Experimental filmmaker Barbara Hammer is widely celebrated as a pioneer of queer cinema. In collaboration with The National Museum of Art, Architecture & Design, Kunstnernes Hus Cinema is screening a selection of Hammer’s films. The screening will be followed by a conversation with filmmaker Lynne Sachs, a close friend and collaborator of Hammer’s.
About the shorts
The program of shorts includes five films by Hammer, Dyketactics (1974), Women I Love (1976), Sync Touch (1981), Sanctus (1990) and A Horse is Not a Metaphor (2018), films which explore lesbian sexuality and identity, the female body and mortality. In addition, the program includes Lynne Sachs’ A Month of Single Frames (2018), which Sachs made from footage, drawings and texts produced by Hammer during an art residency at Cape Cod in Massachusetts, USA.
About the filmmaker
In 1973, American filmmaker Barbara Hammer (1939-2019) produced her breakthrough film Dyketactics, often considered to be the first lesbian-made film showing sex between women. Over the course of her 40-year career, Hammer produced more than 100 films and videos. With her focus on taboo subjects such as orgasm, menstruation and lesbian sex, many of her works are still considered controversial today.
Hammer’s films have previously been shown at museums such as Tate Modern and MoMA. In 2013, Kunsthall Oslo held a large retrospective of Hammer’s work.
About the event
Motstrøms is a screenings series of films at The National Museum showcasing bold, innovative and entertaining films that move between traditional cinema and art. Throughout 2022, the programme will feature pioneers of queer cinema and showcase films and video by or about artists.
The film screenings are part of The National Museum’s program for Queer Culture Year 2022 and are shown in collaboration with Kunstnernes Hus Cinema. Queer Culture Year 2022 celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Norway.
Barbara Hammer – Dyketactics (1974, 4 min)
Barbara Hammer – Women I Love (1976, 22 min)
Barbara Hammer – Sync Touch (1981, 10 min)
Barbara Hammer – Sanctus (1990, 18 min)
Barbara Hammer – A Horse is not a Metaphore (2018, 30 min)
Lynne Sachs, Barbara Hammer – A Month of Single Frames (2018, 14 min)
On Wildness Screening with Barbara Hammer, Cherry Kino e Lynne Sachs Curated by Margarida Mendes Opening: February 9th Sessions between Tuesday – Saturday at 6 pm
Honouring the work of Barbara Hammer as seminal to generations of artists, this session celebrates erotic freedom in communion with nature through the hands of multiple filmmakers. The examples of ‘tactile cinema’ here presented, investigate personal narratives and close up visions of the elemental pluriverse that surrounds their cameras, through an auto-ethnographic gaze that is disclosed in intimate portraits. With the playful curiousity of experimental cinematography, that has its origins in animation, light and focus games, the films gathered appeal to the spectator’s synesthesia, opening doors to humour and ecosexual desire. In a shift of perspectives characteristic of Hammer’s cinema, that is as audaciously revealing as it is disconcerting, sensorial hierarchies and worldviews are undone.
PROGRAMME Garden of Polymitas by Cherry Kino 2014, 10min, Super8 film on video
A Month of Single Frames by Lynne Sachs with Barbara Hammer 2019, 14min, 16mm film on video
Women I Love by Barbara Hammer Courtesy of the Hammer Estate and Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI), New York 1976, 22:39 min, 16 mm film on video
CURATOR BIOGRAPHY Margarida Mendes’ research explores the overlap between infrastructure, ecology, experimental film and sound practices – investigating environmental transformations and their impact on societal structures and cultural production. She has curated several exhibitions and was part of the curatorial team of the 11th Liverpool Biennale (2021); the 4th Istanbul Design Biennial (2018); and the 11th Gwangju Biennale (2016). She consults for Sciaena environmental NGO working on marine policy and deep-sea mining and has co-directed several educational platforms, such as escuelita, an informal school at Centro de Arte Dos de Mayo – CA2M, Madrid and the ecological research platform The World In Which We Occur/Matter in Flux. Between 2009-2015, Mendes directed The Barber Shop, a project space in Lisbon dedicated to transdisciplinary research. She is a PhD candidate at the Centre for Research Architecture, Goldsmiths University of London.
OVID in February Includes 32 Films with 10 Exclusive Streaming Premieres
Five French cinema classics, acclaimed Asian cinema, films by Charles Burnett and Shirley Clarke, and much more!
OVID.tv is proud to announce its February slate of thirty-two (32) streaming releases, including ten (10) exclusively streaming on OVID.
OVID’s February slate celebrates Black History Month with eight classic films exploring the Black experience at home and abroad. These include the 1948 documentary STRANGE VICTORY (branded communist propaganda at the time of its release), COME BACK, AFRICA, and Charles Burnett’s memorable slice of life drama MY BROTHER’S WEDDING.
Just in time for Valentine’s Day, OVID is proud to premiere five classic French films in February. The fun begins with three films by the French filmmaker and screenwriter Marc Allégret: the swooning 1955 melodrama SCHOOL FOR LOVE (starring a young Brigitte Bardot), the 1955 D.H. Lawrence adaptation LADY CHATTERLY’S LOVER, and the delightfully fluffy 1953 farce JULIETTA.
A week later, OVID offers up two seldom-seen films by Jacques Doniol-Valcroze, central figure of the French New Wave, author, actor, and co-founder of Cahiers du Cinéma: the racy 1960 film A GAME FOR SIX LOVERS (featuring music by Serge Gainsbourg) and the 1961 political thriller LA DENONCIATION (THE IMMORAL MOMENT).
Other titles in OVID’s February slate include Shirley Clarke’s Beat classic THE CONNECTION, the delightful Hong Kong genre farce VAMPIRE CLEANUP DEPARTMENT, Ilan Ziv’s eye-opening EXILE, A MYTH UNEARTHED, and five more indelible short films by OVID favorite Lynne Sachs.
Details on all films coming to OVID in February are below.
Wednesday, February 9
And Then We Marched Directed by Lynne Sachs, Documentary Short, 2017 US Filmmaker Lynne Sachs shoots Super 8mm film of the first Women’s March in 2017 in Washington, D.C. and intercuts this recent footage with archival material of early 20th Century Suffragists marching for the right to vote, 1960s antiwar activists and 1970s advocates for the Equal Rights Amendment.
A Biography of Lilith Directed by Lynne Sachs, Documentary Short, 1997 US In a lively mix of narrative, collage and memoir, A Biography of Lilith updates the creation myth by telling the story of the first woman. Lilith’s betrayal by Adam in Eden and subsequent vow of revenge is recast as a modern tale with a present-day Lilith musing on a life that has included giving up a baby for adoption and working as a bar dancer. Interweaving mystical texts from Jewish folklore with interviews, music and poetry, director Lynne Sachs reclaims this cabalistic parable to frame her own role as mother.
Tip of My Tongue Directed by Lynne Sachs, Documentary, 2017 US To celebrate her 50th birthday, filmmaker Lynne Sachs gathers together other people, men and women who have lived through precisely the same years but come from places like Iran or Cuba or Australia or the Lower East Side, not Memphis, Tennessee where Sachs grew up. She invites 12 fellow New Yorkers – born across several continents in the 1960s – to spend a weekend with her making a movie. Together they discuss some of the most salient, strange, and revealing moments of their lives in a brash, self-reflexive examination of the way in which uncontrollable events outside our own domestic universe impact who we are. (Anthology Film Archives Calendar).
A Month of Single Frames (for Barbara Hammer) Directed by Lynne Sachs, Documentary Short, 2019 US In 1998, experimental filmmaker Barbara Hammer took part in a one-month residency at a Cape Cod dune shack without running water or electricity, where she shot film, recorded sound and kept a journal. In 2018 she gave all of this material to Lynne Sachs and invited her to make a film with it.
A Year in Notes and Numbers Directed by Lynne Sachs, Documentary Short, 2017 US A year’s worth of to-do lists confronts the unavoidable numbers that are part and parcel of an annual visit to the doctor. The quotidian and the corporeal mingle and mix. Family commitments, errands and artistic effusions trade places with the daunting reality of sugar, cholesterol, and bone.
★ 12/26 ㊐ One-day limited screening!
Screening starts from 15:00
▼ Films (a total of four works / total of 58 minutes) Bent Time Vever (For Barbara) So Many Ideas Impossible To Do All A month of Single Frames (for Barbara Hammer)
[Requests and Notices] ★ Please be
sure to wear a mask inside the building.
▶ ︎Online tickets are on sale from 0:00 3 days before to 30 minutes before the screening!
* If the screening schedule is being adjusted, the above may not apply.
▮ Bent Time
USA / 1984/22 minutes
Director / Shoot / Edit: Barbara Hammer
Music: Pauline Oliveros
A work inspired by the remarks of scientists who advocated that light rays bend at the edge of the universe and that time also bends. Along with the meditative original score of electronic musician Pauline Oliveros, the scenery of Chaco Culture National Historical Park in New Mexico and the cityscape of Newyork, taken with a 9mm wide-angle lens, feels like time is distorted. Bring.
Ⓒ Courtesy Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI), New York
▮ Vever (For Barbara)
USA / 2019 / English / Color / Digital / 12 minutes
Director / Editing / Sound: Deborah Stratman
Shooting / Voice: Barbara Hammer
Text / Local Recording: Maya Deren Figure
: Sadaji Ito Music: Catherine Bournefeld, Sadaji Ito , George Hardau
Courtesy of: Pythagoras Film
A work created by Maya Deren and Barbara Hammer starting from their respective unfinished projects. A video of Hammer traveling on a motorcycle in Guatemala in 1975 is linked to a story about the rituals in Haiti that Delen met in the 1950s and his experience of failure. Three filmmakers of different generations explore the possibility of replacing the power structure of which they are part.
▮So Many Ideas Impossible To Do All
USA / 2019 / Color / Digital / 11 minutes Director / Edit :: Mark Street
Hammer, who was looking to create a work from the records of the correspondence between Jane Waudening (Brachage) and Barbara Hammer from 1973 to 1985, told the filmmaker Mark Street in 2018 that all the materials and “Jane”· A work produced by taking over the footage of “Brackage” (1974). Draws a complex friendship that connects Wodening and Hummer’s long distance.
▮ A Month Of Single Frames (For Barbara Hammer)
USA / 2019 / English / Color / Digital / 14 minutes Director: Lynne Sachs, Barbara Hammer Photo: Barbara Hammer Editing / Text (on-screen): Lynne Sachs 66th Overhausen Short Film Festival Grand Prix Winner
In 1998, Barbara Hammer kept a diary, recording various sounds and landscapes around him while staying in a seaside hut in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, USA, where neither electricity nor water was available. This work was created as a process of confronting one’s own death, entrusting all the records created at that time to the filmmaker Lin Sachs. Along with the eyes of observing the quietly buzzing colors and sounds of nature, thoughts about loneliness and aging emerge.
Abstract This personal essay articulates filmmaker Lynne Sachs’s experiences working with experimental filmmaker Barbara Hammer. Sachs conveys the journey of her relationship with Hammer when they were both artists living in San Francisco in the late 1980s and 1990s and then later in New York City. Sachs initially discusses her experiences making Carolee, Barbara and Gunvor (US, 2018), which includes Hammer, the conceptual and performance artist Carolee Schneemann, and the experimental filmmaker Gunvor Nelson. She then discusses her 2019 film, A Month of Single Frames, which uses material from Hammer’s 1998 artist residency in a Cape Cod shack without running water or electricity. While there, she shot film, recorded sounds, and kept a journal. In 2018, Hammer began her process of dying by revisiting her personal archive. She gave all of her images, sounds, and writing from the residency to Sachs and invited her to make a film with the material. Through her own filmmaking, Sachs explores Hammer’s experience of solitude. She places text on the screen as a way to be in dialogue with both Hammer and her audience. This essay provides context for the intentions and challenges that grew out of both of these film collaborations.
Barbara Hammer and I met in 1987 at a time when the Bay Area was affordable enough to become a mecca for alternative, underground, experimental filmmaking. She taught me the fine, solitary craft of optical printing during a weekend workshop, thus beginning a friendship that eventually followed us across the country to New York City. We were able to see each other often during the last few years of her life. Between 2015 to 2017, Barbara agreed to be part of the making of my short experimental documentary Carolee, Barbara and Gunvor (2018) a three-part film that includes Carolee Schneemann and Gunvor Nelson. I met all three women in the late 80s and early 90s in the San Francisco experimental film community and kept in close touch with each of them, both in person and through virtual correspondences, for many years. All three were renowned artists and beloved friends, just a generation older than I, who had embraced the moving image throughout their lives. From Carolee’s 18th Century house in the woods of Upstate New York to Gunvor’s village in Sweden to Barbara’s West Village studio, I shot film with each woman in the place where she found grounding and spark.
Barbara believed that I would see her at her best on a Tuesday, the day of the week in which she would be most energetic after her chemotherapy treatments. That afternoon, I “directed” Barbara to run along a fence as fast as she could toward the camera, without realizing that I had calibrated the f/stops on my camera to reveal the shadow from the fence across her body, creating a fabulous series of stripes in the resulting image. I returned to Barbara’s studio during another chemo period. As we stood together holding our cameras, I thought about her films Sanctus (1990) and Vital Signs (1991), which she was making when we first met in San Francisco. In Barbara’s prescient words, these films “make the invisible, visible, revealing the skeletal structure of the human body as it protects the hidden fragility of interior organ systems.” (Barbara Hammer, Electronic Arts Intermix, description of 16mm film, 1990). That afternoon in her studio, Barbara picked up one heavy 16mm camera after another. She then proceeded to dance with her furniture, embracing that robust physicality so many of us associate with her performative work. In this, my first collaboration with Barbara, I had the chance to photograph her trademark interactions with absolutely any objects she could get her hands on. For both of us, these moments of creative intimacy became the gift we somehow expected from our open, porous artmaking practice. We both wanted more, and by 2018 Barbara had figured out the way to make it happen.
Barbara asked me to come to her home to discuss something she needed to say in person. I immediately faced a complicated set of emotions. This was around the time she gave the talk “The Art of Dying or (Palliative Art Making in the Age of Anxiety)” at the Whitney Museum. Inspired by Rainer Marie Rilke’s book Letters to a Young Poet, she ruminated on the experiences of living with advanced cancer while making art. In her performative lecture, she shared examples from her art-making practice and deeply considered, lucid thoughts on her experience of dying. I knew that this tête-à-tête would involve some kind of good-bye, but I had no idea that she had decided to share a part of her personal archive, and thus a part of her being on this earth, with me. Filmmaking, in the tradition that Barbara and I have espoused for most of our lives as experimental makers, involves a deeply focused solitary period of introspection. A complementary aspect of our practice, however, calls for playful, engaged exchanges with all of the people in the film — both in front and behind the camera. Fundamental to Barbara’s sense of herself as an artist was her commitment to deep and lasting intellectual engagement with her fellow artists in the field, particularly other women who were also trying to find an aesthetic language that could speak about the issues that meant so much to us. By asking me to work with her, alongside her but not “for” her, Barbara, a feminist filmmaker, was actually creating an entirely new vision of the artist’s legacy.
As I sat at her side in the apartment she shared with her life partner Florrie Burke, she explained to me that she had obtained funding from the Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus, Ohio for this endeavor. There was money and post-production support for her to invite three other filmmakers (Deborah Stratman, Mark Street, and Dan Veltri) to complete films from her archive of unfinished projects. Barbara vividly described to me her 1998 artist residency in Provincetown, Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
For one month, she lived and made her art in a shack without running water or electricity. While in her Dune Shack, as it is still called, she shot 16mm film with her Beaulieu camera, made field recordings, and kept a journal. Barbara’s only instructions to me were very simple: “Do absolutely whatever you want with this material.”
Knowing her work as I did, it was not surprising to me that she was able to face her imminent death in this open, intimate, transparent, and sensual way. From Sanctus and Vital Signs — both of which excavated her own shock and sadness in the face of the AIDS epidemic — to Evidentiary Bodies (2018), which confronted and embraced her own cancer, Barbara developed a precise visual aesthetic that traced her own relationship to her end. Whether she was using her phenomenal optical printing and matting techniques in the studio or performing for the camera, she found an astonishingly inventive cinematic language to explore the resonances of both disease and death. It was with Evidentiary Bodies, her final work that was at the core of her Whitney talk, that she so eloquently witnessed her departure.
About that film, Barbara wrote of herself in the third person:
“The work is experienced and perceived through the performer’s body as we breathe together remembering that cancer is not a ‘battle,’ cancer is a disease. There are aberrant cells not ‘deadly foes.’ She is not ‘combative’ and ‘brave,’ she is living with cancer. She is not going to win or lose her ‘battle.’ She is not a ‘survivor,’ she is living with cancer. There is not a ‘war’ on cancer; there is concentrated research.”
Barbara always had an uncanny ability to understand herself from the inside out and from the outside in. Her films were visceral and personal. They were also exhilaratingly political. As I read through Barbara’s Dune Shack journal, I noticed that she referred to herself in the first and the third person, moving between from the I to the she.
“This morning I began the film. I didn’t shoot it. I saw it. The dark triangular shadow of the shack out the west end window of the upstairs bedroom would shrink and disappear as I sat sweating, single-framing second by second.”
“She had turned 60 today. She was almost the age her mother was when she died, regretful of not living her dreams and desires out into an old age. How resentful she would feel were she to die three years from today. Die without having had her pet dog, her country home, her long lazy days gardening and walking in the yard. Die without knowing the outcome of her partner’s work. The sadness of departure. The inevitable ending of breath and blood coursing. The complete and thorough blankness. “Is this why we make busy,” she wondered, “so that we won’t have time or space to contemplate the heart wrenching end to this expanse called life?”
While writing the text for my own film, the words I placed on the screen came to me in a dream the day I was to begin my final edit at the Wexner Center. By this time Barbara had died. I quickly realized that this kind of oneiric encounter could become a posthumous continuation of the dialogue I had started with Barbara the year before, during the making of Carolee, Barbara, and Gunvor. Since I would never again be able to speak to her about her life or the ontological nature of cinema or the textures of a sand dune, I would converse with her through A Month of Single Frames, the title I chose for my 14-minute film.
Through my writing, I tried to address Barbara’s celebration of solitude and cinematic embodiment. Ultimately, my text on the screen over Barbara’s images functions as a search for a cinematic experience that brings us all together in multiple spaces at once. It is also an embrace of an ambiguous second person you who might be Barbara herself or might be anyone watching the film.
This is how I see you.
This is how you see yourself. You are here.
I am here with you.
This place is still this place.
This place is no longer this place. It must be different.
You are alone.
I am here with you in this film. There are others here with us. We are all together.
Time less yours mine
Barbara’s imprint on my own filmmaking practice is profound. I observed in her work a conscious physical relationship to the camera. For the most part, she shot her own films and in turn found her own distinct visual language for talking about women’s lives, liberation, love, struggle, awareness, and consciousness. Discovering Barbara’s films released something in my own camerawork; my images became more self-aware, and more performative. Thinking about Barbara’s radical, improvisational and totally physical cinematography continues to push me to dive deeply and fully into my body as I am shooting.
In Carolee, Barbara and Gunvor, I brought Barbara together on screen with two other pioneers of the American avant-garde. In an email, she wrote these words to me after seeing the film for the first time: “Hi Lynne, I had a chance to watch your lovely film! I was surprised at how energetically I performed for your camera. I’m honored to be grouped with such strong and remarkable filmmakers. Love, Barbara.” As aware of each other as they were of themselves, the film’s two other subjects also acknowledged her.
Carolee, who sadly died shortly before Barbara, wrote: “I loved seeing Barbara with those old Bolex cameras,” and Gunvor commented on how “Barbara moves so fast and vigorously as she walks toward the camera!”
These two films are my gifts to these women and to our shared audiences. Carolee, Barbara and Gunvor and A Month of Single Frames together attempt to reveal the great mind-body weave of Barbara Hammer’s life: her commitment to cinematic embodiment, her openness about dying, and her deeply held desire to find common space for women of all generations.
Several of her films are currently available to watch on the Criterion Channel
Whether portraying artists, historical figures, family members, or strangers, filmmaker Lynne Sachs has always found rivetingly indirect methods of representing her subjects. The San Francisco Weekly called her 2001 film Investigation of a Flame, about the Vietnam War and the Catonsville Nine, a group of Catholic activists who burnt draft files in protest, an “anti-documentary.” Sachs herself now uses the phrase “experimental documentary” as shorthand for describing the formal elements that constitute her particularly idiosyncratic and collage-like cinematic vernacular, notable in work like the decades-in-the-making Film About A Father Who (2020).
Rooted in her days in San Francisco’s experimental scene, Sachs’s concerns are deeply material; they regard the matter that makes up the world as inextricable from the technology that reproduces it. Her investigation of New York City laundromats, The Washing Society (2016), co-directed with playwright Lizzie Olesker, struck me as an apt departure point for our wide-ranging discussion about and around this material awareness, as well as the larger concerns that bridge the gap between her films as works of art and Sachs’s advocacy for worldly change.
I WANT TO START WITH A WEIRD QUESTION.
I like weird questions.
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON LINT?
I have been thinking about lint so much over the last few years. It started with my thinking about skin, and the epidermis, and about clothing being a second layer of our skin—which means that when we collect lint out of the dryer, we’re also catching aspects of our bodies. Sometimes it’s our own bodies, sometimes it’s the bodies of people we love. Sometimes it’s the bodies of people whose clothes are being washed in a transactional way…Iin that flow, you collect something most people think of as detritus. But I actually think of it as material, in the way that Joseph Beuys was really interested in wax and felt. So, lint is material for sculpture, and for an examination of our bodies. When that comes together, I find it very compelling.
I AM, OF COURSE, REFERRING TO A COUPLE OF SPECIFIC SHOTS FROM THE WASHING SOCIETY, WHICH EMPHASIZE SENSUOUSNESS, WHICH IS NOT A WORD I EVER WOULD’VE PREVIOUSLY USED TO DESCRIBE LINT.
That attention to the microscopic aspects that are residue of the much larger social relationships around service, hygiene, and the exchange of money for someone who performs something for somebody else—lint represents all those things.
IT MAKES ME THINK OF THE WASHING SOCIETY AS AN EXTENSION OF YOUR CAREER-LONG PREOCCUPATION WITH MATERIAL FILM, EVEN THOUGH IT WAS SHOT DIGITALLY.
When we look at traditional 16mm film, we see scratches and hair, like we see in lint. It’s not that different. Because lint collects through the months or ages, it collects aspects of the world. Film does the same thing; it is changed by its journey in time.
My co-director, Lizzie Olesker, and I wanted to figure out ways to examine the interplay between economics, aesthetics, and politics. You look at the form of cinema and you say, “I want to create ruptures. I want to create a radicalization of the way images are represented.“ But it’s also important to look not just at the way the camera reproduces our reality, but what is produced by the reality that might be dismissed or ignored. … Lint is not invisible, but it’s about as close to invisible as it gets. It moves from clothing to the trashcan in a kind of rote way. By breaking up that [journey], we’re trying to look at the mechanisms of labor.
THE WASHING SOCIETY FEATURES ACTUAL LAUNDRY WORKERS AND ACTORS. WHAT IS IT ABOUT THIS ASPECT OF PERFORMANCE THAT FASCINATES YOU AS A DOCUMENTARIAN?
It occurred to me about a year ago that every single film is a document of a performance. Even a fiction film, which is a bunch of people doing this crazy thing—to reinvent themselves, pretend that they’re different from who they are—we film it, and it’s called a fiction film, but it’s actually a documentary of a group of people together.
What’s started to interest me in the last year is that woven quality that takes seriously that anyone in, for example, a documentary film is performing an aspect of who they are. As soon as they turn their head and they see the camera, they’re performing. And there’s this, you could call it a leash, or an invisible thread [that runs] between my eyes and the eyes of any human being in front of the camera. They’re always looking to the director for some kind of affirmation, like, “Yes, you’re doing a good job.“ It’s the same in documentary. If you actually recognize that this is a form of exchange, then you can try to subvert it. People who are supposed to be ‘real’ become performers, or we have performers who open up about their lives . And so, obscure that rigid differentiation. That’s why I’m not really happy with the term ‘hybrid’ yet. Because it’s saying that this ontological conundrum doesn’t really exist, and that we have to create another category that says, “That’s ambiguously real and that’s ambiguously fiction.“
IN TERMS OF REAL-LIFE SUBJECTS VERSUS HIRED PERFORMERS, HOW DID YOU APPROACH WHO WOULD EXPRESS WHAT IN THE WASHING SOCIETY? THERE ARE TIMES, ESPECIALLY EARLY ON, WHEN IT ISN’T NECESSARILY CLEAR WHO IS WHO.
With filmmaking, there’s always two answers. There is the production answer: we tried one thing and it didn’t work, so we decided to go another way. And then there’s the more theoretical, maybe conceptual answer.
I WANT BOTH ANSWERS. I’M HUNGRY FOR ANSWERS.
Okay, the conceptual answer first. We wanted to research the experience of what it is to wash the clothes of another person. Particularly in a big city, where people and workplaces can be taken for granted. Lizzie comes out of playwriting, and this notion that you observe the world in which you live, and then you re-create characters who inhabit those experiences you’ve witnessed, or those interactions that confuse you, and that you’re trying to grapple with. And I come out of experimental filmmaking, with documentaries. So you observe and then you subvert.
She asked me if I would help her to investigate laundry workers in New York. We started, and we got really hooked, but most of the people who do this kind of service work in America are also immigrants, and many don’t have the formal paperwork to give them the freedom to be on camera, to talk about the struggles of their workplace or their bosses, who they’re supporting, all those things. So we would have very informal conversations, but we couldn’t record and we couldn’t film.
Our answer was not to give up, but to listen really actively, and then to write the characters, or to write three characters who appear in the film as composites of these conversations. So, there’s Ching Valdes-Aran, Jasmine Holloway, and Veraalba Santa. They’re all performers—the film started as a performance called Every Fold Matters, which we did live in laundromats in Brooklyn and in New York City, and at places like University Settlement, The Tank.
But then, okay, the answer to the conceptual side is that, even though I’ve been making work that you could call reality-based or documentary-based for a long time, I’m always questioning this notion of asking people to open up their lives for me. That’s why I made Film About a Father Who, because I felt like it was my turn to be in that vulnerable position.
One thing I’ve done for years now, I always pay people [who appear] in my films. That’s kind of anathema in documentary. People don’t do that. Especially journalists, which I do understand… But why shouldn’t you pay them the way you would pay an actor?
Often we measure the success of a documentary by how real it is, by the spontaneity of the reveal of information; “I can’t believe you got in that door.“ Or, “I can’t believe you got those people to say that for you with your camera on.“ There’s a lot of registers of success that have to do with the people in front of the camera letting it all hang out, and that’s an awkward exchange… I wanted to have people who felt confident in their place in the world, to speak from that position. If people didn’t feel confident, then we listened, and we tried to embrace their sentiments and struggles in a fictionalized way.
ARE THE ACTORS REPEATING TEXT THAT WAS SPOKEN BY ACTUAL LAUNDRY WORKERS OR WAS THAT TEXT WRITTEN BY YOU AND LIZZIE?
It’s both. We used parts of it, but often we wrote in a more free-form way. It’s really a composite, and there’s a freedom that comes from making a film like this. .. I call it the Maggie Nelson effect, [which is] this idea where you lay bare the research. In The Argonauts, she tells this personal story about her relationship, and she has these fantastic tangents, which are about her research, what she happened to be reading, letting all of that come in.
I can [also] say that we were influenced by Yvonne Rainer. She was such a visionary when it came to choreography, and a celebration of the body through dance. Because she looked at the quotidian, and she ‘deconstructed’— in the word of that period— how we move through the world. We took that approach to how we thought about the dance movements in The Washing Society, how we could re-examine the gestures of the everyday, and think about how they might be beautiful, in the way that Roberta Cantow’s film Clotheslines celebrates the beauty of laundry work. [Lizzie and I] wanted to think about recognising washing as a form of physical dance. Especially because there’s so much repetition, which dance also uses.
CLOTHESLINES HAPPENS TO BE PLAYING ALONGSIDE THE WASHING SOCIETY.
Clotheslines is fantastic. It’s giving attention, again, to urban life, and to things that people do that maybe they feel ashamed of doing but that they have to do. It’s interesting to look at Roberta Cantow’s film, because it’s a twist on the whole idea of being a feminist. Barbara Hammer did something similar; I think the term ‘feminist’ is evolving all the time.
What Roberta Cantow did in her work, I think, is say, “Let’s acknowledge the beauty of what mostly women do. But it doesn’t mean that they’ll become stronger women than when they don’t do it.” … I should add that today I had a conversation with Roberta Cantow. A woman she knew who organizes washerwomen in New York City told her about the screening. Anyway, she told me today that this whole group of organizers around washerwomen, 10 of them, are coming to Metrograph.
Yeah. And I’m hoping [for] a group from the Laundry Workers Center, which is a union I’ve done a lot of work with, who organize workers in the small laundromats all over New York City… If they’re trying to shut down a laundromat or bring attention to conditions that are really, really bad—where people are required to work 12 hours, and they can’t look at their phones, or all the different rules that are had—[Lizzie and I] make videos for them sometimes.
DO YOU CONSIDER FILMMAKING AS A FORM OF ACTIVISM, OR ADJACENT TO IT? WHERE DO THE TWO INTERSECT?
I was thinking about this last night. I went to an event at E-flux, and I was listening to Eric Baudelaire, the filmmaker, talking about this too…. I don’t think I’ve ever made a film that had the ability to make someone act differently, or to push them in a direction. But I always hope it makes them think about who they are differently, or about how the world works in another way. Maybe the result of that would be an action. But if it’s just a thought, that’s pretty good too. I guess it has to do with results, how you measure your reach… I get very excited, like with Investigation of a Flame, by people doing things with passion, and pushing themselves to extremes from which they can never turn back. I mean, that actually goes to Barbara Hammer. [She] lived life to its fullest, and with so much conviction.
BEING IN DIALOGUE WITH OTHER ARTISTS, FILMMAKERS, OTHER PEOPLE, SEEMS SO ESSENTIAL TO ALL OF YOUR WORK.
Well, when I made Which Way Is East (1994), I didn’t at first understand that it really is about how we look at history, and how we analyze or reconstruct the past. That film is made from the perspective of myself and my sister. We were children who experienced the Vietnam War through television, mostly black-and-white images on a box in the living room. Being typical American, middle-class kids, our parents and their friends had not gone to war. The war was really far away… But you then grow up and you realize that it does touch you; you heard all the numbers of people who died, and you recognize that those statistics were always emphasizing the Americans, but what about the Vietnamese? How does war have an impact?
When we made the film, in the early ’90s, my sister, Dana Sachs, was living in Vietnam. I visited for one month, and, like a typical documentary filmmaker, you arrive in a place and you say, “I’m going to make a film.“ It came to me later that the film is a dialogue with history, but it’s also a dialogue between two women from the same family, who thought about that past in extremely different ways. She looked at Vietnam in this contemporary way, as survivors. Whereas I looked at Vietnam with this wrought guilt, trying to piece together an understanding of a war that still seemed to bleed. That’s what gave the film its tension, that our perceptions were so different. Ultimately the most interesting films are the ones that ask us to think about perception, that don’t just introduce new material.
So that was a gift, to be in dialogue with my sister… Another way of looking at dialogue, [if] you’re in dialogue with [someone like] Jean Vigo, who’s not alive… then you’re creating a dialectic between the materials. In A Month of Single Frames, I’m in dialogue with Barbara Hammer literally, but I’m also in dialogue with her through the form of the film, and with the audience. That was intentional, to have this ambiguity.
In A Month of Single Frames, she also does something that’s not about activism, it’s about solitude… thinking about her place in nature. It’s all about being delicately and boldly in the landscape. When she cuts up little pieces of gel and puts them on blades of grass, she’s doing the opposite of what a feature film made in Cape Cod would… You’d have all these people stomping on the dunes, getting permission to shoot, to take over a whole house, you’d need light, electricity… She wanted to do everything with the least impact. It’s not a film that she probably announced as a celebration of the environment. But to me, it is so much about not leaving your footprint on the land, but being there. I really admire that work.
DID YOU BEGIN THE FILM BEFORE SHE DIED?
The last year of Barbara Hammer’s life, she gave footage to filmmakers and said, “Do whatever you want, and in the process use this material that I love but could not finish. Because I can see that my life will not last long enough to do so.“
She gave me footage from 1998, which she had shot in a residency on Cape Cod. I asked her why she didn’t finish this film and she said, “Because it’s too pretty, and because it’s not engaged, it’s not political.“ She felt that the fact that it delivered so much pleasure just in its loveliness made it problematic. It was this gorgeous landscape, and a woman alone in a cabin. She thought there wasn’t a rigor to it. So she had never done anything with it; it just moved around with her, and it was bothering her, of course: “Finish me. Finish me.“
She gave it to me, and I started to edit. On the second visit, I showed it to her, just without any sound. I asked if she did any writing while she was there, and she said, “I kept a journal.“ She’d forgotten all about it, so she pulled it out.
THAT’S THE DIALOGUE WE HEAR IN THE FILM?
She even writes about herself in the third person, which is fun, and different…
Everything was so pressured: she had to go to chemotherapy, she was trying to finish Evidentiary Bodies, a film that she was going to show at the Berlin Film Festival in 2019. It was one of the last things she did. So I had the material, and when she died… I needed to finish it. That’s when I wrote the text, because I needed to be in dialogue with her more than just editing the material. I needed to concentrate on that energy between us.
SO YOU COMPLETED A FILM YOU HAD BEGUN WORKING ON WHILE SHE WAS LIVING, AND THAT SHE DIED DURING THE MAKING OF. AND THEN YOU MADE A FILM IN DIALOGUE WITH SOMEONE WHO HAD ALREADY DIED, IN E•PIS•TO•LAR•Y: LETTER TO JEAN VIGO.
I’ll give you a little background. I’ve been on and off involved with the Punto de Vista Film Festival, which is a really interesting small festival in Pamplona, Spain, where they acknowledge and appreciate alternative ways of looking at documentary film practice. They asked 10 filmmakers to make a film in the form of a letter to a filmmaker who had influenced us.
I chose Jean Vigo; I love his film, Zero for Conduct (1933), because it is so much about rule breaking. It is so much about trying to exist in society, but knowing when there is a time to break the law. I had made my film Investigation of a Flame; I was interested in those moments where you have to turn inward and say, “This is wrong.“ And I wanted, again, to talk to a ghost. To talk to Jean Vigo.
Then, right at the beginning of this year, there was the attack on the US Capitol. A group of thousands chose to break the law, with absolute abandon in terms of the sacredness of other people’s bodies. I’m not even saying the US Capitol is sacred. But to go to a place of heinous destruction, that really disturbed me. I was already thinking about Jean Vigo, and I thought, “This is really complicated.” Because at what point do we learn to understand how to respect, how to have compassion, how to have empathy? That you can break rules, as in paint graffiti or burn draft files, but that once you start invading another person’s body— it’s a violation I couldn’t accept. And this space between anarchy and authoritarianism, and between compassionate rule breaking and violence was very interesting to me.
WHAT ABOUT REVOLUTION? WHAT ABOUT A FEMINIST SOCIALIST REVOLUTION?
Oh. Well I have to say, a feminist socialist revolution probably would come with a lot of compassion. I think, I hope. But I would never say that women… I don’t think that there’s anything innate.
One other thing about E•pis•to•lar•y: I really like all the syllables in epistolary, so I like that it sounds like bullets. And yet it’s about dialogue… It may be silent, but audiences are writing back in their heads. I think a lot about that in my filmmaking, all the sounds that go on in audiences’ minds.
ARE THE SUBJECTS OF INVESTIGATION OF A FLAME (2001), THE CATONSVILLE NINE, YOUR MODELS THEN OF RIGHTEOUS DISSIDENTS?
My interest in people who break the rules goes way back. I mean, I was protesting the implementation of imposing draft registration on American men when I was in high school. I’ve always been committed to trying to articulate a critique. But when I heard about the Catonsville Nine and this group of people who had nothing to gain by criticizing the US government’s presence in Vietnam, except that they were so upset that they felt they had to speak out against it…
They were Catholic antiwar activists: two priests in particular, Daniel and Philip Berrigan, and a nurse, and a sister, and others. But they broke the law in the most performative way. To take draft papers and burn them [with] napalm…. Napalm is not that different from lint. It’s just soap mixed with chemicals. You can make napalm at home. It’s domestically produced napalm, which was being used in Vietnam. But [the Catonsville Nine] wanted to make it and burn it symbolically. This, to me, was the ultimate art performance piece. Let’s burn files, photograph it, disseminate it, and say that these files represent bodies.
People said that they changed so much thinking. It was effective because it was an image that… You were asking about activism, that’s an image! To see priests burning draft files, that’s going to change things. That’s real activism on their part, and that happened in the 1960s.
FROM LINT TO NAPALM. THANK YOU, LYNNE.
I never thought… But it’s made with soap!
Inney Prakash is a writer and film curator based in New York City and the founder/director of Prismatic Ground.
Since bursting onto the filmmaking scene in the 1980s, Memphis-born Lynne Sachs has compiled an inimitable, astonishing body of work which includes essay films, diaristic shorts, gallery installations, and quite a number of simply uncategorizable hybrids. Sachs’s wide-ranging, restless ingenuity is on full display in this program, which includes her 2020 documentary portrait A Film About a Father Who; The Washing Society, her collaboration with playwright Lizzie Olesker, which premiered in 2015 at a Clinton Hill laundromat; and this year’s E•pis•to•lar•y: Letter to Jean Vigo, a ruminative, surprising response to the January 6th Capitol Hill riots. A blast of engaging, and engaged, cinema.
Made up of footage shot by Sachs between 1984 and very nearly the present day, Film About a Father Who represents her endeavor to better understand the outsized personality and myriad affairs of one Ira Sachs, Sr.: Park City, Utah, hospitality industry mogul; bon vivant hippie businessman; serial womanizer; and the filmmaker’s father. Analog and digital video shares space with 8 and 16mm film in Sachs’ decoupage of home movie formats, creating a tenderly critical mosaic portrait that’s as energetic, multifaceted, and messy as its subject.
Sachs’s The Washing Society, co-directed with playwright Lizzie Olesker, uses a combination of interviews, re-enactments, and patient observation to pay lyric homage to the little-acknowledged but essential labor of dealing with dirty laundry, as it occurs every day in New York City’s laundromats. Screening with Roberta Cantow’s feminist forebear Clotheslines, a film that takes laundry seriously as a form of folk art, a fraught social signifier, and a lens for women to reflect on the joys, pains, and ambivalences of household chores. With Sachs’s short “A Month of Single Frames” made with and for Barbara Hammer.
Co-Directors Lynne Sachs and Lizzie Olesker will be present with special guest feminist scholar Silvia Federici for a post-screening conversation. Hosted by Emily Apter.
Post-Screening Conversation for WASHING SOCIETY + CLOTHESLINES +A MONTH OF SINGLE
Co-Directors Lynne Sachs and Lizzie Olesker with special guest feminist scholar Silvia Federici in a post-screening conversation. Hosted by Emily Apter.
Four shorts exemplifying the breadth and tireless curiosity of Sachs’s film practice, as well as an ongoing engagement with issues of justice and resistance. The Ho Chi Minh City–Hanoi travel diary Which Way is East: Notebooks from Vietnam offers an encounter between lived experience and mediated memory of a televised war. And Then We Marched juxtaposes 8mm footage of the 2017 Women’s March in Washington D.C. with archival images of earlier struggles for justice. E•pis•to•lar•y: Letter to Jean Vigo looks at the January 6th Capitol Hill uprising through the unlikely but revealing prism of Vigo’s 1933 Zéro de conduite. Investigation of a Flame revisits the story of the Catonsville Nine, Catholic activists who burnt draft files in protest of the Vietnam War.
Invisible Women (Camilla Baier & Rachel Pronger) is an archive activist film collective that champions the work of female filmmakers from the history of cinema.
For this edition of the Catalan Film Festival, we invited Rachel and Camilla to respond to the rich, vast and beautiful theme of “filmed letters between women cineastes“. A result is a special event on Sunday 28 November at GFT where we will be showing TRANSOCEANICAS and A MONTH OF SINGLE FRAMES, followed by a conversation between Catalan director Meritxell Colell and Invisible Women.
Details An unmissable event in partnership with Invisible Women exploring the intimacy of women’s epistolary cinema, followed by a Q&A with Catalan director Meritxell Colell. This special female friendship film programme includes a screening of Meritxell Colell and Lucia Vasallo’s Transoceánicas and Lynne Sachs and Barbara Hammer’s A Month Of Single Frames.
Transoceánicas A years-long correspondence between two filmmakers, this poetic, intimate work finds two friends separated by the Atlantic Sea, yet bound by their strong emotional connection. Beautifully edited and elegantly structured, Transoceánicas is a vivid, layered film about enduring friendship, fierce femininity, and cinema’s capacity to transcend gulfs of space and time.
The passing of time, a sheer passion for cinema as a way of life, and the difficulty of filming in the times in which we live become a beautiful cinematographic mosaic, an intense and moving album of images.
A Month Of Single Frames In 1998, lesbian experimental filmmaker Barbara Hammer took part in a one-month residency at a Cape Cod dune shack without running water or electricity, where she shot film, recorded sound and kept a journal. In 2018 she gave all of this material to Lynne Sachs and invited her to make a film with it.
The films will be followed by a Q&A between director Meritxell Colell and Invisible Women’s Camilla Baier.
“An ode to silent film, to pictures, to putting all those shards of consciousness together.”- The Film Stage
Please note that this article originally appears in Portuguese. This is a Google Translate version of the article.
In mid-2004, Joan Didion would start one of her most dense and well-known works, The Year of Magic Thought, a recap of the period that followed her husband’s death while her daughter was kept in a serious illness. Didion’s opening sentences in the book speak of the shock of sudden death: “Life changes quickly. / Life changes in an instant./ You sit down to dinner, and the life you used to know ends. / The question of self-pity.”. John Dunne, to whom she had been married for nearly 40 years, had suffered from a heart attack while sitting at the table waiting for dinner, and these lines would be suspended until the writer managed to resume months later the enterprise of plunging into the pain and anguish that permeated her recent widowhood.
“This is my attempt to understand the ensuing period, the weeks and then the months that took with them, any fixed ideas I might have about death, about illness, about probability and luck, about good and bad fortune, about marriage , children and memory, about pain, about the way people deal or not with the fact that life ends, about how their sanity is fragile, about life itself. I’ve been a writer my whole life. So, even as a child, long before the things I wrote began to be published, I developed the perception that the meaning itself resided in the rhythm of words, sentences and paragraphs, a technique to retain what I thought and believed for behind an increasingly impenetrable varnish. The way I write is what I am, or what I have become; however, in this case, I would like to have, instead of words and their rhythms, an editing room equipped with an Avid, a digital editing system in which you could press a button and disassemble the time sequence, showing you, at the same time, all the memory frames that They come to mind now, and let me choose the sequences, the slightly different expressions, the varying readings of the same lines. In this case, words are not enough for me to find meaning. In this case, I need what I think and believe to be penetrable, at least to myself. the slightly different expressions, the varying readings of the same lines. In this case, words are not enough for me to find meaning. In this case, I need what I think and believe to be penetrable, at least to myself. the slightly different expressions, the varying readings of the same lines. In this case, words are not enough for me to find meaning. In this case, I need what I think and believe to be penetrable, at least to myself.”
By mentioning the desire for an editing room in which he could demonstrate and dismantle the memories, as opposed to the apparent aphasia that took him by storm when words were no longer enough to give vent to mourning, Didion leaves behind a kind of precious question: and if, faced with death, we could access through images the legacy of a lifetime? Barbara Hammer, a filmmaker with a 50-year career whose work resonates, among many other things, the vivacity of female bodies and voices in direct contact with the world, will come very close to answering this question.
Hammer died on March 16, 2019, at the age of 79, having lived for the past 13 years with ovarian cancer that has metastasized to the lungs. In an interview conducted with the New Yorker about a month before his death (his “Exit Interview”), he will talk openly about the option for the practice of caring for terminal patients that prioritizes pain relief given the impossibility of recovery — popularly known as palliative care—and about how the experience came to pass through her work and her final moments with her longtime partner, Florie Burke.
In 2018, the director will present on at least four different occasions the reading/performance “The Art of Dying or (Palliative Art Making in the Age of Anxiety)”, created from Letters to a Young Poet, by Rainer Maria Rilke, and its relationship with palliative care. With some of her films shown ( Dyketactics , 1974; Sync Touch , 1981; Sanctus , 1990), Barbara Hammer takes a look back at her artistic trajectory, taking a generous stance as a mentor to new generations of artists, while advocating for more openness to discussions around a subject that he considers so despised in the middle: the inevitability of death.
“There is a general fear of talking about death in the Western world. It is as if, by not mentioning it and discussing it, it disappears. We do ourselves a disservice by not engaging in ruminations about this very powerful life force. Are we not alive to our last breath? And isn’t this a right of way that we want to address in our art? In our seminars? And in our museum exhibits? When we hesitate to face the last phase of life, we give a message to shut up. (…) Instead, I have been discussing terminal illness. We, in the art world, all of us: artists, curators, administrators, art lovers too, are avoiding one of the most potent subjects we can tackle.”
At the end of the reading, the conventional “questions and answers” (Q&A) are converted into what the director will call “answers and questions” (A&Q), at which time she approaches some individuals in the audience and seeks to know about their impressions — a dialogue without hierarchies that will characterize much of his filmography. This farewell, which takes on the contours of sharing and sincere conversation, is an inseparable element of the path he traces so that others can continue to follow in his footsteps, even if he is no longer present. In a similar operation, supported by a Wexner Center grant, Hammer will invite four filmmakers with whom he had creative affinities — Lynne Sachs, Deborah Stratman, Mark Street and Dan Veltri — to make five (1)entirely new films having as a starting point a gesture of appropriation of their archives and their unfinished projects.
So far, only two works have been completed and circulated freely through festivals and streaming channels (including a small show on Mubi called “Ways of seeing with Barbara Hammer”).
Here are some notes on two short films, Lynne Sachs’ A Month of Single Frames (for Barbara Hammer) (2019) and Deborah Stratman’s Vever (for Barbara) (2019):
A Month of Single Frames (for Barbara Hammer) Made from footage and notes Barbara Hammer took during an artist residency in Duneshack, Cape Cod, Massachusetts, in 1998, A Month of Single Frames is a re-visit of a lonely creative moment by the director and her relationship with the landscape that unfolds as a possible cinematographic theme. Taking its own archival tone, the short will be guided by a recorded conversation between Lynne Sachs (responsible for its realization) and Hammer, who initially gives the temporal and spatial coordinates of the narration: August 2018, in her studio in Westbeth, housing complex for artists in New York.
The aging voice reverberates in space, and for a second, in the total darkness of the opening screen, we intuit something of the environment in which the two directors and friends meet, and of the proximity conceived there. This voice of now, while reading passages from the 98 diary, will access a primordial stage of artistic creation (the nothingness, the starting point, the experiment), while it is interspersed with intervals of absolute silence and images of an animistic nature that now stirs and now falls asleep. Giant insects, the director’s nude body bristling with a jet of cold water in the open air, the junction of sky and dunes in unusual tones. We are introduced to a territory of intimacy and constant discovery, guided by the 16mm camera that caresses the elements of this secluded setting, exploring its textures, colors and formats.
The first glimpses of Sachs’ work as a whole reveal the harmony that is preserved between the two directors: multimedia artist, poet, fiction writer, performer and filmmaker, she will also, in her own way, conceive a cinema that often articulates the universe understood as the one of the great causes (activism, pacifist movements, the study of representation and the female condition) and the issues that permeate the family (the portraits of the daughter, the father, collaborations with her brother, Ira Sachs) and the intimate . The compositional method and the reuse of files, the camera that acts as an extension of the arm, fingers, hand, in a cadence of familiarity with the filmed object, all this will come close to Barbara Hammer’s proposal and practices,
“I felt obligated to do absolutely nothing. There is absolutely nothing to be done. Everything is eagerly awaiting discovery. This morning I started the movie. I didn’t film it—I saw it. The dark triangular shadow of the shed through the west window in the upstairs bedroom shrinks and disappears from its formidable presence by the constantly rising sun. As I sat there, sweating, patiently framing second by second.”
In your book Hammer! Making Movies out of Life and Sex, Hammer will list and structure a series of factors that he believes are directly related to his creative process. Between “intuition”, “personal confidence” and “spontaneity and flow”, the topic “remember the loneliness of creativity” stands out as a direct link to what we see in A Month of Single Frames . The “loneliness of creativity” he talks about is materialized in the displaced plane, optically decomposed in his unfilmed but seen film, and in the persistent image of the cabin without electricity or running water that he would inhabit for a month. Viewed from a distance, under the accelerating and decelerating clouds of countless time-lapse attempts, the hut occupies a central and isolated point in the landscape and its experimental procedures.
“what I really want to do here is project colored lights on the dunes, using the sun as a projector” At one point, reading the diary leads to a detailed description of experiments carried out with filters and different propositions to operate the camera’s capture flow, the long, thin grass that grows between the dunes is taken over by small rectangular pieces of colored plastic, and a series of multicolored shadow planes in the sand are displayed with text, which Sachs says would have been revealed to her in a dream during editing: you’re alone / I’m here with you in this movie / there are others here with us / we’re all together. Shortly thereafter, a group of women holding sheets of yellow, green, blue, and pink cellophane are seen moving around in order to follow up with Barbara Hammer’s luminous projections. Lynne Sachs notes the notes that have so far nostalgically guided our impressions.
From the collaborative exercise that shifts time and its initial purposes (Barbara Hammer would say she never used such images because they were “too beautiful”) Hammer’s personal files, Sachs will establish a link that still respects introspection and distancing as essential moments in the development of an artistic practice. The collaboration between two women of different generations is mixed up with the editing exercise itself, of a composition that depends on each single frame, in all its complexity. Finally, between comments about aging and Lynne Sachs’ own realization that she will be 60 soon, the simple message revealed on the screen materializes as a contact from somewhere in the future, and it is clear and calming: there is nothing to fear, you will always be seen and heard.
See (for Barbara) Barbara Hammer told that she was still living with her husband “in a house in the woods” in California when one day, listening to the radio, she would discover herself as a feminist at the age of 30 (around there, she would “discover” a lesbian too). A year later, she abandoned the marriage, decided to leave in her Volkswagen for Berkeley, was presented with a super-8 camera and since then would not stop making films until her death, adding more than 60 works. He followed demonstrations in which he shamelessly asked intimate details about the participants’ sexual lives, became passionately involved in gender discussions, dealt with female sexuality and desire with the attention they deserve (filming more than once the interconnection of bodies and the frenzy ) and became an invaluable icon of the so-called queer cinema. The kind of extraordinary trajectory whose details accumulate in a symbiotic relationship between art and life.
Adding one more layer to the narrative, in 1975 Hammer would travel alone on a BMW motorcycle to Guatemala, in order to investigate the cultural processes behind indigenous clothing and how the westernized market model affected their mechanisms of exchange and commerce. With the images taken there and later set aside, Deborah Stratman will weave a look that is based not only on the anthropological echoes of Barbara Hammer, but will play a key role in the elaboration of links between the director and Maya Deren, filmmaker associated with the movement Surrealist and independent New Yorker whose notes on myth and history in Haiti in the 50s will serve as a guiding thread to think about the artist’s role as an active observer of dissonant cultures.
Known for her essayistic approach to the re-appropriation of files with sound as a prominent element, Stratman will develop Vever ‘s soundscape based on a phone call as a voice over , and if in A Month of Single Frames Hammer’s voice already carried the hesitation of age advanced, here she is almost unrecognizable, hoarse, sighing. In the call, the director explains the reasons that led her to leave the project: she was never able to find a personal context or a political sense for those images, and the lack of money (at the time she lived in a “basement with no running water or bathroom, with only $100 in the account”) also did not contribute to my expending time and energy trying to find them.
Through the concatenation of Deren’s text — whose highlighted sentences reflect, among other things, on the difficulties encountered when the reality of the material does not correspond to what was initially idealized — and Hammer’s testimony, the film will also deal with a shared feeling for both: the frustration with the unpredictability that runs through certain stages of creation. In this sense, both Deborah Stratman’s and Lynne Sachs’ work offer an internal perspective on Hammer’s creative process, opening up to the universality of themes such as loneliness and dissatisfaction in art.
As for the images, we see Guatemalans looking directly at the camera as if posing for a family portrait, wrapped in warm colored fabrics and prints that simulate creatures and vegetation. Markets full of fruits and vegetables, exchanges and interactions mediated by baskets moving overhead and Pepsi vendors in white uniforms contrasting with the setting. All of this is brought together by the words of Maya Deren racing across the screen, by the sober track that her husband, Teiji Ito, composed for her first film, Meshes of the Afternoon (1943), and by cards with symbols invoking Voodoo entities (so-called “ vever” ), also made by Ito during the couple’s period of immersion in Haitian beliefs.
Although Vever is characterized by a type of cultural curiosity that disperses the camera between unknown faces and the profusion of symbols, references and apparently distant quotations, what stands out from the correlations worked in Deborah Stratman’s montage is a convening and, above all, celebratory movement of complementary female visions, which exemplify collaboration not only as a possibility of completing a work, but also as a possibility of meeting beyond physical existence. And who could say that it would be possible one day to see Maya Deren and Barbara Hammer sharing the same space in the end credits?
( To Barbara and with Barbara)
“Dying is an art like everything else / in that I am exceptional”, would say Sylvia Plath rather bitterly in “Lady Lazarus”. It is known that he probably referenced his numerous suicide attempts, but if the authority of a poetic license does exist, it is evoked here to allow the contemplation of another picture: on more than one occasion Barbara Hammer would say that reading artists’ biographies it would become for her a way of establishing connections and discovering for herself “how to be an artist”. Searching in the lives of those who admire points of intercession to understand their own lives as part of something greater was one of the many pieces of advice left by the director, and now, after her departure, we are left with the same gesture: the admiration and understanding that he lived and died exceptionally, he made the farewell a living work, which opens even today in a continuous movement of creation. At the end of his book, Hammer will state that he would like to have his work remembered even through his writings (“a movie needs to be projected, a book just needs to be opened”), and in a way it’s comforting to think that, contrary to what you imagined, your memory will last in as many ways as possible.
We are really excited to work with aemi’s Artist in Focus Lynne Sachs to deliver a workshop as part of CIFF 2021. This in-person workshop in Cork will focus on the interplay between poetry and cinema. Based in New York, Lynne Sachs is an award winning filmmaker whose work bridges personal experience and political concerns through her singular approach to filmmaking. Lynne uses both analogue and digital mediums, weaving together text, collage, painting, politics and layered sound design.
‘Day Residue: A Film-Making Workshop on the Every Day’ is open to both emerging and established artists interested in film and writing. The workshop is an excellent opportunity for film artists to deeply consider creative approaches to writing and film, both in relation to their own practices and within wider contexts.
Day Residue: A Film-Making Workshop on the Every Day
Lynne Sachs: According to Sigmund Freud’s theory of dreams, our day residue is composed of the memory traces left by the events of our waking state. In this workshop, we explore the ways in which fragments of our daily lives can become material in writing for a personal film. While many people in the film industry rely upon a chronological process that begins with the development phase and ends with post-production, our Day Residue workshop will build on an entirely different creative paradigm that encourages artists to embraces the nuances, surprises and challenges of their daily lives as a foundation for a diaristic practice.
The day will be structured by two sessions: in addition to introducing her practice and collectively watching Lynne’s programme of short films curated by aemi for CIFF (see film info below), Lynne will also lead a session on writing and film / writing for film, and the possible interplays between the two – extending to the role of poetry.
In-person screening programme within the workshop:
Lynne Sachs, Carolee, Barbara & Gunvor, 2018, USA, 8 min From 2015 to 2017, Lynne visited with Carolee Schneemann, Barbara Hammer and Gunvor Nelson, three artists who embraced the moving image throughout their lives.
Lynne Sachs, Still Life With Women And Four Objects, 1986, USA, 4 minA portrait that falls somewhere between a painting and a poem, a look at a woman’s daily routines and thoughts via an exploration of her as a ‘character’.
Lynne Sachs, Drawn and Quartered, 1986, USA, 4 minOptically printed images of a man and a woman fragmented by a film frame that is divided into four distinct sections.
Lynne Sachs, The House of Science: A Museum of False Facts, 1991, USA, 29 min A girl’s difficult coming-of-age rituals are recast into a potent web for affirmation and growth.
Lynne Sachs and Anne Lesley Selcer, Girl is Presence, 2020, USA, 5 min Against the uncertain and anxious pandemic atmosphere, inside domestic space, a ‘girl’ arranges and rearranges a collection of small and mysterious things.
Lynne Sachs and Moira Sweeney, Longings, 2021, USA/ Ireland, 90 seconds A collaboration exploring the resonances and ruptures between image and language.
Lynne Sachs, Drift and Bough, 2014, USA, 6 minLynne Sachs spends a winter morning in Central Park shooting film in the snow. Holding her Super 8mm camera, she takes note of graphic explosions of dark and light and an occasional skyscraper.
Lynne Sachs, Starfish Aorta Colossus, 2014, USA, 4 min Poetry watches film. Film reads poetry. Paolo Javier’s text is a catalyst for digital sculpting of an 8mm Kodachrome canvas.
Lynne Sachs, Maya at 24, 2021, USA, 4 minLynne Sachs films her daughter Maya at 6, 16 and 24.
Lynne Sachs with and for Barbara Hammer, A Month of Single Frames, 2019, USA, 14 min In 1998, filmmaker Barbara Hammer had an artist residency in a shack without running water or electricity. She shot film and kept a journal. In 2018 Hammer, facing her own imminent death, gave her material to Lynne and invited her to make a film.
This is a free workshop, however as numbers are limited, prior booking is essential.
Please email Emer at firstname.lastname@example.org in advance to secure a place.
Lynne Sachs (Memphis, Tennessee, 1961) is a filmmaker and poet living in Brooklyn, New York. Her work explores the intricate relationship between personal observations and broader historical experiences by weaving together text, collage, painting, politics and layered sound design. Strongly committed to a feminist dialogue between cinematic theory and practice, she searches for a rigorous play between image and sound, pushing the visual and aural textures in her work with every new project. Her moving image work ranges from short experimental films, to essay films to hybrid live performances. Lynne has made 37 films, including features and shorts, which have screened, won awards or been included in retrospectives at New York Film Festival, Museum of Modern Art, Sundance, Oberhausen, Viennale, Sheffield Doc/Fest, BAFICI, RIDM Montréal, Vancouver Film Festival, Doclisboa, Havana IFF, and China Women’s Film Festival. In 2014, she received the Guggenheim Fellowship in the Creative Arts.