May 18, 2011  |  Collection & Exhibitions
Looking at Zines

Kathleen Hanna, Billy Karren, Tobi Vail, Kathi Wilcox. Bikini Kill: A Color and Activity Book, no. 1. 1991. Photocopy; cover by Hanna.

During the world premiere of  Who Took the Bomp? Le Tigre on Tour, which we screened in April in conjunction with Looking at Music: 3.0, we got a great response to the riot grrrl fan zines in the exhibition. These include photocopies of several zines from the outstanding Riot Grrrl Collection at NYU’s Fales Library. Flipping through them allows you to see one of the most important cultural movements of the last few decades from the gritty personal perspective of its most distinguished icons.

Johanna Fateman. Artaud-Mania. 1996.

These zines were made by rocker/artists like Johanna Fateman and their avid fans, to be distributed at concerts among like-minded DIY feminists. While fan zines included tributes to the post-punk girl bands they were created around, in fact their larger purpose was to voice radical opinions that even major feminist magazines at the time censored. The idea was to share stories, foment activism, and promote the riot grrrl ethos. Indeed, when riot grrrl bands like Bikini Kill, Bratmobile, and Heavens to Betsy went on tour, they took zines with them to distribute at venues across the country. The information disseminated in these cheaply produced, self-published manuscripts became a major tool in the riot grrrl movement and prefigured the way blogs and social media would transform the way information is shared today.