The design work and Queer Noise Club defying gender norms and exploring new approaches to femininity
Aja is an artist who's long made work that pushed barriers and audiences, shaking them right to the core: not just through the blistering noise she makes, the stunningly outrageous costumes designed for her by Lu La Loop, or her intense live shows and visuals; but that pounds at the way we consider bodies and spaces; and how and why we inhabit them.
While she’s best known, of course, for her music (which she describes as using "unsettling noise, distressed screams, handmade electronics and found objects pushed through pedals" to create "industrial beats and distorted drone"; Aja also creates all the visual elements herself, including the video projections she uses in the shows, her own branding and her gorgeous flyer designs for the Nottingham-based night she runs, Queer Noise Club.
The use of type, colour, costume, sets and photographic imagery are striking but also conceptually rigorous. As such, while she's moved in a rather different direction, it’s little surprise to learn that Aja had studied graphic design at The University of Nottingham.
For the designs for her forthcoming Queer Noise Club event this month, Aja used Risograph-printed designs made at Dizzy Ink; and the fluoro pink the process shows off beautifully is perfect for imagery that looks to explore ideas around gender identity, femininity, and the body as a wider concept.
The night itself looks to give a platform for queer, non-binary and female artists working in and around noise and experimental music. The designs centre around a bespoke costume, again created by Lu La Loop, which looks to reflect that notion of the mutability of the body; celebrating non-conforming identities, and examining how we present notions of what is (and isn’t) considered "feminine". "I’m a cis white female, and comfortable-ish being female, and I’m really interested in gender identity and genders that aren’t defined, that are more fluid," says Aja. "I wanted to celebrate those different types of genders and bodies, so the costume was designed to show by right boob, but it was squashed down by plastic."
This means that creases, lines, unusual undulations and – of course – a nipple shows through; and the materials used mean that if the flesh moves, the aesthetic shifts with it. "I thought it would be a nice anchor point to represent and celebrate different identities," says Aja; adding that this aspect of the costume design can be used as a fulcrum to consider a number of things: non-binary or trans people who have top surgery; the artist’s own experiences around body dysmorphic disorder; the chatter around the #freethenipple movement and a "bit of a fuck you to the patriarchy and the history of female bodies being sexualised," she adds.
The colour palette uses a beguiling combination of pinks and purples – initially as another two fingers up to prescribed ideas of femininity. "It’s a juxtaposition between my own feelings about wearing pink in a way to show my femininity, but how that might be judged; and really harsh noise, power electronics and screaming – and queer and female empowerment along with that."
The typography is a deliciously warped, playful beast; a nod to Aja’s love of DIY, punk zine-style. The Queer Noise Club logo uses a modified version of the brilliantly named typeface Goblin Moon. On posters, it’s been edited for legibility; but for social media and video content, it lets its abstraction out in more experimental ways.
The event on 13 September will be Queer Noise Club’s second outing, and the overall idea was born of the fact there were simply no similar events for such communities in Nottingham, or indeed the Midlands at all. "After touring for a few years in Europe and meeting and experiencing different queer communities come together and share a passion for experimental music I knew there was something missing in the Midlands."
She adds, "it’s so important to rewrite" the way such scenes have been, at least before recent times, largely dominated by cis white men "so that you can have a safe space and a supportive, loving community."