Curated by Astria Suparak + Ceci Moss
Organized by the Miller Gallery at Carnegie Mellon University
Sept. 21, 2013 – Feb. 16, 2014. Tour through 2016.
www.bit.ly/AlienShe (CMU); bit.ly/alienshe (Suparak)
Ginger Brooks Takahashi (Pittsburgh), Tammy Rae Carland (Oakland), Miranda July (Los Angeles), Faythe Levine (Milwaukee), Allyson Mitchell (Toronto), L.J. Roberts (Brooklyn), Stephanie Syjuco (San Francisco)
Archival Materials from:
dumba collective; EMP Museum, Seattle; Interference Archive; Jabberjaw; the Riot Grrrl Collection at the Fales Library & Special Collections, NYU; and many personal collections
Collaborative Projects and Platforms include:
Counterfeit Crochet Project, Feminist Art Gallery (FAG), General Sisters, Handmade Nation, Joanie 4 Jackie, Learning to Love You More, LTTR, projet MOBILIVRE-BOOKMOBILE project, Sign Painters, Somebody and more
Regional Music Curators:
Tammy Rae Carland of Mr. Lady Records and I (heart) Amy Carter zine (American South); Pete Dale of Slampt Records and Pussycat Trash (England); Donna Dresch of Chainsaw Records and Team Dresch (Pacific Northwest); Maaike Muntinga of Riot Grrrl Benelux and Ladyfest Amsterdam + Jessica Gysel of Girls Like Us magazine (Belgium + the Netherlands); Lynne T + Bernie Bankrupt of Lesbians on Ecstasy (Canada); Allison Wolfe of Bratmobile, Girl Germs zine and Ladyfest Olympia (D.C. + Olympia); Elisa Gargiulo of Dominatrix (Brazil); Ceci Moss + Astria Suparak, exhibition curators and former Riot Grrrls (California)
bit.ly/RiotGrrrlPlaylists / ybca.org/alien-she/playlists
Alien She is the first exhibition to examine the lasting impact of Riot Grrrl on artists and cultural producers working today. A pioneering punk feminist movement that emerged in the early 1990s, Riot Grrrl has had a pivotal influence, inspiring many around the world to pursue socially and politically progressive careers as artists, activists, authors and educators. Emphasizing female and youth empowerment, collaborative organization, creative resistance and DIY ethics, Riot Grrrl helped a new generation to become active feminists and create their own culture and communities that reflect their values and experiences, in contrast to mainstream conventions and expectations.
Riot Grrrl formed in reaction to pervasive and violent sexism, racism and homophobia in the punk music scene and in the culture at large. Its participants adapted strategies from earlier queer and punk feminisms and ‘70s radical politics, while also popularizing discussions of identity politics occurring within academia, but in a language that spoke to a younger generation. This self-organized network made up of teenagers and twenty-somethings reached one another through various platforms, such as letters, zines, local meetings, regional conferences, homemade videos, and later, chat rooms, listservs and message boards. The movement eventually spread worldwide, with chapters opening in at least 32 states and 26 countries.* Its ethos and aesthetics have survived well past its initial period in the ‘90s, with many new chapters forming in recent years. Riot Grrrl’s influence on contemporary global culture is increasingly evident – from the Russian collective Pussy Riot’s protest against corrupt government-church relations to the popular teen website Rookie and the launch of Girls Rock Camps and Ladyfest music and art festivals around the world.
Alien She focuses on seven people whose visual art practices were informed by their contact with Riot Grrrl. Many of them work in multiple disciplines, such as sculpture, installation, video, documentary film, photography, drawing, printmaking, new media, social practice, curation, music, writing and performance – a reflection of the movement’s artistic diversity and mutability. Each artist is represented by several projects from the last 20 years, including new and rarely seen works, providing an insight into the development of their creative practices and individual trajectories.
In various ways, these artists have incorporated, expanded upon, or reacted to Riot Grrrl’s ideology, tactics and aesthetics. For instance, many continue to cultivate and nurture alternative communities. Ginger Brooks Takahashi creates spaces for conversation and exchange with jubilant publications, dance parties, mobile reading rooms and soup delivery service. Through photography and video, Faythe Levine documents groups committed to DIY independence and handmade aesthetics, such as crafters, off-the-gridders, and, in her new book and documentary, traditional hand-lettered sign painters. L.J. Roberts fabricates declarations of protest and solidarity with evocative banners and textile works.
Riot Grrrl thrived through the establishment of DIY networks and information sharing, an aspect manifest in Stephanie Syjuco’s project for freely distributing copyrighted critical texts and in Miranda July’s video chainletter for “lady moviemakers.” Recalling forgotten her/histories was also central to Riot Grrrl, and in that vein, Allyson Mitchell pays homage to key writings, feminist presses, bookstores and libraries with lesbian feminist library wallpaper, while Tammy Rae Carland reveals intimate relationships in her autobiographical photo series. All of the artists included here have worked collaboratively and many have built platforms for other artists and under-recognized groups to connect, encourage, share resources and self-publish.
The exhibition’s historical section is designed to be plural and open-ended; this is a living history, not a sealed past. By representing numerous voices and experiences, rather than outlining one single definitive story, we hope it will reflect the multiplicity that was such an integral part of the original movement. Toward this end, a sampling of the Riot Grrrl movement’s vast creative output is included here. Hundreds of self-published zines and hand-designed posters were solicited from institutional and personal archives through open calls, word-of-mouth and invitations – similar to the way Riot Grrrl expanded. Music playlists represent different Riot Grrrl scenes across the U.S., Canada, South America and Europe, guest curated by musicians, DJs and label owners, and accompanied by records, cassettes, set lists, band T-shirts and other ephemera. Video interviews and an ongoing, online Riot Grrrl Census provide an expanded oral history.
The exhibition’s title, Alien She, is a reference to a Bikini Kill song of the same name. The lyrics are about the negotiation of normalized gender roles, the uneasy line between feminist critique and collectivity, and the process of coming to a feminist consciousness, with the repeated refrain, “She is me, I am her.” More broadly, Alien She conjures the possibilities of identity, self-determination and subversion. In the face of alienation and bigotry, Riot Grrrl fostered community, action and creation. This exhibition provides a view into the passion and diversity of the original Riot Grrrl movement, and highlights how these ideas have broadened, evolved and mutated in the work of contemporary artists.
* From data compiled in the Riot Grrrl Chapters Map, an online collaborative project created for the exhibition that assembles research from various people and the public: www.bit.ly/RGmap
Riot Grrrl Chapters Map
If you see a chapter missing on the map or know more specific information (dates, exact locations), email details to: riotgrrrlcensus (at) gmail.com
Short link: www.bit.ly/RGmap
Riot Grrrl-related Posters
We are looking for posters/flyers from Riot Grrrl shows, conferences or meetings. Email high-res scans (300dpi) of your poster/flyer submissions to riotgrrrlcensus (at) gmail.com, with the following information, if known: OWNER OF FLIER / YEAR OF EVENT / CITY OF EVENT / DESIGNER OF FLIER
At Miller Gallery at Carnegie Mellon University, Fall 2013:
Sept. 20, Fri.
5-6pm: Exhibition Tour With the Curators + Artists
Sponsored by the University Lecture Series
6-8pm: Opening: Revolution and Reception
Sponsored by Full Pint & Red Star Kombucha
@ Miller Gallery
10pm-2am: Dance Party: Sappho: We don’t play guitars!
With DJing by Alien She artists Ginger Brooks Takahashi and Allyson Mitchell, and collaborators Mary Tremonte, Deirdre Logue and more
@ Brillobox, Bloomfield
Sept. 26, Thurs.
7:30pm: Film Screening: Sign Painters
New documentary by Alien She artist Faythe Levine & Sam Macon
Presented by AIGA Pittsburgh and Pittsburgh Filmmakers
@ Harris Theater, Downtown
There was a time, as recently as the 1980s, when storefronts, murals, banners, barn signs, billboards, and even street signs were all handlettered with brush and paint. But, like many skilled trades, the sign industry has been overrun by the technofueled promise of quicker and cheaper. The resulting proliferation of computer designed, diecut vinyl lettering and inkjet printers has ushered a creeping sameness into our landscape. Fortunately, there is a growing trend to seek out traditional sign painters and a renaissance in the trade. Sign Painters, the first anecdotal history of the craft, features stories of more than two dozen sign painters, young and old, working in cities throughout the United States. (2013, 80 minutes)
Oct. 10, Thurs.
6:30-9:30 pm: Workshop: Feminist Vision & Activism for Men
Organized by WWHAT’S UP (Whites Working and Hoping to Abolish Total Supremacy, Undermining Privilege) + the Department of Women’s Studies at the University of Pittsburgh
@ First Unitarian Church
Feminism is a vision of a better world for all of us. The violence of sexism impacts our families, communities, social justice movements, and society. This is a workshop for men who want to explore what feminism means for their lives and social justice efforts, in a supportive, encouraging space. This is an opportunity for men to talk openly about challenges that hold us back challenging sexism and to develop tools to help us be more effective feminists working for equality and liberation for all.
Oct. 30, Wed.
7pm: Self-Publishing Panel + Discussion: From Print to Podcast
@ Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, Oakland
Short presentations by people self-publishing across platforms – including podcasts, blogs, zines, artist publications, and TV shows – opening to a discussion on the unique properties and benefits of each format. Guests include Ayanah Moor and Raquel Rodriguez from Queer & Brown in Steeltown, Ginger Brooks Takahashi from LTTR and projet MOBILIVRE-BOOKMOBILE project, and Jon Rubin from WAFFLE SHOP. Organized by the CMU School of Art and Carnegie Library, in connection with the Alien She exhibition at the Miller Gallery (which features work by Brooks Takahashi) and the zine collection at the Carnegie Library.
Nov. 13, Wed.
6-8pm: Conversation: Feminism and Race
Presented by WWHAT’S UP (Whites Working and Hoping to Abolish Total Supremacy Undermining Privilege)
@ Miller Gallery
Nov. 23, Sat.
8pm: Film Screening: Sadie Benning
@ Carnegie Museum of Art Theater
Sadie Benning is a featured artist in the 2013 Carnegie International. Fliers from her early video screenings and music from her band Le Tigre are included in Alien She. This event is part of A Collection of Misfits: Time-Based Media and the Museum symposium.
At Vox Populi, Spring 2014:
Events include a music show; live performances; panel discussions on feminism, race, and self-publishing; and workshops on zine-making and self-defense, at various venues around Philadelphia: http://voxpopuligallery.org/exhibitions/alien-she
Aug. 28, 2014
12pm: Launch: Somebody™
@ The Venice Film Festival and everywhere
Half-app / half-human, Somebody, a new messaging service by Miranda July, is a far-reaching public art project that incites performance and twists our love of avatars and outsourcing — every relationship becomes a three-way. The antithesis of the utilitarian efficiency that tech promises, here, finally, is an app that makes us nervous, giddy, and alert to the people around us.
At Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Fall 2014:
GRRRL POWER performances, workshops, and interactive installations emphasizing empowerment, creative resistance, and DIY ethics, with Girl Army, Bay Area Girls Rock Camp, and more: http://ybca.org/converge-grrrl-power
RIOT GRRRL ZINES and SELF-PUBLISHING at GOTEBLÜD: http://ybca.org/riot-grrrl-zines
At Orange County Museum of Art, Spring 2015:
Learn silkscreening and sewing techniques, play new instruments, connect with political prisoners, and other drop-in workshops led by local Riot Grrrl Chapters; OC Rock N’ Roll Camp for Girls; and the LGBT Center OC.
Film screenings of Sign Painters and Maker.
The F Word, Vol II: Nearly 25 years after the seminal panel on the F Word at CMJ, join the original moderator Evelyn McDonnell and participants Tracie Morris and Alice Armendariz aka “Alice Bag” to explore how our relationship to the F Word (feminism) has shifted.
Zine night with workshops and conversations.
Music show with The Sex Stains (featuring Allison Wolfe, previously of Bratmobile and Partyline), DJs Emily Ryan & Wendy Yao (previously of Emily’s Sassy Lime), and more.
Programming by students for students, with a live roller derby scrimmage presented by OC Roller Girls, a discussion on youth and gender identity with the LGBT Center OC, and gallery tours led by OCMA interns.
See details here: https://www.ocma.net/exhibition/alien-she#
At PNCA: 511 Gallery & Museum of Contemporary Craft, in conjunction with PICA’s TBA Festival, Fall 2015:
Sept. 11, Fri.
10:30pm: LIVE RIOT: SINGING WE MUST RAGE! A SING ALONG
@ THE WORKS at THE REDD
Featuring: General Sisters and The Feminist Art Gallery with Emily Kingan, Melanie Valera, and other Alien She collaborators
Details for additional events, including workshops, lectures (Tammy Rae Carland, Stephanie Syjuco, Andi Zeisler of Bitch Magazine), as well as a new zine, at:
“In a time when queer women’s loyalties to feminism and general women’s issues are being questioned, Alien She is an ideal place to visit and be reminded of how integral we have been, and continue to be, to the forward momentum of Riot Grrrl”
– Trish Bendix, “Alien She chronicles the queer women who were part of riot grrrl,” Feb. 25, 2015
ART IN AMERICA
“Making the case that punk – at least its radical feminist strain – is far from dead, Alien She examines the lasting influence of the ’90s Riot Grrrl movement on seven artists working today, including Ginger Brooks Takahashi, Faythe Levine and Stephanie Syjuco. This traveling exhibition features sculptures, videos, zines and archival materials, all embodying an ideology of female empowerment, activism and collaboration.”
– “The Brief: Riot Grrrls,” Feb. 2015
ART LTD. MAGAZINE
“Alien She brings to light a cultural revolution that has remained largely underground, even as it empowers two generations of women.”
– Liz Goldner, “Alien She,” May 2015
In addition to its ambitious mix of artists, archival materials, collaborative platforms, and contributions from regional music curators out of California, Brazil, Belgium, and elsewhere, Alien She has a generous programmatic reach […] taking place around Philadelphia. The show’s digital component includes free, downloadable resources on feminism and race at bit.ly/AlienShe as well as a map-in-progress charting current Riot Grrrl chapters at www.bit.ly/RGmap. Through this broad focus on community, channeled and multiplied through a diversity of accessible communicative media, Alien She asserts that Riot Grrrl’s power is very much in the present.
– Becky Huff Hunter, “Alien She: Vox Populi, Philadelphia,” May 2, 2014
“A timely and important undertaking. At a time when the Twitter hashtag #idontneedfeminism is trending and female celebrities are renouncing the term feminist, when abortion rights are being curtailed in extreme ways on the national level, and when female cultural critics receive death and rape threats for daring to call out misogyny where they see it, it is irrefutably clear that the broader culture continues to accept apathy if not vehement hostility toward women. Alien She reminds viewers that there is power in collective organizing, which includes the work of curators.”
– Melissa Miller, “Review: She is me, I am her: Exhibiting Riot Grrrl Feminism at Alien She,” January 13, 2015
ARTCRITICAL: Natalie Hegert, “Women’s Work: Considering Feminist Art Through Three Recent Shows,” April 2, 2015
Organized by Astria Suparak and Ceci Moss, two Riot Grrrls turned curators, the exhibition dynamically aggregates art and craft, video documentary, print ephemera, and music, concentrating on Riot Grrrl’s sphere of influence in North America from the early 1990s to the present…
Despite the curators’ personal history with the movement (a portion of the ephemera comes from the curators’ private collections), the exhibition never sinks into nostalgia—rather, its tone channels the unapologetically personal attitude of Riot Grrrl. Two Web-based elements further strengthen the overall curatorial approach: The Riot Grrrl Census and Riot Grrrl Chapters Map are open-source archives that chart the movement’s temporal and geographic evolution and expansion. It’s a new DIY feminism for the digital age.
– Chelsea Haines, “Critics’ Pick: Alien She,” Jan. 14, 2014
Alien She and the opening dance party selected as Wade Guyton’s entry in “The Artists’ Artists” section for “the single image, exhibition, or event that most memorably captured their eye in 2014.”
– Best of 2014 issue, Dec. 2014:
ARTILLERY MAGAZINE: Evan Senn, “Alien She: Orange County Museum of Art,” May 2015
San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center for the Arts will open the very first museum exhibition devoted to the legacy of the Riot Grrrl punk feminist movement. Titled “Alien She,” after the Bikini Kill song of the same name, the show will encompass the practices of seven artists — Miranda July, Allyson Mitchell, L.J. Roberts, Stephanie Syjuco, Ginger Brooks Takahashi, Tammy Rae Carland, and Faythe Levine — who were influenced by Riot Grrrl, as well as hundreds of self-published zines and posters. We spoke via email with co-curators Astria Suparak (former curator at the Miller Gallery at Carnegie Mellon University, where the show originated) and Ceci Moss about examining the movement’s legacy, combing through the Riot Grrrl archive, and Miranda July’s app.
– Ashton Cooper, “Alien She Explores Riot Grrrl’s Legacy,” Oct. 23, 2014
This article received more reposts than other ArtInfo articles that month on Marina Abramovic, Beyoncé, Tania Bruguera, Maurizio Cattelan, James Franco, Jasper Johns, Matisse, Musée d’Orsay, Yoko Ono, Isabella Rossellini, and Sotheby’s collaboration with eBay.
Ashton Cooper, “Riot Grrrls Get the Museum Treatment at YBCA,” Oct. 7, 2014
ARTNEWS: John Chiaverina, “Riot Grrrls Enter the Museum,” Oct. 7, 2014
“The heterogeneity of riot grrrl is explored in Alien She, the first museum exhibition to examine riot grrrl’s lasting impact on contemporary art. Rather than looking backward to catalogue the well-known bands of yester-year, Alien She curators Astria Suparak and Ceci Moss spent years bringing together current artists and activists who were inspired by creative resistance. […]
“Throughout Alien She, there is a spirit of resistance, one in which we can all join. Curators Suparak and Moss have pulled together a show that unravels the depiction of riot grrrl as a solely music genre. They have turned it into a living, historic archive—and it’s pretty impressive. And they didn’t do it alone, joining forces with people from different regions, including Bard College, the Fales Library at NYU, and personal collections from many people around the world. […]
Alien She demonstrates the fluidity of the movement and its resonance in the contemporary digital world today.”
– Xatherin Gonzalez, “A Museum Exhibition Examines Riot Grrrl’s Impact On Art,” Sept. 21, 2015
BOING BOING: Ceci Moss and Astria Suparak, “Feature: Riot Grrrl, redux,” Nov. 6, 2013
THE BOLD ITALIC: Wendy Steiner, “Celebrate Riot Grrrls at YBCA this month,” Nov 04, 2014
CAA (College Art Association) REVIEWS
Alien She contributes to this history by not only illuminating but furthering the Riot Grrrl struggle to achieve visibility and equality for people of all genders—in the art world and real world alike.
– Gwen Allen, “Yerba Buena Center for the Arts: Alien She,” April 23, 2015
CHRONICLE BOOKS BLOG
Taking a closer look, we spotted some familiar locations around San Francisco and the East Bay, and a Chronicle designer even noticed a friend’s band in the mix. This was no accident, as this flyer wall is an evolving and location-specific installation sourced through Riot Grrrl Facebook groups wherever the exhibition lands. That kind of contextual specificity is reflected throughout the exhibition, which includes contemporary Bay Area zines to flip through, and listening stations with music and ephemera contributed by communities from Belgium to Brazil and beyond…
There is so much to look at and think about in this exhibition, but from a publishing perspective, I walked away with a renewed sense of the power of the written word to spread ideas, the urgent beauty of the handmade object, and the real opportunities presented by digital tools and communities for many voices to be heard.”
– Kathryn Jaller, “ALIEN SHE: Examining the Lasting Impact of Riot Grrrl,” January 25, 2015
CURVE MAGAZINE: Melanie Barker, “The first ever exhibition highlighting the influence of punk feminist movement Riot Grrrl,” March 24, 2015
DAILY PILOT: Michael Miller, “Riot Grrrl movement still proves an inspiration,” Feb. 11, 2015
DAILYCANDY: Susan Banchek, “The Weekend Guide to Philadelphia: LOOK – Alien She,” March 13, 2014
Alien She includes the articulate, heartfelt, sometimes angry and frequently humorous markers of a pre-internet age… Before “social media” was in our everyday lexicon, these Riot Grrl-inspired artists provided a social platform for conversation, producing works, projects, and social interventions that connected artists, women, feminists, and queer activists, who, in turn, started visual riots of their own. In addition, the visual language of the Dada-esque campus flyers, the startling and effective use of found and everyday textiles, and the liberal references to icons like Judith Butler and Adrian Piper blur the line between art-making and social critique and underscore the exuberance of this social movement. – Catherine Nueva España, “Review: Alien She at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts,” Dec. 12, 2014
DU JOUR MAGAZINE: “Grrrl Power,” March 2015
EAST BAY EXPRESS
Syjuco’s work showcased riot grrrl’s focus on autonomous networks for cultural exchange: “Free Texts” featured fliers with tear-off URLs for accessing literature online. As items pulled from interactive endeavors that involved countless people, and eventually escaped the artists’ orbit, the work of July and Syjuco blurred notions of authorship. Sacrificing ego to maximize cultural impact, they reflected riot grrrl’s activist imperative wonderfully…
[Alien She] succeeded in highlighting artists who revere ongoing cultural impact and critique. As beacons such as Rookie magazine and Pussy Riot are seen as descendants of what began as a scrappy group of artists with limited means, Alien She’s organizers were wise to present work that doesn’t begin or end in museums.
– Sam Lefebvre, “Activist Imperative: Alien She presents art from the ongoing social project and punk feminist movement known as riot grrrl,” Nov. 5, 2014
ELLE MAGAZINE: “The Month in Culture: Feb. 15, Alien She,” Feb. 2015
FAST COMPANY: Hugh Hart, “Still Rioting After All These Years: ALIEN SHE Spotlights a ’90s Movement That’s Still Influencing Women Today,” March 17, 2015
Riot grrrl was responsible for many good things: some awesome music, some similarly excellent writing, and a huge influence on the course of third-wave feminism. One aspect that doesn’t get quite the attention it warrants, however, is the movement’s aesthetic, which manifested in everything from zines and album art to video work and beyond, and made a lasting impression on artists who have been inspired and informed by riot grrrl’s ideas. Happily, an exhibition at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco is focusing on this very topic — the show is called Alien She.
– Tom Hawking, “Flavorwire Exclusive: Preview Miranda July’s Riot Grrrl-Inspired Artworks From ‘Alien She’,” Oct 30, 2014
THE HUFFINGTON POST
Huffington Post Arts’ most trafficked article of September
A new exhibit at Carnegie Mellon’s Miller Gallery is paying homage to this revolutionary movement in “Alien She,” the first ever exhibition to explore the legacy of Riot Grrrl on contemporary culture… From Ginger Brooks Takahashi to Miranda July, “Alien She” rips through 20 years of archival material, including new and rarely before seen pieces that illuminate the lasting effect of Riot Grrrl axioms. Taking its name from a Bikini Kill song, the collected artworks reflect on, challenge and continue feminist critiques of the ’90s, evoking the diversity of identities and senses of self-determination that have sprung forth in the years since.
– Katherine Brooks, “First Riot Grrrl Exhibition Explores The Lasting Impact Of The Punk Feminist Movement,” Sept. 28, 2013
“Visually stimulating introduction to a movement that dared to dream grrrls could run the world”
– Thea Quiray Tagle, “Art in the Grip of Riot Grrrl,” Jan. 22, 2015
“The Riot Grrrl movement of the early ’90s combined the immediacy and fury of punk with a radical DIY, feminist, queer, and egalitarian stance. Although it was mainly considered a musical phenomenon, Alien She explores the influence that the movement had across a wide spectrum of artistic production. Focusing on seven contemporary artists — Ginger Brooks Takahashi, Tammy Rae Carland, Miranda July, Faythe Levine, Allyson Mitchell, L.J. Roberts, and Stephanie Syjuco — the exhibition presents work produced over the past 20 years, ranging from posters to sculpture to new media.” – Matt Stromberg, “ArtRx LA,” Feb. 10, 2015
Through art, craft and graphic design, an exhibition in Portland shows the lasting influence of the early 90s punk movement on the larger feminist story…
Alien She puts the creative process and the importance of community at the forefront. Intending to examine Riot Grrrl’s lasting impact, the exhibition proves that those influenced by it have gone on to become influential writers, professors, filmmakers and activists (and connects it to modern entities such as Girls Rock Camp and Pussy Riot).
– Gail O’Hara, “Review: Alien She,” Oct. 9, 2015
JOURNAL OF MODERN CRAFT
The largest gallery at YBCA holds the bulk of the work, and even without the contextual information, the show conveys strength, power, but also affinity. Upon entering, one peers into the remainder of the exhibition through L.J. Robert’s work We Couldn’t Get In. We Couldn’t Get Out (2006–2007). This towering, full-scale and loud pink knit chain-link fence almost cages Allyson Mitchell’s Ladies Sasquatch (2006–2010). Mitchell’s oversized “she beasts” made of found textiles and stuffed animal fur seem aggressively celebratory, while Robert’s fence is ambiguously keeping them in, or keeping us out. This staging of the works feels as much like a curatorial statement in visual form as any didactic text might attempt to communicate.
Faythe Levine’s book and documentary Handmade Nation: The Rise of DIY, Art, Craft and Design, actually and literally spells out DIY craft as it could be understood in the context of Riot Grrrl. More interesting and less familiar is her photography project Time Outside of Time (2010–onging), which documents alternative and intentional communities. The connection between craft and utopian ideals is not new, but when these images are viewed in this Northern California location on the travelling tour, one can’t help but call to mind artist colonies like Marguerite Wildenhain’s Pond Farm, located just to the north of San Francisco, or artist communities in Ojai, where Beatrice Wood’s studio was located. In both the Riot Grrrl and studio craft movements, skills in making promise a form of autonomy to the maker/doer, a rhyme that echoes in both craft and feminism.
Further into the exhibition, Stephanie Syjuco’s FREE TEXTS: An Open Source Reading Room (2011–ongoing) mimics the wall of flyers at the entrance (Figure 2), but here, instead of advertising a punk show, each poster has a tear tag that allows visitors to access an illegal .pdf copy of a well-known theoretical text. It creates an open, albeit illegal, network of information-sharing, with a nod to the idea that knowledge is power, a necessary step toward “taking over the means of production.”
Here, I don’t mean craft as a thing, or a classification of objects based upon materials, but craft as a set of values and operating principles. Like Riot Grrrl in the nineties, the socialist roots of the Arts and Crafts Movement one hundred years earlier also sought to build utopian communities, valued networks of shared learning, and challenged unequal access to modes of production. So then, the emphasis on “collaborative organization, creative resistance, and DIY ethics” can fit both craft and this brand of punk inflected feminism. This show opens up a wider view to both, reminding us of the agency granted through making. Sisters are doing it for themselves, indeed.
– Erik Scollon, “Exhibition Review: Alien She,” Special Issue: Pathmakers: Women in Art, Craft and Design, Midcentury and Today, Volume 8, Issue 2, 2015. Pages 245-249
PDF download: Journal-for-Modern-Craft_Rev-Alien-She
Epically researched, crowdsourced and thoughtful exhibit critically examining Riot Grrrl and its lasting impact through primary artifacts of the movement (zines, show and meeting flyers, music) and also the work of contemporary artists” – Mary Tremonte, “Amazing! Top 5 list of things that have been inspiring,” Oct. 26, 2013
“Alien She” is a testament to the power of young people motivated to spreading a message. It also reflects how artists evolve after discovering their power in the midst of a large, international youth movement. […] Just as feminism is still necessary, so is Riot Grrrl, which makes “Alien She” as relevant now as the movement was when it started.
– Liz Ohanesian, “Alien She: Spotlighting the History and Influence of Riot Grrrl,” Artbound, April 9, 2015
By emphasizing the impact of riot grrrl on artists creating radical and subversive work, Alien She does justice to the movement and honors its ethos.
– Matthew Harrison Tedford, “‘Alien She’ Exhibit Explores the Connection Between Punk Rock and Fine Art,” Visual Arts: Review, Oct. 30, 2014
“It’s that ethos of collaboration and D.I.Y. spirit that’s currently being examined in Alien She, an exhibit now showing at the Orange County Museum of Art… And as much as Alien She lives in the moment, it also looks back to Riot Grrrl’s early days to build a context for these newer works.”
– Valentina Silva, “Revisiting My Riot Grrrl Days: ‘Alien She’ Is An Exhibit Worth The Drive To OC,” Mar 5, 2015
LOS ANGELES TIMES
“An exhibition tracks the influence of the Riot Grrrl movement of the early 1990s, when artists, musicians and other cultural figures created a wide range of work that brought together punk music with gender, sexuality and feminism. The show at OCMA includes an estimated 900 objects, including racks of zines, drawings, video and art installations, including some riotously awesome sculptures of lady sasquatches by Allyson Mitchell. (Seriously, they’re worth the apocalypse traffic on the 55.)” – Carolina A. Miranda, “Datebook: The art of Riot Grrrl, L.A. Zine Fest and Friday the 13th,” Feb. 12, 2015
“‘Alien She,’ curated by Astria Suparak and Ceci Moss, traces the lineage of the movement from its roots to its current incarnation as a platform for social justice… The show is not meant to be a historical document but rather a snapshot of the past 20 years with an eye to the future and the challenges faced by the marginalized.” – Jessica Gelt, “Riot Grrrls stake a new space in ‘Alien She‘”, March 27, 2015 [with slideshow]
NEW YORK TIMES
Karen Rosenberg, “Fall Arts Preview: Alien She,” Sept. 7, 2014
NOISE & COLOR PDX
The newest exhibition, Alien She, at the Museum of Contemporary Craft and the Pacific Northwest College of the Arts pays homage to the past 20 years of the movement and reflects on the continuous effect Riot Grrrls have on feminist art and culture in the region, as well as globally.
Curators and Riot Grrrls Astria Suparak and Ceci Moss open the show at MoCC with a towering barbed wire fence made of pink yarn by artist LJ Robert, which contains a group of taxidermy lady sasquatches that represent untamed femininity created by fellow artist Allyson Mitchell. The room is covered in stuffed animals and pink, but lacks the normative gender associations typical of such markers. The sasquatches are aggressive and powerful, and the pink barbed fence is just as intimidating as if it were rusted metal. It is a beautiful introduction to a show that displays the awesome power of female creativity and community and is alive with art works, historical artifacts, links to free texts, music, and videos. The space gives you a sense of community upon entering and is a rare exhibition that not only feeds you knowledge, but begs for your participation.
– Emily Kramer and Alexei Shishkin, “REVIEW: Alien She at Museum of Contemporary Craft and PNCA” Dec. 8, 2015
“This terrific show—its art, music, literature and film inspired by the ’90s punk rock Riot Grrrl movement—is irreverent, tongue-in-cheek, overt in its politics and revolutionary.”
– Dave Barton, “Alien She Brings Riot Grrrl Energy to OCMA,” March 5, 2015
Winner, #1 Exhibition of 2015 in “THE YEAR IN ART,” Dave Barton, Dec. 22, 2015
“The first exhibition to look at the continuing artistic influence of the riot grrrl movement comes to Portland — a fitting destination, given that the Northwest was a polestar of the feminist punk scene. The show — which is spread over two spaces, the Museum of Contemporary Art and PNCA’s 511 Gallery — centers on the work of seven contemporary artists whose practices have been informed by the movement.”
– Jonathan Frochtzwajg, “9 must-see art shows in Portland: Fall Arts Guide 2015,” Sept. 8, 2015 (slideshow)
THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER
The show also features small solo shows by seven artists whose practices have clearly been informed by Riot Grrrl ethos and tactics but whose works are surprisingly stylistically diverse…
Tammy Rae Carland’s large, sumptuous color photographs of empty stages and empty (but obviously slept-in) beds argue against making assumptions.”
– Edith Newhall, “Riot Grrrl rolls into Philadelphia,” March 23, 2014
Works on view include pieces from Joanie 4 Jackie; Miranda July’s video “chain letter,” a pre-YouTube effort to build a community of female filmmakers through the mail; and San Francisco-based artist Stephanie Syjuco’s Free Text, a wall of fliers with tear-off tabs bearing the URLs for downloading various copyrighted critical works. Also included are hundreds of handmade zines and concert posters reflecting the movement’s broad-based, grassroots membership.
The exhibition’s curators, Astria Suparak and Ceci Moss, were involved with Riot Grrrl as teenagers in California in the 1990s, writing zines, playing in bands, and organizing meetings and conventions.
– Samantha Melamed, “Daughters of Riot Grrrl,” March 28, 2014
THE PHILADELPHIA SECRET ADMIRER
“Admirable Event of the Week: The exhibit showcases the work of various artists across multiple mediums to give a cohesive snapshot of the empowering, DIY energy that so entirely changed and strengthened not only punk and radical scenes, but the world at large.”
– Vol. 1, Issue 46, March 4, 2014
THE PITT NEWS
Alien She captures the irrepressible legacy of riot grrrl and avoids reverting to a nostalgic reflection on better days. Instead, it uses the movement as a platform from which a new generation can explore the feminist and queer issues that were once erupting from punk gigs, scribbled upon leaflets and discussed at weekly meetings
– Dylan Abbott, “Alien She looks to riot grrrl’s past and future,” Oct. 21, 2013
PITTSBURGH CITY PAPER
Alien She is superbly designed, comprehensive and approachable… [It] resounds riot grrrl’s, and feminism’s, hold on contemporary life. It says, “This happened, keep going.”
– Michelle Fried, “Alien She explores riot-grrrl’s influence on art and culture: Miller Gallery exhibit goes beyond music into film, installation work and more,” Nov. 27, 2013
While bands like Bikini Kill and Bratmobile have become a kind of shorthand for the movement, Alien She, a new exhibit at Carnegie Mellon’s Miller Gallery, explores Riot Grrrl from a broader perspective.
“Most coverage of Riot Grrrl is through the lens of music history,” explains curator Astria Suparak, via email. “[Curator Ceci Moss and I] wanted to focus on contemporary artists influenced by Riot Grrrl — an area that hasn’t been covered and that we are close to.”
Taking its name from a Bikini Kill song, the exhibit focuses on the work of seven artists whose work is informed by some aspect of the Riot Grrrl ethos. The collection is extremely diverse…
– Margaret Welsh, “New Miller Gallery exhibit features art from the Riot Grrrl movement,” Sept. 18, 2013
PITTSBURGH MAGAZINE: Mike May, “Best of Culture: Exhibits,” Dec. 2013
Reflecting the gallery’s reenergized commitment to exploring social issues, presenting original research and spotlighting artists working today, Alien She also includes related public programs, an interdisciplinary approach, interactive media, and a national reach.
– Jennifer Baron, “Features: Alien She explores legacy of Riot Grrrl at Carnegie Mellon’s Miller Gallery,” Sept. 18, 2013
Pittsburgh’s always been a bit of a counter-culture hotbed, particularly in the punk scene. Everyone’s heard the Ramones and The Clash, and a few of you out there may have heard of Pittsburgh-local Anti-Flag – but a little-explored part of punk history is revealing itself at CMU’s Miller Gallery
– “Buzz: First Riot Grrrl exhibition explores the lasting impact of the punk feminist movement,” Oct. 2, 2013
“This September is eclectic lady land for the Portland art scene:
Alien She is in depth and groundbreaking survey of the influence of Riot Grrrl on artists today and the culture at large. Extremely topical it is easily the one must see show this month.”
– Jeff Jahn, “First Thursday Picks September 2015: Alien She,” Sept. 3, 2015
The connection to the present day is fundamental to the concept of Alien She, which documents a history as it’s being lived. If you have a great deal of time on your hands, head to the Riot Grrrl Census (riotgrrrlcensus.tumblr.com) to read testimonial after testimonial. You’ll find plenty of people waxing nostalgic about the zine they made at age 17 in the early ’90s, but you’ll also find people talking about how riot grrrl’s influence continues to manifest itself in their lives, and younger responders who are just discovering and becoming inspired by the movement. The huge banner that hangs on the 511 Gallery’s wall emblazoned with one of the riot grrrl manifestos still resonates, and the broader aim of the exhibit is to track the continuation of feminist activism in the work of seven female artists in the prime of their careers.
…As tactile, subversive, and academic as riot grrrl’s roots, Alien She offers something different for each user, a cocktail of nostalgia, energizing history, and appreciation for the continued relevance of a movement not ready to be relegated to the annals. Increasingly embraced by outsider communities along racial, economic, sexuality, and gender-defined roles, Alien She captures a movement still running its course.
– Marjorie Skinner, “Grrrl in Motion: Alien She,” Sept. 9, 2015
RHIZOME: Michael Conner, “The Week Ahead: Alien She Edition,” Sept. 16, 2013
SAN FRANCISCO ARTS MONTHLY: Christian L. Frock, “December picks: Alien She,” Nov. 6, 2014
SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE
This complex exhibition, one of the best this year, explores the Riot Grrrl feminist movement that grew out of the 1990s punk music scene, some of the key artists it spawned and the technological arc of 20-plus years of radical artworks… In today’s global digital age, viewers get to choose their own brand of radical feminism and, as the show demonstrates, there are a lot of versions to consider.
– Christian L. Frock, “‘Alien She’ at YBCA: Riot Grrrls come of age,” Nov. 3, 2014
THE SEEN (EXPOSITION CHICAGO)
At its simplest, Alien She provides an abridged chronicle of a quarter-century of activism-as-practice (what is known critically as “socially engaged art,” or what my friends and I simply call “good art”). Scouring the graphic language of the riot grrrl movement in comparison to, say, L.j. Roberts’ bitingly beautiful crocheted protest banners, is a revitalizing reminder that art can serve purposes outside its monetary value. At its deepest, the exhibition is a reminder of the lengths that the social revolution has yet to go.
…The entire show is like walking into a living archive—a Derridean commencement and commandment: ‘This is what Riot Grrrl was and this is what Riot Grrrl continues to be.’
– Joshua Michael Demaree, “National: Alien She / Vox Populi,” March 24, 2014
“Alien She curators Astria Suparak, former director of the Miller Gallery at Carnegie Mellon University, and Ceci Moss, assistant curator of visual arts at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, also launched two research projects that accompany the exhibition. Each leverages technology that didn’t exist at the movement’s birth to provide a more comprehensive look at how Riot Grrrl continues to empower women today.” – Jennifer Swann, “Too Cool to Be Forgotten: Riot Grrrl Lives On, Two Decades Later,” Feb. 16, 2015
“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… The riot grrrl scene runs deep both in terms of the other art its inspired and the ethos and attitude it bred.”
– Introduction by Kim Taylor Bennett, “GO SEE ALIEN SHE: An Exhibition Exploring Riot Grrrl’s Impact,” Noisey Blog, March 7, 2014
VULTURE (NEW YORK MAGAZINE)
Megan Harned, “Top 5 Fall Visual Arts Shows: Alien She,” Sept. 9, 2015
“All taken together, Alien She’s history of riot grrrl reveals it to be far from dogmatic or linear in its ideology. The movement is showcased in all its knotty glory – bold and anti-authoritarian in its approach, but complex and varied in its politics and aesthetics.” – Geeta Dayal, “On Site: Alien She,” April 2015
“Curators Ceci Moss and Astria Suparak eschew the traditional historical exhibition in favor of a retrospective look that is firmly positioned in the present… For me, one of the most beautiful things about Alien She is the way it reveals the intertwined histories of feminist and queer activism and cultural production in the United States…
We are hungry for the kind of nuanced history of feminism that Alien She proposes. We need to tease out, elaborate, and assemble the many strands from a monolithic “feminism” now, as we fight new political battles over our bodies and identities. In retrospect, riot grrrl possessed immediacy—an embodied urgency—that feels difficult to recapture amidst assimilation and tolerance. By focusing on recent work, Alien She largely avoids romanticizing punk feminism in the nineties. Instead, the exhibition situates riot grrrl as one touchstone in the multi-stream evolution of the radical personal and political communities that artists continue to build today.” – Claire Ruud, “REVIEW: Coming for Your Daughters: The Legacy of Riot Grrrl,” Winter 2016
Sept. 21, 2013 – Feb. 16, 2014
@ Miller Gallery at Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA
March 7 – April 27, 2014
@ Vox Populi, Philadelphia, PA
Oct. 24, 2014 – Jan. 25, 2015
@ Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, CA
Feb. 15 – May 24, 2015
@ Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach, CA
Sept. 3, 2015 – Jan. 9, 2016
@ Pacific Northwest College of Art: 511 Gallery & Museum of Contemporary Craft, in conjunction with Portland Institute for Contemporary Art’s Time-Based Art Festival, Portland, OR