Rencontres/Encounters (R/E)
Rencontres/Encounters (R/E) is an engaged, intercultural research-creation project, whose aim is to R/E-evaluate, R/E-envision and R/E-imagine performance as a means to build relationship across different values and life experiences. R/E aims also to offer possibilities for transformation in understanding of others and otherness in a range of community contexts. The R/E believes that another person’s perspective can be better understood (though never even close to fully understood) through storytelling, dialogue, and through performance of oneself, and of another.
R/E asks, “What Are We Not Talking About?”
R/E wishes to share our thought-provoking, challenging and beautiful work with larger community through workshops and performances in which art-building and engagement with others can thrive. New levels of empathy are possible when we take on another’s story as if it were our own. New ways of seeing ourselves and others are illuminated, making visible both the real and perceived boundaries that prevent relationship and community between people of different immigration statuses, racializations, sexualities, gender identities, classes, faiths, abilities and other intersecting factors.
R/E asks, “What Are the Differences That Matter?”
The R/E MANIFESTO
- We act to help others and ourselves connect and learn together, despite differences.
- We pay attention to differences that matter, and decide to work through these together.
- Through dialogue, we uncover differences that do not matter, and then we move on.
- We commit to staying in relationship in the present moment.
- We commit to staying in relationship in the long term.
We aim and work for
- The end of exclusion, oppression, and marginalization in the name of difference.
- A transformed understanding of self, other and relationships.
- A shift in the power of who gets to represent us, in art as in life.
- A commitment to stay in dialogue.
- A radical redistribution of love and respect.
- That society needs a new equlibrium. How about an equilibrium that is, in fact, equal?
- There are many visions of social change. Ours is but one. We are part of a bigger picture.
- Social change through personal story and deep relationship across difference is possible.
- That it takes multiple stakeholders, strategies and actions at different levels to raise public consciousness and disrupt forces and structures at play. We work in increments to achieve this.
- That we can achieve all of the above through playing together, performing ourselves for each other, and performing each other.
We commit to Experiment!
To Play and Sing and Dance! To Speak Our Personal Truths! To See What, Who and How We Are, or Wish to Be to Each Other!
To play with every person in the room
To do justice to our own and each other’s stories
To engage in relationship
the space it takes,
the energy, heart and headache
To co-exist, and work toward common intention.