2017 Barbara Hammer Grant Winner Announced at Special Edition of Queer|Art|Film


On December 4th, 2017, a full house packed the main theater at the IFC Center in Greenwich Village to celebrate Los Angeles-based painter and filmmaker Fair Brane who was announced as the winner of the first annual Barbara Hammer Lesbian Experimental Filmmaking Grant. The award was announced during a special edition of Queer|Art|Film, organized by Hammer and Queer|Art Program Coordinator Vanessa Haroutunian, to recognize the visionary women filmmakers who have influenced Hammer’s prolific career.

The evening began with a special tribute to Hammer by Queer|Art Founder/Executive Director Ira Sachs and Haroutunian. Hammer then took the stage and invited the judges for the first year of the grant—Cheryl Dunye, Su Friedrich, and Dani Restack (previously Leventhal)—to announce the winner. Fair Brane, attending all the way from Los Angeles, accepted the award, which was accompanied by a $5,000 cash grant. Two women were also acknowledged as finalist for the first year of the grant—Quyên Nguyen-Le and Sasha Wortzel—who’s work and biographies are featured below.

Brane was one of 76 applicants who applied for the Hammer grant in its first year, with a project entitled “Drink More Water.” Brane’s short essay film will bring together her interest in the intersection of race, power, and social relations.

“I use film as a social practice,” Brane says. “Through my work, I aim to draw attention to hidden oppressive constructs rigorously at work in our society. In the near future, I see myself merging this ambition with other modes of creativity, specifically multimedia performance work and other forms of social sculpture. I am fascinated by the nexus that experimental and immersive film can provide. Foremost, however, I hope to continue the tradition of avant-garde and experimental social practice cinema.” 

After the awarding of the grant, Hammer and Haroutunian presented a selection of short experimental films that have inspired Hammer’s legendary filmmaking career. The screening, entitled “The Hammer Mix,” included works by some of the avant-garde’s most esteemed female filmmakers: Yvonne Rainer, Maya Deren, Martha Rosler, Nancy Holt, Gunvor Nelson, Carolee Schneemann, and Valie Export. Hammer, Haroutunian, and special guests Carolee Schneemann and Martha Rosler took the stage after the screening to engage the audience in a conversation about the films and their influence on Hammer. Hammer wrote about the films, “As a young female filmmaker I looked for predecessors. And they were there with gorgeous work that taught and inspired me. These short films are timeless and can give both aspiring and accomplished filmmakers of today the same jolt of energy and investigative curiosity they did for me in the ‘70s. Let's enjoy together once again!”

“The Hammer Mix” has been organized in conjunction with Leslie-Lohman’s retrospective exhibition “Barbara Hammer: Evidentiary Bodies” (October 7, 2017 - January 28, 2018). The exhibition brings together both known and previously unseen works of film and video, installations, works on paper, and material from Hammer’s archive. This exhibition addresses critical themes that appear in Hammer’s work, including: lesbian representation, subjectivity and sexuality; intimacy and sensation; and conditions and maintenance of life and illness.


Fair Brane by Christina Johnson


Fair Brane (Alyssa Johnson) is a painter/filmmaker living and working in Los Angeles, California. She received a BFA in Painting & Drawing from Tyler School of Art in 2011 and an MFA from Ohio State University in 2015, majoring in Painting & Drawing, with a minor in Cinema & Video Production. In 2010 she attended Yale University’s Summer School of Art under the Ellen Battel-Stoeckel Fellowship, and in 2013 she was awarded the John Fergus Scholarship. 


"Drink More Water" is a short essay film with an estimated running time of twenty minutes. "DMW" follows the character Noah as she outlines the strategies that govern her life as a now retired intelligence officer. The film traces Noah as she haunts several tourist locations in an unnamed beach town.

An important element the film uses and plays upon is the absence of spoken dialogue, the use of instrumental music to convey a narrative linearity and the use of PowerPoint slides and captioning to dictate the story and background of the main character Noah. The style of this film is largely influenced by other essayistic directors who have traversed this field: Anna Zett, Hito Steyerl, amongst many others.

Brane anticipates the film will be completed by the end of 2017. Her work has previously screened at This is Now: Video Series with ROYGBIV Gallery, COOP Microcinema, and the Five Continents Film Festival. She has been included in group exhibitions at Urban Arts Space, City Center Gallery, Hopkins Hall Gallery, and Little Berlin Gallery, among others. Her work can be found online and on her website: www.fairbrane.com




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Quyên Nguyen-Le is a queer Vietnamese American filmmaker from Los Angeles, whose work explores the intersections of gender, sexuality, memory, and cultural identity. After a brief time at the USC School of Cinematic Arts, Quyên instead completed degrees in Comparative Literature and Philosophy/Politics/Law at USC; then moved to Santiago de Chile to study Spanish with an emphasis in politics. Quyên is also a proud alum of the Los Angeles InnerCity Filmmakers program and Emma Bowen Foundation fellowship at Focus Features/NBCUniversal. More info about Quyên and her work can be found on her website: http://www.quyennl.com/

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Sasha Wortzel is an artist and filmmaker working primarily in time-based media. Her work is largely concerned with the politics of space in relation to race, gender, and queer desire. Sasha has recently presented work at the New Museum, Berlin International Film Festival, DOC NYC, Outfest LA, Newfest, BFI Flare, Tribeca Interactive, Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, A.I.R. Gallery, and Cooper Gallery. Her work has been supported by the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, Art Matters Foundation, the Astraea Foundation’s Global Arts Fund and the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA). She was a 2012-2013 Queer|Art|Mentorship Fellow, and a 2016-2017 participant in the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council Workspace program. Sasha received her MFA from Hunter College. More info about Sasha and her work can be found on her website: http://www.sashawortzel.com/




Cheryl Dunye emerged as part of the 1990's "queer new wave" of young film and video makers. Dunye has made over 15 films including HBO’s STRANGER INSIDE and her debut film, THE WATERMELON WOMAN, recently restored by Outfest’s UCLA Legacy Project for the films’ 20th anniversary. In 2016, Dunye received a Guggenheim Fellowship and became a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Presently Dunye is at work on her next feature film BLACK IS BLUE. She is represented by Echo Lake Management and APA Agency.

Su Friedrich


Su Friedrich has directed twenty-four films and videos since 1978, which have been featured in eighteen retrospectives at major museums and film festivals, including one at the Museum of Modern Art in 2007. The films have been widely screened at film festivals, universities and art centers, have been extensively written about, and have won numerous awards, including Grand Prix for Sink or Swim at the Melbourne International Film Festival. Her DVD collection is distributed by Outcast Films. She teaches video production at Princeton University.

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Dani Restack was born in Columbus, Ohio and is currently an Assistant Professor of Art at Ohio State. In 2003 she received an MFA in studio arts from the University of Illinois at Chicago and in 2009 an MFA in film/video from Bard College. Dani Leventhal’s films make palpable the emotional life of disparate animate and inanimate worlds. Using both scripted and found source material, Leventhal creates complex layers of meaning through montage, rendering micro-narratives of mortality and desire.




Photos by Eric McNatt