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Untitled. From the series Dream to Reborn In (Nazita Matres Rezai, 2007). Used with permission from Nazita Matres Rezai.

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Journal Issue 2.supplement
Summer 2010
Edited by Deanna Utroske, Agatha Beins, Karen Alexander, Julie Ann Salthouse, and Jillian Hernandez
Managing Editor: Katherine O’Connor


Learning from Barbara Hammer’s Living Archive


Essay by Nazita Matres Rezai


Keep everything! That is what I most vividly remember learning from my apprenticeship with Barbara Hammer: keep your address book, share your story before history erases it, have a reliable person or an institution store and take care of your work when you pass away. Rebel against injustice and shed light on issues that are hidden in the shadows and that are considered taboo. These are just a few learning marks left on my spirit after doing an apprenticeship with Hammer.
           In my apprenticeship I did different tasks, from designing DVD covers for Hammer’s films following her design instructions to mailing her films worldwide. I translated news footage from the 1980s of a police raid on a lesbian bar in Lima, Peru, from Spanish to English for her next project. I would bring her films to a lab to transfer them into other video formats for museum projections. I passed into print handwritten stories of her life to have them backed up digitally. Together we organized her film archive, checking if all the movies were in place and up to date with their corresponding printers, as well as selecting her films MoMA purchased for their museum collection. I assisted Hammer and Gina Carducci on their collaborative film Generations (2010), taking photographs, capturing their process. Before starting work I would take her loyal dog Spooner for a walk near the river, her dear companion and creative guardian. Hammer would always invite me for lunch to a lovely Chinese restaurant near her studio where she would ask me questions about my life and my creative process, listening carefully to my ideas, offering encouraging support and enthusiasm. Hammer’s thirst for art and life is infinite and contagious.
          I chose to do an apprenticeship with Hammer because before working for her I was doing an apprenticeship with Carmela Garcia, a Spanish artist whose work has a sublime enigmatic discourse reflecting the world of women. Hammer fit in perfectly because I moved to New York to complete my studies at Parsons School for Design and was in search for a mentor in my life journey as an artist. Her conquest of ovarian cancer and her brutal recovery and unstoppable creative force to continue expressing, sharing, and illuminating minds and hearts is why I became attracted to her persona and work. And I feel honored for having had the opportunity to work for such a heroic artist.
        A corner of her studio was filled with boxes housing delicious evidence of a life filled with passion and humanity, snapshots of her life. The boxes held original prints from photographer Alice Austin, Hammer’s paintings, sketches, journals, letters, flyers, memorabilia, and films—an archive vibrating with charm and fragility, a time capsule of the brilliant, humanist, rebel that is HammerHammer. Her poetic vision and dynamic discourse has filled her archive with many memorable moments of a life expressed on film, in words, and on paper, such as her collection of film works and her personal diaries. Hammer’s archive also discloses her effect on people and the memories they retain of her boundless and rebellious spirit; it is an archive of hearts.
        I had a dream of Hammer a couple of months before I started my apprenticeship with her. In my dream she was sitting silently on top of a hill contemplating a horizon, with both a deep sense of life purpose and the freshness of a trouble-making kid planning the next adventure. The scene was tinted in black and white like a silver gelatin print, but in motion. She silently looked at me and smiled as fireworks illuminated the sky. I knew I was dealing with a shooting star.
        Hammer’s wisdom and sensibility in selecting and editing taught me that the flow of the organic possibility of an image makes it an eternal and reusable element. She taught me to bring forth new and daring ideas both in the realm of abstract image making as well as exploring female desire. Her hardworking personality, strength, passion, and her love for life, travel, and adventure has taught me to never surrender and to live life with passion and to make art with passion. Her work is a love poem to all, a gift.


Nazita Matres Rezai was born in Madrid, Spain, and is currently living in Sao Paulo, Brazil. In 2010 Rezai received a BFA from Parsons School for Design in New York.



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