Barbara Hammer: Dignity
February 16 - April 13 2013
Open Wed–Sun 12–18h
KOW, Brunnenstr. 9, 10119 Berlin
The experimental filmmaker, documentarist, and visual artist Barbara Hammer, who was born in Hollywood in 1939, has created one of the most influential oeuvres of Queer Cinema. Over the course of a lifetime, the pioneering lesbian film activist has put together a comprehensive manifesto of feminist perspectives. Our first solo exhibition of Barbara Hammer’s work, in 2011, emphasized her contributions to the (self-)representation of lesbian love and sexuality in the 1970s; in this new show, by contrast, we focus on a parallel strand in her oeuvre that commences in the mid-1980s: Hammer’s engagement with illness, aging, and death.
The centerpiece of the exhibition, which was designed in collaboration with the artist, is “Sanctus” (1990). Hammer uses moving X-ray pictures Dr. James Sibley Watson produced in the 1950s that capture—usually female—bodies in motion.(1) Watson had turned his study subjects’ bodies into a spectacle, subjecting them to visualization and medico-technical manipulation that cut to the quick; Hammer exalts these bodies, presenting them now as threatened, now as threatening, restoring their sensual presence. She copies, crops, and cross-fades Watson’s archival footage, painting on it and using chemicals to burn it. Hammer animates a danse macabre of female skeletons. This is more than a feminist and erotic reappropriation of the female body beset by technology and pathology—it is its canonization, supported on the original soundtrack by the composer Neil B. Rolnick’s computer-generated mass “Sanctus.”(2)