Tender Fictions, 1995

The Risky Visions of Barbara Hammer

American experimental filmmaker
June 12 to July 1, 2012

Since the early 1970s, Barbara Hammer has claimed the double identity of feminist and lesbian activist. Pioneer of queer cinema, she has gained an international reputation in the field of American experimental cinema.

From her earliest films (X, Dyketactics, Superdyke), her boldness is evident in the enthusiastic and lyrical exploration of sexuality and women’s pleasure, previously terra incognita in the geography of cinema. For this, it invents new formal representations of flower and plant outbursts (Women I Love) to a symbolic vocabulary close to Surrealism, revealing its proximity with Maya Deren, and Claude Cahun (I Was / Am I, Psychosynthesis) and two recent works (Maya Deren’s Sink and Lover Other: Claude Cahun and Marcel Moore).

The creative energy of Barbara Hammer fires up all of the rich technical syntax of the avant-garde: superimposed layering of images, visual collage, coloring or alteration of the film, de-framing, use of solarized and negative film, and editing in post production to transform the movie into poetic form by manipulating the film before our eyes (Endangered). All these effects contribute to the technical deployment of a work rich in radiant colors and sounds more and more skillfully worked (Generations). Even in her many films shot in black and white, Barbara Hammer is a filmmaker of light and perceptual experiments. She is also highly attentive to the accompanying sound of her films: music and sound effects that give a color, a tone, sometimes lyrical and sometimes humorous, to films that accompany the memory they hold.

From the first shooting in super 8mm, she films alone or with her friends, making public the most private chapters of her life. Parallel to the personal films are works of memory archives and hidden lesbian and gay histories, forming a trilogy: Nitrate Kisses (1992), Tender Fiction (1995) and History Lessons (2000).Her work evolves over time: in 2000, she filmed Devotion in Japan about a kind of “community” of filmmakers centered around a charismatic producer, and Resisting Paradise in 2003, which questions “how to be an artist in during war?” In 2007, she made a documentary about women divers from the Korean island of Jeju-Do, South Korea. In 2011, her latest film is a tribute to the filmmaker Maya Deren which she made after finishing in 2008, a painful movie A Horse Is Not A Metaphor where her fight against cancer is assisted by her of love of energy and life both intimately connected to the beauty of nature.Jeu de Paume website

This video clip was produced by the Jeu de Paume’s online magazine. ©Jeu de Paume, Paris, 2012