Gina Birch, “It Matters to ME”
My response to being invited to perform at MoMA was amazement, joy, and relief. After our performance in NY, on my return to London, I rewatched Lucy Thane’s film on Bikini Kill in the UK (It Changed My Life: Bikini Kill In the UK, 1993). It was inspiring and moving and made me want to shout, to start a band, to make a noise. And then I realized/remembered that we had already done that in 1977.
When we did it, I was shy, I was nervous, I was even embarrassed. It was very small-scale, we weren’t singing to a converted crowd. But we were immersed in what has become a significant moment in history and we were lucky enough to be able to express ourselves even if this did feel revealing, naked, and difficult. The boys brigade took the piss out of us. In our creative moments, we sometimes teetered on the brink of collapse and in spite of this we actually amassed an audience who related to us, who empathized with us, even admired us.
I would like to have been as noisy, boisterous, and stylish as the Slits, but we were being truthful to ourselves and that, to me, is still very important. Ana, who’s a bit older than me, was poetic, elliptical, and stubborn. I was blushing, honest, creative, and pretty naive. There weren’t that many girls picking up instruments then, but there were more than has been documented widely. The music industry pitted us against each other, compared us, put us together in rooms and interviewed us and we all expressed our differences. Sisterhood was yet to come it seemed.
Since the 1990s, Kathleen Hanna, Tobi Vail, and all the Ladyfest and riot grrrl crowd have been our ideological offspring, much more daring in many ways. We are in mutual debt to each other.Here in 2010, to be invited to perform at MoMA is significant for us—33 years after we first played together. Women curators, women’s photography, women’s art, the kitchen show and us, at MoMA.
My daughter is about to move from junior to senior school in London. I went to look at some of London’s top schools. In the history departments I would ask about how they dealt with issues of history being so male centric and I was reassured they covered the Suffragettes and Queen Elizabeth I. “What a relief,” I would sarcastically reply.
It’s like Kathleen Hanna says in Lucy’s film: when some man shouts, “It doesn’t matter what gender you are,” Kathleen shouts back, “It matters to ME!” (“It doesn’t matter that most of the women in this room get paid a lot less than men for the same jobs, It doesn’t matter than one in four women are raped. That domestic violence exists or that women are serial killed or that there aren’t many women in….”)
And now things are changing and…It matters to ME!
Thank you to Kathleen for being an inspiration and playing records and performing on Saturday night. Thank you to all those who turned up and yelled and danced and listened on Saturday night. Thank you to those at MoMA who thought of us and invited us, and were so welcoming and supportive. Let’s all continue to try to make a difference, because it really does matter……
Ana da Silva, “Shouting Out Loud”
The most important thing about art is its power to communicate. The audience at MoMA, when we performed in November, showed such a warm response that I felt we did to some degree what so many of the artworks there do every day.When Gina and I started doing performances of our songs, I wanted the tutors at the art college we were attending to accept our music as a valid body of work. They didn’t. So I thought it was very interesting that 30 years later we got invited to play at MoMA. After all, MoMA was created by three women and was one of the first museums to embrace photography and film, pulling down barriers between different media.
We were shown around some of the exhibitions by three young female curators, who showed so much pride and enthusiasm in their research and display. A lot of the artworks there are very fresh and full of soul, not very different from the songs Kathleen Hanna played during her DJ set or to the piece by Yoko Ono, where we got the opportunity, like other museum visitors, to scream down a microphone that echoed through the building.
New York has given us so much great art and I felt really happy when we were about to perform—I was thinking about some of the people that are so connected with this city: Yoko Ono, Patti Smith, Laurie Anderson, Guerrilla Girls, the Velvet Underground, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and so on. Having Kathleen Hanna collaborating in the event was a real treat. It was Kathleen and her generation that helped our work become better known and validated…shouting out loud.