Above: Compelling Telling workshop in Tunis, 2017. Photo: Jana Eiting

Darren has developed a number of artist talks and workshops to share the different aspects of his own work as well as relevant work of other artists who, like Darren, use social relations as material in their practice. Darren’s workshops are very participatory, sharing his methods and insights in creating art, doing social research, managing chaotic and complex careers and dealing positively and productively with social discomfort. While his talks and workshops are designed to transmit complex information, theories and methods, they are also designed as works of entertainment, if not works of art. Is a piano dropped on your head necessary and/or sufficient for an early demise? Check out his workshops and find out. Additionally, Producer Alice Fleming is also available to share her experiences working with Darren and others in her talk Everything is Possible, Solving Odd Artistic Problems.

Darren has presented his workshops around the world with a variety of partners including the West Kowloon Cultural District, Hong Kong; Taipei’s Prototype Paradise and the National Theatre of Taipei; the London International Festival of Theatre; the Melbourne International Festival, the Melbourne Fringe Festival and Australia’s Back to Back Theatre; the Iceland Academy of the Arts; Newcastle’s Wunderbar and the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art; Goldsmiths University; the Art Gallery of Ontario; Swallow a Bicycle, Artstrek and the Banff Centre; the PuSh Festival, the Ruhrtriennale Festival; Tunisia’s L’Art Rue; Alesund Norway’s Theatre Vort and Toronto’s Neighborhood Arts Network.

Small performance outcome as part of Compelling Telling Workshop in Tunis, 2017. Photo: Alice Fleming

WORKSHOPS

COMPELLING TELLING, INTERVENING IN PUBLIC PLACES

Compelling Telling, Intervening in Public Places is a master class workshop for performance practitioners interested in playful, provocative, social-specific participatory performances with non-actors of all ages and demographics. This master class will focus on the basics of Darren’s social acupuncture method to create innovative ways for artists to engage and interact with the public. Through detailed theory,  case studies, exercises, discussions and the designing and testing of performance moments in public places, participants will gain tools and ideas for developing an artistic practice that is socially-minded, playful, and engages the real real world.

EMERGENCE: PLANNING THE UNPLANNABLE

Emergence: Planning the Unplannable is a quick over-view of the science of complexity and how it relates to managing teams, leading organizations or keeping an eye on the complexities of one’s career and personal life. Described by some as a ‘motivational talk,’ Darren shares ways of understanding complexity, change and how to make room for the unexpected to emerge. These techniques are particularly useful in situations where there is the desire to evolve beyond old hierarchies, structures and mind-sets, and are very amenable to facilitating, promoting and fostering diversity of ideas, viewpoints and people. The workshop is for those who are interested in shaking up the routines of their lives, careers, organizations or initiatives and will be very participatory, brains-on and feet-on. Be prepared to move.

SHIIT: SOCIAL HIGH INTENSITY INTERVAL TRAINING

Social High Intensity Interval Training (SHIIT) subjects workshop participants to a gruelling series of training exercises designed to build resilience in the face of social discomfort and build social intelligence. During this, the Great Polarization of the early 21st Century, one of the most important skills to develop how to not only survive the uncomfortable presence of people with abhorrent political views, but actually find even the smallest ember of humanity within them to love. Using basic social acupuncture methods, Darren will help you love discomfort and your enemies.

SET-THEORETIC RESEARCH METHODS, A BRAINS-ON INTRODUCTION

Set-Theoretic Research Methods, a Brains-On Introduction is a workshop in Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA) for arts managers, programme evaluators, and development staff who need to tell convincing evidence-based stories.

Designed by American sociologist Charles Ragin to handle both qualitative and quantitative data, QCA is a research method that uses set relations to study social phenomena. The core of the method uses Boolean algebra to simplify logical statements to determine the sufficiency and necessity of particular conditions for particular outcomes. This four hour introductory workshop is intended for anyone who practices social research or works in fields where complicated mixes of social factors require parsing to determine relevance. The method is applicable across disciplines and to a wide variety of questions. The workshop will be part lecture and part hands-on with practical exercises of the basic operations of the technique. Participants will leave intrigued by this method, but will require additional training and study to apply it.

TALKS

THE PERFORMANCE AND FILM WORK OF DARREN O’DONNELL AND MAMMALIAN DIVING REFLEX

Darren will introduce his work, company and a number of the current and upcoming projects in Australia, the UK, Germany, and Toronto. Starting with a quick zip through the theories and methods behind the work, the presentation will focus on his performance and film work with children and youth, the elderly and with refugees in Germany. Projects discussed: Haircuts by Children, All the Sex I’ve Ever Had, Nightwalks with Teenagers, The Hemsbach Protocol, Teentalitarianism and others. Darren will also outline the Mammalian Succession Model of Youth Labour Engagement, and explain how it was develop in collaboration with teenagers in Toronto and the manner in which it is being replicated in the UK and Germany. Finally, he will address current ethical and political concerns, trying to answer the question: just exactly how much should we expect from the arts.

SOCIAL ACUPUNCTURE: SOCIAL RELATIONS AS ARTISTIC MATERIAL

Darren introduces social acupuncture, the idea of social relations as material in an artistic practice and the role and value of discomfort. He provides examples and analysis from both his own practice and the practice of others including Branch Nebula, Rimini Protokoll, Ontroerend Goed, Gob Squad, Katerina Seda, Santiago Sierra, Gustavo Artigas, and others. Darren will also provide an evaluative model to help answer the very vexing question: but is it good art?

HAIRCUTS BY CHILDREN AND OTHER EVIDENCE FOR A NEW SOCIAL CONTRACT

This talk outlines the argument of Darren’s book Haircuts by Children and Other Evidence for a New Social Contract. Topics include: the potential role that children could play in making the world a better, more fair, place; the historical relativity of the concept of childhood; the expertise that children bring; the changing role of children and the world of work; children in contemporary performance, and the model of youth engagement developed in Toronto and now being reproduced in London and Germany.

FIGHTING WITH TEACHERS: WHEN ART MEETS PEDAGOGY

Collaborating with the school system to create challenging art for a young adult audience is not an easy job. Darren has been doing this for more than twelve years; he has got into many fights with teachers and made many strong allegiances among the students. In Fighting with Teachers he shares his experiences creating both long-term and short-term projects with schools, goes into the gory details of the many conflicts that have ensued and provides a map to guide artists through the confusing thicket of weirdness and conflict that is the public education system.

EVERYTHING IS POSSIBLE: SOLVING ODD ARTISTIC PROBLEMS, A TALK BY ALICE FLEMING

Producer Alice Fleming has worked with Back to Back Theatre, Darren and Mammalian Diving Reflex, leading, producing and developing projects internationally. Over the years, she has encountered and solved a range of odd and challenging artistic and production problems. She shares many of the highlights in this talk, offering insights about flexibility, covert creativity and how to bring high levels of robustness to complex works of performance so that they work well. Always.

Zona K workshop participants watch each others performance outcome in Milan.

Above: Zona K workshop participants watch each others performance outcome in Milan. Photo credit: Silvia Orlandi