Barbara Hammer


Barbara Hammer © Mickaline Thomas, 2019

Barbara Hammer (USA) was a pioneering lesbian filmmaker, artist, producer, writer, and cinematographer with more than 90 moving image works to her credit, as well as numerous performances, installations, photographs, collages, and drawings. Hammer received a BA in Psychology from UCLA, an MA in English Literature and an MA in Film from San Francisco State University, and undertook post-masters studies at the American Film Institute (Los Angeles). Her work has been exhibited at The National Gallery of Art (Washington), Toronto International Film Festival, Jeu de Paume, Tate Modern, MoMI, Centre Georges Pompidou, Media City Film Festival, Austrian Film Museum, and three editions of the Whitney Biennial. Hammer was the recipient of numerous fellowships, residencies, and awards in her lifetime, including Japan, Camargo, and Guggenheim Foundation fellowships; a Stan Brakhage Vision Award; the Shirley Clarke Avant-Garde Film Award; a Peace Prize from the 1st Global Peace Film Festival; two Teddy Awards for Best Short Film at the Berlinale; and a LEO Award for Outstanding Contribution to Film from the Flaherty Seminar, among many others. She is the subject of numerous articles, essays, and publications. Her works are in the permanent collections of the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, the Museum of Modern Art, The National Film Archive (Belgium), Yale University, and the Whitney Museum of American Art. Hammer revolutionized cinema, opening up new methods for thinking about gender, sexuality, the body, and death. Barbara passed away in 2019 after a battle with ovarian cancer. She is greatly missed.


ONLINE SCREENING DATES: May 20 – June 10, 2021

FILMS IN THIS PROGRAM: Sanctus, 20 min, 1990  

Sanctus, 20 min, 1990

Sanctus is a film of the rephotographed moving x-rays originally shot by Dr. James Sibley Watson and his colleagues. Making the invisible visible, the film reveals the skeletal structure of the human body as it protects the hidden fragility of interior organ systems. Sanctus portrays a body in need of protection on a polluted planet where immune system disorders proliferate.

Dyketactics, 4 min, 1974 (film available: December 2 – December 23, 2020)

Hammer’s films of the ’70s are the first made by an openly lesbian American filmmaker to explore lesbian identity, desire and sexuality through avant-garde strategies. Merging the physicality of the female body with that of the film medium, Hammer’s films remain memorable for their pioneering articulation of a lesbian aesthetic. – Jenni Sorkin

Masha Gessen: Yesterday, when I was leaving, I quoted someone who had watched your movies and said, “She makes being lesbian look like such fun.” And you said, “But it is.” What makes it so fun?

Barbara Hammer: To me, pleasure is in surprising, playing with someone else in a way you’re not expecting or allowing them in to play with you. A sense of “anything can go,” and we can go from traditional behaviors to joking, bringing ideas together, maybe ideas that wouldn’t normally be said. We’d both be laughing. That could lead to another thing. In the seventies, we were going further into understanding what are the politics of being gay, what are the politics of being in a relationship with a woman or women. This was a time of experimenting, of having two women at a time, finding out, as I did, how difficult it was to be doubly engaged, to be able to balance myself in a relationship. But the relationships were so different. I couldn’t give one up for the other, because one would bring me into politics and the other, a woman who’s twelve years older than me, was an artist I admire greatly but who’s married to a man. One would introduce me to what Leninism was. All these women had great influences on me.

Read Barbara Hammer’s Exit Interview in the New Yorker here.

Sanctus images and artwork courtesy of Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI), New York and ©Barbara Hammer Estate.

Screening co-presented with Electronic Arts Intermix, celebrating their 50th anniversary in 2021.