“Lenine Bourke (Contact Inc.) and Darren O’Donnell (Mammalian Diving Reflex, Canada) compare their respective companies’ models and processes and freewheel their way through the principles underpinning their work – social practice, working with non-artists and international collaboration.”

With the assistance of Skype a huge face patiently stares at us on the stage from the Powerhouse. We have been a bit slow and meandering this morning and it seems like it’s all running 15 minutes late.

First up is a conversation with international collaborators Mammalian Diving Reflex (Canada) and Contact Inc (Australia) who had been connected through a friend/colleague of Lenine suggesting she check out Darren O’Donnell’s work. Since seeing his work they started a creative dialogue in a coffee shop (with a homeless man as an audience, who according to Lenine thought they were on a sort of date). I actually think that despite the protests, lenine and Darren are in a long term, long distance creative love affair – a love affair we can all completely understand – they are after all brilliant minds making brilliant, surprising work.

First a little about the companies:

Founded in 1993, Mammalian Diving Reflex is a research-art atelier dedicated to investigating the social sphere, always on the lookout for contradictions to whip into aesthetically scintillating experiences, producing one-off events, theatre-based performance, theoretical texts and community happenings. Mammalian Diving Reflex is dedicated to:
* Creating entertainment rich in content, intellectually challenging and engaging with language, ideas and information.
* Creating entertainment rich in style; overtly embracing and openly revealing a myriad of theatrical conventions.
* Creating entertainment that openly acknowledges the audience; attempting to create dialogue around ideas.
* Creating entertainment that embraces the political dimension of life; recognizing the social responsibility of the arts.

“Contact Inc. is a community cultural development organisation, working with people from diverse ages, cultures and backgrounds. Contact Inc. creatively collaborates with artists, community members and civic institutions to address social, cultural, environmental and economic issues with specific focus on communities affected by violence, vulnerability and marginalisation.

Our past and current process focuses on creating safe spaces for young people, specifically from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, Pacific Islander backgrounds and migrant and refugee backgrounds, to collaborate, build cross-cultural understanding and create art with a social change agenda. Our work is focused on capacity building strategies that mobilise young people and artists to be active citizens and change agents within their communities.

While we are still dedicated to fostering creative development young people we feel it is necessary to broaden our scope by including other demographic and geographic communities. Our renewed sense of purpose and vision is conceptual and sophisticated, with a focus on two main principles: Intercultural and Intergenerational innovation.”

Thoughout this session we are taken through a range of projects and events hosted in multiple countries and spaces across the world – sometimes direct collaborations and sometimes developed and devised seperately through discussion.

There is a huge buzz in the auditorium as the ideas start turning on the sleepy eyed theatre makers. The partnerships and possibilities seem endless and exciting when we start to consider what if we started truly embracing that ideas are easilly and often immediately transported across time and space. We start to think about what are the barriers we think we have in forging meaningful and fully engaged long term relationships with companies overseas?

And there is something ultimately reassuring and lovely in the intimate confession from Darren: “Part of my brain is in a gorgeous butch woman’s body.”

Both admit that this international collaboration is easy because it is not tied to shows/projects. It is what Darren refers to as “porous” – occasional and flexible. This has been a very slow partnership – low in pressure and high in concentration, as they focus on sharing work with each other – and sharing people with each other.

Very inspiring session which reminds us, that though theatre is bodies in space – and about live intimate acts – that we should remember that it is the ideas that bind us.