Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art: Feminist Art Base: Barbara Hammer

Barbara Hammer

Barbara Hammer was born on May 15, 1939 in Hollywood, California. Hammer is a visual artist working primarily in film and video and has made over 80 works in a career that spans 30 years. She is considered a pioneer of queer cinema.

In March 2005 the Mar del Plata International Film Festival in Argentina had a retrospective of her work. In April 2006 she was awarded a week tribute and screening of 7 programs of her work at the XI International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival in Turin, Italy and three days at Cinematheque Bologna. Her experimental films of the 1970s often dealt with taboo subjects such as menstruation, female orgasm and lesbian sexuality and were selected for WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution at MOCA, 2007.

In the 80s she used optical printing to explore perception and the fragility of 16mm film life itself. Optic Nerve, 1985 and Endangered, 1988 were selected for the Whitney Museum of American Art Biennials (1985,1993, 1995). Her documentaries tell the stories of marginalized peoples who have been hidden from history and are often essay films that are multi-leveled and engage audiences viscerally and intellectually with the goal of activating them to make social change. Nitrate Kisses, 1992, was chosen for the 1993 Whitney Biennial. The Flaherty Film Seminar at Claremont College in Los Angeles invited Hammer as a Master Filmmaker June 2005 for the weeklong seminar "Cinema and History" where she screened History Lessons, 2000.

Her film Lover/Other: Claude Cahun and Marcel Moore premiered a the Berlinale International Film Festival in Germany in February 2006 in Europe and Directors Fortnight at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City in the U.S. It is a double biography of two Surrealist artists and Resisters who lived on Jersey Isle during WWII.

Hammer was a Fulbright Senior Specialist in fall 2005 at the Bratislava Academy of Art and Design, Slovakia; she received the first Shirley Clarke Avant-Garde Filmmaker Award in October, 2006 and the Women In Film Award 2006 from the St. Louis International Film Festival. She had a retrospective in Teipei, Taiwan sponsored by Women Make Waves Film Festival in February, 2007. She teaches each summer at The European Graduate School in Saas-Fee, Switzerland. She lives and works in New York City.
I make film, video, performance, installation and photography to make the invisible, visible.

As a pioneer in lesbian film making and performance art and after 40 years of art making and over 80 films and videos, I have several categories of work.

My lesbian films of the 1970’s are playful, erotic, sensual and intended to mine a lesbian aesthetic based on the connection between sight and touch.  My goal was to put on the screen one lesbian life in the twentieth century. 

My optically printed films of the 1980’s placed the female artist behind the lens as I focused on disturbing the minimalist structural experimental film making that was dominant at this time.  Optic Nerve (1985), Endangered (1988) and Sanctus (1990) are some of my finest films. They bring a painterly sensibility to the 16mm frame while restoring emotional truths to the radical form of experimental film.

In the 1990’s I turned to the "essay documentary" as a long form where I could explore ideas in depth.  Nitrate Kisses (1992), Tender Fictions (1985) and History Lessons (2000) explore through fragmentation, empty spaces, montage and excess the idea of the multiplicity of histories, the loss, and the impossibilities of a finite document.

Out in South Africa, Devotion: A Film about Ogawa Productions and The Diving Women of Jenju-do are global documentaries that investigate areas of hidden and disguised cultural diversity.

View Barbara Hammer's CV (PDF)

DyketacticsMultiple OrgasmWomen I LoveDouble StrengthThe Female ClosetResisting ParadiseLover Other: The Story of Claude Cahun and Marcel Moore

New York, NY

55 Bethune St. #523H
New York, NY

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