The Years Without Light
12 March 2017

curated screening/performance event presented at
Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA), London, 13.05.2015

At the back of the classroom their heads thrash about to the rhythm. You sit on the periphery of their circle, a voyeur, as a tape deck screeches out The Years Without Light by GWAR. A new orbit is formed by you; outside the outsiders. With every whip of hair there is a prophetic sinking feeling. When the days are years, the light feels far off, barely warming the skin.


This programme considers the choppiness of teenage years through the lens of the outcast, misfit, queer: the individuals in high school that many suspected were in a cult. The witchy, uncanny coven allocated space through a process of exclusion, outside the accepted social hierarchies. An outer ring; both antagonized and feared.

Part confessional, part sermon, part essay on queer occult practice written in reverse, Rachel McRae’s When I was 14 (working thru working thru) is read aloud from its online source, as if it’s a found blog entry that escaped deletion. The text details the trials of being feared and socially constructed as a teenage witch and the power of rumours to both shield and condemn in a hostile small town environment.

Shot in 1996 during his senior year in high school and edited in 2000, Michael Lucid’s Dirty Girls offers a glimpse of the social strata that a group of 8th grade riot grrrls polarises. Harsh criticisms of modes of dress and hygiene are paired with debunking statements from the members of the attacked group. With few on-screen supporters, their zine is rebuked as ‘dime store feminism’ and their age and maturity questioned. As an implicit response a page within the contested zine defiantly reads: ‘I have a right to be mad, I have a right to be sad, I have a right to be disgusted. You don’t have the right to tell me to shut-up, so don’t even try.’

Lush dream logic unfurls in Margaret Haines’ COCO. Temporalities flow in and out of each other: waves advancing, curling under, and receding on the sand in the California sun. Adult Coco narrates herself as multi-aged and gendered, conjuring her traumas within planes of tumblr girlhood and high school show and tell. Emojis emerge as punctuation, sparkles rippling out, band-aids and butterflies hover. She wanted to be queen, her paper crown and lettered necklace a proclamation. She would perform the preemptive strike; defy abandonment. But this is only a deferral. In spite of it all, ‘draw a wild horse, the wild horse is free.’


When I was 14 (working thru working thru), Rachel McRae, 2015, 10:00, tumblr performance.

Dirty Girls, Michael Lucid, 2000, 17:57.

COCO, Margaret Haines, 2014, 42:00.

When I was 14 (working thru working thru), Rachel McRae, 2015

Dirty Girls, Michael Lucid, 2000

COCO, Margaret Haines, 2014