the conversation - issue 418
The people, places and things we’re talking about


European kink

“Breaking in, setting the camera up, tying myself up, filming myself. Kind of crazy, schizophrenic stuff,” says Jordan Tannahill of adventuring into a snowy, abandoned ghost town to explore the kinkier side of artistic creation. Welcome to Bravislovia.

Little is known about Bravislovia, a former Soviet state that has seen considerable political turmoil over the past century. After overthrowing the royal family, its tyrannical dictator ushered in a new era of oppression for the country’s political dissenters, artists and queers. Don’t bother looking in an atlas or history textbook to learn more, however — Bravislovia exists only in Tannahill’s mind.

The creative director of performance company Suburban Beast and the visionary writer and director of such works as Insurgency and Post Eden, Tannahill began developing the world of Bravislovia around the age of 10. Fascinated by maps, atlases and geography, he created his fictional country as a sort of defence mechanism. “We have this kind of need for order and to be part of something very small, and in your small realm of control. When you’re a kid you have no control... I was creating this world to survive.”

Tannahill filled his imaginary country with a cast of characters and wrote himself in as Isaac Nyakov, a queer artist and poet who also writes to survive. “All the history of Bravislovia is intermixed with the real-life history of Europe,” says Tannahill, “but also intermixed with my own personal history.” It is “intrinsically linked to both my queer identity but also specifically to my coming out.”

Bravislovia is a solo work that melds film and live narration, a technique familiar from Tannahill’s previous works. He works in this medium because it’s the kind of theatre he wants to see: “It provides the startling intimacy possible with recorded images, with the raw energy of the live event.”

Both personal and political, Bravislovia reflects a turbulent society obsessed with oppressive control and fanatically conservative values, one not unlike our own. Tannahill promises to take his audience on a journey to a very intimate, private world. One that is no longer just in his mind.

Bravislovia is part of the Rhubarb Festival and runs from Wed, Feb 23–Sat, Feb 27 at Buddies, 12 Alexander St. Info:

Michael Lyons is a writer and theatre artist who also has entire countries swirling in his head.

Bry’Nt brings it

Bry’Nt is a dirty-talking, smooth-flowing, hip-hop dynamo. Hailing from Hartford, Connecticut, he’s quickly made a name for himself as a gay MC by opening for the likes of Fantasia, DJ Class and RuPaul. As he preps a summer release of his new album, Bry’Nt Park, and gets ready to rhyme Toronto’s pants off at Yes Yes Y’all’s second anniversary, Matt Thomas chats with him about his lyrical preference for dicks over chicks.

Matt Thomas: Your first two mixtapes were called Porn Star and Porn Star II; what’s the story behind the titles?
Bry’Nt: In the studio I’d be recording and there’d be artists and producers who worked there coming in and out. Off the bat you can’t really tell that I’m gay, and it’s not like I have a typically gay sound, whatever that is. So when I rap, if you’re not paying attention to the words, you’d think I was just a regular straight guy rapping. So the people coming in and out of the studio liked what I was laying down, even though they knew I was gay. They just liked the way it sounded, but you could tell they felt guilty for liking it. People watch porn, but if you asked people straight up in the street, they might be a bit ashamed to admit it. Same as some people and how they feel about what I do.

MT: What are your most loved tracks?
B: “Dicks Over Chicks” right now is probably my most known song, with its hook: “Dicks over chicks is the slogan.” It’s catchy and it’s just a way to say I’m really gay, and it rhymes. It’s a gay man’s anthem. “Beat It Up” and “Porn Star” stick out in people’s heads because they were in porno movies. I’ve had songs in three pornos. At first I was cringing and thought my mom was going to kill me, but they worked for the movie, and I became more proud of them. I recorded those versions of them with that use in mind. It’s just another way to be heard.

MT: Why do you give out your own branded condoms at shows?
B: I guess it makes me more memorable; I’m the gay rapper with the condoms. With all the talk I do about sex, I never thought kids would gravitate to the music. But they did, so I wanted to make sure it didn’t seem like I was just making light of it. Sometimes I regret making certain songs or doing certain things in my life, and I wanted to make sure I brought both sides of the story. It’s cool to talk about sex and be sexual, but at the same time you have to be safe.

MT: Do you think mainstream hip hop is ready to accept a gay rapper?

B: I don’t know. The white gay community can name a list of openly gay icons, like Elton John, Melissa Etheridge, Adam Lambert and George Michael. For some reason, the black community is a little behind when it comes to embracing gay performers or sports fi gures. We did have Sylvester, who came out in the ’70s, but that was decades ago, and now there is a vacancy that needs to be filled. If the community of gay hip-hop artists continues to work as hard as they are, hopefully someone will be willing to embrace us. I did visit a couple of radio stations and met with some famous DJs who said I have talent. People can say you have talent all day, but it takes someone to invest and really believe in you to put you in the forefront.

MT: What’s your favourite story about a show you’ve played?
B: I don’t know if I should tell this one. I did a show in Brooklyn and I performed, and after me there was a stripper. Somehow, someway, the line blurred and it turned into a dick-sucking competition where the audience members volunteered to give him head. Then he had to pick which one was the best, and that’s the most shocking thing I’ve ever seen at my shows. I can’t really top that.

Bry’Nt performs at Yes Yes Y’all on Fri, Feb 18 at the Annex WreckRoom, 794 Bathurst St. Info:

Matt Thomas is a
fab associate editor who loves a fly MC with dope beats and much love for dicks.

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