From its conception in a Munich art school in the late ’90s, the Chicks On Speed project has always sought to blur the lines between artistic genres. As a band, they’ve released five studio albums and a string of EPs, but their gigs have always been performance pieces, incorporating their own home-made sets and costumes.
On top of that, Chicks On Speed have also held art exhibitions around the world, collaborated with various independent fashion brands and launched a range of surf wear.
Over the past three years they’ve taken their multi-genre ethic a step further, voluntarily locking themselves in an attic to focus their boundless creative energy and ambition on a plot to use technology to destroy the conventional boundaries between Music, Art and Fashion once and for all.
Their tireless efforts have culminated in the creation of a single object that not only achieves this difficult task but simultaneously unites their feminist aspirations:
THE E-SHOE: TAKING THE COCK OUT OF ROCK
The ‘e-shoe’ encapsulates the central theory of Chicks On Speed’s exhibition and subsequent book, Don’t Art, Fashion Music in a single object. On the one hand (or foot) it’s a beautiful, wearable designer shoe; on the other, it looks like a piece of colourful modern art.
But that’s not the best part. The best part is, it’s also a guitar.
Incorporating a killer heel, three strings and a pick-up, this really is the first of a kind. There’s a circuit board and wireless transmitter built into the toe, which sends signals to alaptop.UsingAbleton Live you can then trigger sounds and samples to make your own music….with your shoe.
Symbolically, the e-shoe also presents us with an interesting juxtaposition. In his book The Electric Guitar: A History of an American Icon (2004), A. J. Millard discusses how the guitar “became an expression of masculine aggression and power” and links this to its innate “phallic symbolism” (p.158).
In removing the phallic body of the electric guitar, Chicks On Speed and their collaborating designer Max Kibardin have essentially ‘taken the cock out of rock’. Not only that, they’ve then married the working parts of the guitar with an entirely different symbol, this time one of feminine empowerment.
OBJEKT INSTRUMENTS: MULTI-USE, FASHIONABLE TECHNOLOGY
The e-shoe is part of a range of self-made instruments designed by Chicks On Speed which act simultaneously as machine/instrument/sculpture. Another of their instruments uses the hat as a basis for a personal performance device – as they put it, a ‘self-contained amplification device’.
Brushing aside the idea that to do a performance you need a specific space and equipment to do so, Chicks On Speed's headgear means you can simply put on your hat, step into the street and perform…and look good at the same time.
Who said all art was useless?
Chicks on Speed's Don't Art, Fashion, Music is out on 2nd November, 2010 on Booth-Clibborn Editions and Dundee Contemporary Arts.
Words: Isaac Howlett