Riot Grrrl Exhibition, Alien She, at PNCA and Museum of Contemporary Craft

July 28, 2015

July 28, 2015
Lisa Radon
Communications Specialist

Riot Grrrl Exhibition, Alien She, at PNCA and Museum of Contemporary Craft

Portland, OR — July 28, 2015 – Pacific Northwest College of Art (PNCA) and Museum of Contemporary Craft are pleased to be the only Northwest venue for the traveling exhibition, Alien She, the first show 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 in the Pacific Northwest and Washington D.C., Riot Grrrl emphasized female and youth empowerment, collaborative organization, creative resistance, and DIY ethics. The exhibition will open September 3, 2015 and run through January 9, 2016 at PNCA venues including the 511 Gallery and Museum of Contemporary Craft.

Alien She focuses on seven artists whose practices were informed by their contact with Riot Grrrl. Many of them work in multiple disciplines and craft-based media, such as sculpture, installation, fiber, 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.

For the Portland exhibition, New Jersey Riot Grrrl Jessica Funaro is editing a new mega-zine in which contributors such as Donna Dresch of Team Dresch, Khaela Maricich of The Blow, and Lisa Schonberg, AKA Drummer, are invited to make pages on how the ideas and community surrounding Riot Grrrl are impacting life today. Chloe Eudaly, Independent Publishing Resource Center co-founder and owner of Reading Frenzy, will organize a library of contemporary, local zines for the exhibition’s zine section, showcasing the evolution of Riot Grrrl politics in the present. A spotlight on the history of Bitch Magazine, which presents a feminist response to popular culture and began as a self-published zine, will include some of the very first issues of the critically acclaimed magazine.

Programs for Alien She will include talks by artists Stephanie Syjuco, Tammy Rae Carland, and Faythe Levine, and Andi Zeisler of Bitch Magazine. And on September 11, 2015, as part of Portland Institute for Contemporary Art’s TBA Festival, Singing We Must Rage! Live Riot will be a sing-along night with music rooted in punk feminism and karaoke-style videos made by Dana Bishop-Root and Ginger Brooks Takahashi of General Sisters and Deirdre Logue and Allyson Mitchell of FAG feminist art gallery.

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.

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 most recent 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 Joanie 4 Jackie, for “lady moviemakers” which was launched here in the Northwest. 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, it aims to 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. 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.

Alien She was curated by Astria Suparak and Ceci Moss, former Riot Grrrls from Los Angeles and the Bay Area, and organized by the Miller Gallery at Carnegie Mellon University.

Artists: Ginger Brooks Takahashi, Tammy Rae Carland, Miranda July, Faythe Levine, Allyson Mitchell, L.J. Roberts, Stephanie Syjuco

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, project MOBILIVRE-BOOKMOBILE project, Sign Painters 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)

Media sponsor: Bitch Magazine

About Museum of Contemporary Craft
Founded in 1937, Museum of Contemporary Craft at Pacific Northwest College of Art is a vibrant center for investigation and dialogue that helps expand the definition and exploration of craft. Through dynamic exhibitions and provocative public programming, supported by the Museum’s collection and archives, the Museum advances the conversation on the role of craft and design in contemporary culture while at the same time honoring the history of the studio craft movement.

About 511 Gallery
511 Gallery in the new Arlene and Harold Schnitzer Center for Art and Design at Pacific Northwest College of Art is dedicated to the work of national and international contemporary artists. Directed by Mack McFarland, the gallery mounts exhibitions that highlight 21st century art and design practices and support the College’s curriculum

About PNCA
As Oregon’s flagship college of art and design since 1909, PNCA has helped shape the region’s visual arts landscape for more than a century. Today PNCA is a dynamic platform for 21st century art and design education at its new campus in the heart of downtown Portland. PNCA offers four BFA programs with ten concentrations, six graduate programs within the Hallie Ford School of Graduate Studies, and a Post-Baccalaureate program.