December 7, 2023

Jirah is a non-disciplinary artist with two main focuses – Conceptual Design and Performing Arts. Conceptual design is functional design that derives from a narrative, scenario, or symbolic concept. It includes object design, set + costume design for performance. His work is symbolic and psychological in nature. Also with a multi-cultural background of Native American Indigenous, (the Chickasaw Tribe) and African American / North African descents, and growing up sort of nomadically, in constantly different environments; he is fluid and adaptive by nature.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do.
My work is a notepad, where I jot down my interpretations of the world and the experiences I choose to absorb.

Could you describe your practice?
I describe it as Conceptual Design. Conceptual design is functional design that derives from a narrative, scenario, or symbolic concept. It includes object design, set + costume design for performance. It comes from a very psychological and symbolic place.

What began your interest in furniture design?
It began mostly at SAIC. I actually had an unattended-to interest in it from childhood, I had always drawn floor plans and watched home remodel shows since I was in like, 2nd grade. I would watch that after school. And always played sims, but I just built houses, not really played the game.

Also naturally, I’ve just been heavily aware of space, and the choreography of moving through a home.

I guess in school, I accidentally stumbled on the tools to build these things, instead of just sketching them. I actually didn’t do a design major, I took a couple intro classes and then just taught myself when I wasn’t in class.

Describe your current studio or workspace.
I’ve currently been on the move in different cities so I actually don’t have a studio space right now. I’ve actually never had a long term studio before. The only time I’ve stayed somewhere longer than 6 months is when I was in school in Chicago, so my studio was there. And after school, up until recently, I was using the studio, where I was interning as a workspace as well. It’s a huge, great studio. Was glad to have used that space!

Who are some of your favorite artists?
Nancy Grossman, Sevdaliza, the creative director of Hank Jobenhavn, I forget his name, those are some that come to mind. I don’t really have favorite artists by name though, I have some favorite artist’s projects, or aesthetics. There are film directors I really like though.

What/who is influencing your work right now?
 Fear, and danger. And boredom. Darkness. I think boredom is one of the worst things, and it can kind of make me f
eel as if I’m in a “dark place” but in that dark place I find alot of things creatively. This influences “performance” mostly, and that, I think, informs the designs. On a less intense note, I’ve found a lot of cool designers on Instagram. Social media communities have a big part in my design influences, I find people I like, that like things I like, and things that I don’t know about and we kind of bounce off of each others’ curation. The performance side is a lot deeper than the design side of things. If we were to make this a conversation on design, things like film sets play a part in my understanding of furniture.

I’m also interested in socialist modernist architecture, the blunt and harsh presentation of it, the clean presentation of Scandinavian design, Japanese minimalism, Norwegian churches and high modern new construction.

Who is someone you want to collaborate with?
I’d love to collaborate with Janna Roy from Partsof4.

What do you collect?
I collect beach rocks, not frequently, but I have. I don’t really collect things though. I think the fact that I’ve moved around so much has made it that I haven’t kept material things for very long in the past. I’ve learned to move pretty lightly.

What do you want a viewer to walk away with after experiencing your work?
To feel as if they’ve experienced a moment of elevation. 

What’s your favorite thing about Chicago?
I like that its beauty is hidden, even though it’s a big city, it has this quiet quality about it. You have to really look; for things.

How does performance influence your other work? How do they work together?
They do forsure. I actually don’t think it’s separate at all. Sometimes I categorize to contextualize things for people, but I don’t see any difference from dangling in the air, suspended from a performance structure, and building a chair. They’re all materializations of my thoughts… It also influences design because that’s where the conceptual part comes in. That’s what brought me into the design– I didn’t have to hide that part of myself or keep it separate. Performance became a vehicle for my design practice. For example, these ‘characters’ in a narrative based performance need a place to sit. What does that place look (and feel) like?

What is a project you’re working on right now?
I’m working on design mostly right now,. You can check it out on Room–file.

What have you been listening to lately?
I listen to an artist I think is formerly known as forest management, but that’s what the music is listed as on streaming platforms. He’s Chicago based. Hands down the most listened to in my music library. I like music without lyrics right now but when it’s not that mood I like bops. Stuff that is funny and loud and obnoxious.

What are the main motifs in your work?
Ceremonial spaces. And when unintentional utilitarianism becomes an aesthetic. Such as protection methods on old buildings like spikes, and armor and primitive war machines. That look, in history that is achieved by solely focusing on an objective, not the look. And the function-based focus of benches in an old
church that are just there to house a lot attendees in a often small space. Other than that the motifs are mainly conceptual.


Interview conducted and edited by Emma Kang James

Sign up for our newsletter