CONVERSATION: Jordan Tannahill and Sean Macmahon

Jordan Tannahill of Suburban BeastBravisolvia – and Sean Macmahon from emergency exit – RUN LIKE HELL (vagy menj a Pokolba) – ask each other about their new projects, what keeps them coming back to Rhubarb, and what goes into the perfect sandwich.

Sean Macmahon: What excites you most about multi disciplinary work?

Jordan Tannahill: Hopefully it can be the best of multiple worlds.

SM: Any personal connection to Bravislovia?

JT: It’s entirely personal. It’s an imaginary country I invented at the age of ten and essentially lived in until I went to university.

SM: Some of your collaborators went to Ryerson. How did you all meet? Did you go to rye high as well?… (if you did, i’d love to hear your thoughts.)

JT: Yup, in fact I’m a newly minted grad of Rye High’s Film Production program. My collaborator Samuel Lebel-Wong, a wonderful filmmaker and producer who has shot all of the ‘live-films’ I’ve created through Suburban Beast (Insurgency, Post Eden, and now Bravislovia), was a classmate of mine. And, while they went through Ryerson’s Technical Theatre program, I actually met and began working with Suburban Beast’s producer Paul Beauchamp and production manager Rebecca Powell when we were all in high school together in Ottawa. In fact, I’ve know Paul since we were in Grade 7… so the connection goes back a long ways! 

SM: What’s your favorite sandwich? (being, of course, the perfect food.)

JT: I eat a tuna fish sandwich with baby spinach on a toasted muesli bagel for lunch every day. It’s very specific and has to be done just right. I’m wholly unoriginal when it comes to lunch. 

Jordan Tannhill in Bravislovia

SM:  Does Suburban Beast work primarily with new media, or do you experiment with old equipment.

JT: Actually, Bravislovia will be the second show of ours in which an old-school, overhead projector plays a starring role.

SM: Have you had much success with funding bodies in order to get the work out?

JT: I’ve been pretty fortunate in that regard.

SM: Have you produced work outside of Toronto and where do you think your work would be best received?

JT: Being from Ottawa, I produced all my early work there while I have produced all of my Suburban Beast productions in Toronto. After she saw Insurgency at least year’s Rhubarb, my mom told me she still liked the play I wrote ‘about memories’ when I was thirteen the best. So, I guess if you’re considering my early, pre-university output I’ve been rapturously received in some circles in Ottawa (namely around the vicinity of Duff crescent)… but like most artists I dream about testing my work in New York, London, Edinburgh, and Berlin. Hopefully I’ll get the chance in the next few years.

SM: What is it about microphones?

JT: When you’re in front of an audience, it’s most natural for humans to use microphones. We trust and accept that; it eliminates the artifice of projecting. I’m fascinated how the amplified voice can be extraordinarily intimate but at the same time distant. It belongs to a specific aesthetic and, luckily, it works for what I’m doing. 

SM:  Which, if any, companies or bands or artists influence the work, feel or aesthetic of Suburban Beast?

JT: Here are the first fifteen that come to mind: Temporary Distortion, Forced Entertainment, Crystal Pite, Small Wooden Shoe, Matthew Barney, Pierre Huyghe, Ryan Trecartin, Marina Abramovic, Daniel Barrow, Federico Fellini, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Terence Davies, Alexander Carson, Margaux Williamson, and Pina Bausch.

SM: What do you like most about Darren O’Donnell? What do you like least about Darren O’Donnell?

JT: When I was a pimply-faced 18-year old just barely into my second month in Toronto, Darren invited me to a dinner party at his place and taught me the proper way to pronounce ‘Goethe’. I think that pretty much summarizes what I love most about him: he’ll make a stranger feel at home and they’ll leave a little feeling bit smarter than when they arrived. My least favorite thing about Darren is how infrequently I see him. 

 And now Jordan interviews Sean…

JT: What are you running like hell from? 

SM: Kevin came up with the name when he was abroad so it might be a little unfair for me to pilot the answer. However, as with in the past, we work from the outside in. often a name comes first and then the rest sort of gets filled in. you’re in a room, a ball gets introduced and then it’s up to you what to do with the object. In the end, I suppose, there are a number of things to run from.

JT:  emergency exit is a collaborative effort between you and Kevin Rees. Who is Kevin and how did you come to work together? 

SM: Kevin and I first worked together doing a reconstruction of measure for measure called me@sure 3.1. Following that and some other projects, we formed emergency exit as a creative experiment to see what it would be like if we eliminated some cooks in the kitchen (so to speak). Kevin’s from Ontario and a heck of a guy.

JT: How has that relationship changed over the years?

SM: Simply we’ve both gotten older. We’ve lived lives both together and apart. Made friends gave us a charge in, say 2003 is different then what would charge us now. Distance has been a factor for us. When there’s only two of you, the ball can drop pretty quickly.

JT: I notice you have a current manifesto and a retired manifesto dated 2001-2005. Why the change and how do they differ from one another? Also… when’s the new one coming out? 

SM: The manifesto needs the biggest spring clean since the big dig in Boston. The changes to it are pleasant reminders to us that we always have full creative control. With that said, when IS the new one coming out? Tomorrow sounds good, I’ll talk to Kevin.

JT:  You came to Toronto in 1995 on a fine arts scholarship and have consistently blurred the lines  between visual and performance arts since. Do you feel more at home in a gallery or a theatre, or does that vary from project to project?

SM: It varies from project to project. (sight specific work excites us and yet we’ve never incorporated it into emergency exit, only outside projects.) As for the fine arts background, I suppose that informs me as an artist, or moreover as a jack of all… personally, I feel more at home at home.

JT:  The 8th tenant of your manifesto states: ‘…a third eye may be brought into the process for one session in the final pre-public week to give feedback and make practical suggestions.‘ Who have these third-eyes been in the past? Which artists or friends do you trust most with your work? 

SM: I think Stephen O’Connell/ bluemouth inc, David Duclos, Franco Boni, David Oiye, Tina Rasmussen  and some others. We trust pretty much any artists with the work and are completely receptive to criticism. There was, however, a panel in Tehran that wasn’t shit hot on all the work and we had to make some last minute changes.

JT:  Rhubarb has consistently been a home for emergency exit’s work. What is it about this festival that draws you back year after year?

SM: Rhubarb was responsive and completely open to our initial application when we formed the company. If you read the proposal, you’d be able to see that level of trust is overwhelming… programming-wise, suicidal.

JT: If you had to learn one thing from another artist in this year’s festival, what would that be?

SM: bread from scratch

JT: When does art suck?

SM: That’s a really difficult question.

JT: When were you last truly excited or moved by a performance?

SM: I get most of my excitement in live performance more in the arena of music… gigs, concerts etc. I’ve been moved by dance, experimental and conventional theatre. Most recently I’d say War Horse in London.

Click the links to find full programming details for Bravislovia and RUN LIKE HELL (vagy menj a Pokolba) at Rhubarb.