Alien She is a new exhibition that examines the lasting impact of the punk feminist movement Riot Grrrl on artists and cultural producers working today. It’s currently on view at Carnegie Mellon University’s Miller Gallery in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, before traveling nationally to cities including Philadelphia, San Francisco and Portland, Oregon. Below are photos of the exhibition and several of the featured works.
The show focuses on seven contemporary artists influenced by Riot Grrrl: Ginger Brooks Takahashi, Tammy Rae Carland, Miranda July, Faythe Levine, Allyson Mitchell, L.J. Roberts and Stephanie Syjuco. Riot Grrrl emerged in the early 1990s and emphasized female and youth empowerment, collaborative organization, creative resistance and DIY ethics. 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.
The exhibit 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 the U.S., Canada, South America and Europe. The playlists are curated by musicians, DJs and label owners and each is paired with a small display of related records, cassettes, set lists, band T-shirts, personal correspondence and other music ephemera. Also in this section are two ongoing research and crowd-sourced projects: a map tracking Riot Grrrl chapters globally since 1991 and a census on Tumblr surveying the varied experiences and continuing effect of the movement.
As former Riot Grrrls from the Bay Area and Los Angeles, we were interested in how Riot Grrrl has influenced our friends, peers and artists working today, and the significance it has had internationally. Everyone we personally knew in Riot Grrrl is still, 20 years later, involved with art, music, education and/or activism. Named after a Bikini Kill song, the exhibit provides a view into the passion and diversity of the original Riot Grrrl movement, and highlights how these ideas have broadened and evolved in the work of contemporary artists.
Foreground: Ladies Sasquatch (2006-2010); Found textiles, taxidermy supplies, appliqué borg, styrofoam, wood. Recommended Reading (2010); Wallpaper of photocopied drawings. Both by Allyson Mitchell and courtesy of the artist and Katharine Mulherin Gallery, Toronto.
Screenshot of the Riot Grrrl Chapters Map, an online collaborative project created for the exhibition that assembles research from various people and the public and covers 22 countries and 30 U.S. states to date.
I’m With Problematic / Women’s Studies Professors Have Class Privilege, from the series Creep Lez, Allyson Mitchell, 2012; Altered t-shirts with iron-on transfer and vinyl letters. Courtesy of the artist and Katharine Mulherin Gallery, Toronto.
Installation shot: Foreground: Feminist Body Pillow (2013); Hand printed t-shirts, jeans (Fierce tote bag made in Fierce screenprinting workshop led by GBT, Julius t-shirt and Live And Let Lez tank top by GBT, Rainbow Fist t-shirt by Dean Daderko, A Wave of New Rage Thinking t-shirt by LTTR, The Advantages of Being a Lesbian Artist t-shirt by Ridykeulous, Gay Power sweatshirt by Emily Roysdon). By Ginger Brooks Takahashi and courtesy of the artist.
Installation shot: Posters (c. 1991-present) from Riot Grrrl related shows, conventions and meetings internationally, solicited from institutional and personal archives through open calls, word-of-mouth and invitations.
Mom Knows Now (guerilla banner drop on the steeple of the Ira Allen Chapel, University of Vermont, Burlington, VT), L.J. Roberts, hand-knit yarn. 15' x 10' x 10,' 2003.
(image at top of article: A sampling of zines and distribution catalogues (1991-2013) primarily from the original Riot Grrrl movement. The zines cover a range of topics such as sexism, empowerment, fat activism, mental illness, gender identity, violence, racism, homophobia and sex work.)