Recently on the Typical Girls list (mentioned in an early post here), there was discussion around the idea of archiving zines and tapes and flyers etc, particularly from the riot grrrl era.
Some people were all for it and excited about doing things like scanning in copies of seminal zines such as Jigsaw and putting them online for everyone to see. Others, in particular people like Tobi Vail who actually made those zines, were less keen.
The issue for them was that people tend too become too mired in the past, and look back with such rosy tinted nostalgia that there is no move forward, and people become lazy about creating new things.
There was also the concern that writers and archivists etc who weren’t there or who don’t understand what the riot grrrls were doing would write history to fit their own assumptions and end up doing those women a disservice, which is a pretty valid concern considering that already occurred during the riot grrrl heyday, and hence the angst between those women and the media at the time.
Plus, I guess there always has been resistance to riot grrrl being classified as a specific movement or genre at all, and the creation of archives and websites etc serves to cement it as a thing in time, creating icons and rules and “it” bands and all the things that scene seemed to be trying to get away from.
On the other hand, as others on the list pointed out, it’d be pretty awesome for those of us who weren’t there/weren’t old enough at the time that all this amazing stuff was happening to be able to access it online. And yes, amazing stuff is still happening today, and stuff did happen elsewhere in the world too, but there is no denying that the Olympia scene in the early 90s was a highly influential force and a lot of ephemera was produced and preserved by individuals that could serve to act as further influences and inspiration to said contemporary movements and bands and art.
Personally, I am obsessed with the idea of having zine libraries and archives that document culture that I’m either a part of, or which has inspired me. I think it’s especially important for women & queer people to document women’s and queer history, as they are obviously comparatively overlooked, under researched and misconstrued areas.
Not only do these kinds of histories give me ideas for things that I want to do in my own life, but it’s just interesting! And I think that no art or culture or whatever springs from a vacuum, male art and culture has a wealth of history and information behind it, right down to the most obscure of subcultures. Why should punk women have to start from scratch? Things seem to have more weight, be more 3 dimensional if there is something that has gone before that you can reference, and if there is some kind of timeline or backdrop the world can contexualise you on.
Someone who expresses this idea very clearly (and with more validity than me!) is Alice Bag, from LA punk band, the Bags. Check out her website www.alicebag.com. She says that part of the reason for her having this site is she wants “to make sure that the contributions of women do not become lost through the omissions or distortions of historians, whose accounts, though accurate may be incomplete.”
I’ve just realised that quite a lot of the posts that I’ve made on this site have been around the subject of archives…I guess I’m a bit obsessed. The thing I’ve noticed though is that most of the people who have archives I’m interested in (jenny woolworth, grrrlzines network etc etc) also make things themselves anyway, they aren’t wallowing in any kind of go-nowhere nostalgia.
I guess with the internet etc now, people can’t romanticise punk transience so much. It is inevitable that things will be archived in a way that wasn’t imagined before. I mean, I know that no one wants to be looking at their 16 year old emo ravings still being photocopied when they are 29, but I think it provides a nice snapshot of the particular context in which the zine was written, and most sensible people reading the zine would understand that the writer would probably have modified their views by now. And 16 year olds reading it for the first time could realise that even “way back then” women were feeling this way, and doing this stuff, that it was ok and is still ok. And it’s doubtful they’d be able to/want to replicate a 90s zine anyway, just due to the fact a contemporary 16 year old would have grown up in a different world, they’d have better production for a start! So I don’t think there should be the fear of nothing new happening, there’s always something new!
Ok so what do you think?
p.s you should also check out The Queer Zine Archive Project