— Homage To Sappho, 1978, was a performance in front of what is now the old Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco directed by me. The impetus was to “put lesbians, lesbian art in the museum and not pussy foot with the project label”. I asked a group of acquaintances to join me on the sidewalk, wear white, and be prepared to be active.
I asked them to write a list of lesbian artist names on the white paper that was laid out on the sidewalk with the intention to circle the museum (didn’t make that goal). We filled up balloons that had the name of a lesbian artist inside with helium and released them over the city. What you see is a large weather balloon but we also, as I remember, used smaller balloons. I have some photos of me posing under the museum sign with black hat and white suit suggesting that I should be in the museum not left on the sidewalk. So it was an inner/outer event.
The passing public were surprised, curious, stood around and watched. I don’t remember inviting anyone in particular nor the press (naive at the ‘art game’ at that time). The documentation is the history along with this little story.
Even as late as the 1990s I made a film, The Female Closet, on the lesbian photographer Alice Austen who was featured in a show at the NY Public Library and still there was no ‘lesbian text’ on display with the photographs, nor in the bio. Over and over again, but never again.
Barbara Hammer lives and works in New York City and Kerhonkson, New York. She is a visual artist primarily working in film and video. Her work reveals and celebrates marginalized peoples whose stories have not been told. Her cinema is multi-leveled and engages an audience viscerally and intellectually with the goal of activating them to make social change. Hammer has been to Yamagata both as a judge (1994) and with a competition documentary (2001). Since then she has been honored with five retrospectives in the last three years: The Museum of Modern Art in New York City, Tate Modern in London, Jeu de Paume in Paris, the Toronto International Film Festival and Kunsthalle Oslo in Norway. Her book, HAMMER! MAKING MOVIES OUT OF SEX AND LIFE, was released in 2010, through The Feminist Press. Hammer is well-known for making the first explicit 1974 lesbian film DYKETACTICS, and for her trilogy of documentary film essays on queer history NITRATE KISSES (1992), TENDER FICTIONS (1995), HISTORY LESSONS (2000). She received a Guggenheim Fellowship (2013-14) for WELCOME TO THIS HOUSE (2015), a documentary on Elizabeth Bishop, which will premiere at The Museum of Fine Art, Boston and The Museum of Modern Art, New York.