Terms of Engagement: The Ethics and Aesthetics of Artistic Experimentation in the Rencontres/Encounters Project. A Dialogue of Sorts.
Situated within a context of social unease around xenophobic measures such as Québec’s Commission on Reasonable Accommodation and the infamous Charter of Québec Values, Rencontres/Encounters (R/E)’s research-creation process foregrounds what Ric Knowles terms “interculturalism” or “the contested, unsettling, and often unequal spaces between cultures, spaces that can function as performative sites of negotiation.” R/E blurs distinctions of what constitutes “community-engaged,” by experimenting with professional theatre artists from diverse or marginalized communities as an ethical, experimental approach to advancing social engagement processes and artistic creation. Can stepping into performance in the stories of others/another/an Other help build relationships and transform understandings across different life experiences, value systems, racialization, faiths, sexual and gender identities, etc.? The basis of the R/E experimental methodology in studio was to invite performance proposals centred on an ever-evolving set of questions. For example: What personal material can and should be used? How can risks be mitigated in future encounters? What are we looking for? How can we clarify the terms of engagement? Our team now is refining and adapting the experiments for dissemination in the form of workshops, and through a resource guide that will provide a menu of exercises, games, and performance proposals.