An Airport Novel on Speed…..Or an interview with Chicks on Speed?
“BTW, we say… Don’t do it yourself, do it with everybody else.”
As hyperactive, multi-talented, multi-discipline collectives go, you can’t get much more super-charged than Chicks on Speed. The all female art group, electro-punk band and fashion designers, currently comprise of six members spread across Europe and America.
Founded in Munich in 1997 by art students Melissa Logan, Alex Murray-Leslie and Kiki Moorse (now gone solo), the Chicks have always defied easy categorization. Outside of the art and fashion worlds they are best known for their music, an eclectic, riot-like fizz of diverse influences spanning electro, punk, disco, rock and roll, and much else in between. Collaborations with the likes of Peaches sum up their punchy, confident style, but you really have to listen to get the point.
The transfixing personality of the Chicks’ music flows across to both their bold installation and video art, and their kooky fashion creations, two worlds that easily blur in the Chicks’ hands. Following on from an earlier publication in 2009, the Chicks’ have reduced their crazed cosmos into a format easily accessible to an international readership with the release of their new book CHICKS ON SPEED DON´T ART, FASHION, MUSIC. Inspired by a performance at Dundee Contemporary Arts in June, the book focuses on the Chicks’ latest ‘Objekt Instruments’, designed to act simultaneously as ‘machine/instrument/sculpture’ and ‘fashionable technology’. To celebrate, Flux grabbed the opportunity to interview founding member Melissa Logan about the Chicks’ life on speed.
“Living for the moment to peak the ride”
Flux: Since your involved in so many projects and span so many activities, it might be good to begin by asking, where do you find the time?
Melissa: We tried to slow down after finishing our book, but then I became involved in acting and Alex became director of a fashion film fest.
F: Apparently the ‘Chicks’ name came about because someone actually once described you and Alex as being like ‘chicks on speed’ – do you/did you notice that you were going faster than everyone else?
M: We have always brought people together, it is more that the projects explode and involve many parallel themes which make it hard to focus one’s attention on one subject, the many influences at once become a large blur, this is by some experienced as speed.
F: Moving on to the new book, could you say a bit about the idea behind it and what readers can expect?
M: It is very much like our first book but smaller, a good size to take on the plane. It starts out as a book documenting the Objekt Instruments (stage tools, sculptural, wearable instruments we have spent the last few years developing, inventing, testing, programming exhibiting) By the end of the book we loose the reader in a zine section with writings, for example, on the connection of the idea of ‘contemporary & colonialism’,
turning a Beatles platz into Yoko Ono platz, and a short description of the Jetsets, a movement in Paris and Ivory Coast.
F: One way of describing your work would be to equate it with contemporary, DIY feminism, less dogmatic/ideological, more climb over the boundaries, do it yourself, do what you want. Is that a characterization you agree with, and if so, is it something that has formed a conscious part of your work, influencing your various projects?
M: A lot of our work is about the progress/process and not focused on the product.
The manifesto sounds like sloganeering that ad agencies are about to integrate into a campaign. The video pieces are made fast, sometimes with big production teams, sometimes with one camera or phone, or found material on YouTube. The immediacy is an important part of the resulting work. We don’t want the rehearsed solidity of something definite. What we are making is happening now and we will be developing it still further. Art work is a stage of development frozen, documenting, perhaps complete, but not necessarily. The elements of style, style as fashion, style of music, the style of our graphic design, are important factors as well. The accumulated evidence of a sense of style delineates the self in the present state in time.
BTW, we say- Don’t do it yourself, do it with everybody else.
F: Do you see similarities between yourselves and other confident female performers, the likes of Madonna or Lady Gaga? Plus, do you think we have seen a positive move forwards in terms of women’s roles in music?
M: The Slits, riot Grrl- Le tigre, Tribe 8, Tarantino/Uma Therman, Tank Girl, Pauline Olivereos, Lydia Lunch, Patty Smith, –etc, etc… I was reading recently an article online: ‘Are Women More Aggressive These Days?’ by Brittany Shoot. I found it very interesting the connection to ‘aggressive’ women – basically assertiveness and not being shy – as traditionally attributed to the lower class woman, but that that has changed and become quite normal and accepted across all classes. Also she talks about the trend in kick boxing for young girls as a sport, which is so Tarantino – and I think we have to give Madonna her fair due in being pivotal in establishing a hot, beautiful and physically very strong, smart and independent female ideal. It is great that Beth Ditto comes along and adds a curvier angel to the physically judgmental trap females are caught in all too often.
F: Across your work, satiring, or cataloguing, the contemporary environment seems important. Because you work in some many art forms, that adds up to quite a comprehensive picture of the world around you. You’re probably familiar with the idea of burying time capsules that are meant to be discovered by people in the future. Your work is so broad that a Chicks time capsule could make for a subjective but rewarding record of contemporary society?
M: That Is interesting. That is a Warholian version of The Seventh Generation, an American Indian tradition where life is lived according how it effects people seven generations on in time. Such a mindset is impossible to imagine, it is so far away from the way we live. We love our endless youthfulness, how can people imagine the world with out themselves when they can’t let themselves grow-up? Perhaps someone will invent a networking machine that will enable people to continue to live on in the Internet, generate Facebook responses, construct photos, visit sites, comment on articles… Twitter. I hope I am not giving any programmers bad ideas that take too much money from people. ANGST.
The Chicks will be exhibiting at Kate Macgarry gallery, London from December 2nd – 30th January 2011. See www.katemacgarry.com.
by Jim Morrall