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Chicks On Speed


Making their way to the Fremantle Arts Centre on Friday, April 4 with an interactive art installation and new album UTOPIA, Alex Murray-Leslie and Melissa Logan of Chicks On Speed are taking their ideas as far as they possibly can. TOM KITSON spoke with the multi-platform artists about their inspirations and how WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange worked with the pair to develop a song.  

Chicks On Speed are unwilling to limit themselves in any way. The pair is known for their work across all manner of mediums from screen prints, clothing and visual art to music, software and audience participation. 

“You can have ideas that work on different mediums,” Murray-Leslie says. “One idea could work on a piece of textile, be written as a song and work in performance as a multi-media project.”

Asked about the complicated nature of using multiple art forms for every idea, Murray-Leslie brushes off the suggestion they could do more in one area rather than spread their work across different mediums.

“If we only worked in one medium there would always be the feeling that we didn’t push the idea far enough,” she says. “It’s like we’re missing a piece of the puzzle if, for example, we just design clothing and don’t take the idea any further.”

Logan says this isn’t the easy way to do things, but it’s also the natural human instinct to delve into other areas without specialising.

“For us the combination of mediums is vital,” she says. “Specialisation is actually artificial, dividing and unnatural for humans, and the way we do things is more fun.”

Pioneers in the area of creating new instruments for musical expression, Chicks On Speed have found inspiration from some significant feminist art movements and their own everyday lives.

“Artists like Yoko Ono and Carolee Schneemann have been major influences, but what you’re making is like a mirror to the landscape around you and the experiences you’re having within that,” Murray-Leslie says.

“The Edward Snowden leaks were a big influence on the album, as well as social reactions. For example, in my neighbourhood in Hamburg, accelerated gentrification is dividing the block and resulting in violence,” Logan says.

As well as incorporating some of these current affairs from their home environments, the duo has travelled widely and met with people from different backgrounds to gain input and develop their work collaboratively.

“Making the album involved a lot of travelling to different locations, where we worked with uni students in educational settings, and sampled Yoko Ono’s voice from one of her performances. We also met with Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian Embassy to develop one of the songs,” Murray-Leslie says.

Drawing on historical examples as wide ranging as the utopian architectural planning behind the city of Brasilia and the failed intentions of the Russian space race, Utopia exemplifies Chicks On Speed’s interest in and grasp of complimentary, multi-platform art forms.

Their art project Scream, which has been touring across Australia for the past 12 months, with the intention of exhibiting in Europe later this year, takes on new characteristics each time. Their April 4 launch at Fremantle Arts Centre will be combined with Scream, creating a different experience again.

Scream will now be built around a series of apps, to be released at the same time as the album,” Murray-Leslie says. “It’s an installation of apps which are musical instruments, the key idea being a participatory democracy where the audience can jam with us live.”

Murray-Leslie is based mainly in Sydney, where she is studying a PhD at the University of Technology, spending the rest of her time in Europe undertaking research projects. Logan comes from New York but has been based in Hamburg for artistic purposes.

Chicks on Speed must constantly deal with their own pressures to continue creating and developing ideas, with the added dimension of living on different continents. The pair break barriers as they search for new ideas to implement into their work, developing their exhibitions every time they take over a new place,

“When you’re an artist you’re solely responsible for your own output, so the two of us really push each other and that’s been very important,” she says. “We meet up as often as we can to work, even just with Skype open in the background so we can interact with each other, share ideas and help each other get to places where we wouldn’t necessarily go on our own.”

“You have to find the drive within yourself, and when you’re not driven by success or money it becomes something quite ideological,” Logan says. “I think being able to work together and avoid the over-saturated ideas of competition and cleverness is essential for us to grow, develop and continue making things.”

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