Thursday, August 15, 2013 at 7:30pm
Barbara Hammer's Audience + Cecilia Dougherty's Gay Tape: Butch and Femme
155 Freeman Street, Brooklyn
Audience, Barbara Hammer, 16mm, 1982, 33 mins
Gay Tape: Butch and Femme, Cecilia Dougherty, video, 1985, 27 mins
Light Industry presents a double-bill of sapphic autoethnography from the 1980s, featuring work by pioneering lesbian artists Barbara Hammer and Cecilia Dougherty.
Barbara Hammer’s Audience is a fascinating deep cut from the director’s prodigious filmography. Relatively raw in its design, this 16mm diary of audience reactions at retrospectives of Hammer’s work in San Francisco, London, Toronto, and Montreal in the early 1980s bears none of the distinctive visual flourishes and essayistic form one usually finds in her filmmaking. Instead, it comes closer to the original ideal of cinéma vérité as seen in Chronicle of a Summer; informed by the consciousness-raising groups of the feminist movement, the artist herself acts as a catalyst for discussion, rather than fly-on-the-wall observer. Today, Audience serves as an invaluable historical archive, providing quick but complex portraits of lesbian scenes in different cities and countries: the San Francisco women are bold and raucous, treating Hammer like a celebrity; the London crowd more reserved and tentative; the Canadians politely critical after initial hesitation. It also functions as a testament to the power of Hammer herself as a figure in lesbian culture, showing how fully she engages audiences to incite new forms of discourse about representation.
Cecilia Dougherty’s first video, made while she was a student at Berkeley, Gay Tape: Butch and Femme applies “a little fine-tuning” to the question of representation, homing in on the subjective particularities of the butch-femme dynamic as experienced by members of Dougherty’s local Bay Area dating pool. As Dougherty describes it:
“Gay Tape is a documentary about some of the regulars at Ollie’s Bar, a lesbian dive on Telegraph Avenue in Oakland. The 1970s sartorial statement of flannel shirts, 501s, and Frye boots was passé and at odds with the new eighties aesthetic—tons of makeup, big hair, and complicated lingerie. Along with the new aesthetic came the reemergence of good old fashioned butch-femme role-playing. While the femmes pranced around like Stevie Nicks, their butch girlfriends reverted to an earlier role model, acting out fifties and sixties-style tough girl with brilliant aplomb. I asked some of the women from Ollie’s to talk on camera about role-playing.
The camera instantly gave me too much control over content, so I tried to balance it by providing a platform for the women to speak on the butch-femme issue without overtly directing them. I relinquished authorship in favor of revelation and avoided coming to conclusions; the speakers were experts as well as subjects and could say whatever occurred to them. They spoke extemporaneously about their lovers, the details of their sexual identities, and their fantasies. My girlfriend at the time was one of the subjects. As her story unfolded I realized from my privileged position behind the lens that the lover she was describing in detail was not me. So much for the power of the gaze!”
Followed by a conversation with Dougherty, Hammer, and critic Melissa Anderson.
Tickets - $7, available at door.
Please note: seating is limited. First-come, first-served. Box office opens at 7pm.