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The 'unique power' of interdisciplinary collaboration at the 2014 Encuentro

Pan-American conference and performance festival to foreground innovative scholarship, political documentaries, innovative film editing techniques and more
June 11, 2014
By Tom Peacock

Liz Miller’s documentary En la casa, la cama y la calle (At home, in bed and in the streets), was produced in collaboration with Nicaraguan non-profit women’s rights group Puntos de Encuentro.

Krista Lynes, an associate professor in the Department of Communication Studies and Concordia’s Canada Research Chair in Feminist Media Studies, was immediately attracted to the Encuentro.

More than 750 scholars, artists and activists will converge on the university from June 21 to 28 for the conference and performance festival, which is co-organized by the Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics and held every two years in a different city in the Americas.

The theme of the 2014 edition — Manifest! Choreographing Social Movements in the Americas — resonated with Lynes.

“It was especially interesting to me, given how many people around the world had taken to the street in the past several years and renewed our sense of the importance of bodies in the street,” she says.

Krista Lynes Krista Lynes | Photo: Concordia University

Along with transdisciplinary artist Alan Paul from California, and Rébecca Lavoie, a student from Concordia’s PhD Humanities program, Lynes is convening a workgroup entitled “Trespass: Bodily Crossings, Mediated Borders.”

“We worked together to articulate a theme that was open to unexpected outcomes but framed around a governing set of questions and concerns about appearance in public space, processes of escape and capture, ontologies of place and groundedness.”

Lynes’s workgroup is one of dozens that will take place during the week. But while their themes — everything from making trauma visible to religion and politics in the Americas — vary, their goal is the same: to encourage experimentation, dialogue and collaboration.

With its emphasis on interdisciplinarity, the Encuentro, held in conjunc­tion with the Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics, is a natural fit for Concordia, says Mark Sussman, associate dean of Academic and Student Affairs in the Faculty of Fine Arts.

“It fits the school’s strategic research plan of cross-faculty collaboration by increasing the visibility of artists and performance scholars in many departments.”

Because of that, the festival will highlight the work of faculty across Concordia.

Liz Miller | Photo: Concordia University

Liz Miller, professor in the Department of Communication Studies, is convening a workgroup called “Scaling Social Movements: Mobilization, Media, and Performance.” She and her colleagues Natalia Radywyl, a Fellow of New York City’s Project for Public Spaces, and Allison Schifani, an American researcher whose work explores urban intervention and public art, will examine how different groups mobilize around issues of social justice using new-media practices and public performance.

The workshop stems from Miller’s 2013 documentary En la casa, la cama y la calle (At home, in bed and in the streets), produced in collaboration with Nicaraguan non-profit women’s rights group Puntos de Encuentro.

The film, which will be screened at the Encuentro, follows the group as it works to end sexual violence through a blend of mainstream media and grassroots organizing. Miller’s workgroup will use similar case studies as a point of departure.

“I have been following this organization for over 10 years because what they do is so effective and is such an inspiration in how to use mass media to shift perspectives around gender, violence and a host of other issues,” Miller says.

Kim Sawchuk Kim Sawchuk | Photo: David Ward

Meanwhile, Kim Sawchuk, professor in the Department of Communication Studies and co-director of the Mobile Media Lab, and Arseli Dokumacı, postdoctoral researcher at the Mobile Media Lab, will convene a workgroup under the title of “Performing Disability/Enabling Performance.”

“We want to discuss how performance and disability intersect while exploring issues of the body, disease, representations of disability and accessibility in a city’s public spaces and at home,” Dokumacı says.

On the first day of Encuentro, Matt Soar, associate professor in the Department of Communication Studies, will present a workshop on the Korsakow System, a piece of non-linear video production software created by Florian Thalhofer, a Berlin-based artist.

Soar is Korsakow’s project director, and he’s been working on its redevelopment since 2007.

Matt Soar Matt Soar | Photo: David Ward

He credits Sawchuk, who is also supporting his work, with getting him involved with Encuentro.

In the workshop, Soar will guide Encuentro participants through the user-friendly software so they can produce films that may be screened during the conference.

“We're finding it gets used often by people who are exploring social issues,” he says. “It's a platform that allows them to tell stories in an innovative kind of way.”

As Sussman explains, this range of scholarship — and the ideas it will no doubt spur — is precisely why he is pleased that Concordia is hosting Encuentro 2014.

“The conference is powerful because it leaves so much room for collaboration and experimentation,” he says. “It brings work from Performance Studies and the performing arts with major social implications to the fore.”


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