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Chicks on Speed

Chicks on Speed

Interviewed by
Courtney Sanders
Friday 22nd February, 2013 10:03AM

Seminal music / art / fashion duo Chicks on Speed are heading to New Zealand next week in support of their latest, multidisciplinary project SCREAM. They will be releasing an album as part of the project that includes collaborations with icons like Yoko Ono and Julian Assange, and UTR caught up with the duo to discuss their incredible history as an art troupe, the starting point for SCREAM, and you know, biology and cyber terrorism!

Firstly I'm really interested in how you guys met and what led you to explore the multi-disciplinary avenues you do. Was there a movement happening in Munich at that particular time?

Alex Murray-Leslie: Munich is a very family friendly place, quiet and quite boring, so out of necessity, the four of us (Lisa Walker, Melissa Logan, Kiki Moorse and myself) formed a girl gang to create our own fun style of self made entertainment, with a hand made bar, outfits, lighting and chopped up style of medley tape music.

Was there an artist or inspiration of another kind that led you to combining music, fashion and art?

Alex Murray-Leslie: Theres a close proximity between Chicks on Speed and women working in the Bauhaus craft movements, Leigh Bowry and of course The Slits, Kleenex, Yoko Ono Fluxus performances and her early experimental sound works with John Lennon where electrifying. Music, Art and Fashion have always been connected, it just hasn't been talked about on a multidisciplinary level till now.

How was what you were doing received at the time, compared to now?

A lot of Munichites at the time were embarrassed by what Melissa and I were doing, some would even walk out of our performances. We felt totally empowered at the time and of course didn't listen to anyone! Create and keep going was our motto, no matter what anyone says! Now we're labeled as heroines of the Munich art, music & fashion scenes or "the sound of Munich”. I get the feeling there's a sense of pride amongst the creative community and Academy of Fine Arts students towards us.

It’s interesting that you guys have become a legitimate and respected part of the fashion industry; an industry that is notoriously closed, pre-established and traditional. Was it difficult to become accepted by this and why do you think you were able to become so ingrained in this industry?

Alex Murray-Leslie: Karl Lagerfeld had a lot to do with this: we did a photo-shoot with him for our cover of "fashion rules" (the song was made to make models fall off the catwalk, which he smiled at). He liked the way we poked fun at fashion people in a tongue in cheek way. We had fun with the medium and still do, we don't take it seriously and I guess that's why we're part of it, in some strange twisted way. We love fashion and it's an integral part of the Chicks on Speed language of creative expression, from our screen printed textiles, DIY patch worked sloganeering banners to the fashionable technology we've been developing over the last seven years. I'm especially into the fashion side of COS – I cannot imagine making anything that isn't associated with the body or has some body centricity merged with sonic element, its all about image and gesture!

Melissa Logan: Making work for the industry, any industry makes it very different to the practice of cultural production which we do. Sometimes our work somehow does slot or touch upon the fields of art or fashion or music, but of course if it functions in these fields is not interesting to us. The important point is to find the experience of touching the future. Sometimes it works, sometimes it is too heady, too abstract, or too full of clichès, but sometimes you hit the great twist. A complicated lesson is to let go or the aim for direct success, the goal of the instant success is something that is connected to the past.

Collaboration is obviously a massive part of what Chicks on Speed do: both within the group and in relation to the massive amount of people you have collaborated with in the past. What is it about collaboration that you think is conducive to producing interesting work? Do you have a favourite collaboration that you've done as Chicks on Speed?

Alex Murray-Leslie: I'd have to say our latest album SCREAM is my favourite collaboration to date, which will be released on Chicks on Speed records in Europe and Valve in Australia and New Zealand mid this year. Its the first multidisciplinary collaboration in broad terms, We've collaborated with artists Yoko Ono, Peter Weible, Anat Ben-David, Angie Seah, philosopher Markus Steinweg, collector and princess Francesca Bornemisza, and producers Timor Litzenberger, Phil Sieser, Oliver Horton & Christopher Just.

SCREAM which alludes to "Inner pop, outer Scream" on the APP we're releasing on iTunes, is a collection of audio visual scenes Melissa and I have been working on during our residency @ ZKM, Centre for Art and Media, using their impressive 42 channel spatial system.

Each song on the album and APP, forms part of a compositional audio visual scene, the sounds (created by our self made objekt instruments) interact and move in and out of each other, at times straight forward recordings of repetitive, disjointed, out of sync beats colliding with the movements of audio scenes, provoking a more extreme listening experience, where the everyday clashes with obtrusive, piano movements, texts and sounds, informed by a different perspective of the self, stillness, pop, digital activism & philosophy. Like still lives, taken out of context, the pop and art performance based sound-tracks experimental intention, is to reflect the intensity, uneasiness & humour of our "situation".

The album songs emerge from the tension between the "outer-space" which are recorded sonic passages and visual documents, video art pieces, one scene includes a first improvised session between Chicks on Speed, Peter Weible & Markus Steinweg in Kubus on 2 December, 2012. This "outer-space" is juxtaposed against the "inner-space" forming a new form of inner (personal) and outer (public) scream.

"Experimental has never gone so pop and pop has never been so strange!"

In the press release for SCREAM it states that you often don't know the results of your work when you start. Tell me a little bit about your creative process - how do you start and develop work and how do you work together?

Melissa Logan: feeling annoyed about certain aspects in the social web of the world is a start, mix in some technology, a bit of contradiction & fantasy about the world that never made it into the written about history that has been served to us in the text book and official news feedings. Once one begins, the results are a new!

You're bringing a new, multi-disciplinary project, 'SCREAM', to NZ in February. Tell me a little bit about the starting point for 'SCREAM' and how you developed the idea.

Melissa Logan: We go to Sydney as Artists in Residence at ArtSpace from Feb 6th, our solo exhibition SCREAM opens on March 13th. We'll be working with Jens Barth from ZKM Centre for Art and Media, Germany on a new APP for Chicks on Speed which will become a multi media interactive APP, performance and installation in the space there. Other collaborators on the show include the awesome Tina Havelock Stevens (who was the underwater drummer on the MONA FOMA poster this year), Erica on electronic drums VS our lycra ladies as Chicks dance troupe.

You’ve merged science into your work for this project. Science can be such a visceral, immediate thing. Tell me a little bit about how you related science to the experience you are creating with music and art.

Melissa Logan: I've just embarked on a Phd as a researcher at Cognition and Creativity Studios, University of Technology in Sydney, part of my focuss area will be working at SymbioticA as an artist in residence, working in the area of Biological Arts, which is an art form pioneered by artists Oron Catts and Guy Ben Ari to name a few of their integral directors and researchers. I feel really privileged to be taking on the project. I'm excited about the notion that what ever comes out of it will be sonic and integrated into Chicks on Speed performances in future, a lot of hard work ahead.

With regards to science it does seem like there have been a few artists, musicians and fashion designers referencing biology and things like that over the last couple of years, would you agree?

Melissa Logan: I think the field is very rich, there have been some very important developments made over the last 10 years by Oron and Guy, you can check the SymbioticA page to see all the projects as a taster to that crazy world.

Above and beyond every individual project or show you do, Chicks on Speed has an overarching doctrine, arguably related to feminist theory. Tell me a little bit about the overarching doctrine that is Chicks on Speed.

Melissa Logan: We are humanists. Feminism is a small and at the same time a great part of this. Besides the obvious deserved rights for females through sexual equality, equality offers white males a way out of the white male oppressor role. I am a big supporter of FEMEN & the model of building a radical war zone. Getting to the blatant points & not pussy-footing around the actual themes from the safe net of academia. What are your thoughts on the current representation of women, particularly in the media? While we've arguably achieved equality on many levels the perception of women in the media (often by publications by women for women) is pretty negative and destructive - what do you think?

Melissa Logan: I think about the Wikipedia definition of misogyny and it includes females who are misogynist.

Furthermore, I think we're at a really interesting time in politics and society: the division between the rich and the poor, liberal and conservative seems more heightened than ever and this could either be perceived as a negative thing or a positive thing that could end up provoking change (particularly in relation to the politics of the United States and the recent election). What are your thoughts on this dichotomy?

Melissa Logan: My bedroom looks out on some funny inner city sixties buildings in Hamburg, Germany that are really run down and have not been renovated by the owners. But from the inside they’re cozy, small flats (renovated at the renters own expense). Investors purchased the properties two years ago and tried to throw everyone out and the movement against that has been amazing - the city media has been on the side of the people, the renters. The investors it seems are backing out. I think there are great achievements now like this. We know what is going on, the blatant lies are known, people with experience are putting in the hours and dedication to take a close look at statements by speculations companies and notifying the local politicians. I am positive and I am waiting for the news of the massive cyber attacks on crippling co-operations for misconduct!

Finally, what are you looking forward to achieving in 2013?

Melissa Logan:Playing the Venice Biennale, exhibiting at ArtSpace Sydney, & Institute of Modern Art Brisbane, making a film based on the original Bunuel film L'age D'or North of Barcelona & creating a new collection of high tech musical shoes with my friend and collaborator Max Kibardin oh and when there's a spare moment, in-between projects, we'll be developing a series of textile prints and songs for a street wear brand in Milan.