Barbara Hammer makes documentaries that tell the stories of marginalized peoples who have been hidden from history and are often essay films that are multi-leveled and engage audiences viscerally and intellectually with the goal of activating them to make social change.
“I choose film and video to make the invisible, visible. I am compelled to reveal and celebrate queer and other people whose stories have not been told. I make a multi-level cinema that engages audiences viscerally and emboldens them intellectually. My current work has turned towards recovering missing histories of lesbian artists and is inspired by the words of Gayatri Spivak who cautions against an uncritical archivism leading to nostalgia.” Barbara Hammer
Her experimental films of the 1970′s have recently been highlighted as pioneer queer work and were featured at retrospectives at The Museum of Modern Art New York; Tate Modern London, and Jeu de Paume, Paris and dozens of cinematheques, gay and lesbian film festivals worldwide. Her optically printed films of the 80′s Optic Nerve (1985) and Endangered (1988) were selected for the Whitney Museum of American Art Biennials (’85,’89). In 1992, Hammer made her first feature documentary, Nitrate Kisses, recovering lost queer histories in the U.S. and Europe. It premiered to acclaim at the Sundance Film Festival, received theatrical release in New York and Los Angeles, and was chosen for the 1993 Whitney Museum of American Art Biennial. Hammer was a Fulbright Senior Specialist in Fall 2005 at the Bratislava Academy of Art and Design, Slovakia; she received the first Shirley Clarke Avant-Garde Filmmaker Award in October 2006 from New York Women in Film and Television; and the Women In Film Award 2006 from the St. Louis International Film Festival.
Her films have been shown on the Sundance Channel (My Babushka: Searching Ukrainian identities (2000); Resisting Paradise (2003), theatrical venues (Nitrate Kisses, History Lessons (2000) and Maya Deren’s Sink (2011). Maya Deren’s Sink, her most recent film, recovered personal stories of people who knew the ‘mother of avant-garde film’ and was shot in Deren’s Los Angeles and New York homes. It was an Academy Award finalist for best short documentary (’11) and won the Teddy Award at the 2011 Berlinale for Best Short Film.
She has received several grants and fellowships including a Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study Fellowship (2001-2), Camargo Fellowship (’99), NYSCA film production and distribution (’90,’97,’01,’05’08), NYFA (’87,’91,’97,’01,12), Japan Foundation Fellowship (‘99), Soros Foundation Film Production (‘98), Creative Capital (‘00), Fleck Fellowship at Banff Centre for the Arts (‘11), Art Matters and Art Links (’97), and a Jerome Foundation (’82), Western and Mid Western Media Grants (’88,’90), Astraea (’95) and The Metropolitan Transit Authority Award for Art in the Subways (’88) and a Jerome Foundation Grant (’82),
In February 2007, she was awarded a tribute and retrospective at the Chinese Cultural University in Taipei, Taiwan. The Leo Award from the Flaherty Film Seminar was presented to her in 2008 for making a significant contribution to documentary film. She received the Southern Circuit Travel Award (’04) with Resisting Paradise, 3 Cineprobes at The Museum of Modern Art (’85,’91,’95), and the John D. Phelan Award in Film (’88) and Film (’91). Diving Women of Jeju-do (’09) premiered at the Seoul International Women’s Film Festival. In 2011 she was a guest and honored at the 10th Beijing Queer Film Festival. She also traveled to Shanghai and Xi’an to show work at small, unfunded organizations. A series of programs, “Homage to Barbara Hammer”, will celebrate her work at Dok Leipzig in October 2012 where she will also be a judge and lead a Master Class.
Hammer’s experimental documentary film on her own survival story from ovarian cancer, A Horse Is Not A Metaphor (2008), partially funded by Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital, premiered at the Frameline International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival in San Francisco and at Doc Fortnight at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. It won the Teddy Award for Best Short Film at the 2009 Berlinale and the Black Maria Film Festival. It was selected for Punta de Vista Film Festival in Bilbao, Spain; the
Torino Gay and Lesbian Film Festival in Italy; the International Women’s Film Festival Dortmund/ Koln, and the Festival de Films des Femmes Creteil among others.
In March 2010 her autobiographical book, Hammer! Making Movies Out of Sex and Life published by The Feminist Press at the City University of New York was launched in a performance at the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York. A 2010 book tour included The Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, California; The University of Michigan at Ann Arbor; the British Film Institute in London, England; the Experimental Film Congress in Toronto, Canada; the University of California at San Diego Visual Arts Department; the San Francisco Cinematheque Crossroads Festival; the Northwest Film Center at the Portland Art Museum, and the Northwest Film Forum in Seattle, Washington. Hammer! won The Judy Grahn Award for Lesbian Nonfiction, The Publishing Triangle and the Lambda Award for Best Lesbian Memoir Writing.
Her films and videos are in the permanent collections of The 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 the Taiwan National Film Library (Taipei).
Hammer was honored with a month long retrospectives of most of her films and videos at The Museum of Modern Art in New York (2010) in 2010, The Tate Modern in London (2012), and Jeu de Paume in Paris (2012). The Tate Modern and Mousse Publishing (Rome) will release a book in 2013 based on the Tate Modern retrospective curated by Stuart Comer and titled “Fearless Frames: The Films of Barbara Hammer”.
She is represented by the gallery Koch Oberhuber Woolfe in Berlin, Germany and teaches each summer at The European Graduate School in Saas-Fee, Switzerland. Barbara Hammer lives and works in New York City.