In Virtual Rectangles (International Institute for Critical Studies in Improvisation)

 It started with a walk; I was walking in a crowded street in Tehran, and I was trying to maintain the physical distance of the Covid era. Jumping from here to there and going from spot to spot. How does it look from above? 

The “In Virtual Rectangles” is the result of about three months of planning and discussion; the ideas, the poetry, technological aspects and connection difficulties. It is a recording of a non-scripted live performance. The four performers are in four different locations and four different time zones. Each has a virtual rectangle to perform in while also watching the other performers’ reactions. The basis of our theme comes from a poem by Ahmad Shamlou. Then the other layers of words, in different languages, come after. 

“Ah if freedom sang a song 
As the larynx of a bird 

If freedom sang a song 
Smaller even 
Than the larynx of one bird” 

By Ahmad Shamlou translated by Shahab Yassemi

Shaghayegh Yassemi is a film director and a performance artist. She earned a Bachelor’s and a Master’s in Theater from Soore University of Tehran. In 2015 she moved to Montreal and finished her second Master’s, this time in Film Production, at the Concordia University. From that date on she has been going back and forth between Canada and Iran to make her artworks. She started her PhD in Critical Studies in Improvisation at the University of Guelph in 2020. She is particularly fond of architecture, the surrounding environment, and the way it communicates with people. She is researching how a performance art piece or a piece with performative characteristics can create an experience of poetry.

Erwan Noblet

Erwan Noblet is a French vocal explorer, passionate about the infinite power of the human voice. He is a voice teacher, a singer and an improviser. Free vocal improvisation has become a meaningful way for him to explore and make music with people from all over the world. He recently studied with mentors such as Bobby McFerrin and Rhiannon, and graduated from Shenandoah University with a master of music in contemporary voice pedagogy. In 2021, he should integrate the International Institute for Critical Studies in Improvisation at the University of Guelph.


Leila Qashu

Leila Qashu is a musician, ethnomusicologist/anthropologist, arts and practice-based researcher, community worker and activist who lives in Montreal. She has been playing the viola in classical and improvisational contexts for years. She is a researcher and instructor with the International Institution for Critical Studies in Improvisation (IICSI). Overall, her work focuses on decolonizing research, teaching and other structures through informed, ground-up, collaborative research and work. Through her improvisations she focuses on sharing and collaborating through music and other arts, and music as a site for sharing.

Paul db Watkins is a Professor of English at Vancouver Island University (VIU). He is also a research team member with the International Institute for Critical Studies in Improvisation (IICSI). Under his DJ alias, DJ Techné, he has completed a number of DJ projects that explore the spaces between improvisation, poetry, hip-hop, and jazz. His latest album, Portals was made over the summer months of 2020 during the COVID-19 global pandemic and is about music as a gateway towards healing, creativity, community, and play. 



The International Institute for Critical Studies in Improvisation (IICSI) is a partnered research institute building from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) project, “Improvisation, Community, and Social Practice” (ICASP). IICSI’s partners include six academic institutions, a foundation partner, and 30+ community-based organizations. The Institute’s mandate is to create positive social change through the confluence of improvisational arts, innovative scholarship, and collaborative action.

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