Crossing Over: International Practice-based Research and Tele/Digital Performance

Workshop Leader: Dr. Kathleen Irwin
2nd Leader: Prof. Rachelle Viader Knowles
Crossing Over, a web-based, pedagogical project between students in Canada and Turkey, represents the starting point for a larger set of research questions around the notion of cosmopolitanism, the care we owe to strangers and the ethics of social interaction facilitated by the World Wide Web. This is accomplished over a three-day intensive workshop during which time international networks are activated between teams of students, and background narratives, video performances, and suitcases – are exchanged via the Crossing Over website –

The framework for the workshop is ISEA2011 and Istanbul, itself a gateway city or crossing over point between east and west, a cultural and creative nexus between diverse people and practices in art, philosophy, science and technology.

The question that the project asks, regarding our consideration of and responsibility for others, is critical in light of global mobility, the building, breaking down and blurring of borders and the instantaneous exchange of information that digital crossing over points (the Internet) enable.

During the workshop, these ideas are explored using readings from Kwame Anthony Appiah’s Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers (2006). Oseloka Obaze writes in his book review that Appiah’s thesis:

is predicated on the principles of the existence of different people bound by a simple nexus of common values and humanity… Appiah essentially argues that even in our unquestionably variegated world of clashing ideas and norms, there is a great verisimilitude that transcends imaginary or real boundaries that we seem more inclined to prefer and promote.  He postulates that the ethos of differentiating societies notwithstanding, there are more binding similarities in a united world. The prime thrust of his argument is that many people of cosmopolitan temperament are not necessarily from the elite spectrum of their societies or for that matter, of the world. He is of the view that in a world full of strangers, Cosmopolitanism is a universal trait of humankind.

A creative collaboration between students in the Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Regina, Canada and Sabanci University, Istanbul, Turkey, Crossing Over concentrates on processes, theories and paradigms for innovative practice-based research that crosses distance, time, language and disciplines. It provides a framework for collaboration that engages students in a creative exchange of identities within a post-colonial context.

This project develops out of a teaching methodology that combines studio practice and theoretical investigation and understands that such interconnectivities encourage students to think broadly and deeply and explore the range of possibilities that exists where one or more disciplines and cultures intersect or collide.

In the absence of avatars and mythic scenarios, as an interactive web-based activity, Crossing Over operates more as an international parlor game, played out in real time and at street level. The rules of engagement asks players to perform identities and respond in kind to their international team mates. In so doing, participants blur the distinction between performance and social networking. Players are asked to question the representational armature of narrative and character that conventional performance operates within and to see digital performance as a fluid, and evolving field – an intertextually coordinated, multiply located discursive field of operation.
Contact Emails:
Bios of the Presenters
Kathleen Irwin (Doctor of Arts, Aalto University, Helsinki) is Head of the Theatre Department and Professor of Scenography in the Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Regina, Canada. Having designed extensively for theatre, opera and dance, she now focuses her creative practice on notions of identity, space and representation as reflected through landscape in large-scale, multi-disciplinary, site-specific performance events.

Her pedagogic research engages and investigates performative and archival practices in relationship to the Internet.
Examples of this can be seen at: and

She is Artistic Director of Knowhere Productions Inc., a creative collective that explores the relationship of local populations to a particular place and time. As Co-chair of ArtsAction Inc., an arts-based research organization, she investigates the arts as driver and key indicator of urban renewal.

She writes critically on site-specificity and spatial performativity and has presented on these subjects at numerous national and international conferences and is published in such journal as Canadian Theatre Research, Theatre Research in Canada, Critical Perspectives on Canadian Theatre and has recently contributed chapters to Performance Design, published by Museum Tuscalanum Press, Copenhagen (2008) and Art in Public Places: Critical Perspectives, University of Toronto Press (2009). Sighting, Citing, Siting, an art catalogue and an anthology of scholarly articles co-edited with Rory MacDonald, (Canadian Plains Research Centre, 2009) was nominated in two categories for the Saskatchewan Book Awards in the same year.
She is a Bogliasco Research Fellow, a Saskatchewan Institute of Public Policy Fellow and a University of Regina Teaching and Learning Scholar. She is a recipient of numerous awards and grants and was nominated for the Saskatchewan Governor Generals Award for Innovation in the Arts in 2007.

She is Canadian Education Commissioner for the International Organization of Scenographers, Theatre Architects and Technicians (OISTAT), a former member of the Board for the National Theatre School of Canada, English Alumni Association, Associated Designers of Canada and is currently Scholarly Awards Coordinator on the Board of the Canadian Association for Theatre Research. She is affiliated with the International Federation for Theatre Research, Performance Studies International and teaches at the Aalto Summer Academy for Practice-based Research.

Rachelle Viader Knowles is Head of the Department of Visual Arts and Associate Professor of Visual Arts Intermedia at the University of Regina in central Canada. She is a visual artist and educator working in a broad range of contemporary media. Her work encompasses four interconnected zones: lens and time-based installation, site-specific practices and alternate spaces of exhibition and viewership, text and language-based works, and innovative art pedagogies.

Her projects have been performed, screened, exhibited and installed in galleries and festivals across Canada and internationally in the USA, South Korea, the UK, Germany and Argentina. Solo exhibition include: Home and Other Fictions at Chapter Gallery in Cardiff, UK (2003); Poem and Bedspin at Residencia Corazon Gallery in La Plata, Argentina (2008); In The Neighbourhood at the Mendel Art Gallery in Saskatoon, Canada (2008); and Life Elsewhere at the Art Gallery of Regina in Canada. Hybrid art/pedagogy projects include Near and Far, a collaboration with the Independent Art School and Hull Time-Based Arts in the UK, and Blur Street and Crossing Over in collaboration with Dr.  Kathleen Irwin.

Knowles has received numerous awards including residencies at the Banff Centre for the Arts, Trinity Square Video in Toronto, the Braziers Workshop in the UK, the Atlantic Centre for the Arts in Florida, the Hungarian Multicultural Centre in Budapest, Residencia Corazon in Argentina, the Canada Council Studio in Paris and the Elsewhere Museum in Greensboro, USA. In 2007 she was a finalist for the Sobey Award, Canada’s contemporary art prize.
Originally from the UK, she studied Interactive Arts at the University of Wales and received an MFA in Visual Arts from the University of Windsor in Canada.

Examples of her work can be found on her website:


Posted by:  Ebru Surek