Blurring the boundaries between real and virtual, Jemma’s work explores the spatial and emotional possibilities of light and image in performative environments. Hailing from New Zealand where she completed her Fine Arts degree, Jemma has made a unique path, weaving between the electronic music and visual arts scenes. Spanning audio-visual performance, installation and bespoke visual and sculptural design, her work shows a strong sensitivity for combining light, sound and structure. Inspired by naturally occurring patterns, and imbued with a sense of science fiction otherworldliness, Jemma’s work uses recurring symbols to interrogate the fragile boundary between utopia and dystopia. In her carefully crafted performances crystalline structures and abstract textural landscapes fluctuate ambiguously in scale between the micro and macro, responding intuitively with sound and environment.
In Berlin she is a curator for Scope Sessions Artist Talks and Media Salon and works as a member of Lacuna Lab. Jemma gives us her answers to our 11+3 interview:
1: Just because we don’t understand something doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.
2: I am happiest when I keep my body in movement; running, swimming, dancing, whatever. It helps to clear my mind, focus my energy and ease my stress levels.
3: Don’t let your doubts sabotage your actions
1. What is the biggest inspiration for your music?
The connection between sound, structure and light is important for me. I am draw inspiration from the connections between sound and image, sound and architecture, light and structure. Play and experimentation with sounds from the world around me, could be a machine, the ice cracking on a winter morning walk or the weird sound our fridge makes, anything could catch my attention. Science fiction and film soundtracks inform my work especially in the way they tell an emotional story with their relationship to image.
2. How and when did you get into making music?
Music has always been a big part of my life often in conjunction with movement or with a visual aspect. From a young age I was dancing and this connection between sound and the way you move your body and how you feel about the music in your body has been an interest ever since childhood. This has gradually expanded into a spatial relationship with sound and light in my audio-visual practice and I have been working on my own music production for audio-visual work since early 2018.
3. What are 5 of your favourite albums of all time?
Very very difficult to say but these are some that I come back to often:
Bjork – Homogenic
Laurie Anderson – Bright Red
James Blake – The Colour in Anything Aisha Devi – DNA Feelings
Aphex twin – Drukqs
4. What do you associate with Berlin?
Mind expansion, exposure to new people, new ideas, new technologies, new ways of being. Learning, creating, being inspired, dancing. Friendly open people. Grey winters. An abundance of music and art of all kinds.
5. What’s your favourite place in your town?
I don’t have a favourite place. I love riding through the city, the city is always changing, there is always something happening and if you move around the city you will find a new corner/ street/ event/ to explore.
6. If there was no music in the world, what would you do instead?
I can’t imagine a world where there is no music, this would be a place with no sound what-so-ever as anything can be made into or interpreted as music. But if that was the case then I would make visual music with light, structure and movement.
7. What was the last record/music you bought?
Lara Sarkissian – Disruption EP
8. Who would you most like to collaborate with?
Tough question! Collaboration can be so inspiring, I like being challenged working with different kinds of people and am open many kinds of collaboration. For instance working with La Tempete a Paris based ensemble orchestra has been an amazing, challenging, new experience. I loved working with Lara Sarkissian on our immersive project Thresholds for the ISM Hexadome, so this is a collaboration I would like to continue! Also I am currently really into the work of SØS Gunver Ryberg so to collaborate with her would be amazing.
9. What was your best gig (as performer or spectator)?
Lots of great gigs but the one that comes to mind was our performance of Thresholds at the ISM Hexadome at Martin Gropius Bau Berlin 2018. Lara Sarkissian and I put so much work into creating that project that it was incredibly satisfying to see all our hard work come to fruition. It was also amazing to perform in the beautiful central atrium at Gropius Bau, surrounding the audience with six huge screens and immersive multi-channel audio setup.
10. How important is technology to your creative process?
Very. Although I don’t need to have the latest and greatest version of everything, I do use a lot of technology in my work. Light, video, sound – connecting these together and sending signals to each – usually via a computer means lots of software and hardware working together. Experimenting with new (to me) tools or software often evolves into new ways of art making and I like to add these new tools on top of older techniques. Recording devices – video and sound play a big role as well as digital creation tools such as Blender (a 3D animation software) and Ableton live. I like to merge these with physical sculptural objects that I make. More and more I am also using live visual software such as Resolume Arena or Mad Mapper to control lighting which along with sound gives me more possibilities to expand into larger, more immersive spaces.
11. Do you have siblings and how do they feel about your career/art?
I have two younger brothers. One brother who is 5 years younger and also lives in Europe is generally pretty excited about what I do. The other brother is 12 years younger and lives in our home town in New Zealand. I don’t really know what he thinks about my art but I am sure he is supportive too.
You can see Jemma perform an audio-visual show projected onto the dome of the Kuppelhalle at silent green Kulturquartier on Thursday, 10th October as part of the Future Soundscapes festival.
Photo © Jasmin Safaeian