Week 6: Lives Out on a Limb (Hammer & Hills version)

So I said to her that I am a writer. It felt kind of awkward when I was just speaking to someone about her life’s work. I clarified: commercial writer. And, of course mentioned that I also write for myself. Which I guess is what this is.

Bier ist Brot

I am right now sitting in a cafe. I have my iPad open in front of me and I can type as fast as the guitarist can strum her guitar. She’s good. Really good even. She’s currently doing an instrumental cover of Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy,” and it’s fucking awesome in this far more plaintive singer songwriter female voice thing that I like so much.

The place is small. I came back specifically because the outside sign had boasted free music. And despite the presence of this iPad I am broke as fuck and can only enjoy free and cheap at the moment.

Thankfully, this place’s soup was delicious and less than 5 euros. Everything seems far more expensive when you’re counting pennies. Or whatever the equivalent is called in German. I want a beer. The beer is almost as expensive as my soup.

Back for the backstory

Earlier this evening I was back at KOW for the lecture and screening with Barbara Hammer. So glad I went back for it. According to the KOW guy who introduced her, the exhibition was a rather spontaneous choice. She’d had a box of art collages, the pieces that she had used to pull together her art films. They had never been displayed on their own, he learned, so he thought, Why not here? That was a couple of years ago and, well, here we all were, a crowded room to hear what she had to say about it.

When I walked in, early, she was in middle of giving a tour of the works to the other early birds. I wanted to simply slip in but, nope, she turned around and stuck out her hand to welcome me. Bright smile, slight build, and a powerful grip that pretty much told me that she’d long practiced making her strength clear.

Well done, Ms. Hammer.

Without her individual introduction to her art’s backstory I’d probably stay in the clueless place I’d been in when I walked her exhibition by myself. I was right that it was all about the backstory. There are a lot of lovers in those stories.

The place was full, easily 50 people on the black benches that they’d lined up. The place was overwhelmingly filled with young women. There were a handful of men, certainly no more than 5, including two men, a couple, sitting next to me in the front row that she later introduced as the two she’d met on the train on the way over.

Girls, boys

The reverse is true here. Still packed with young people and — from the over-enthusiastic hooting and hollering – a handful who seem to know the musician directly. Alice Hills. Must look her up on Facebook. (Done. See YouTube video below.) Anyway, a quick glance around the room says about 25-30 people and I would say half are men.

I know that with all the gender chat of the last week that I shouldn’t care. But I think It’s pretty fucked up that politically feminist artists aren’t given the all gender audience that they deserve.

Memory of sex

Anyway, she showed 6 of her films. There were 4 of them that I absolutely loved. Dollhouse. Stone Circles. The tourist one with the pac man sound. And the first one that I cannot now remember but which I am sure that I loved. Oh god my memory. Surely because I am also trying to remember while I listen to this artist and type out this blog post.

Remembered: Sync Touch (1981)

She said that one of the benefits of being after the change is that the crazy sex drive is gone. Oh shit.

Hässlich aber sexy

Okay, 30 minutes of play time and now a break. Should I stay or should I go? Should I stay or should I go now?!

Oh music, really?

Anyway, yeah, I just tried to pay for my beer and the guy switched to English. I know my German pronunciation is bad but, dude, really, let me pretend?

He asked where in the States I was from. Virginia, I said. Not mentioning the “born in” and “lived most of my life elsewhere” parts. I heard it’s pretty there, he said.

Yes, it is pretty. Far prettier than this unattractive city that I love way too much to leave even with my shitty German.

If you’re bi, bye

I got my picture taken with the artist. I thought she would be embarrassed on my behalf, as I behaved like a silly groupie. But she was enthusiastic enough to stand for not one or two but like twelve photos because the young artist who was using my iPhone didn’t know what to look for when it had taken a picture. The artist then insisted on more pictures because the first looked too horrible – probably because the photographer never said cheese so we were too busy looking like we were waiting for the moment to start. Then we took even more photos with her camera.

I spoke briefly and extremely awkwardly with a couple of people before leaving. I did get to talk to a couple who were part of the feminist porn film festival.

Which reminds me – wow – did I watch a woman masturbate in one of tonight’s films? Yes I did, she of the very hairy pussy.

“If you’re bi, bye” was one of the art pieces on the wall. She said it with an apologetic introduction. She’d not renamed the piece but she had covered up its name for the exhibition. She wanted us to know that the term queer hadn’t existed then, that it was in the 70s then, when lesbians felt threatened by the potential men in bi women’s lives, when she herself hadn’t yet matured into the far more conscious of fluid sexuality person that she is now (although she didn’t put it that way herself).

The sex positive feminists introduced themselves as such. They pressed a handful of flyers into my hand to pass on to others. I’ll place it in the bakery downstairs but I wonder how long they will stay there.

Going, going

Okay, her 10 minute break has turned into 20 and I am reaching the end of my beer. What must one do to actually hear music during a musical night here?

The sex positive feminists seem to be my kind of people. Open and earnest. They are trying to convince Hammer to come back and show some of her works in October. May the hairy pussy goddesses of the universe bless their pleas.

Beer. Going. Going.

Damn. Gone.

Bonus for if you made it to the end of the piece: Barbara Hammer on feminist film for the MOMA and her piece “No No Nooky T.V.”

[Written Saturday, 8 Feb 2015; published 10 Feb 2015. I’ve never been especially diligent with personal blogging.]

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Kim Jones’ killer has a name. So does her wife.

Listen to this post:

A random article fell across my path yesterday, in the way that things do on the Web. A social worker, Randolf Sanders, 36, had confessed to killing his boss. According to the report by the police, Sanders’ boss, Kim Jones, 56 years old, had discovered that he had stolen tens of thousands of dollars from the Philadelphia children’s charity for which they both worked. The morning that he killed her was the day she had planned on turning him in to the authorities.

The pictures that accompanied the article arrested me. He: black, bearded, with a slight smile. She: black, staring into the camera with dark sunglasses on, small hoop rings dangling from her lobes, her hair shaved to the scalp.

A black woman. With a closely shaved head.

The article said that she’d married in December. Yet there was no mention of a statement from her spouse.

A black woman. With a closely shaved head. With an unidentified spouse. (more…)

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The Male Gaze (1983) by Barbara Hammer

Week 5, in which I enjoyed art and political confrontation

I write for a living, so my reluctance to write for myself is infuriating and typical. Like the chef who doesn’t want to come home and cook dinner. Or the professional dancer who wants to snack on chips in front of the television. (They do that, right? It’s not just me, right?)

Thankfully, this #2015if experiment is more about the experience than the blogging about it.

It was quite a week. I’ll skip the temptation to focus on the negative. (“I’m fine,” says the American.) Instead, I’ll say that, yes, you betcha, I did make time for the “museum” challenge.

The weather was pleasant enough on Wednesday that I hopped on my bike and rode across town to Mitte to check out an exhibit at KOW. I’d never been there before but, as I’d done in these other weeks, I’d flipped through the local city magazine (the Zitty) to find something new.

The notice in the Zitty was brief: “Have a Crush. Queer Art.” And then a blurb about an installation of about 50 works by Barbara Hammer, a groundbreaking feminist and lesbian filmmaker and multimedia artist. Since – humble pie confession – I’d never heard of her work before, I decided it was a must-see event.

So off I went. (more…)

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