Art Review: Darren O'Donnell at CCL1 Posted November 10th, 2007 by timothy. 2 Comments 07w11:1: Art Review: Darren O’Donnell at CCL1 (March 8 – 28 2007) This is reposted from Goodreads 07w11:1. – Timothy Darren O’Donnell at CCL1 Darren O’Donnell’s work over the past couple of years has been fantastic. His Suicide Site Guide to the City wowed me when I saw it in 2005, and apparently this was because of the ignorance mentioned above, as Kamal Al-Solaylee wrote in his review at the time ‘…only audiences who haven’t been to the theatre in say, a few decades, are expected to be dazzled by the presentation’. I admitted in my review that I was one of such an audience. Yet, how could we not appreciate Haircuts by Children or Ballroom Dancing for Nuit Blanche? In an arts scene riven by competition and jealousies, Darren’s work is something that we all seem to appreciate without such pettiness. I recently attended the latest production from his theatre company, Diplomatic Immunities: THE END and was genuinely touched: Ulysses Castellanos singing Queen’s `We are the Champions` at the end of the show almost made me cry. This was the song voted on by children at a local school to be that which they wanted to hear at the End of the World. (My vote at the present time is either The Beatles’ `Tomorrow Never Knows` or `Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)` and as I listen to them nowadays I imagine it playing over the footage of this video.) But what is it about Darren’s work along these lines that is so generally fantastic? For me it highlights what is perhaps a greater shift in our culture, which is a movement toward an interest in ‘real life’ (and to that end, reality-tv represents this transition, by using non-actors but still tying them to some sort of narrative structure). The work of Darren’s theatre troupe, Mammalian Diving Reflex, forgoes an explicit narrative structure and seemingly let’s that emerge on it’s own. Here, I’m most inspired by a snippet of dialogue from a Star Trek show. In the Enterprise episode ‘Dear Doctor’ which first aired in January 2002, there’s a scene depicting movie-night on the starship; while watching ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’ a 1943 film being shown in that time-frame of 209 years from its creation, the character Ensign Cutler asks the alien Doctor Phlox, ‘They don’t have movies where you come from do they?’ He replied, ‘We had something similar a few hundred years ago, but they lost their appeal when people discovered their real lives were more interesting’. Now, imagine living on Phlox’s planet during that time of transition, when people were discovering their own lives were more interesting. Wouldn’t that time resemble our own, with diminishing box office returns, reality-tv programing undermining celebrity culture, a global communications network allowing for unedited dialogue within varying degrees of privacy, and the rise of the documentary genre in popularity? This statement was typed out initially by a scriptwriter in Los Angeles at the beginning of this decade and perhaps was meant both as an inside joke to Star Trek’s fanbase (Shatner’s ‘Get a Life‘ skit from his 1986 appearance on Saturday Night Live) and reflecting the concern of Hollywood that they would lose their market. Three years later, Enterprise was cancelled, the only franchise since its resurrection twenty years ago to not last through seven seasons. Leaving DI: The End four weeks ago I was convinced that our own lives were definitely more interesting. The performance incorporated an element of chance in its selection of two audience members during the course of the evening for interviews by the cast and attendees; on the night I was there, I was stunned by the answers given by the second girl chosen, who told us of saving the life of one of her friends during a climbing accident years before. Also, when asked a question along the lines of ‘why are we here’ she gave such an unexpectedly Buddhist/Eastern Tradition answer that I found myself saying ‘wow’. The point made for me was that this girl, who had simply been someone sitting in the aisle in front of me, had a much more dramatic world inside her than anything I’m ever offered by fictional constructions, and I took this knowledge onto the street, walking with my companion who was someone new in my life and hence still full of mystery, and saw everyone around me with a new appreciation for our variety, our potential, and of the unknown masterpieces of real life. This past Thursday, I attended Darren’s opening at The Centre of Leisure and Culture No. 1, Video Show for the People of Pakistan and India which consists of an approximately twenty-minute video and chapbooks of the blog Darren kept while on tour in Pakistan and India late last year. I’ve prompted Darren to place this video online eventually, and if and when that happens I’ll follow through with the link. At the time of Darren’s trip, I was moved to contact CBC’s The Current because I’d recently heard an interview (begins at 7:45min) with the 24 year old Afghani woman Mehria Azizi who was doing a tour through Canada showing a documentary she’d made about women’s lives in her homeland. This had been one of the more insightful things I’d been exposed to with regard to this part of the world. I imagined Anna Maria Tremonti asking Darren about his conversation with Mike the soldier on the plane, or asking for stories from Darren’s experience with the humanity of these people. I figured it would have fit into The Current’s mandate as I understood it: to educate, to inform, to bring us perspective. Darren’s work deserved this national audience. There was a bit of a followup from someone who was going to forward the info to a producer but in the end nothing came of it. Meanwhile, due to the unreliableness of the CBC’s internet stream, and what I see as too much focus on Canada’s military presence in Afghanistan, I’ve avoided listening to The Current at work for the past couple of months, preferring instead France Culture or the BBC. I did catch the broadcast the other day of their self-flagellation on under and mis-reporting the story of Global Warming. Anna Maria was somewhat bothered by a statement of one of the scientists: ‘never underestimate the illiteracy of reporters’. The following morning, (that of March 9th) the CBC included in its news roundup the visit by Canada’s Governor General to the troops in Afghanistan, and there was something said about ‘putting a human face’ on the story (mov and realmedia). What’s unfortunate is that MichaÃ«lle Jean, who in the past has seemed an intelligent, well informed woman, was responsible for the stupidest statements in the report. ‘There’s no future without women …’. No shit. But perhaps the real fault lies with the editors of the video, or the fact that she used to be a reporter. The evening before I’d been to Darren’s show to see the Pakistan video, the talk of putting a human face struck me as more this meaningless political rhetoric. Why are all these human faces those from Canada? Where do we ever see the human faces of the people we’re supposedly helping? How is their humanity ever brought to our attention? The fact that Darren could undermine the agenda of Canada’s national broadcaster with a 20 minute video perhaps suggests just how under-served we are by photo-ops, predictable rhetoric, focus on soldiers, and all the other regular bullshit. My understanding of the situation and of the people involved has been greatly enhanced by Darren’s first-person and personal reporting and the fact that the CBC found him fit only for their hipster-oriented Definitely Not the Opera kind of suggests how little they take his work seriously … something silly for the kids right?