Barbara Hammer (Los Angeles, 1939 – New York, 2019) is one of the most influential figures in American experimental and activist cinema. Including eighty-three films and a great number of photographs, drawings, performances, collages and installations, her autobiographical work is a record of how lesbian and feminist dissent has been formulated from the late 1960s to the present day.
This exhibition covers the fifty-year career of Barbara Hammer, one of the most influential voices in American experimental and activist cinema. It is the first retrospective exhibition of her work in Spain.
Hammer was a pioneer in the political exploration of lesbian life and sexuality, the meaning of death, and the personal and collective stories of those suffering social marginalization. She made eighty-three films, including short films and feature films, as well as a great number of collages, drawings, performances, photographs and installations.
Hammer’s works stretch from the early Super 8 films to the trilogy Nitrate Kisses (1992), Tender Fictions (1995) and History Lessons (2000). She explored disease in Chance of Breast Cancer (1993), Cancer Bones (1993) and A Horse Is Not a Metaphor (2008) and entered into “critical dialogues” with artists, filmmakers and poets, including Claude Cahun, Maya Deren, Hannah Wilke, Elizabeth Bishop, Lota de Macedo Soares and Dziga Vertov. Her work can be considered a monumental autobiographical record of how lesbian and feminist dissent has been formulated from the late 1960s to the present day.
Sisters!, which takes its title from a short film made by Hammer in 1973, also offers a set of proposals based on ancestral myths in The Great Goddess (1973) and Sappho (1978); studies of the ideological genealogies of lesbianism in The History of the World According to a Lesbian (1988), The Female Closet (1998) and Lover Other (2006); and many photographs of emblematic performances, such as Be My Valentine (1980-82) and Aphrodite’s Birth (1972), and of emotional and sexual moments.
Drawing was prominent in Hammer’s work throughout her career, from the early Dark Vagina or Moon in the Head (1969-1971) to Prison Drawings (Marcel Moore) (2005). Finally, the exhibition presents a large collection of her collages, which transfer her audiovisual work to the field of plastic art, including Happy Valentine’s Day (1982), Je t’embrasse (1994), Hammer as Shirley Temple (1996), Lesbian Weeding Dewar Style (1997), Bang & Whimper (2000) and Censored (2017).
Barbara Hammer’s projects are both a celebration of life and a call to dissent, episodes of a confessional frieze and panoramic views of political and community events. Her written work—part memoir, part chronicle, part essay—is compiled in the book Hammer! Making Movies out of Sex and Life (2010). In her writing she reveals an artistic and existential position in which the drive to transgress all social taboos is linked to the revolutionary capacity for love, to the power of people to unite their frailties and rise up.
The preliminary work on the exhibition Sisters! began in 2018, in close dialogue with Barbara Hammer. La Virreina Centre de la Imatge considers this exhibition, celebrated on the first anniversary of Hammer’s death, a tribute to her life and work.
Curator: Valentín Roma