Collecting Objekts

30 January 2013 | 11:40 am | Helen Stringer

“We want to play things on stage and a lot of times we can’t find them so we’re forced to invent or to find them.”

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It's difficult to find appropriate adjectives to describe Chicks On Speed. A marriage of electro-pop, fashion and radical fine art, the inimitable collective has not so much carved their own niche over the past fifteen years, but purposefully defied niches altogether. Founding members Alex Murray-Leslie and Melissa Logan – as well as the plenitude of collaborators they've brought in along the way – have managed to simultaneously work across the music, fashion and art worlds and, as they explain, have done so in such a way that demarcation is virtually and deliberately impossible.

Having met in Germany while attending the Munich Art Academy, Logan explains of the group's conception, “We didn't want to be exclusively an art collective; from the beginning we wanted to include pop because we were tired of the elitism of the art scene and pop is actually a perfect medium [because] it's very visual. We didn't really go from art to music,” she says, “For the music world I think that's a bit confusing and for the art world I think that's also a bit confusing. But we like to function in that way.” Murray-Leslie adds, “We create a mix of both worlds at the same time; to collide those worlds is part of our project.”

Blurring – or perhaps more accurately, ignoring – boundaries has led to a reputation as near paragons of DIY culture, which Logan swiftly corrects, “We don't say 'do it yourself',” corrects Logan, “We say 'do it with everyone else'”. Better, then, to be described as consummate collaborators, which, as Murray-Leslie tells it, has led the group to working with everybody from haute couture luminaries (Karl Lagerfeld of Chanel amongst them) to technologists, musicians, shoe-designers (one such stint of which led to a functional shoe guitar being modelled by a naked Kate Moss for Vogue Brasil), playwrights and Wikileaks founder Julian Assange (he features on their upcoming album; both Murray-Leslie and Logan assure, after visiting the Ecuadorian Embassy where he's currently holed up, remains in good spirits despite his current purgatory).

As part of their current tour Murray-Leslie and Logan will be stopping into Brisbane for the Powerhouse's World Theatre Festival, performing a DJ set and lecture as part of the 2013 program. The aforementioned shoe – sans naked Kate Moss – will be part of their set where, aside from eschewing musical sentimentality (“If someone wants moving, emotional songs we're not the right people to see,” says Logan) the Chicks will showcase 'Objekt Instruments'; self-made instruments that take everyday items out of the everyday and into the world of art, music and fashion.

Murray-Leslie explains that the development of the instruments came out of necessity, “We want to play things on stage and a lot of times we can't find them so we're forced to invent or to find them,” she continues, “We wanted [instruments] to be more intuitive and we wanted to create our own sounds.” True to form, she adds, “They're also fashionable which is a priority for us, wearing them on stage.”

It seems a frenetic existence – touring, recording, designing, lecturing, gallery residencies and continual collaboration – but Logan insists that even after fifteen years of fronting Chicks On Speed, “There's no other alternative. It's really where my path led me. I can't imagine doing anything else.”

WHAT: Chicks On Speed
WHEN & WHERE: Saturday 23 February - Brisbane Powerhouse, Brisbane QLD
Friday 8 March - Red Rattler, Sydney NSW
Friday 15 March - Melba Hall, Melbourne VIC