Welcome To This House

79 mins.
Directed by Barbara Hammer

Part of the film series Where is Art? Painters, Poets and Place, organized in conjunction with the course “Art Questions” at Hampshire College.

Live introduction and Q&A by filmmaker Barbara Hammer!

Poet Elizabeth Bishop has gained notoriety as much for her tempestuous romance with Lota de Macedo Soares as for her poetry. While that affair inspired a book and a movie, this new documentary broadens the focus and puts the Lota affair in context. Experimental filmmaker Barbara Hammer creates a layered portrait of the person behind the poet, from her childhood in Nova Scotia to her death in 1979.

Bishop described herself as “timorously kicking around the coastlines of the world,” and the film is loosely organized around her stays in Nova Scotia, Key West, Brazil, and Cambridge—the homes she made for herself and the lovers she took.

Never “out” as a lesbian—the concept would have been foreign to the writer who graduated from Vassar in the thirties—Bishop nonetheless actively pursued women, from her first summer-camp crush to the May-December romance that was her last affair.

Hammer examines Bishop from all angles, interviewing everyone from literary luminaries like Marie-Claire Blais and Edmund White to Lota’s aged former maid. Hammer pulls the viewer into Bishop’s world, blending present day footage of each location with archival photos, and recreating moments in the writer’s life. Throughout the film we hear Bishop’s own words, read by Kathleen Chalfant, revealing yet another facet of a complicated and passionate woman.

About Barbara Hammer

Barbara Hammer is a visual artist working primarily in film and video. She has made over 80 moving image works in a career that spans 40 years. She is considered a pioneer of queer cinema. Her experimental films of the 1970’s often dealt with taboo subjects such as menstruation, female orgasm and lesbian sexuality. In the 80’s she used optical printing to explore perception and the fragility of 16mm film life itself. OPTIC NERVE (1985) and ENDANGERED (1988) were selected for the Whitney Museum of American Art Biennials (’85,’89,’93). Her documentaries tell the stories of marginalized peoples who have been hidden from history and are often essay films that are multi-leveled and engage audiences viscerally and intellectually with the goal of activating them to make social change.

Hammer was a Fulbright Senior Specialist in Fall 2005 at the Bratislava Academy of Art and Design, Slovakia; she received the first Shirley Clarke Avant-Garde Filmmaker Award in October 2006 from New York Women in Film and Television; and the Women In Film Award 2006 from the St. Louis International Film Festival. In March 2010 her book, Hammer! Making Movies Out of Sex and Life published by The Feminist Press at the City University of New York was launched in a performance at the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York.

Hammer was honored with a month long retrospective at The Museum of Modern Art in New York City in 2010. In February 2012 she had a month long retrospective at The Tate Modern in London followed by retrospectives in Paris at Jeu de Paume in June 2012 and the Toronto International Film Festival in October 2013.  In 2013 she received a Guggenheim Fellowship for a film WAKING UP TOGETHER on the poet Elizabeth Bishop. She was awarded the same year a Marie Walsh Sharpe artist studio to work on performance projection. She teaches each summer at The European Graduate School in Saas-Fee, Switzerland.

Barbara Hammer lives and works in New York City and Kerhonkson, New York.

Karen Koehler's course "Art Questions" at Hampshire College investigates works of literature, art, architecture, sound, performance and film, alongside selected texts in philosophy and critical theory. The class is debating concepts such as authenticity, forgery, appropriation, transcendence, representation, commitment, and dissidence. Diverse artworks are examined such as the earliest cave markings, agit-prop, abstract paintings, ritual objects, and graffiti art.

Karen Koehler, professor of Architectural and Art History at Hampshire College and director of the Institute for Curatorial Practice, is also a member of the Five College Architectural Studies Council. She teaches courses in modern and contemporary art, architecture and design, with a special emphasis on connections between art, literature, critical theory, and socio-political history. Karen received her B.A. in English Literature from the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign and a Ph.D. in Art and Archaeology from Princeton University.

Professor Koehler has published extensively on twentieth-century art and architecture, with a concentration on the role of exhibitions in the history of art. Her work questions the relationships of art and exile, translation and perception, and the interactions of architecture with other forms of cultural expression, as in her edited volume The Built Surface: Architecture and the Pictorial Arts from Romanticism to the 21st Century (London: Ashgate, 2001). She is currently at work on two books, a survey of the Bauhaus for Phaidon Press, and an intellectual history of the German architect Walter Gropius, including his exhibition designs in New York, Berlin, Weimar, London, and Paris