Classification Crisis by Sonja Ahlers
Classification Crisis is an important survey of artist Sonja Ahlers’ 30-year career, published on the occasion of a major exhibition at the Richmond Art Gallery in British Columbia in 2023.
The first half of the publication functions as an exhibition catalogue, featuring texts reflecting on different periods of Ahlers’ career by Tavi Gevinson, Kathleen Hanna, Doretta Lau, and Lisa Prentice; a methodological essay by archival theorists Alexandra Alisauskas and Jennifer Douglas; and lavish illustrations of artwork from throughout Ahlers’ career—all anchored by a career-spanning survey essay by curator Godfre Leung.
Revisiting Ahlers’ work and celebrating its place within the Riot Grrrl movement of the nineties and its influence on the Rookie Mag generation that came of age in the late aughts, these texts make a compelling case for Ahlers’ relevance today to a third generation of feminist culture.
The second half of the publication is a substantial new book-length collage work by Ahlers—a book within a book titled “Rabbit-Hole.” Classification Crisis began as a project by Ahlers to prepare her archive, an ongoing endeavour that grew to include both the exhibition and Rabbit-Hole, which reassembles documents from her archive to create a fragmented autobiography that Ahlers describes as a “feminist memoir/scrapbook/confessional commentary on the art world and my place within it.”
About the Artist
Sonja Ahlers is a visual artist and writer from Victoria, BC. Her books are challenging to classify and can be found in several different sections of the library. 1994’s A Wandering Eye was the first of many self-published books that circulated mainly through the underground “penpal” network of DIY punk rock and Riot Grrrl zines. Ahlers attracted national attention with Temper, Temper, published by Insomniac Press in 1998, followed by Fatal Distraction in 2004. In 2010, Drawn & Quarterly published The Selves, and in 2021, Conundrum Press published Swan Song. Ahlers’ art has been exhibited across Canada, as well as in the United States, Japan, and Australia. She helped create the visual identity of Rookie Mag and from 2011 to 2015 and was a frequent contributor to the influential online publication, as well as lead artist/designer of its four print anthologies.
Co-published with the Richmond Art Gallery
Age Range: Teen & Adult