*An excerpt from Clara Heathcock’s zine ‘Girl’, commissioned to accompany LSFF’s White Trash Girls, Gun Girls & Riot Grrrls, happening this coming Saturday 15th January, 5pm, ICA
In early 2016 I went to a talk about riot grrrl by Julia Downes. Her line, that “riot grrrl is not a genre, and certainly not a historical genre, instead a set of tactics that women use to ignite each other”, stayed with me. Later in the year, having completed my first zine Facebook Chats with Women, I too found myself empowered within a community, one grounded similarly in the feminist and the DIY - a group of loosely connected, frenetically creative female print-makers, filmmakers, visual artists and musicians that I’d so recently discovered but now felt both a part of and fan of.
Around this time, I met up with Philip, LSFF’s Creative Director, who was at the time programming White Trash Girls, Gun Girls & Riot Grrrls, and the idea of making a publication cementing that link between the original ’90s riot grrrl movement and the community I’m part of today clicked. Girl is the manifest result.
One copy is included in the ticket price for every attendee of White Trash Girls, Gun Girls & Riot Grrrls. There are exactly as many zines as there are seats in the ICA in printed existence, each numbered, so if you want one, you’ll need to be at the happening. Girl showcases a small selection of work by friends active in the DIY creative community who, too, list riot grrrl as an influence. My wish is that anyone watching White Trash Girls, Gun Girls and Riot Grrrls’ third wave offerings, feeling itchy, excited and desperate to ruthlessly externalise their own fucked up-ness will have Girl as a tactile prompt that there is a community of young women in the UK doing this right now - and that they can join in.
Girl’s artwork includes both pen-and-ink and digital drawings, hand embroidery, collage, lino-prints and text. Featuring artists Ingrid Francis, Hannah Hill, Saffa Khan, HufiNeibig, Cherry Styles, Hannah Weddle, and myself.
The work shows that while riot grrrl today is still about self-publishing artwork, and making DIY music, it’s no longer too specific about what form that all takes. While the ’90s riot grrrl movement was borne out of punk and grunge, today’s riot grrrl has no particular fixation with those genres. Where music is referenced, it’s equally as likely to be grime or house. With home computers, it’s pretty accessible to Do It Yourself with making electronic music now too.
Girl showcases work that demonstrates that riot grrrl now is about making autobiographical work without feeling ashamed that it’s autobiographical. It’s about saying it’s okay to not say your strangest, most upsetting art is ‘fantasy’ if you know damn well that it’s not and people are in fact thinking about that stuff every day. It’s about ending the fear of superabundance, and ending the idea that everyone who likes you or your work will eventually think you’re too much. Riot grrrl is a tactic to help get over the fear of making art. It’s a safety net for when you really do burst your own boundaries and freak yourself out. It’s a lesson in how to do just that, and stay present and not abstract yourself.
With riot grrrl, you can be mad without being crazy. You can be visibly present in your own distress, and, in spaces where others have left you out, you can make yourself present by going back and drawing around the negative-space outline of yourself.
By Clara Heathcock