Four students participating in the COIL project between UAntwerp's Theatre, Film and Literature programme and LaSalle College of the Arts' (Singapore) BA Acting and Musical programme share their experiences in this interview. Thanks to Felipe Cervera and LaSalle College of the Arts for setting up this conversation. 

COIL Project between UAntwerp and LASALLE College of the Arts

Film still from a video tour through São Paolo by Juliana Moraes (State University of Campinas)

With classes going online again, lecturers and researchers Felipe Cervera (LASALLE College of the Arts, Singapore), Kyoko Iwaki and Kristof van Baarle (both Antwerp University) seek to make to most of it and think not only in terms of limitations, but of opportunities. Working online affords easier international collaboration and exchange and that is why they chose to create a COIL (Collaborative Online International Learning) module within a Performance Analysis course taught in both Antwerp University's Theatre- Film and Literature studies programme and LASALLE College of the Arts' Acting and Musical Theatre programmes.

Space and time constitute the basis of any given theatre performance: being ‘here-and-now’ together in the same place with others for a limited duration of time has long been considered as the prerequisite of performances. However, during the COVID-19 pandemic, theatre-goers were introduced to novel forms of performances in which spaces were dismantled, time was disintegrated, and various modes of consciousness were flattened to a single unit of quarantine space-and-time. Taking this first-hand experience as the base of reflection, students of LASALLE College of the Arts (Singapore) and Antwerp University (Belgium) will take part in a five-week COIL (Collaborate Online International Learning) exercise, which will focus on understanding the emerging dramaturgies of space in performances that are appearing in relation to digital arenas and outdoor spaces. 

During the COIL period, an introductory session and three lectures that deal with various theoretical and artistic aspects of these conditions will be taught by lecturers from Antwerp and Singapore. These sessions provide context and a step-up for the group assignment connected to this COIL exercise, in which acting students from LASALLE College of the Arts and theatre-and film studies students from Antwerp University will be working closely together. They will do so in the development of a site-specific performance around spatial objects (whether hospitals, parking lots, cemeteries, derelict factories, or historic buildings) in a city they don't know: São Paolo, Brazil. São Paolo, one of the worst-hit places by the virus, is chosen precisely because students from Antwerp and Singapore are equally distanced from the city. The very act of distancing enables the students to be critical to their own COVID-19 experience: be vigilant of cultural appropriations, be wary of universal narratives, and be attentive to political issues tied to the local histories. A video tour through São Paolo especially made for this occasion by Juliana Moraes, professor at the State University of Campinas (BR), offered a first insight and impression of the city.

Conceptually inspired by Australian theatre director Samara Harsh’s Body of Knowledge, through which around a dozen teenagers from Australia make multiple international phone calls to audiences sitting at their homes across the world to ask philosophical, political, and ecological questions, seeking to build an intercultural body of knowledge, students from these two different cities will collaborate to build a shared knowledge on how to reconfigure various on- and offline performative spaces in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. In short, students - and for that matter, lectureres alike - will be acknowledged to approach public, digital, and atmospheric spaces as “performative objects” and interrogate how the understanding of these objects has transformed in the past few months. 

We consider this collaboration a first step in what promises to be an exciting long term exchange!

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