Quilla Constance

Artist – Lecturer – TV Personality

Quilla Constance’s varied art practice ‘scrutinises food as a signifying system onto which social class and ethnic identities are mapped out, from fried chicken in cardboard take-away boxes to tea in fine, bone china cups’ - Dr Alexandra Kokoli, Van Abbemuseum, Netherlands – Black Artists and Modernism Conference, 2017

Quilla Constance PR BLITZ Video Review: ‘Brilliantly deranged punk in which QC sings salacious tabloid headlines against a junkyard backdrop’ - Hettie Judah, The Guardian, 2021

Quilla Constance PUKIJAM Video Review: ‘Brilliant, mesmeric, eye-popping’ - The Oxford Times, 2017

Quilla Constance’s statement commemorating the Suffragettes: "They were really quite anarchic...They had to really fight…and we still have to fight...I think they're here today in spirit, and we're giving them high fives!" - The New York Times, 2018

Jennifer Allen, known professionally as Quilla Constance, (abbreviated to QC) is a British Interdisciplinary Artist, Lecturer and TV Personality. QC graduated from The Ruskin School of Art, St John’s College, University of Oxford, with a BA in Fine Art (First Class) and completed her MFA in Visual Arts (Distinction) at Goldsmiths College, University of London. She also studied classical acting at Rose Bruford College of Theatre and Performance, IDTA Freestyle Disco, and Latin American Dancing at Jane Rose School of Dance – as well as Classical Cello.

QC’s artworks (performances and video installations) have exhibited and screened in the UK and overseas since 2000.

About Quilla Constance:

I am an interdisciplinary artist of (Black) Jamaican and (White) British heritage. I deploy my practice concurrently across the media of live performances, paintings, costumes, photographs, and music videos – strategically staging these artworks across varied contexts such as: art galleries, lecture halls, theatrical venues, music clubs, social media, the street, and mainstream television. My practice seeks to conflate and activate the intersections between these cultural zones/learned categories, to agitate, amuse and surprise audiences – ultimately highlighting the absurdity of hegemonic systems of categorisation which are often injurious, since (according to theorists such as Peggy Phelan) they restrict and marginalise BAME, female, LGBTQ+ and working-class identities.

As well as activating my hybrid, biracial heritage and resultant alternative ways of seeing, I’ve learned to navigate different social groups within society – i.e. from my working-class childhood in Birmingham, through to the privileged environment I encountered as a student at The Ruskin, University of Oxford. As a result, my inscription within any specific category is ultimately non-specific, which affords me the licence and the daring to cross between these established structures and narratives; to interrupt and re-write our readings of them in liberating new registers, and to highlight what feminist theorists have long asserted – i.e. the performative nature of identity and power.

My artworks are informed through skills and knowledge acquired through practicing and strategically deconstructing a variety of learned languages – i.e. prior to attending art school at The Ruskin, and Goldsmiths, I trained as a dancer: IDTA Freestyle Disco, Latin American and Ballroom - and worked professionally on the cabaret theatre circuit for two years. I also trained to play classical cello (Suzuki method) and later studied acting at Rose Bruford College. Historically QC has also been deployed as a music act, staging performances to operate as a semblance of pop, and inviting questions to challenge the limitations of mainstream entertainment culture - which according to post-colonial theorist, bell hooks* - operates within, and perpetuates the injurious, overarching framework of ‘white supremacist capitalist patriarchy’

Quilla Constance (QC) is an art persona I’ve cultivated and deployed since 2009. QC is an activist and an overt militant-punk, feminist exoticization of Jennifer Allen. It’s difficult to identify where Jennifer Allen ends and QC begins (and vice versa) - and I strategically prolong this tension to invite and choreograph confusion and ambivalence, since QC is born out of, and best operates from a liminal position of imbalance, where injurious learned categories and problematic stereotypes become undone, and as such, can be questioned and reworked to reveal new possibilities.

Ultimately, through QC I seek to stage artworks, workshops, lectures and symposia to locate and assert new points of agency for all human subjects, but especially historically marginalised subjects such as female, BAME, LGBTQ+ and working class - within hegemonic systems of power.

*Theorist bell hooks strategically referred to herself using lower case.

Recent and Upcoming (Selected) Solo Projects, Exhibitions and TV Performances:

2023 - Teasing out Contingencies – QC’s recent paintings, costume installations and performances will tour to The Higgins, Bedford (Sir William Harpur Gallery) for a solo exhibition. This project is supported by Arts Council England, Tate Exchange, Bedford Creative Arts and The Higgins.

2021 - QC hosted a performance art workshop, in collaboration with presenter-comedians Rob Beckett and Romesh Ranganathan for the BAFTA nominated TV series Rob and Romesh Vs (Art). The episode culminated in a performance at the Saatchi Gallery, London, and aired via Sky One/Sky Max (currently streaming on NOW TV)

2021 - QC featured in the BBC IDEAS film How Limits Can Boost Your Creativity – and presented in collaboration with Baroness and Neuroscientist Dr Susan Greenfield, Dr Volker Patent, Lecturer in Psychology, and Professor Cartinel Tromp, Cognitive Psychologist (The Open University)

2019 - QC delivered Teasing out Contingencies (Part 1) - her socially engaged Open Studio project, at Tate Modern, Tate Exchange. My newly commissioned costumes and interactive performance workshops were in situ at Tate, engaging thousands of diverse visitors.

Previous (Selected) Solo Exhibitions - Events and Residencies:

2019 - Event: Making a Performance of Yourself: QC guest lecture/performance at Jerwood Arts, London.

2017 - QC solo exhibition: Transcending the Signified at The Museum of Contemporary Art, London, The Old Fire Station Gallery, Oxford, and The Kendrew Barn, St John's College, University of Oxford. A related symposium event took place at Camberwell College of Arts, UAL - Funded by Arts Council England and UAL.

2017 - Screening and discussion of QC performances at Van Abbemuseum, Netherlands for the conference: Conceptualism - Intersectional Readings, International Framings, Black Artists & Modernism.

2016 - QC solo exhibition: #QC at The Vaults Gallery, London and The Kendrew Barn, St John's College, University of Oxford, with a symposium event at Toynbee Studios - Funded by Arts Council England, Bedford Creative Arts, Artsadmin, and Toynbee Studios.

2015 - Event: RA Schools Curate - QC Live Performance at the Royal Academy of Arts, London.

2015 - Event: Disidentifications Conference, ICA London - Screening and discussion of QC artworks, inviting a collective exploration of the role of gender and sexual identifications in contemporary art practices.

2015 - QC solo exhibition: PUKIJAM at 198 Contemporary Arts, curated by Maria Kheirkhah – Funded by Arts Council England, Diversity Art Forum, TrAIN Research Cluster (UAL), Lambeth Council and South London Art Map.

2014 - Event: Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing - QC lecture and screening at The Freud Museum, London.

2013 - Event: Pseudo Feminist Posturing Protest - QC Performance outside BBC Broadcasting House.

2011 - Event: You Bloom Music Awards at The Cobden Club, London - QC guest performance, hosted by Sir Bob Geldof.

2011 - Event: Blitz Club Reunion – QC guest performance, hosted by Steve Strange and Rusty Egan (Visage).

2007 - Pre QC, Jennifer Allen curated a video event at 176 London courtesy of the Zabludowicz and Lux Film Collection. The event featured videos by Damien Hirst & Angus Fairhurst, Pipilotti Rist, Gilbert & George, Leigh Bowery and Jake & Dinos Chapman. Allen also screened her 2006 performance video: Happy Christmas Mom & Dad, subverting Freud’s notion of the Oedipus complex.

2004 - Allen's performance videos were selected to screen in a solo exhibition as part of ARTLINKART Artist in Residence Programme at BizArt Art Center, Shanghai China. The residency was funded by Arts Council England and The British Council.

2001 - Allen's performance videos were selected to screen at Bloomberg New Contemporaries 2001 exhibition which opened at Camden Arts Centre and toured to Northern Gallery of Contemporary Art. The selection panel included Jennifer Higgie and Turner Prize winners - Mike Nelson and Chris Ofili.

Awards (Selected):

2019 - Project Grant Award of £15,000 from Arts Council England and Bedford Creative Arts in support of upcoming solo exhibitions: Teasing out Contingencies (part 1) at Tate Modern, Tate Exchange, and The Higgins Museum, Sir William Harpur Gallery.

2018 - Socially Engaged Project Commission of £5000 from Live Art organisation: Artichoke, and Arts Council England, to lead Processions 2018 Feminist Art Workshops in Bedford and design/produce a banner artwork for the Processions 2018, London women’s march – QC worked with women of Bedford to mark the centenary of votes for women, and to commemorate the Suffragettes.

2017 - Project Grant Award of £16,000 from Arts Council England in support of solo exhibitions: Transcending the Signified at the Museum of Contemporary Art London and The Old Fire Station Gallery, Oxford.

2016 - Project Grant Award of £15,000 from Arts Council England for QC solo exhibitions: '#QC' at The Vaults Gallery London and The Kendrew Barn, St John's College, University of Oxford.

2015 - Project Grant Award of £15,000 from Arts Council England in support of QC solo exhibition PUKIJAM at 198 Contemporary Arts, and related symposia at Chelsea College of Arts, University of the Arts, London.

2006 - QC (previously known as Jennifer Allen) was selected to represent Goldsmiths College of Art in Goods to Declare - MFA International Artists’ Residency and Exhibition, Bezalel Academy, Israel - Supported by Arts Council England and The British Council.

2004 - QC (previously known as Jennifer Allen) was selected to complete an ARTLINK Art Residency in Shanghai, China - Funded by The British Council.

2000 - QC (previously known as Jennifer Allen) was awarded The Laurence Binyon Prize for Art History and Research. The Laurence Binyon Prize is funded by University of Oxford.


Quilla Constance is a Senior Lecturer at Camberwell College of Arts, UAL, and Chelsea College of Arts, UAL (Lecturing across the departments of BA and MA Fine Art). QC is also a visiting tutor at The Royal Academy Schools (MA Fine Art), Middlesex University (BA Fine Art), and Goldsmiths (BA Design). QC has also taught in the MA Dance Department at University of Bedfordshire.

Art Collections:

Allen's/QC's artworks are held in the collections of Anita Zabludowicz, David Roberts, Goldsmiths College Wardens, and private collections in the UK and overseas.

Recent Publications/Critical Texts (Selected):

Dr Alexandra Kokoli e-book transcript on QC Performances: Van Abbemuseum, Netherlands, 2018: https://www.quillaconstance.com/teasing-out-contingencies/vam_epub-BAM_NOV19_V2_Kokoli_0212.pdf

Revisiting the Gaze: The Fashioned Body and the Politics of Looking: Bloomsbury, 2020 - Book chapter exploring QC’s video/performance work: https://www.google.co.uk/books/edition/Revisiting_the_Gaze/vuXqDwAAQBAJ?hl=en&gbpv=1&dq=Quilla+constance&pg=PT71&printsec=frontcover

A Companion to Feminist Art: Wiley-Blackwell, 2019 - Book chapter exploring QC’s video/performance work: https://www.google.co.uk/books/edition/A_Companion_to_Feminist_Art/x2SbDwAAQBAJ?hl=en&gbpv=1&dq=Quilla+constance+a+companion+to+feminist+art&pg=PA133&printsec=frontcover

Interviews (Selected):

QC interview for Axisweb - Artist of the Month, 2020: https://www.axisweb.org/artist-of-the-month/2020/quilla-constance/

QC Voice Magazine, 2020: https://www.voicemag.uk/interview/7280/quilla-constance-invites-us-to-break-down-barriers-in-teasing-out-contingencies

Symposia (Selected):

Quilla Constance, University of Leeds - The Lived Female in Performance, 2019 https://ahc.leeds.ac.uk/performance/events/event/1262/the-lived-female-body-in-performance

Quilla Constance – Disidentifications, ICA London, 2015 https://archive.ica.art/whats-on/symposium-dis-identifications/

Quilla Constance – Hashtag QC, Artsadmin, 2016 https://www.artsadmin.co.uk/events/3859/

Jennifer Allen. Photo by Simon Richardson