Chris Kennedy

“Brave New World: The Films of Barbara Hammer.” April 4-6, 2013

composite by Susan Wides

Brave New World: The Films of Barbara Hammer

Six program retrospective. Barbara Hammer in person.

In recent years, the pioneering experimental filmmaker and lesbian activist Barbara Hammer (b. 1939) has been feted with retrospectives at London’s Tate Modern, New York’s Museum of Modern Art and Paris’ Jeu de Paume, amongst others. This is a fitting and overdue tribute to an artist who has explored such a wide range of styles and subjects over her prolific forty-five-year career. From her very first Super 8 psychodramatic self-portraits, to her mid-eighties experiments with the abstract possibilities of the optical printer, to her later documentaries that attempt to trace a queer artistic lineage through the political and artistic turmoil of the early twentieth century, Hammer has displayed a stylistic polyvalence which, combined with her generosity as an artist, teacher and community activist, has influenced generations of students, filmmakers and artists.

Born at the tail end of the Depression to parents heading west to Los Angeles in search of a better life, Hammer is the quintessential twentieth-century American pioneer. Her life and films reflect both a peripatetic sense of place (Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, and journeys to the Ukraine, South Africa, France, Korea and Japan) and a corresponding sense of inner discovery.

Persistently revealing her own personal history (most recently, and entertainingly, recounted in her autobiography Hammer! Making Movies Out of Sex and Life) in her films, with her oeuvre Hammer has created a unique artistic record of, among other things, her coming out as a lesbian during feminism’s second wave, her battles against the politics of exclusion in the 1980s, and her victory over ovarian cancer in the last decade. Displaying Hammer’s willingness to break boundaries in both her life and work, these films move beyond the diaristic to the utopic, toward new ways of being, seeing and thinking—a true brave new world.

Barbara Hammer in person at all screenings!


Resisting Paradise
dir. Barbara Hammer | USA 2003 | 80 min. | 16mm

In Resisting Paradise, a painting residency in Cassis, the land of Henri Matisse and Pierre Bonnard, becomes an occasion for Barbara Hammer to confront a question that is inherent to much of her work— the relationship between art and political resistance—when the war in Kosovo breaks out. While exploring the history of the French Resistance in Cassis during World War II, Hammer reflects on Matisse’s apparent neutrality during the war—especially in light of Walter Benjamin’s failed attempt to escape to Spain through the region as he fled from the Nazis—and uses this history to raise questions about the validity of art in the face of political turmoil.

preceded by

dir. Barbara Hammer | USA 1988 | 8 min. | 16mm

This short film, which Hammer made with Barbara Klutinis, takes a luscious swim through the pools of William Randolph Hearst’s famed San Simeon castle in San Simeon, California. The pools which were designed by Julia Morgan, the first woman architect licensed in California.

The screening will be followed by a conversation between Barbara Hammer and Toronto artist and filmmaker Elle Flanders.

Thursday, April 4, 6:30pm


Tender Fictions
dir. Barbara Hammer | USA 1995 | 67 min. | 16mm

Tender Fictions is Barbara Hammer’s mid- career autobiography, from her tangential childhood connection to Shirley Temple and Lillian Gish to the successive constructions of her identity as a feminist, lesbian, and filmmaker. Drawing from her personal archive of self-documentation and found footage and charting the links between her life and the political movements of the time, Hammer performs and reperforms her own history, continually doubling back to reveal how autobiography is also, necessarily, a fiction.

preceded by

Still Point

dir. Barbara Hammer | USA 1989 | 9 min. | 16mm

A celebration of Hammer’s life-partner, Florrie Burke, reflecting on love in socially and economically turbulent times.

Thursday, April 4, 9:00pm



Opening with the highly influential Dyketactics— which Hammer cheekily calls her “lesbian commercial”—this programme of short films focuses on a period when Hammer, residing in the Bay Area and newly out, began to explore her new identities as both lesbian and filmmaker. Both political and sensual, films like Menses and Superdyke exult in the joy and excitement of the feminist second wave, while in the deeply personal Women I Love and Double Strength Hammer reflects on the great attraction she had for specific women she was sharing the movement with.

The screening will be followed by a conversation between Barbara Hammer and Allyson Mitchell, a Toronto-based multimedia and performance artist, professor, and co-founder of the feminist art gallery FAG.

Dyketactics dir. Barbara Hammer | USA 1974 | 4 min. | 16mm
Menses dir. Barbara Hammer | USA 1974 | 4 min. | 16mm
Superdyke dir. Barbara Hammer | USA 1975 | 18 min. | 16mm
Women I Love dir. Barbara Hammer | USA 1976. 25 min. 16mm
Sappho dir. Barbara Hammer | USA 1978 | 7 min. | 16mm
Multiple Orgasm dir. Barbara Hammer | USA 1976 | 6 min. | 16m
Double Strength dir. Barbara Hammer | USA 1978 | 16 min. | 16mm Approx. total running time: 80 min.

Saturday, April 6, 1:00pm


Nitrate Kisses
dir. Barbara Hammer | USA 1992 | 67 min. | 16mm

Her first feature-length film, Nitrate Kisses may well be Barbara Hammer’s masterpiece. Shot on grainy black-and-white Super 8 and blown up to 16mm, Nitrate Kisses focuses on the marginalization of lesbian and gay sexuality in the twentieth century. Archival footage taken from the first gay film in US history, James Sibley Watson and Melville Webber’s Lot in Sodom, frames extended sequences of lovemaking by couples, including two elderly lesbians, a mixed- race gay couple and an S/M lesbian couple. In the unashamed intimacy of its lovemaking sequences, Nitrate Kisses is taboo-busting provocation, politically charged polemic and, above all else, a rapturous visual ode to the sensual pleasures of love and intimacy.

preceded by

dir. Barbara Hammer | USA 1968 | 4 min. | 16mm

Barbara Hammer’s first film, shot on Super 8 and recently blown-up to 16mm.

The screening will be followed by a conversation between Barbara Hammer and author and nationally syndicated sex columnist Sasha.

Saturday, April 6, 7:00pm


Resisting Death

“Freedom is riding my horse on a trail exploring the unknown or seeing with the eyes that rebirth from cancer has given me, as the world becomes new again.”
—Barbara Hammer

A Horse Is Not A Metaphor follows Hammer’s recuperation from stage-3 ovarian cancer, documenting her hospital visits and the methods she used to heal and strengthen her body. Hammer’s layering of video images and music (by Meredith Monk) harks back to the more abstract style that she developed in such earlier films as the acclaimed Sanctus, which reanimates moving X-rays originally shot by Dr. James Sibley Watson (the director of Lot in Sodom) to create a chilling meditation on the fragility of the human body. Coursing along to Pauline Oliveros’ propulsive soundtrack, Bent Time traverses the ley lines of America in a glorious attempt to bend time and light, its relentless forward movement forward mirroring Hammer’s own perseverance, as she draws strength from the journey along the way.

Sanctus dir. Barbara Hammer | USA 1990 | 19 min. | 16mm
A Horse Is Not A Metaphor dir. Barbara Hammer | USA 2008 | 30 min. | video
Bent Time dir. Barbara Hammer | USA 1983 | 21 min. | 16mm Approx. total running time: 70 min.

Sunday, April 7, 5:00pm



This programme highlights Hammer’s influence on a younger generation of queer filmmakers, as well as paying tribute to one of her own primary influences, the legendary Maya Deren. Maya Deren’s Sink, Hammer’s most recent video, explores Deren’s concepts of space, time and form (themes which Hammer has repeatedly explored in her own work) in relationship to the homes in which she lived—particularly the Hollywood bungalow where she shot the groundbreaking Meshes of the Afternoon. In Generations, Hammer collaborates with young queer filmmaker Gina Carducci for a revelatory portrait of Coney Island’s shuttered Astroland. Working separately but in dialogue, Hammer and Carducci each bring their own methods and interpretation to the final film, creating a lovely ode to mentorship and apprenticeship.

The screening will be followed by a conversation between Barbara Hammer and Deirdre Logue, a Toronto-based multimedia artist and co-founder of the feminist art gallery FAG.

I Was/I Am dir. Barbara Hammer | USA 1972 | 6.5 min | 16mm
Meshes of the Afternoon dir. Maya Deren | USA 1943 | 14 min. | 16mm
Generations dirs. Barbara Hammer & Gina Carducci | USA 2010 | 30 min. | 16mm
Scratch dir. Deirdre Logue | Canada 1998 | 2 min. | 16mm on video
Moohead dir. Deirdre Logue | Canada 1999 | 1 min. | 16mm on video
Eclipse dir. Deirdre Logue | Canada 2005 | 4.5 min. | video
Velvet Crease dir. Deirdre Logue | Canada 2012 | 2 min. | video
Maya Deren’s Sink dir. Barbara Hammer | USA 2011 | 29 min. | video

Approx. total running time: 87 min.

Sunday, April 7, 7:00pm