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Vital Signs, 1991

Transferred 16 mm film

"Waltzing cheek-to-cheek with a grinning skeleton, filmmaker Barbara Hammer sets the tone ... . Hammer's Vital Signs is dedicated to a trio of losses, including her late father and Curt McDowell, a fellow filmmaker who died of AIDS in 1987. Her recurring motif of a danse macabre makes a jarring symbol for the will to reconcile spirit and body; as she caresses and cradles the all-too-familiar form, Hammer fashions an artful, elegantly disturbing keynote address." — Calvin Ahlgren, San Francisco Chronicle

"With so many of my friends and family dying and not knowing what to do with my grief, I turned to historic narratives of death. I found that in the past the dear ones were buried immediately outside the house by the doorstep leading to the 'world.' This was a way to daily embrace their memories and bring them back through our thoughts. I wanted to give a last kiss to Curt McDowell whose really great talent was cut short way too early, to the writer and activist, my friend Vito Russo, and to my dear father, John Wilbur Hammer. They are still the 'vital signs' of our time." — Barbara Hammer

This film is dedicated to John Wilbert Hammer, Curt McDowell, and Vito Russo.

Barbara Hammer, Vital Signs, 1991, Transferred 16mm film, 4:3, color, b&w, sound, 9:43 min, Edition of 7+ 2AP
Barbara Hammer, Vital Signs, 1991, Transferred 16mm film, 4:3, color, b&w, sound, 9:43 min, Edition of 7+ 2AP
Barbara Hammer, Vital Signs, 1991, Transferred 16mm film, 4:3, color, b&w, sound, 9:43 min, Edition of 7+ 2AP
Barbara Hammer, Vital Signs, 1991, Transferred 16mm film, 4:3, color, b&w, sound, 9:43 min, Edition of 7+ 2AP
Barbara Hammer, Vital Signs, 1991, Transferred 16mm film, 4:3, color, b&w, sound, 9:43 min, Edition of 7+ 2AP
Barbara Hammer, Vital Signs, 1991, Transferred 16mm film, 4:3, color, b&w, sound, 9:43 min, Edition of 7+ 2AP

Transferred 16mm film, 4:3, color, b&w, sound, 9:43 min, Edition of 7+ 2AP

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Estate of Barbara Hammer

Barbara Hammer was born in Hollywood in 1939. Her documentary and experimental films are considered among the earliest and most extensive representations of lesbian identity, love, and sexuality. Accompanying her career as a filmmaker, Hammer has time and again worked with performance and installation. She has participated in group exhibitions such as the Whitney Biennial in 1993, the WACK! show at MOCA L.A. and MoMA PS1 in 2007/2008. With film retrospectives at New York’s MoMA in 2010 and the Tate Modern, London, in 2012, the artworld's interest in Hammer's work has recently increased. Hammer has been a teacher for many years and held a professorship at the European Graduate School in Saas-Fee (CH). She died in 2019.



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