Creating a global community

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U of R class project crosses international and identity borders

Jennifer Lyn Squires
Contributor

As many University of Regina students anxiously await their first project of the year, two classes have already completed a project that attempted to not only transcend stereotypes, but borders.

The project, Crossing Over, was interdisciplinary project between the intermedia and theatre departments. It was developed by theatre department head Kathleen Irwin and visual arts department head Rachelle Viader Knowles out of their prior project Blur Street, an online-based initiative.  The Crossing Over project was also partially based on Kwarme Anthony Appiah’s book Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers, which explores the responsibility we have to the global community in contrast to the constraints of patriotism and nationalism.

“Our collaborations continue to explore issues of representation and identity, which are at the core of scenographic practices, new technologies and performativity central to intermedia art,” Irwin and Viader Knowles wrote in an email. “As university professors, we are interested in creating opportunities for our students to show their work beyond university walls and build relationships beyond our physical borders.”

Crossing Over sought to build links between departments, students, and countries through video media. It included students from an intermedia class and a scenography class, both of which are made up of students from many departments. The project connected students at the U of R with students from different universities through video responses. But this year’s project had a special twist to it.

“An opportunity arose through the International Symposium of Electronic Arts [ISEA] to connect with Sabanci University in Istanbul, Turkey,”  Irwin and Viader Knowles said. They contributed Crossing Over as a workshop to the ISEA, where students in Turkey did the exact same project as the ones from the University of Regina.

After a discussion of stereotypes and patriotism, students were commissioned to make up a character and film a video depicting their decision to immigrate to the partnering country. Once all the departure videos were uploaded to the Crossing Over website, students claimed a video and continued the story in a response video, dubbed the arrival video.

Each submission this year was very different from the next. Some were politically charged, some mysterious, and others silly, yet they all had a lot of thought put into them regarding what would translate across borders. While the Turkish videos often poked fun at Canada being cold, gloom,  and full of Tim Hortons-lovers, they roused discussion about stereotypes and what we really know about other people.

“By bringing these stereotypes up, and in some cases making a mockery of them, it almost eliminates them and shows how people from such different places can be so similar,” said Tanner Piper, a fourth year film student who participated in the project.

“The Crossing Over project reaffirmed the power of national stereotypes,” agreed fellow film student Luke Patterson, “[It] also showed the power of the Internet in creating, deconstructing, and ultimately showing that national borders are redundant.”

Leah Keiser, a fourth year arts and culture student, deemed the project a success.

“Because intense and strange senses of humour are completely translatable, the fact that we were all communicating with total strangers didn’t hinder our ability to connect with each other on such a guarded level,” she said. “[It was] a very cool project to be a part of.”

Whether the project will be repeated is uncertain. Irwin and Viader Knowles enjoy collaborating together, but they are always open to new ideas and opportunities.

“As it is extremely important that the projects are relevant and current, we respond to issues as they arise and prefer not to continue projects indefinitely,” they said.

To learn more about the Crossing Over, visit www2.uregina.ca/crossingover/index.php.

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