Few bands have the ability to successfully merge genres and artistic mediums in order to fuck with their audience’s understanding of what music, particularly live shows, can achieve. Chicks on Speed, formed in Munich in 1997, is one such ensemble. The multi-disciplinary group’s penchant for combining textiles, music, art, and a DIY performance ethic serves to sculpt a multi-media aesthetic that embodies riot grrrl culture in the digital epoch of the 21st century.
Mere days after performing a sold-out show at the Red Rattler Theatre, their latest exhibition, SCREAM, opened last Wednesday at Artspace in Woolloomooloo. SCREAM’s opening night featured a number of different channels that allowed the audience to interact with installations. Instead of a conventional stage, a multi-layered platform with ropes and moveable objects was littered with a combination of orthodox and DIY musical paraphernalia. The amount of meticulous effort that Chicks on Speed put into crafting unique ‘objekt instruments’, a series of homemade musical objects which includes brightly coloured stilettos with guitar strings, was evident. Their employment of both acoustic and electronic percussion filled the space with punchy rhythm as they played a short set to an audience surrounding the multi-sided stage. The set opened with a spoken-word reading that rapidly dove into a sea of dual vocals and electronically produced distortion.
However, the band’s set wasn’t the most exciting part of the opening. Roving ‘lycra ladies’, clad in bright colour explosions and body paint, were employing the Chicks on Speed iPad app which includes a feature that captures live footage of gallery-goers and projects it onto a wall, therefore making the audience a part of the exhibition itself. One wall, featuring a colourful mixed-media tapestry covering touch-sensitive panels, produced different musical notes and sound samples when activated.
Before attending this opening I thought that I was somewhat cultured, but I was wrong. I know nothing about art or what it is capable of achieving, even after undergoing one of the biggest and most mind-opening brainfucks I’ve ever experienced at the hands of multidisiplinary art. Australian art has a long way to go before it is remotely capable of being on par with the work of ensembles like Chicks on Speed, who identify not as artists, but rather as “multidisciplinary workers in the field of culture.” There is nothing that makes contemporary art more intriguing than a continued breakdown of disciplinary barriers. Chicks on Speed do this with a flawless virtuosity.
SCREAM is open until April 21 and is not to be missed.
Chicks on Speed have just been commissioned to write a performance piece for the Center for Art and Media in Karlsruhe, Germany. The exhibition will take up residency at Carriageworks in 2014. Their album, SCREAM, is due for release later this year.