Tag Archives: Chicks on Speed

Grab Bag

2009 Melbourne Fashion Festival Cultural Program part 2

By Mark Holsworth with Catherine Voutier

The design and editing of the Fashion Festival Cultural Program was obnoxiously bad without any organization alphabetical, geographical or thematic, just a random list. And it is on two sides of a four-fold sheet with the bright pink printing making it almost impossible to use. The exhibitors who paid to be included in this program did not get value for their money (according to a recent comment it did not cost anything, that explains a lot). Fleur Watson, the Cultural Program Manager, appears to have done nothing more than copy and paste information from the events that paid to be included. That this grab bag of events had a theme, ‘Cause and Effect’, is curatorial balderdash.

The Fashion Festival’s Cultural Program is a random selection of fashion related events. In Bloom, at RMIT’s First Site Gallery was a good fashion exhibition exploring floral themes with work from RMIT students and graduates. Unfortunately it closed before the opening of the Fashion Festival. Why Bus Gallery paid to have Skin and Bones 09 in the program and then ran different exhibitions I don’t know.

Everyone need fashion accessories and there were, of course, a many of Melbourne’s jewellery designers were included in the program. There was Leah Heiss’s hi-tech jewellery at 45 Downstairs. It was nothing special to look at, new materials like heat sensitive wires are interesting but it failed to be made into anything attractive. In the other direction at Glitzern in Crossley Lane there was plenty of jewellery from recycled and found material with a nautical theme. There were bracelets of brass buttons, a hat like a ship, a black sequinned lobsters and fun eye patches with sequins and netting.

The Stiches and Craft Show at the Melbourne Show Grounds was also part of the 2009 Fashion Festival Cultural Program. Taking fashion back to its basics. This featured an exhibition of women’s dresses the 1890s to the 1960s, one from each period. The dresses were not couture but handmade or made by local dress makers. Also bringing fashion back to the grassroots, craft bloggers had their own spot at the show.

Also taking fashion back to its roots Craft Victoria had Chicks On Speed, and it looked like it. It is a fun packed exhibition, a mash-up of workshop, performance space and installation. Visitors had to carefully pick their way between all the stuff. It had rock’n’roll levels of energy – not surprisingly Chicks On Speed are a punk rock band with several CDs of music and they take the little old lady out of embroidery. Poking critical fun at the fashion industry Chicks On Speed have a funky, punk do-it-yourself style. Rock’n’roll has always been an adjunct of modern fashion as Chicks On Speed are effectively demonstrating.

On the other hand Prostitution Institution by Trimapee at No Vacancy Gallery looked impressive with black figures like ninja’s hanging from the ceiling, large extreme contrast paintings of women, decorated Doctor Martens Boots and photographs in light-boxes. However, it didn’t have any depth and wasn’t doing anything new.

“Black is the new red, again.” Read the acetate lettering in the light-boxes in Brad Haylock’s installation, Everything you never wanted to know about fashion  (but were too afraid to ask) at Vitrine in the Degraves Street Underpass. This should have been included in the Cultural Program but obviously they didn’t pay to play (or didn’t get his application in on time, see comment below).


Sound Work

21:100:100 is an exhibition at Gertrude Contemporary Art Spaces of  “100 sound works by 100 artists from the 21st Century” curated by Alexie Glass, Emily Cormack, Marco Fusinato and Oren Ambarchi. The opening of the exhibition on the first hot Saturday night of the summer was well attended. And unlike other gallery openings where talking and drinking are the main priority there was a lot attention paid to the art. Most of the crowd was listening to the works on the 100 headphones.

But why was this exhibition on at a “contemporary art space” rather than a music venue? When John Cage raised the consciousness of music composition from theory to philosophy by asking not how to compose music but what is music? Music became part of contemporary art.

This is does not describes the music that sprang from asking the question – what is music. 21:100:100 is an excellent survey of the range of musical directions in contemporary art that have developed since John Cage expanded our understanding of music. 21:100:100 includes works that range from hi-tech to lo-fi. From pure electronic, to samples, to ambient soundscapes. Music from arty rock bands like Chicks on Speed and Sonic Youth. From extreme music genres like ‘sludge metal”, “free jazz” and “free folk”. Music played on unique and invented instruments, like 50 foot long wires or glass harmoniums. Music from performance art, including the soundtrack from Christian Marclay. 2000, 14 minute video, “Guitar Drag but the video is much better. From around the world the curators have not left an acoustic record unturned to put together this out-standing exhibition.

100 didactic panels along with the 100 headphones were carefully arranged the ultraviolet lit gallery space. The didactic panels were all clear and well written – a major achievement in itself for the curators.

Although the exhibition title says “artists from the 21st Century” this does include artists, like Melbourne’s Philip Brophy or the American industrial musician Z’ev, who were making music long before the 21st Century. Brophy’s “Fluorescent” is one of the most pop, fun and catchy pieces in the exhibition.

While writing this review I was listing to X-X section (Extreme XCD 010) Various Artists on the Extreme label. At least one of these artists on this compilation, Merzbow, was in the exhibition but there could have been more. Extreme is a Melbourne label that distributes many extreme musicians.


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