Multi-disciplinary exhibition reflects ongoing relationship between Wexner Center and experimental filmmaker
“In This Body” is not about Barbara Hammer dying. But the fact that the exhibition, which opens Friday, June 1, and continues through Aug. 11 at the Wexner Center for the Arts, was made while the artist knew she was likely dying of cancer, and that it includes the world premiere of a film installation the artist made about her illness and eventual death, lend “In This Body” both urgency and poignancy.
And while not a career retrospective, the exhibition does reflect the 26-year relationship between the artist and the Wex, a relationship that included four residencies and multiple other visits to screen her work. “In This Body” has both archival and new components, assembled to show, in part, the artist's ongoing interest in the female body and in creating empathy, said Film/Video Studio Program Curator Jennifer Lange.
“She is known, rightfully, as a pioneering experimental lesbian filmmaker,” said Lange, who curated “In This Body.” “But here's this artist who works in an interdisciplinary way that doesn't get highlighted.”
A residency award supported the completion of Hammer's three-camera installation “Evidentiary Bodies,” as well as the assembly of a collection of photography, collage and mixed-media work which shows Hammer's focus on the body and issues of illness and mortality, which began long before her own diagnosis.
“Evidentiary Bodies” focuses on Hammer's own body and illness, adding a layer of intimacy to the work. Hammer died on March 19, 2019, but she was active in the creation of both the new and archival work until just prior to her passing.
“This project, of course, was very personal,” said Wexner Center Video Editor Paul Hill, who has worked on three previous Hammer films made during Wexner Center residencies. “She was unable to travel, so I went to her studio for 11 or 12 days. Knowing this would be her last work made it special for me, and there were moments of sadness and issues of working around her treatment and health. But in terms of creating the video itself, it was a lot of fun.”
Lange acknowledged the ongoing relationship between artist and institution, pausing for a deep breath when discussing how a professional relationship also becomes personal over time.
“This exhibition is a manifestation of that relationship,” Lange said. “I hope it shows.”