Chicks on Speed: Don’t Art, Fashion, Music
‘CREATE UNDER ALL DIFFICULT CIRCUMSTANCES’ is one of the slogans on the large-scale banners that adorn the walls of globe-spanning riot grrrl art provocateurs Chicks on Speed’s first major UK solo show. A large-scale projection of ‘Fashion Archive’, a self-explanatory pose-striking pop video of COS’s all-female troupe adopting dressing-up-box mode, ushers you in through the gallery’s smaller space, while a makeshift stage cum catwalk dominates the main room. Beamed onto the back wall is a film of CoS’s opening night performance, an infinitely more interesting affair than the one-line jokes of their standard gigs.
By expanding the group’s line-up, original members Melissa Logan and Alex-Murray Leslie can now throw shapes and trip the light fantastic with a gloriously messy array of live art paraphernalia and wall-hangings that become bespoke provocations and irreverent manifestos. What matters here is the participatory, all girls togetherness of what’s effectively a great big show and tell that takes the clichés of what in the 1980s Julie Burchill dubbed rock’s rich tapestry, then unstitches it into a wonkily ungainly day-glo activity pack of things to make and do that’s as much smudged on as switched-on. CoS encapsulate a similar sense of you-can-all-join-in empowerment that pulsed through ‘Trilogy’, theatre artist Nic Green’s recent epic rediscovery of 1970s feminism that culminated in a DIY explosion of joyously naked expression.
On show beyond the performance that incorporated a theremin lounge are a series of cigar-box synthesisers, sessions of in situ weaving and - best of all - a back room full of ‘shoe guitars’. Created in association with Milanese designer Max Kibardin, these are stilettos wired for sounds that do a whole lot more than click-clacking their way home. Instead, they take the machismo out of music. If guitars are an extension of the penis, then the feedback of these high-heels - fashion accessory turned artistic tool turned sonic weapon - stamp all over them. In this way CoS are the antidote to the reactionary gloss of Sex and the City. ‘BANG BANG’ to that.
Dundee Contemporary Arts, until Sun 8 Aug