Alexandra Murray-Leslie

Dr. Alexandra Murray-Leslie (AU) is an academic artist, guest researcher Animal Logic Academy, Faculty of Transdisciplinary Innovation, The University of Technology Sydney, and co-founder of the art band Chicks on Speed. Her practice-based research focuses on the design and development of somatic wearable musical instruments with a focus on computer enhanced foot devices for theatrical audiovisual expression. She is currently artistic director of creative technology transfer for opera and pop-musicals.

Anthropo-technological methodologies for deinscribing and demaking high heeled shoes for theatrical audio visual expression

We speak about manipulation but rarely do we speak about pedipulation with most musical instruments being designed for the hands, with the feet being used primarily for balance and as “Stepping machines” (Ingold). Over the last centuries there is a tendency towards maltreating the feet, the feet being described as “base” and the hands being closer to the heavens. Technology and taste have ultimately shaped the form, function and aesthetics of footwear, which has ultimately led to shoes shaping our feet (Bernardt Rudovsky describing modern shoes as “foot deformers” in 1947). Art historian Griselda Pollock has introduced the concept of ‘radical underfeminization’, the dilemma for women artists who produced their work within the canon of male artistic production, and the concomitant need for an ‘inscription in the feminine’ in future work made by women. I draw a parallel with Pollock’s statement in my work costuming for my performances in which I always have to consider my subject position as a woman. This performative lecture considers the way in which I have dealt with that thorny feminist issue, the high heeled shoe with my academic and artistic research aiming to to DEINSCRIBE and DEMAKE the high heeled shoe in order to liberate the feet for audio visual expression on stage. If sensors “give a voice to the entities they monitor: to animals, plants, people, and inanimate objects” (Gabrys 2016) then sensors in connection with micro controllers, have the potential to give a liberated voice to the feet using new types of footwear that nurture unusual forms of expressivity. My costuming of the foot informs a new type of computer enhanced foot device for theatrical audiovisual expression in performance. A series of performance case studies are presented including from Ars Electronica Festival (Linz 2017); Chicks on Speed ‘Artstravaganza’, Karl Lagerfeld: Mode Methode, Bundeskunsthalle, (Bonn, 2016); and NTU Centre for Contemporary Art, Singapore (2015).

Zane Cerpina