Go See Alien She: An Exhibition Exploring Riot Grrrl's Impact
The photograph on the cover of Bikini Kill's Pussy Whipped album is from documentation of a performance by Tammy Rae Carland, one of the featured artists of the exhibition.
After a five month run at the Miller Gallery at Carnegie Mellon University, today sees the launch of Alien She at Philadelphia's Vox Populi: it's the first ever exhibition to dive head first into the history and impact of the riot grrrl movement. Named after a Bikini Kill song, Alien She curators Astria Suparak and Ceci Moss have exhaustively pulled together a comprehensive exploration into the feminist punk rock movement which emerged thanks to bands like the aforementioned Bikini Kill, as well as L7, Huggy Bear, Jack Off Jill, Sleater-Kinney and countless others. The thing is, riot grrrl wasn’t just about the music. Sure, the gigs are fun and the messages in the lyrics were a jumping off point, but the riot grrrl scene runs deep both in terms of the other art its inspired and the ethos and attitude it bred.
Below Astria and Ceci tell us a bit more about it…
Riot grrrl emerged in the early 90s and emphasized female and youth empowerment, collaborative organization, creative resistance, and DIY ethics. It inspired many people around the world to pursue socially and politically progressive careers as artists, musicians, activists, authors, and educators. As former riot grrrls from Los Angeles and the Bay Area, we were interested in how riot grrrl has influenced our friends, peers and artists working today, and the significance it has had internationally, so we decided to pull together Alien She, an new exhibition that examines the lasting impact of the punk feminist movement riot grrrl on artists and cultural producers working today.
The exhibition contains an archive section that presents a sampling of the riot grrrl movement’s vast creative output, with several hundred self-published fanzines, hand-designed flyers, and music playlists representing different riot grrrl scenes across six countries. Each playlist is paired with a small display of its scene-related records, cassettes, set lists, band T-shirts, patches, personal correspondence and other music ephemera, culled from various personal collections.
View of the music playlists and accompanying vitrines curated by musicians, label owners and DJs representing riot grrrl scenes across six countries, with fliers from riot grrrl bands, conventions, and meetings in the background.
The Swan Tool,performance by Miranda July, 2001, photograph by David Nakamoto
Alien She features seven contemporary artists: Ginger Brooks Takahashi, Tammy Rae Carland, Miranda July, Faythe Levine, Allyson Mitchell, L.J. Roberts and Stephanie Syjuco. In various ways these artists have incorporated, expanded upon, or reacted to the movement’s ideology, tactics and aesthetics, as seen through several projects from each artist spanning the last 20 years, providing an insight into the development of their creative practices and individual trajectories.
We also produced two ongoing, crowd-sourced, research projects: a map tracking riot grrrl chapters globally since 1991 (in 22 countries, with many opening in the last couple of years) and a census surveying the varied experiences and continuing effect of the movement .
Allyson Mitchell's "Ladies Sasquatch"
Allyson Mitchell t-shirts
Alien She shows that riot grrrl’s feminist messages are still urgent, present, and with us. On a central wall within the exhibition we hung a banner with text from one of the riot grrrl manifestos circa 1992—and the message still resonates today. It ends with:
"BECAUSE every time we pick up a pen, or an instrument, or get anything done, we are creating the revolution. We ARE the revolution."
Alien She on Tour:
3.7–4.27 Vox Populi, Philadelphia, PA
10.17–1.25, 2015 Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, CA
2.13 – 5.24, 2015 (TBC) Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach, CA
9.3–11.27, 2015 Pacific Northwest College of Art: Feldman Gallery & Project Space, Portland, OR
Work by Ginger Brooks Takahashi.
Regional Music Curators:
American South: Tammy Rae Carland of Mr. Lady Records and I (heart) Amy Carter zine
Belgium + the Netherlands: Maaike Muntinga of Riot Grrrl Benelux and Ladyfest Amsterdam + Jessica Gysel of Girls Like Us magazine
Brazil: Elisa Gargiulo of Dominatrix
California: Ceci Moss + Astria Suparak, exhibition curators and former Riot Grrrls
Canada: Lynne T + Bernie Bankrupt of Lesbians on Ecstasy
D.C. + Olympia: Allison Wolfe of Bratmobile, Girl Germszine and Ladyfest Olympia
England: Pete Dale of Slampt Records and Pussycat Trash
Pacific Northwest: Donna Dresch of Chainsaw Records and Team Dresch