Barbara Hammer

Professor of Film at The European Graduate School / EGS.

Barbara Hammer†

Biography

Barbara Hammer (May 15, 1939 – March 16, 2019) was a lesbian filmmaker and widely held to be an originator of queer cinema. A highly prolific filmmaker and videographer, Barbara Hammer has directed over eighty films and videos throughout her thirty-year career. Barbara Hammer made the world’s first lesbian films in 1974 (Dyketactics) and 1976 (Women I Love). Since then she has made over three dozen films. Her most recent feature length films include Lover Other (2006) and Resisting Paradise (2003).

Barbara Hammer was the grandchild of D.W. Griffith’s cook, and she was introduced to such screen luminaries as Lillian Gish as a child. However, it was not until the 1970s when Barbara left her marriage and took off on a motorcycle that she began her own filmmaking career. In 1974, while attending school in UCLA, the young Barbara met a group of women and realized she was both a lesbian and a feminist. Her early films from the 1970s, which were experimental shorts ranging from three to twenty-five minutes in length, explored the themes of sapphic desire and processes of female reproduction. In 1974, Barbara Hammer introduced the first lesbian film to the world, Dyketatics. The film was a short and was shot close-up in all black and white. The film features real sex between two women, Hammer and a friend, the film was very controversial and groundbreaking. Barbara says the following about the film in an interview with BOMB magazine:

“I was lucky when I made Dyketactics I didn’t realize that it was the first lesbian film made by a lesbian. I would have been so afraid and intimidated. Instead, I just burst out and let my energy carry me through my work. In some ways being alone was great. There was a blank screen and I was filling it. That was a thrill. At the end of Dyketactics, I showed a vagina on the screen and this man screamed, AAAAAAAHHHH! All the women said, Haven’t you seen that before?

Barbara Hammer’s work has received international exposure and recognition. In 2007, The Chinese Cultural University Digital Imaging Center, Taiwan, held a retrospective for Barbara Hammer as a tribute to her work. Hammer’s films, most of them shot on Super-8 or 16mm film, engage in a dialectic with the material dimension of film. This can be seen clearly in her film Sanctus (1990), which was created from previously shot film of moving x-rays by Dr. James Sibley Watson. The technological dimension of bodily movements and functions emerges in pulsating visual sentences overlapping text, portrait, and diagram. Sanctus, as well as her work in the 1980s, makes use of optical printing as a means of transgressing the purity of perception. Hammer also uses archival footage in her films, for example footage of Black Panther rallies and labor strikes in the film Tender Fictions (1996), to contextualize her personal experience as a lesbian filmmaker.

Barbara Hammer has always proudly declared to be both a feminist and a lesbian, as she says in an interview with Ellen.com:

“I was told by feminists who were promoting writers and performers at the time, I should choose. Which did I want to be? Either an avant-garde artist or a lesbian filmmaker, I couldn’t be both. I just never could make that choice, because I love both. I just followed my instincts and made films about what I needed to make films about.”

Barbara Hammer’s documentary films tend to deal with people and groups who have been excluded and relegated to the margins of history. Functioning neither as objective historical documents nor as subjective diaries, her films are intended to situate the viewer within a historical process so as to engage with the struggles for liberation. Her film Nitrate Kisses (1992) was chosen for the 1993 Whitney Biennial. Barbara Hammer was a Fulbright Senior Specialist in Fall 2005 at the Bratislava Academy of Art and Design, Slovakia.

Hammer embraces a unique optimism and powerful strength for the future, in an interview with BOMB magazine she says:

“Yes! I also think it’s time for idealism again. We have been living in cynicism, depression, and a sort of status quo for a number of years. I don’t think we can have a diversified culture by just accepting it. We need our personal energies behind that. Every place that I’ve been teaching, I bring together everyone in the classroom. I see apathy and I say to them, ‘This is our time, let’s try it again.’ We need to learn how to grab hold of the life force again. That use of the erotic that Audre Lorde wrote about so beautifully. She was our great living representative. Somebody who has changed all of our lives. She told me if I ever encountered a racist comment, to not let it go by. I extend that to anti-Semitism, to homophobia, a comment on size or looks, all the different ways that we as people feel the need to disparage each other.”

Barbara Hammer 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. In April 2008, Diving Women of Jeju-do premiered at the Seoul International Women’s Film Festival, where Barbara Hammer presented, followed by a trip to Beijing where she showed her 1970 lesbian films to a Feminist Seminar and a new LGTQI Center.

One of her most recent works is an experimental film on cancer and hope, A Horse Is Not A Metaphor, which she premiered in June 2008 at the 32nd Frameline International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival in San Francisco. A Horse Is Not A Metaphor was selected for the Documentary Fortnight at the Museum of Modern Art and the Berlin International Film Festival in February 2009, where it won the Teddy Award for Best Queer Short Film. The film was also in the short film competition at Punta de Vista Film Festival in Pamplona, Spain and Festival des Films des Femmes, Creteil, France.

In 2010, the MOMA in New York held a month long retrospective honoring Barbara Hammer’s impressive and innovative lifetime of work. The show included screenings of I Was/I Am (1983), Bent Time (1983), Optic Nerve (1985) and A Horse Is Not A Metaphor (2008). The show included some of her lesser known plays and performance pieces including her role as Bob Hammer in Tender Fictions (1995), and other performance-related projects like Homage to Sappho (1978), Put a Lesbian in the Whitehouse (1979), Available Space (1979), Changing the Shape of FilmMoving Projector, and Balloon Projection (all 2009).The show included the world premier of her newest film Generations (2010), made in collaboration with Gina Carducci.

Barbara Hammer teaches each summer at The European Graduate School / EGS in Saas-Fee, Switzerland. She lives and works in New York City. She has had retrospectives at The Berlin Film Festival and Centre Pompidou, Paris, in 1985; the Digital University, Taiwan, in 2005; and Universitad Complutense, Madrid, in 2008. Barbara Hammer received an IASPIS artist residency for 2009 in Sweden. Her memoir HAMMER, Making It in Sex and Movies is from the Feminist Press at CUNY and was published in the spring of 2010. The book covers the wild days of non-monogamy in the 1970s, the development of a queer aesthetic in the 1980s, the fight for visibility during the culture wars of the 1990s, and her search for meaning as she contemplates mortality in 2000s—HAMMER! includes texts from these periods, new writings, and fully contextualized film stills to create a memoir as innovative and disarming as her work has always been. The publication of the book coincided with a retrospective at The Museum of Modern Art in New York City, the Reina Sophia in Madrid, and the Tate Modern in London. In 2011, Barbara won the TEDDY for the Best Short Film: “Generations” by Barbara Hammer and Gina Carducci & “Maya Deren’s Sink” by Barbara Hammer.

Works

Books

HAMMER!: Making Movies Out of Sex and Life, Hammer, Barbara. HAMMER!: Making Movies Out of Sex and Life. The Feminist Press at CUNY, 2010. ISBN: 1558616144

Articles

Beyond The Coffee House

Hammer, Barbara. “Beyond The Coffee House.” GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies Vol. 14, No. 1 (2008).

Chapters

Maya Deren and me

Hammer, Barbara. “Maya Deren and me.” In Maya Deren and the American Avant-Garde, edited by Bill Nichols, 261-265. University of California Press, 2001. ISBN: 0520227328

Interviews

An Interview With Barbara Hammer

Hammer, Barbara, and Trish Bendix. “An Interview With Barbara Hammer.” After Ellen, March 8, 2010.

Barbara Hammer Interview for Mütter Museum

Hammer, Barbara, and Dr. Robert Hicks. “Barbara Hammer Interview for Mütter Museum.” Lamda Literary, March 10, 2010.

Interview

Hammer, Barbara, Tricia Spoto, and Naomi Brussel. “Interview.” Out-FM, March 29, 2010.

Open Your Eyes: Experimental filmmaker Barbara Hammer looks back on her thirty-plus years in film

Hammer, Barbara, and Astra Taylor. “Open Your Eyes: Experimental filmmaker Barbara Hammer looks back on her thirty-plus years in film.” Filmmaker Magazine,Winter 2007.

An Inteview With Barbara Hammer

Hammer, Barbara, and Kate Haug. “An Inteview With Barbara Hammer.” Wide Angle Vol. 20, No. 1, January (1998).

“Uncommon History: An Interview with Barbara Hammer

Hammer, Barbara, and Holly Willis. “Uncommon History: An Interview with Barbara Hammer.” Film Quarterly Vol. 47, No. 4, Summer (1994): 7-13.

Films

Generations

Generations. Directed by Barbara Hammer. 2010.

​A Horse Is Not A Metaphor

A Horse Is Not A Metaphor. Directed by Barbara Hammer. 2008.

​Diving Women of Jeju-do

Diving Women of Jeju-do. Directed by Barbara Hammer. 2007.

Villa Serbolloni

“Villa Serbolloni.” In Fucking Different New York. Directed by Barbara Hammer. Kristian Petersen Filmproduktion, 2007.

​Lover Other

Lover Other. Directed by Barbara Hammer. 2006.

Resisting Paradise

Resisting Paradise. Directed by Barbara Hammer. 2003.

My Babushka: Searching Ukrainian Identities

My Babushka: Searching Ukrainian Identities. Directed by Barbara Hammer. 2001.

​History Lessons

History Lessons. Directed by Barbara Hammer. 2000.

Devotion: A Film About Ogawa Productions

Devotion: A Film About Ogawa Productions. Directed by Barbara Hammer. 2000.

​Optical Nerves: The Films of Barbara Hammer Vol. 4

Optical Nerves: The Films of Barbara Hammer Vol. 4. Directed by Barbara Hammer. Facets, 1998.

​The Female Closet

The Female Closet. Directed by Barbara Hammer. 1998.

​Blue Film No. 6: Love Is Where You Find It

Blue Film No. 6: Love Is Where You Find It. Directed by Barbara Hammer. 1998.

​Tender Fictions

Tender Fictions. Directed by Barbara Hammer. 1995.

Out in South Africa

Out in South Africa. Directed by Barbara Hammer. 1994.

​Shirley Temple and Me

Shirley Temple and Me. Directed by Barbara Hammer. 1993.

​Save Sex

Save Sex. Directed by Barbara Hammer. 1993.

​Nitrate Kisses

Nitrate Kisses. Directed by Barbara Hammer. 1992.

​Vital Signs

Vital Signs. Directed by Barbara Hammer. 1991.

​Dr. Watson’s X-Rays

Dr. Watson’s X-Rays. Directed by Barbara Hammer. 1991.

​Sanctus

Sanctus. Directed by Barbara Hammer. 1990.

​Still Point

Still Point. Directed by Barbara Hammer. 1989.

​Endangered

Endangered. Directed by Barbara Hammer. 1988.

​Two Bad Daughters

Two Bad Daughters. Directed by Barbara Hammer. 1988.

​T.V. Tart

T.V. Tart. Directed by Barbara Hammer. 1988.

istory of the World According to a Lesbian

History of the World According to a Lesbian. Directed by Barbara Hammer. 1988.

​Bedtime Stories, I, II, III

Bedtime Stories, I, II, III. Directed by Barbara Hammer. 1988.

​Place Mattes

Place Mattes. Directed by Barbara Hammer. 1987.

​No No Nooky T.V.

No No Nooky T.V.. Directed by Barbara Hammer. 1987.

​Snow Job: The Media Hysteria of Aids

Snow Job: The Media Hysteria of Aids. Directed by Barbara Hammer. 1986.

​Optic Nerve

Optic Nerve. Directed by Barbara Hammer. 1985.

​Hot Flash

Hot Flash. Directed by Barbara Hammer. 1985.

​Would You Like To Meet Your Neighbor? A New York Subway Tape

Would You Like To Meet Your Neighbor? A New York Subway Tape. Directed by Barbara Hammer. 198.

​Doll House

Doll House. Directed by Barbara Hammer. 1984.

Tourist

Tourist. Directed by Barbara Hammer. 1984.

​Parisian Blinds

Parisian Blinds. Directed by Barbara Hammer. 1984.

​Pearl Diver

Pearl Diver. Directed by Barbara Hammer. 1984.

​Bent Time

Bent Time. Directed by Barbara Hammer. 1983.

​Stone Circles

Stone Circles. Directed by Barbara Hammer. 1983.

New York Loft

New York Loft. Directed by Barbara Hammer. 1983.

​See What You Hear What You See

See What You Hear What You See. Directed by Barbara Hammer. 1983.

​Pond and Waterfall

Pond and Waterfall. Directed by Barbara Hammer. 1982.

​Audience

Audience. Directed by Barbara Hammer. 1982.

​Sync Touch

Sync Touch. Directed by Barbara Hammer. 1981.

​Pools

Pools. Directed by Barbara Hammer. 1981.

​Arequipa

Arequipa. Directed by Barbara Hammer. 1981.

​Pictures for Barbara

Pictures for Barbara. Directed by Barbara Hammer. 1981.

The Lesbos Film

The Lesbos Film. Directed by Barbara Hammer. 1981.

​Our Trip

Our Trip. Directed by Barbara Hammer. 1980.

​Machu Piccu

Machu Piccu. Directed by Barbara Hammer. 1980.

​Bamboo Xerox

Bamboo Xerox. Directed by Barbara Hammer. 1980.

​Available Space

Available Space. Directed by Barbara Hammer. 1979.

​Dream Age

Dream Age. Directed by Barbara Hammer. 1979.

​Double Strength

Double Strength. Directed by Barbara Hammer. 1978.

​Haircut

Haircut. Directed by Barbara Hammer. 1978.

​Eggs

Eggs. Directed by Barbara Hammer. 1978.

​Sappho

Sappho. Directed by Barbara Hammer. 1978.

Home

Home. Directed by Barbara Hammer. 1978.

The Great Goddess

The Great Goddess. Directed by Barbara Hammer. 1977.

Multiple Orgasm

Multiple Orgasm. Directed by Barbara Hammer. 1976.

​Women I Love

Women I Love. Directed by Barbara Hammer. 1976

​Stress Scars & Pleasure Wrinkles

Stress Scars & Pleasure Wrinkles. Directed by Barbara Hammer. 1976.

Moon Goddess

Moon Goddess. Directed by Barbara Hammer. 1976.

Superdyke Meets Madame X
Superdyke Meets Madame X. Directed by Barbara Hammer. 1976.

​Jane Brakhage

Jane Brakhage. Directed by Barbara Hammer. 1975.

​Psychosynthesis

Psychosynthesis. Directed by Barbara Hammer. 1975.

​“X”

“X”. Directed by Barbara Hammer. 1975.

​Superdyke

Superdyke. Directed by Barbara Hammer. 1975.

​Dyketactics

Dyketactics. Directed by Barbara Hammer. 1974.

​Menses

Menses. Directed by Barbara Hammer. 1974.

​Women’s Rites or Truth is the Daughter of Time

Women’s Rites or Truth is the Daughter of Time. Directed by Barbara Hammer. 1974.

Sisters!

Sisters! Directed by Barbara Hammer. 1974.

​A Gay Day

A Gay Day. Directed by Barbara Hammer. 1973.

​I Was/I Am

I Was/I Am. Directed by Barbara Hammer. 1973.

​Yellow Hammer

Yellow Hammer. Directed by Barbara Hammer. 1973.

​Song of the Klinking Kup

Song of the Klinking Kup. Directed by Barbara Hammer. 1973.

​A Brakhage Song

A Brakhage Song. Directed by Barbara Hammer. 1972.

​Traveling

Traveling. Directed by Barbara Hammer. 1970.

​Marie and Me

Marie and Me. Directed by Barbara Hammer. 1970.

Elegy

Elegy. Directed by Barbara Hammer. 1970.

​Barbara Ward Will Never Die

Barbara Ward Will Never Die. Directed by Barbara Hammer. 1968.

​Schizy

Schizy. Directed by Barbara Hammer. 1968.

Lectures

Barbara Hammer†

Meshes with Maya Deren

06.05.2011
Barbara Hammer†

Resisting Paradise. Video Lecture Documentary 4/4

09.05.2005
Barbara Hammer†

Resisting Paradise. Video Lecture Documentary 3/4

09.05.2005
Barbara Hammer†

Resisting Paradise. Video Lecture Documentary 2/4

09.05.2005
Barbara Hammer†

Resisting Paradise. Video Lecture Documentary 1/4

09.05.2005
Barbara Hammer†

Film, Creativity and Process. Lecture Video 3/3

05.05.2004
Barbara Hammer†

Film, Creativity and Process. Lecture Video 2/3

05.05.2004
Barbara Hammer†

Film, Creativity and Process. Lecture Video 1/3

05.05.2004