Sonja Ahlers

Classification Crisis

September 9 - November 5, 2023

Above: Sonja Ahlers, "Shapes", 2022, mixed media, 11” x 17”, Courtesy of the artist

Curated by Godfre Leung

For thirty years, Victoria-based artist Sonja Ahlers has been making books in her distinct visual idiom that is equal parts collage and poetry. Classification Crisis, a major survey of her career, emerged from Ahlers’s project of the last half-decade to prepare her archive. The exhibition includes her Riot Grrrl zines of the nineties, one-of-a-kind chapbooks spanning thirty years, a decade of unseen work after she “quit art” in the wake of the Vancouver art boom, and other artworks and ephemera from a career of collecting images and scraps of language.

Revisiting her career also led Ahlers to produce a new bookwork, Rabbit-Hole, which she describes as a “feminist memoir/scrapbook/confessional commentary on the art world and my place within it.” Adapted for the exhibition as an installation, Rabbit-Hole re-tells the story of her career as a mystery narrative. From the hindsight of the #MeToo reckoning, Ahlers thematizes the collecting and reassembling that sustains her art as a search for clues left behind by her former selves.

Best known for her books Temper, Temper (1998)—a compilation of her nineties zines—The Selves (2010)—the precursor to her influential work with Rookie Mag—and the handmade angora Fierce Bunnies she has been making for three decades, Ahlers’s work has been a touchstone for multiple generations of feminist culture. The exhibition is accompanied by a lavishly illustrated publication that includes essays by contemporaries of Ahlers from throughout her career, and Rabbit-Hole.

Above: Sonja Ahlers, "Shapes", 2022, mixed media, 11” x 17”, Courtesy of the artist
WATCH: Exhibiting artist Sonja Ahlers on her Classification Crisis exhibition.

Described Tours

     Narrated by danielle wensley


Classification Crisis

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.”

Authors: Godfre Leung, Kathleen Hanna, Doretta Lau, Tavi Gevinson, Lisa Prentice, Alexandra Alisaukas, Jennifer Douglas
Purchase for $50.00
See all publications.


Sunday 12:00 PM – 5:00 PM
Monday 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM
Tuesday 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM
Wednesday 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM
Thursday 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM
Friday 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM
Saturday 12:00 PM – 5:00 PM

Closed on statutory holidays.

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Richmond Cultural Centre
7700 Minoru Gate
Richmond, BC  V6Y 1R8
Canada Line Station: Richmond-Brighouse


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