Chicks on Speed: Scream

Collaborative duo Chicks on Speed redefine the notion of interdisciplinary art practice. Formed by Alex Murray-Leslie, from Australia, and Melissa Logan, from America, after they met as students at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich in 1997, the pair have created their own hybrid art form that extends across art, technology, music, performance, design and fashion.

Influenced by seventies feminist performance artists and DIY punk movements, Chicks on Speed not only combine media, but invent new forms of expression in the process. They rely on inventiveness and collaboration, constantly working with new influences in new creative ways. A recent work has seen them collaborate with Julian Assange, exploring an interest in Wikileaks as a way to empower people and encourage open participation and freedom of information.

Their upcoming show ‘Scream’ at Brisbane’s Institute of Modern Art empowers viewers by making them active collaborators in the work. Through a residency with ZKM Center for Art and Media, Karlsruhe, Germany, they have developed an iPad app that gives audience members the opportunity to compose and mix the sound and visuals that become part of the work. The constructed sound, rhythm, words and image form a giant, chaotic collage projected onto a multifaceted sculptural object that becomes a stage, canvas, and musical instrument.

Chicks on Speed are also inventors of new technologies. Their ‘Objekt Instruments’, most famously their e-shoe – a high heel shoe guitar, are playful and kitch while also engaging with technology in impressively innovative ways. They have made hats with self-contained entertainment systems, wearable super suits that trigger different audio and video, and cigar box synthesizers. These hand-made clothing accessories double as musical instruments, making them body performance devices which on stage perform an orchestra of audio visual samples, activated directly through performer’s bodies.

The DIY process of making Objekt instruments extends into the overall concept of Chicks on Speed’s practice. Their graphics, songs, fashion, and performances work on an impromptu nature of making and inventing – but that is not to say it is un-thought out. They work with elements of mass-production but approach this style with an aspect of the hand-made, to go beyond what we are fed in popular culture and make something more out of these ideals. In doing so, their work fuses high and low art culture – by not allowing themselves to be compartmentalised into a specific form, they are asking: does it matter? We are just as likely to see Chicks on Speed in a grungy pub, at a massive rock concert, on the catwalk, or on the white walls of one of the world’s most prestigious galleries. As such, their work always involves political dimensions and employs feminist strategies in ways that resonate through many different
cultural forms.

With irony and humour, Chicks on Speed blend what we know of contemporary culture into their own brand of creativity. Their energy creates an art form that is more than an art form: the mischievous nature of their work draws us in to their world, and from there we can simply enjoy the craziness or consider the intricacies of politics, art and culture that they are dealing with. While their work may be baffling at times, one thing is certain – Chicks on Speed are definitely not slowing down.

Institute of Modern Art
3 August to 21 September, 2013

Chicks on Speed
Courtesy the artists and Beda Mulzer

Chicks on Speed and Max Kibardin, E-SHOE (A High Heeled Shoe Guitar), 2010. Photography: Gilmar Ribeiro