Barbara Hammer 30th November-15th December. Exhibition extended until December 21st

Photo: Susan Wides

Barbara Hammer retrospective
30th November – 15th December. Exhibition extended until December 21st.

Kunsthall Oslo is very pleased to present the work of the renowned American film-maker Barbara Hammer to a Norwegian audience for the first time. Hammer will personally introduce this wide-ranging retrospective with a talk, “Hammer! Making Movies Out of Sex and Life”, on Friday November 29th at 7pm.

For over four decades, Barbara Hammer (born 1939) has been making formally experimental and culturally groundbreaking films exploring cinema, biography, history and sexuality. Her breakthrough 1974 film Dyketactics has been called “the first lesbian lovemaking film made by a lesbian” and the Museum of Modern Art in New York describes her as one of the key experimental film-makers of her generation. A review of Hammer’s recent Tate Modern retrospective concluded: “It’s glorious, all this fresh energy.” Twenty-seven of Hammer’s key works will be screened at Kunsthall Oslo over two weeks, from her career production of over 80 film and video works.

Barbara Hammer: The absence of visual mothers for the moving-image maker presents a particular vacuum and accounts for some of the aesthetics of a lesbian filmmaker today. As there has never been a lesbian film-maker whose life and work I could study, I study my own life, and by doing so make work that attempts to partly fill the dearth of lesbian herstory for lesbians of the twenty-first century.

Film program
Part I is screened in the exhibition space throughout the exhibition period.
Cinema room:
Part II and III, films from 1970s-80s: 30th. Nov-8th. Dec and 18th.-21st Dec.
Part IV og V, films from 1990s- and 00s;  11th.-15th. Dec.

Part I: Barbara Ward Will Never Die
The Early Films 19681972
Hammer’s first films were made before she went to film school, and were shot using a handheld 8mm and Super 8mm camera without sound. They can be seen as marking her transition to a new life, both personally and artistically: in particular, her second film, Barbara Ward Will Never Die, refers to her former identity as a married woman with another’s name.

Barbara Ward Will Never Die, 1968. Super 8mm film, colour/silent, 3 min.
Schizy, 1968. Super 8mm film, colour/silent, 4 min. (Hammer’s first film)
Play or ‘Yes,’ ‘Yes,’ ‘Yes’, 1970. Super 8mm film, colour/silent, 11 min.
Elegy, 1970. Super 8mm film, colour/silent, 3 min.
Marie and Me, 1970. 8mm film, colour/silent, 12 min.
Traveling, 1970. Super 8mm film, colour/silent, 8 min.
Yellowhammer, 1972. Super 8mm film, colour/silent, 3 min.

Part II: I was/I amThe 1970s
The films from the 1970s are early self-portraits, a first exploration of lesbian identity and sexuality through both peformance and humour. Here, Hammer is as much in front of the camera as behind it. Structurally, the films explore the relationship to time; real-time, repetition and what Hammer describes as “the ritual of erotic time”.

I Was/I Am, 1973
16mm film, b/w, 6:30 min.
Hammer’s first film on 16mm refers to Maya Deren and her film Meshes in the Afternoon (1943). As in Deren’s film, the protagonist takes a key out of her mouth, but in Hammer’s film the key is for a motorcycle – and liberation. I transition from a princess with a white gown and tiara into a motorcycle dyke wearing leather.

“X”, 1973
16mm film, colour/sound, 7:42 min.
A self-referential film where “I”, “my” and “me” is repeated like a mantra. Hammer describes it as a ritual film where she literally breaks out of the chains that hold her. Ritualistic because naming is a repetitive process. We say over and over again who we are.

Dyketactics , 1974
16mm film, colour/sound, 4 min.
The starting point was a desire to make a feature film, but Hammer cut it down to four minutes, to what she describes as “a lesbian commercial.” The movie is considered to be Hammer’s breakthrough early film.The film’s thesis is the connection between perception and touch is a lesbian aesthetic. My life changed through touching another woman whose body was similar to my own. My sense of touch became my connection to the screen. I wanted the screen to be felt by the audience in their own bodies.

Menses, 1974
16mm film, colour/sound, 4 min.
Menses confronts the silence surrounding the (then) taboo topic of menstruation.[B]ut it is also a satire, a satire on the Disney and Disney-type film many of us junior high school prepubescent girls watched. They were all lace and daisies and muted whispers around the flow. What a farce.

Superdyke, 1975
16mm film, colour/sound, 25 min.
One of Hammer’s most popular films, Superdyke documents an activist performance where a group of women take over the streets of San Francisco.
We made cardboard Amazon shields and tee-shirts, and took over City Hall and Macy˙s department store. Performance was in the air and it was all in a day’s work.

Women I Love, 1976
16mm film, colour/sound, 25 min.
Formally experimental, poetic portraits of five women who were close to Hammer in the 70s (… ) each shot in a style reflective of the relationship and featuring Tee Corinne, Max Almy, Cynthia McAdams, Ruth Mahaney, Gloria Churchman.

Double Strength, 1978
16mm film, colour/sound, 16 min.
The film portrays four different stages in a relationship, illustrated by performance artists (Hammer and Terry Sengraff) on trapeze and ropes. The film moves back and forth from physical weight and space to emotional or relational weight/space.

Sync Touch, 1981
16mm film, colour/sound, 10 min.
Sync Touch explores language, touch, rhythm and colour. Hammer brings her Bolex camera into bed in a desire to represent the connection between what we see and what we touch. In film-making my aesthetic is the connection between sight and touch.

Part III: Optic NerveThe 1980s
In the eighties Hammer starts to turn away from the naked female body and focuses increasingly on the outside world, the formal aspects of the medium, and on technology. Meanwhile, the awareness of what she calls an active cinema continues with films that engage their audience physically and engender reactions on both a personal and political level. Interactive cinema is not an escape. It is its own experience.

Optic Nerve, 1985
16mm film, colour/sound by Helen Thorington, 16 min.
Super 8mm footage of Hammer’s grandmother in a nursing home, processed using an optical printer. The film was included in the 1985 Whitney Museum of American Art biennial and led to Hammer’s recognition by the established art scene. The emotional feeling of pushing her through that door and down those sterile halls can be felt in the film as I tried to introduce emotional feeling to structural film.

Stone Circles, 1983
16mm film, colour/sound, 12 min.
A poetic travelogue from Stonehenge. Hammer is here concerned with suggesting a bodily connection to the Earth and to nature. The move from locating the film image from intense interior-looking and identity-naming to a broad-claiming geography.

Dolls House, 1984
16mm film, colour/sound, 4 min.
Dolls House uses classic stop-motion animation and morbid humour to illustrate the difficult housing situation for an artist in New York.

Snow Job: The Media Hysteria of AIDS, 1986
Video, colour/sound, 9 min.
A video collage of mass-media hysteric headlines and the stigmatization of homosexuals amounting to a snow mound.

No No Nooky T.V., 1987
16mm film, colour/sound, 12 min.
Hammer questions stereotypical portrayals of lesbian identity with new technology, an Amiga computer, reworking material from earlier films with an added layer of digital playfulness. No No Nooky T.V. confronts the feminist controversy around sexuality with electronic language, pixels and interface . Even the monitor is eroticized in this film/video hybrid that points fun at romance, sexuality, and love in our post- industrial age .

Endangered, 1988
16mm film, colour/sound by Helen Thorington, 19 min.
The vulnerability of the Galapagos Islands’ ecosystem in parallel with the dominance of digital image-making over celluloid. I went to the Galapagos islands to mourn the loss of light through atmospheric pollution as well as the demise of film, I created a memento mori of the things I love, living creatures.

Part IV: Nitrate KissesThe 90s
In the nineties Hammer moves towards themes of transience, life and death. Nitrate Kisses is the beginning of a revisionist approach to history and storytelling. Questions of who makes history and who is left out and the stark editing contrasts mark this feature-length essay documentary Hammer’s second breakthrough film and her first selected for the Sundance Film Festival. Hammer deliberately continues to choose 16mm film over digital formats.

Sanctus, 1990
16mm film, colour & b/w, sound by Neil B. Rolnick, 19 min.
Found footage from the work of James Sibley Watson (1894–1982), a physician and early experimental filmmaker, rephotographed with an optical printer. Watson’s 35mm moving X-ray images are reconstructed and assembled into a film about the human body’s vulnerability and fragile beauty.

Vital Signs, 1991
16mm film, colour & b/w, sound, 9 min.
Hammer embraces and dances with death, in the form of a six-hundred-year-old skeleton. Bringing the bones close to my own helped me face my father’s imminent death as well as my own mortality.

Nitrate kisses, 1992
16mm film, b&w/sound, 67 min.
A feature-length documentary essay based around the stories that are missing, cut out, hidden away, discarded. I made Nitrate Kisses because lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgendered people have been left out of history. Our deviance has been too threatening: our presence so queer!

Part V: 00sMaya Deren’s Sink
Hammer continues the reinscription of marginalized queer histories that she began in Nitrate Kisses. The essay History Lessons is based on archive material and deals with the historic representation of lesbian women. In Generations, she mentors and challenges a young filmmaker. The film program ends with Maya Deren’s Sink, a tribute to Hammer’s artistic role model and early inspiration.

History Lessons, 2000
16mm film, colour/sound, 66 min.
A comic look at how lesbians have been portrayed in mainstream culture. Hammer takes negative images of lesbians made by men and turns them inside out making a comedy out of a tragedy. Lesbian representations in the past were made ​​by men and were either pornographic or “scientific”.

Generations, 2010
16mm film, colour/b&w/sound. In collaboration with Gina Carducci. 30 min.
The basis for this experimental film is two artists working with the same audio and visual material but editing it separately. I want to give back, to continue the tradition of avant-garde filmmaking.

Maya Deren’s Sink, 2011
HD video, colour/b& w/sound by Meredith Monk, 30 min.
Another tribute to Maya Deren, one of the most most influential experimental filmmakers in the American avant-garde. Maya Deren’s Sink explores Deren’s concepts of space, time and form through visits and projections filmed in her LA and NY homes. Light projections in Deren’s intimate space evoke a former time and space providing entree into the homes of an influential filmmaker we will never know.

Barbara Hammer was born in Hollywood in 1939 and lives and works in New York City. She holds an MA in film from San Francisco State University, an MA in English Literature from San Francisco State University and a BA in Psychology from the University of California, Los Angeles, in addition to a post-Masters in Multi-Media Digital Studies from the American Film Institute, Los Angeles, California. Her film and video work are represented in collections such as Museum of Modern Art (NY), The Donnell Library (NY), The Centre George Pompidou (Paris), The Australian Center for The Moving Image (Melbourne), The National Film Archive (Brussels), The Nederland Film Archive (Amsterdam), and Taiwan National Film Library (Taipei). Her films and videos have been presented in retrospective exhibitions at The Museum of Modern Art in New York in 2010, The Tate Modern in London in 2012, and Jeu de Paume in Paris in 2012. Her films have been screened at international film festivals worldwide, and she has received several international awards, most recently the Teddy Award at the Berlin Film Festival in 2009. Hammer teaches at the European Graduate School, Saas-Fee, Switzerland, and is a Guggenheim Fellow for 2013-14.