Dying livingly with Barbara Hammer — Staci Bu Shea

“Let’s hold each other until it’s all over” – Shan Kelley*

Lesbian feminist filmmaker and artist, pioneer of experimental queer cinema, Barbara Hammer (May 15, 1939 - March 16, 2019) made an abundant amount of work throughout her life – from moving image works to performances, installations, photographs, collages, and drawings. Considering how the body (and hers in particular) plays a central role within her practice, such artistic output is demonstrative of her passionate love for living and all its sensuous details, in both art and activism. Since diagnosed with stage III ovarian cancer in 2006 and in the last decade of her life, Hammer’s artistic production and legacy planning was remarkably energetic, intergenerational, and loving. And in the final years of her life, she advocated for the legalization of medical aid in dying in New York (which is still not legal, and currently only legal in nine states of the US), for death by choice and with peace and dignity. In this lecture, Staci Bu Shea shares about planning and care through their experience of being one of many who worked with Hammer at the end of her life and maps a partial artistic and social landscape of collective grief in the unfolding of her death. This presentation is a vignette into processes of end of life planning and the continuation of life after death.

*Shan Kelley for VISUAL AIDS Print+ Projects, text originally from Who Will Hold Us If We Can’t Hold Each Other, 2015, photo transfer, oil paint, semen, pubic hair, resin on wood, 5" in. x 7" in. x ¾" in.

Staci Bu Shea (1988) is a curator and writer. They focus on aesthetic and poetic practices of social reproduction and care work, as well as its manifestations in interpersonal relationships and daily life, community organizing, and institutional practice. In 2017, Bu Shea co-curated Barbara Hammer: Evidentiary Bodies at Leslie Lohman Museum of Art (NY) with Carmel Curtis. Bu Shea is curator at Casco Art Institute: Working for the Commons in Utrecht, and is also an end of life planner and hospice volunteer.