Riot Grrrl Redux

Right now, in a library overlooking Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village, Lisa Darms '92 is amassing the chronicles of a musical and cultural movement triggered two decades ago in Olympia.
riot grrrl

Darms, a senior archivist at New York University's Fales Library and Special Collections, is building The Riot Grrrl Collection, an effort to document and preserve the evolution of the underground feminist punk movement, particularly between 1989 and 1996.

Lisa Darms

Lisa Darms with the riot grrrl filing cabinet. Photo: David Wentworth.

Numerous women who were prominent in the scene have donated primary source material, including zines, correspondence, artwork, flyers, journals, photographs, and audio and video recordings. More are expected to do so. A centerpiece of the archive is the dented, sticker-covered filing cabinet of original “rebel girl” Kathleen Hanna '91, who used it to store her personal records and even toured with it when she was the vocalist and songwriter for the seminal riot grrrl band Bikini Kill.

Hanna is also spotlighted in the recently released DVD documentary, “Who Stole the Bomp?: Le Tigre on Tour.” The movie follows her and fellow Le Tigre band members as they make their final tour in 2004 after debuting This Island. Last December, Brooklyn's Knitting Factory club held a Hanna tribute show with 20 acts performing songs by Bikini Kill or Le Tigre. And both bands make appearances in the books that have been published about the movement, including the 2010 Girls to the Front: The True Story of the Riot Grrrl Revolution.

Meanwhile, closer to Olympia, the Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery in Seattle exhibited the original work of three artists whose creativity was stoked by the riot grrrl scene: Nikki McClure '91, Stella Marrs '81, and Megan Kelso '94. The show, held last summer, was called Quiet Rrriot.

All of which shows that the movement—vilified in its day by mainstream media—is still making its mark. As one recent commentator wrote, “riot grrrl's in the middle of a cultural victory lap.”

In the 1990s, Tammy Rae Carland '91 produced the influential fanzine "I (heart) Amy Carter, now part of The Riot Grrrl Collection archive at NYU's Fales Library.

Image of cassette tapes

"One love Leads to another" is from Tammy Rae Carland's photographic series Archive of Feelings. (click image for larger view)

Dedicated to feminism, gay rights and artistic creativity, the zine was published after the demise of Amy Carter, the band Carland formed with fellow Greeners Kathleen Hanna ‘91 and Heidi Arbogast ‘88. They performed at the trio's own Olympia art gallery, Reko Muse, which doubled as a concert venue for some of the destined-for-greatness underground bands of the era. Carland later collaborated on cover art for the bands Bikini Kill, the Fakes and the Butchies.

Today, Carland is a professor at the California College of the Arts, where she chairs the photography program. A 2004 graduate of UC Irvine's MFA program, she works with photography, video and small-run publications. Her pieces have been screened and exhibited around the world, including at the Istanbul Biennale in September and the recent Bay Area Now 6 exhibition at The Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco.