Mammalian diving reflex

Founded in 1993, Mammalian Diving Reflex is an award-winning performance company dedicated to investigating the social sphere. We make work that interacts directly with the community and dismantles barriers between individuals, and we are always on the lookout for contradictions to whip into aesthetically scintillating experiences. Our goal is to create activist performance able to meld polemic with artistic rigour, creating work that is meticulous, uncompromising and thorough in its examination of political and social ontologies while still maintaining a total commitment to easy accessibility and entertainment.

We produce one-off events, theatre-based performance, videos, installations, theoretical texts and community happenings. Past work includes: Eat the Street, Haircuts by Children, The Children’s Choice Awards, Slow Dance With Teacher, Diplomatic Immunities and A Suicide-Site Guide to the City.  Mammalian Diving Reflex’s work has been presented around the world including in Mumbai, Lahore, New York, Sydney, Melbourne, Birmingham, Portland, Vancouver, Chicago, Greensboro, Los Angeles, Montreal, Victoria, Calgary, Milan, Derry, Regina, Bologna, Terni, Oslo and Trondheim.

Haircuts by Children was called “the Best of New York City’s Performa” by ArtINFO, Slow Dance with Teacher was called “a tour de force” by Art Gallery of Ontario’s contemporary curator, David Moos, and Artistic Director Darren O’Donnell’s book about the company’s work, Social Acupuncture, prompted the Globe and Mail to declare “O’Donnell writes like a sugar-addled genius at 300km/hr.”

Darren O'Donnell: Artistic Director
Darren is a writer, director, designer, performance artist and the artistic director of Mammalian Diving Reflex. He has written 8 plays, published a novel, a volume of 4 plays, and 2 volumes of plays with accompanying essays. Darren has written for C Magazine, Public, Canadian Theatre Review, Daily News and Analysis India and Descant. His most recent book, Social Acupuncture, argues for an aesthetic of civic engagement, an approach to cultural production that acknowledges the severe shortcomings of neoliberalism and the failure of the private sector to take care of the public interest, viewing this as an opportunity for artists to step into the world of social policy. Darren was the 2000 winner of the Pauline McGibbon Award for directing and has been nominated for a number of Dora Awards for his writing, directing, and acting, winning for his design of White Mice. His play [boxhead] was nominated for a Chalmers Award and he received a Gabriel Award for excellence in broadcasting for his CBC radio piece Like a Fox.  He has worked extensively as an artist in the Toronto community, and particularly with youth in the Parkdale neighbourhood to create Eat the Street, Parkdale Public School vs. Queen St. West, Haircuts by Children, The Walking Talking Creature and Ballroom Dancing.

Natalie De Vito: Artistic Producer
Natalie's curatorial interest is in producing work that creates interactions between the artwork and the audience, between audience members, and in unconventional public spaces. She is currently the Deputy Commissioner of the Canada Pavilion, 53rd Venice Biennale. Her previous experience includes Artistic Producer, spOtlight: Artist Weekend Festival 2008 for the Ontario Arts Council, Media and Visual Arts Officer at the Ontario Arts Council, Head of Development and Marketing at The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, and Co-Director of Mercer Union Centre for Contemporary Art. She has produced, curated or coordinated over 50 exhibitions, events, and performances, and has toured many internationally. Her writing has appeared most recently in Coach House Books uTOpia: State of the Arts, with "Mom, Dad, will you co-sign my mortgage? Creating a new home for Toronto's small arts organizations." Natalie has written for C Magazine, Parachute, Prefix Photo, VISION Magazine Shanghai, and exhibition brochures and catalogues. Natalie holds a B.Sc. (Double Programme) in human anatomy and art history from McGill University, Montreal, and a M.A. in art history from York University, Toronto. She is former vice-president of both the Canadian Filmmakers Distribution Centre (CFMDC) and C Magazine.