- An Interview with Barbara Hammer
For over thirty years, Barbara Hammer has been making films. At age twenty-seven, she began her artistic career as a painter. Her early works, produced before she came out as a lesbian, introduced her to the physical aspects of film-making. The work produced in the early to mid-seventies uses her sensory experience as a lesbian for its formal basis. Dyketactics (1974), Women I Love (1976), Multiple Orgasm (1977), and Double Strength (1978) all contain sexually explicit imagery. Hammer’s works are some of the only pieces from this period which concentrate on framing the nude female body in its entirety and focus on the multi-valent physicality of the body. The athleticism of Terry Sendgraff’s naked body in Double Strength is an analogy for the female body in Hammer’s films; it’s full of grace, seduction, and strength. The juxaposition between sexual, nude bodies and trapeze riding contradicts representations which usually divorce sexual activity from other modes of physical expression. These works portray sexual activity with an exuberance that has yet to be matched with any contemporary work I’ve seen.
On March 21, 1997 I interviewed Barbara Hammer in her room at the Commodore Hotel in San Francisco. She had flown in from New York to present her work for the first annual Mad Cat Women’s Film Festival.
Kate Haug: I want to start out by saying that I’m concentrating on your early films from the seventies such as Dyketactics (1974), Women I Love (1976), and Double Strength (1978), because I’ve had the most contact with these works. I will be asking general questions about your experience as an artist and your formal concerns. I’ll also be asking more specific questions about particular works.
Tell me again what your project is. The way I understand it is that you are interested in the ways women filmmakers use bodies in films. Are you looking at lesbian bodies? [End Page 65]
I’m looking specifically at sexually explicit work made by women at the time of the Women’s Movement. I’m thinking about what artistic strategies were used at that particular moment. Obviously at that time people really started to look at representation as intrinsically political—especially in terms of the Women’s Movement. So I’m thinking: “How did artists deal with that?” Especially in your work.
So you’re writing a historical paper about a period you don’t know about. This period will give you material to think about how you...