We invited Bedford-based artist Jennifer Allen aka Quilla Constance ‘QC’ to give a performative lecture exploring the negotiation of black female identities within pop culture and high art.
Presented at the University of Bedfordshire Studio Theatre in Bedford on Thursday 10 November 2016, this was a first for the artist, who has performed and shown her work in London and nationally but not to a Bedford audience.
Through her ‘exotic’ militant punk persona, Jennifer Allen interrogates the gendered, sexed and raced body as a site of knowledge, celebration, conflict and reinvention. In this performative lecture the artist discussed and performed key aspects of her practice, concerned with challenging and subverting racial, gender and class hierarchies, and referencing assertions by theorists ‘bell hooks’, Jacques Lacan, Rosi Braidotti, Stuart Hall, José Esteban Muñoz and Sigmund Freud.
“I believe that my practice, as channelled through Quilla Constance ‘QC’ is symptomatic of our current political and cultural climate, where aspiring to be part of pop culture and existing through computer-generated images of ourselves via the internet, is highly desirable. However, this is not only a point of aspiration for people, because being represented in this way is also pretty much unavoidable to a greater or lesser extent…
For instance, most of us have a Facebook profile, and as a result we are complicit in the online simulation and dissemination of ‘ourselves’ through digital texts, communications and images. As a result, our identities are increasingly mediated through the narrow remit of what is perceived as glamorous, respectable and culturally appropriate” *
Jennifer Allen (Quilla Constance ‘QC’)
The artist also presented three of her video commissions. The first, Vjazzled, is concerned with “how black female identities are often mediated through idealised images of Anglo-American female beauty, such as the archetypal blonde, fair skinned, big breasted woman. I am interested to consider where black female identities reside and how they can be made manifest within these familiar and culturally appropriate aesthetic frameworks” * This was followed by screenings of Happy Christmas Mom and Dad, and a new development of Pukijam, entitled #QC001 which includes excerpts filmed in Bedford.
In addition, Quilla Constance ‘QC’ was invited to work with a group of MA students from the University of Bedfordshire’s Department of Dance, Performance and Choreography. Through a workshop session led by the artist, students utilised movement and vocal performance to explore key aspects of the artist’s practice such as strategies for moving beyond embarrassment inspired by Leigh Bowery’s concept: ‘Embarrassment is the unexplored emotion’. Here, Quilla Constance worked with students to challenge learned movement and the constraints of the superego.
* Excerpt from the performative lecture
Image credit: Quilla Constance, 2016
A Bedford Creative Arts Mini-Commission