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The Kingpins

Author 
Andrew Frost

Angelica Mesiti b.1976, Técha Noble b.1977, Emma Price b.1975, Katie Price b.1978.

The four members of The Kingpins appropriate the styles of mainstream culture, drawing on the look of fashion, music, art and sport, blending their samples into performances, videos, photographs, installations and paintings. Their melding of these styles is densely layered, a humorously subversive pastiche of dominant codes that, turned into a raucous comedy, reveal their sources to be just as hysterical as the videos of The Kingpins.

The Kingpins early nightclub performances were drag parodies of the gestures of music genres such as heavy metal and hip hop. Performances such as Pussy Whipped [2000] and Evil Dick [2001] ran the gamut of drag mimicry from elaborate costuming to lip syncing a carefully chosen musical backing. The group adapted these approaches of live performance for their initial work in video. This Is My Remix Baby [2000] is styled as a music clip for an R&B band complete with a slowly cruising convertible, night time streets and the straight-to-camera address of the “singers”. The video is an ambitious deconstruction of the visual language of generic music clips while artfully utilizing the gender/role confusion of women performing as men singing “get naked/put it in you/and do what you gotta do.” Mens Club [2001] explored similar territory in clips for heavy metal music.

Versus [2002] significantly expanded on this approach - an elaborately staged video performance that recreated elements of the music clip for the seminal rap/metal crossover Walk This Way by Run DMC/Aerosmith. The melding of the tracks by Run DMC - one of the earliest musical examples of what would later be called “mash up” - was accompanied by an equally ground-breaking music video that featured both bands in a mock battle of styles. In Versus, The Kingpins paid tribute to the original clip by lip-syncing the lyrics while performing in sets similar to those of the original - a pristine white studio for the rappers and a grungy, dark warehouse for the metal band. Where This Is My Remix Baby has a close resemblance to the archetypical R&B clip, Versus is a far more complex proposition, confusing and disrupting connections between layers of references, at once challenging the viewer to decode its many connections while delighting in the negation of interpretation through its own baroque hyperbole. 

The Kingpins choice of music is a crucial element in their work, highlighting the complex negotiations between the original and the copy. In Welcome to the Jingle [2003] the group created their own musical soundtrack while abandoning the pop clip format for an installation with two facing screens. One screen featured the main action of the piece – four nearly identical “athletes” dressed in the brand colours of the

Starbucks Corporation. Recorded guerilla-style with crew members clearly in shot, the four performers run in formation into various Starbucks coffee shops and execute a comic dance routine. On the opposite screen four figures - styled on the costumes of fantasy heavy metal groups such as Kiss or SlipKnot - appeared against a black background and provided a commentary and dialogue with the facing screen. A cover version of Jean Michelle Jarre’s classic synthesiser soundtrack for the film Gallipoli [1981] provided the basis of the soundtrack while the chanted lyrics - exhortations to excel in physical performance - were lifted from the movie’s dialogue. 

While The Kingpins video work has developed alongside their projects in other media, from 2003 their larger scale videos works have been seen in elaborate sculptural installations. Sydney Infinity and Synthia [both 2005] were presented in the context of the gallery exhibition Take Me To Your Dealer which featured banks of television screens, fans, wall hangings and a room of psychedelic black light paintings. Rhapsody Happens [2005] was a 5 screen installation with a specified running time of 14 minutes and 50 seconds, something of a rarity in a world of video art dominated by looping video works with no specific entry or exit points. The video - featuring nightmarish figures created using two performers [one as the body, one as the head] - was a slowly evolving tableaux of looming faces with blood red kaleidoscopic lighting, BMX bikes and dancing girls. 

Hieronymus Posh [2006] was shot in the northern English village of Port Sunlight, a unique enclave of architectural eccentricity and a planned village of Gothic and Tudor style houses, churches and public buildings. In this setting the four members of the Kingpins dance and prance in brightly coloured shell suits, their moves choreographed to a death metal sound track lip-synced on the run. The video was seen in an installation of intensely patterned black and white striped walls with additional video monitors that played isolated elements from the main shoot.  Like their earlier work, Hieronymus Posh delights in the exquisite confusion of styles and references, leaving the audience in an amused if disoriented state.

Period of activity 
from 2000

Based

Sydney
Australia
Group
Related organisations
Selected works
Selected events
THE KINGPINS, – from The Kingpins Compilation, via Vimeo 
– from Versus, via d/Archive 
The Kingpins, Welcome to the Jingle, production still,  2003
The Kingpins, Welcome to the Jingle, production still, 2003 – from Welcome to the Jingle 
The Kingpins, Rhapsody Happens, production still, 2005, photo: Liz Ham
The Kingpins, Rhapsody Happens, production still, 2005, photo: Liz Ham – from Rhapsody Happens