Art We Heart: Jannah Quill
June 20th 2016
Recently I was graced with the honourable presence of Sydney’s queen of noise, Jannah Quill, to get to know her experimental practice a little better and talk about her processes of uncasing sound, electricity, and her relationship with techno.
If you haven’t seen (or heard) Jannah Quill before either in her solo performances or when teaming up with Laura Hunt to form WDK, you are severely missing out, my friend. I’ve seen Jannah hypnotise, perplex, and send people into a rapture from all areas of art and music. Most impressively, I’ve watched a group of serious drum and bass enthusiasts screaming out praises in profanities when she recently performed at Carbonation Nation at Secret Garden Festival.
In case you haven’t had the opportunity to see it, Jannah’s work takes an experimental approach to the uncasing of electrical processes; manifesting in installation, performance and recorded sound. Her solo work is, in her words, more “closely related to noise music, moving away from explicitly rhythm based instruments”. In place of drum machines, Jannah engages in an experimental process with strobe lights and solar panels, describing them as “difficult to use – the frequency is really touch sensitive, it’s hard to control in a coherent kind of way, you can hear me trying to get somewhere with the sound. It’s a performative experimentation. You can witness the struggle.”
This process makes sense when Jannah describes herself as somebody who is ‘obsessed with the potential of failure’.
The visual components of her installation often incorporate standard, consumer electrical objects or recognisable symbols of digital language. Conceptually weighing just as heavily as the sound, they are reference points which allow her to reframe electricity beyond it’s functional use and digital objects beyond prosthesis.
When questioned about the importance of light in her work, Jannah answers: “It’s not necessarily light that’s the point, electricity is the point, that’s what’s engaging me. To expand on this, it’s electricity’s relationship with the digital, the fact it can’t exist without it. On a social scale, we unconsciously lose sight of the materiality of electricity. It’s hidden from us. Industry and computation have been developed to make processes invisible, miniaturised, cased. I aim to uncase the raw electricity and signal information of electronic music.”
Through her process of converting electrical light to sound, Jannah is facilitating these objects in a way that heightens the materiality of their core electrical processes.
In her words, Jannah describes electricity as a force that you “kind of have to tame, or more work with, rather than just using it”. She describes it as extremely malleable, a material she can “creatively cater to a range of forms and environments”. Which she does extremely well if I do say so myself.
From a visual arts perspective, her work is complex, mysterious, and engaging on a multi-sensory level. I’m pretty interested in what it is about her work that is so hypnotic to people from such a wide range of electronic music scenes. When asked about this, Jannah answers: “I’ve been surrounded by a lot of people in the techno scene. A lot of people are gear heavy, really informed about the ins and outs of different available equipment. I’ve never been that, but I’ve always been totally interested.”
“I still can’t talk fully about what’s going on in my own work. My relationship with all my electronic art and music is totally exploratory and intuitive, I don’t feel fully educated even in my own equipment, I’m still learning things all the time. It’s more about a feeling and an idea, it’s more about what I want to hear when I listen to electronic music, and using whatever I can to get there, as corny as that sounds. There’s something in the openness of this approach that’s obviously speaking to people who are interested in music. So much of techno is so tight and crafted, so heavily produced, there isn’t space given for the exciting variability of electricity as a medium, as a material. As an artist I see myself as a facilitator of this variability. I can set up systems which allow electricity to have its own voice, to act on its own.”
If Jannah’s skill and the complexity of her work is making you feel pretty inadequate, it’s going to make you feel even worse that she’s actually only been experimenting with electronics since the end of 2014, being instantly enthralled by the seemingly endless possibility of it as a medium.
In the next few months she has some pretty big shows coming up which I highly recommend checking out. She will be exhibiting as part of the Electrofringe Showcase on June 30th at TopFloor Wellington Street, WDK (her collaboration with Laura Hunt) is releasing a split tape with Video Ezy, and she’s been commissioned by 110% to produce a mountain-themed sound work to be presented at FirstDraft on the 17th of July.
If that wasn’t enough, Australian experimental sound powerhouse Liquid Architecture are sending her on a special project to Taiwan. Four Australian artists including Jannah are being brought into sonic collaborations with Taiwanese artists in the end of 2016 and start of 2017. Which I must say I’m very jealous of.
You can get the Jannah Quill experience at the following events:
Electrofringe: New Terrains
Top floor, Wellington St Projects
30th of June, 6-9pm.
Paradise Daily Fundraiser
Portugal Madeira Club – 1-3 Denby St, Marrickville
25th of June, 5pm.
A Summit Wouldn’t Do Without You
Firstdraft Gallery – 13-17 Riley St, Wolloomooloo
17th of July.
MCA ArtBar July curated by Wade Marynowski
Museum of Contemporary Art – 140 George St, The Rocks
29th of July.
Jannah Quill was recently featured on Stuart Buchanan’s Out From Under podcast – listen here.