Tall Poppy Interview: Brian Joseph Davis, author
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Tall Poppy Interview: Brian Joseph Davis, author

bjdavis2.jpgBrian Joseph DavisPortable Altamont is one half of a stellar book launch tonight (the other half being eye guy Jason Anderson’s showbiz). Herewith, the author very politely describes his book to someone who hasn’t read it yet, tells us about his intriguing array of art projects and shakes up our baked good world.
Can you tell us what the Portable Altamont is all about, a Portable Altamont for dummies:
Portable Altamont was my attempt to graft celebrity culture onto any literary form I could steal or replicate. I used celebrity culture as a bit gauntlet throw-down in front of the legal structures that sometimes stand in the way of my art. 3 years of heroic Googling later, the first line of the book is ‘Brian Adams blows a Skinny Puppy in a Honeymoon Suite.’ The last line is ‘Luke Perry, Luke Perry, Luke Perry.’
Okay, I pre-wrote the above. everything else is off the cuff.
I’m especially intrigued by the idea of a piece about Jessica Simpson applying for a grant. What kind of grant would she apply for? Would Ashlee then want to apply for one too?
A media artist grant. Ashlee doesn’t need grants because everything she does is already automatic, terrible genius. Out of synch lip synching. Brilliant!
Are you trying to poke holes in our obsession with all things celebrity, or is the book perhaps more about finding the inherent humour in all this stuff?
The holes are already there.. that’s the impressive thing about our culture, it’s more destructive than any artist could hope to be. But there’s also great tension. Maybe that’s what I’m looking for.
I read that you will be displaying celebrity artifacts at your reading tonight, as well as leading the audience in a game of star-studded trivia. What might this entail? Do you happen to have Jessica Simpson’s grant application?
Nothing quite as cool as that. Imagine you’re at someone’s house and they’re showing off really interesting stuff. It’s indoctrination as entertainment. There’ll be a lot of swearing and (last minute) I just collaged JK Rowling onto the Pistols’ God Same the Queen image. Things like that.
You write for Eye, make videos, do art projects about theorists, and reform old albums. Are you just interested in all sorts of different stuff?
If there’s a central arc, it’s that I love investigating how people relate to and through culture. Especially the not-so-apparent ways we reshape our culture. To me, to use a base, simple example, file sharing is the invisible radicalism of the everday-tariat. Like all investigators I just start with the evidence.

One of your poems was quoted somewhere, but I can’t remember where. It was quite good. Can you throw me a bone, and give us one of those here.
bjdavis.jpgWhy frustrate the people who’ve read so far? Here’s:
Jessica Simpson’s Grant Application
In This Skin is a series of songs that will explore our ongoing
relationship to and notions of fate and mortality.
Accompanying the aural elements will be still and video
images of stagings and performance pieces that when
viewed as a whole will ­ because of my choice of forms ­
have the appearance of a melodramatic narrative but,
upon closer inspection, will reveal abstraction spreading
like an oil slick. Individual pieces, such as ‘Forbidden
Fruit,’ constitute a sustained ‘pollution’ of hierarchical
A grant will allow me to build upon my previous practice,
such as 2001’s Irresistible, and develop a new language of
material skills with which to delineate loss and love.
And for good measure:
The World’s Last Day (page six)
Seen! Fred Durst and Germaine Greer making love!
noticed! Since studies showed the anti-malarial drug
quinine causes short-term sterility, stars ­ including a
recent Oscar grabber ­ have been lining up for quinine
smoothies and quinine bubble tea along Roh-day-oh
Hey, long-time vegetarian david duchovny!
What are you doing drinking blood from an ox¹s jugular
with the Masai?
Ski instructors everywhere, beware! Claudine
Longet is still alive!
Life’s rich pathogens! A certain talk show host has
received so many Botox treatments that he is banned
from all a&p and most Farmer Jack grocery stores for
fear of contaminating the canned goods as he walks past
them. Sounds like Maury Povich.
Ouch! Is there an arcane religious practice that the
celebs won’t endorse? Kevin Spacey recently partici-pated
in the Sioux ritual of the sun wherein he was
suspended for hours on long rawhide strands hooked
into his chest.
That was it, the Fred Durst and Germaine Greer one…Tell us about your Invasion USA project. The photos on your website are amazing. Did you create the spot on White House paraphernalia replicas yourself?
It struck me that a good performance can hinge on a good set. And since I’m a big believer in the potential perfect-ness of most people for the most unlikely things, I thought I’d test it out with a very recognizable set. Everyone who steps on that is, for a moment, and probably should be for four years, the President of the united States. Especially the dog lady.
I did build it. I believe it’s about 2/3 rd of the actual size (to make for something that is realistically portable).
Your website is full of projects distinct and disparate, from found sounds and collaborative projects with local illustrators to Adorno-inspired punk rock. Um, talk about that. Please.
I like testing ideas out in a public forum. Just seeing it in existence on the web and hearing what my peers think of it helps me either finish a project or see its conceptual shortcomings.
Are you a lifelong Torontonian? What’s your favourite part of Toronto? And what’s your favourite baked good in Toronto? If you are allergic to yeast or peanuts and do not eat baked goods, feel free to select another favourite food and where it can be found in Toronto?
I moved here in 1999. My favourite part of Toronto is the CNE grounds at night during the off season. It’s like a Buneal movie.
Baked good: Steamed bread form Little Tibet. Sorry, that’s steamed, not
Did I forget to ask you something? Is there anything important you feel you absolutely must divulge to the Torontoist readership immediately? Feel free to enlighten us now.
Yes, but I have to keep it a secret.

Brian Joseph Davis and Jason Anderson will be reading at the Gladstone Hotel this evening. 7:30pm. The event will also include a performance by the Two Koreas.