Before Miranda July became an acclaimed director, she was a film school dropout who moved to Portland and started a video chainletter for women, Big Miss Moviola (later Joanie4Jackie). My favorite chainletter intro opens with July in front of a skyscraper wearing a navy suit, demonstrating with delightful irony how her scrappy video ‘zine had grown into a corporate behemoth; a “monster-like force in the transnational lady-made movie scene.” In reality, July was dubbing over old VHS on outdated VCRs that she kept in the living room, and often struggled to get by.
It was the zenith of the Riot Grrrl movement, the ‘90s post-punk/DIY feminist wave that became famous for producing angry, show-stopping girl bands. July and her contemporaries, like Kathleen Hanna (of Bikini Kill and later Le Tigre) were outsider artists, with little or no access to mainstream networks of art production and distribution. Riot Grrrl embraced this limitation, constructing national and international underground networks of women who shared self-published ‘zines and music, met in secret to discuss feminist politics, and created an aesthetic and a spirit that resonates with many of the works of view in Looking at Music: 3.0.
In conjunction with the exhibition, we will be showing some stellar selections culled from the decade’s worth of “lady-made” film we looked at: our favorite chainletter in it’s entirety (Some Kind of Loving) as well as GrrrI Love and the Revolution: Riot Grrrl NYC, Sadie Bening’s Jollies, Rita Ackermann’s Puppet Show, and Le Tigre: On Tour. I was too young to have experienced Riot Grrrl firsthand, but watching these films I felt the infectious energy and rage that defined Riot Grrrl’s activist artists and lady-made movie makers.
In fact, all the films selected for the film series—running March 2-10—will give you a better appreciation for what “the scene” was like in New York during the period of time we looked at for the exhibition, no matter which scene most interests you. My list of must-sees includes the Kim Gordon/Tony Oursler collaboration Making the Scene, which documents a night at the now infamous club Danceteria and Jem Cohen’s intensely intimate, experimental street portrait This is a History of New York. For more detailed information on all the films and to find movie times, check out the Looking at Music film series website. Don’t miss this one-time series!