QC Receives a Standing Ouef-ation: Vaults Security Scrambles to Kitchen

Giles Turbington reviews our very own #QC -  La Bouche gossip columnist and performace artist Quilla Constance - at her solo exhibition at The Vaults Gallery, London, Funded by Arts Council England.


#QC_001 QUILLA CONSTANCE from Quilla Constance on Vimeo.

I tap my watch - it’s 6.58pm on the opening night - #QC commences at 7 on the dot… Hurry Giles, hurry!

Scuttling left out of Waterloo and then left again into the aptly named Leake street  I’m greeted by a putrid bouquet  garni of piss, dope, and cellulose thinners  accompanied by the relentless single pea beat of graffiti daubers’ maracas… shake… rattle and roll...spraying an endless array of noxious marks in their tag-a-thon.

I trudge further down the stinking tunnel in search of QC, kicking over cans of special brew. A sharp left past the main entrance into the smaller gallery portal and I emerge into the gallery space via another (yes) dimly-lit, putrid, graffiti-laden passage. 


At last, I enter #QC, an exhibition by Jennifer Allen aka Quilla Constance. A comfy chair and TV have been placed as if to greet the weary traveller and so, I sit down to watch Allen’s video from 2006: ‘Happy Christmas Mom & Dad’ – then on digesting the spectacle of Allen performing a seductive dance as a Christmas gift for her parents, I cannot hide my discomfort, amusement, bewilderment and, ultimate interest.  It’s not often that you experience something like this – and now it is forever burned into my brainbox.

‘Happy Christmas Mom & Dad’ finishes and I investigate the rest of the show – the twinned vibrant QC photographs, and in particular the perspex mounted Trapeze piece  succeeds in walking a line between sumptuous and pointed – QC aka Jennifer Allen staring back at the audience from an overload of ‘exotic’ fabrics and painterly backdrops…whilst to the right, an academic rendition of a selfie works with it – QC aka Allen situates herself both knowingly and awkwardly beneath familiar facades, and discourses, yet manages to elude them.  

This friction is further explored through QC’s militant hijack of The Vaults gallery gift shop; abundant QC merch, spot-lit and garish – it brings the tension overtly to the surface, whilst other works in the show – her notably serene neon abstract paintings succeed in reducing the argument to a mere whisper. Directly opposite, spot-lit and suspended from a rafter, a bunch of sequins and costume rags - these forms echo and refract from fabric to paint and back again. 

Towards the back of the gallery QC’s above video  #QC_001 is being screened (a sequel to PUKIJAM)... a delightful yet awkward montage of ‘exotic’ costume- laden QC performative imagery, defunct QR codes, paintings and objects thrown into hypnotic sequence, interrupted by QC’s guttural shrieks, neo-twerking, gargantuan afro combs and psychedelic, kaleidoscopic ink…the work picks apart QC (and indeed Allen’s) subjectivity and components of its representation from the very core.

Then someone reminds me QC will be giving a live performance from 8.00pm


The Vaults staff appear somewhat jittery – but how can this be in such a vaunted and edgy space? The Vaults promo spiel invites us to expect the unexpected, but I surmise this may well reach beyond their expectations ….of the unexpected. I scan the room and recognize a few faces – QC’s manager for one, a tough looking Grant Mitchell clone she supposedly hired and named Mr Smutte  – then I scan  some recognizable art crowd, Dr Rachel Garfield, Manick Govinda (Artsadmin), Dawn Giles (CEO of Bedford Creative Arts)…to name but a few.

At just past eight, QC emerges in full ‘exotic’ costume and advances toward the crowd, gently gibbering, calmly conversing with the assemblages of QC fans and unsuspecting Vaults attendees. QC’s/Allen’s alien  dialogue engages her audience and draws them in - a barely perceptible but sustained guttural crescendo ensues which builds , builds and builds again as she lures the audience away from the gallery and into the adjacent restaurant aka ‘Vaults Kitchen’.  Staff are at first bemused, then completely horrified as QC launches into a screeching, wailing coda of abject frenzy, whilst the customers dining in the restaurant appear slightly less perturbed, even transfixed. Perhaps Mr Smutte primed the crowds to expect a slice of the genuinely unexpected?  2 minutes into it and many restaurant goers are now ensnared in a shamanic trance – others have their camera phones out amid much shock and hilarity mixed with severe staff discontent. Someone’s called security – what next…!? Mr Smutte slides into view holding his phone up to record the tough bouncer trying to eject QC from the venue.

What a hoot!

The bouncers can’t get to her and can’t really be heard above all the frenzy.

Eventually QC rises from the horizontal Lazarus-sign position adopted during parts of the high octane kitchen performance, and calmly returns to the gallery through a violent barrage of eggs from the head chef  [a real ‘oeuf a la coque’ if ever I saw one – ed.] – not to mention his kitchen posse who are clearly hacked off with the disturbance to the dining equilibrium. Needless to say, all eggs missed QC. Some disappeared into the crowd and one landed on the bald shining head of a Vaults security guard.

The smirking Mr Smutte had apparently tipped off the punters but not the staff about the potential shenanigans…egg on their faces indeed as QC leaves to a standing oeuf-ation!

Performance 2

Since the opening night, it would appear that relationships between QC and the Vaults had become rather ‘strained’. Perhaps they could not comprehend the term ‘edgy’, perhaps they confused this with ‘eggy’…either way, this time QC took the show to the streets - York St to be precise- screeching and strutting along the highway accompanied by paparazzi and police. I managed to get a few pics:  

Coming up

Allen/QC will exhibit new paintings and performance works in her solo show at MOCA London next year, and is currently writing a chapter  for upcoming book: The Evolution of the Image: Political Action and the Digital Self' to be published as part of Routledge Advances in Art and Visual Studies Series in 2017.

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