“Girl, if you make the movie, I promise you somebody will see it” DIY, Grrrl Power, and Miranda July.
thesisposted on 01.07.2016, 00:00 by Cara A. Smulevitz
In 1995 an aspiring young artist named Miranda July withdrew from her sophomore year in a California film school and relocated to Portland Oregon, a city that was home, in the early 1990s, to a thriving punk and feminist youth subculture called Riot Grrrl. Today July is a major force in contemporary culture: her work has the unusual distinction of being extremely accessible at the same time as it is celebrated in a contemporary art world well known for its inaccessibility. She has won major awards in the typically separate disciplines of independent film, visual art, and fiction writing, has been a pioneer of interactive and internet-connected art, and has developed a difficult to pin down, multi-hyphenate artistic practice that is a model for interdisciplinary culture-makers in the present. My research works to situate twenty years of Miranda July’s career within the histories of visual art, feminist activism, and popular culture on which it draws. I argue that July’s singularity as a cultural figure is deeply entangled with the ethos and aesthetics of the Riot Grrrl movement that drew her to the Pacific Northwest at the start of her career, and I work to illuminate the various ways that the legacy of Riot Grrrl for visual art is represented in the artist’s work. My analyses draw on a range of cross-disciplinary theories and histories, as well as archival materials including zines, videotapes, and posters. My discussions of July’s work, and that of her forbears and peers, seek to illuminate the webs of connection and influence that support her complex presence as a visual artist in both the art world and the popular culture.