In 1983, when experimental filmmaker Barbara Hammer traveled to Buffalo to screen her films for the local lesbian and gay community, she received an unusual welcome.
“I was met at the Buffalo airport by the vice squad, who wanted to see if there was any pornography in [my films]. I was so humiliated, but I decided it was more important for me to sit with the vice squad and be humiliated rather than to disappoint the 100 people who bought tickets for the show,” Hammer recalled in a short video dedicated to Buffalo filmmaker Lawrence Brose. It is part of a screening at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the Burchfield Penney Art Center during its free second-Friday event.
The screening will feature several testimonials and tributes to Brose, the former director of CEPA Gallery who pleaded not guilty to federal child pornography charges in 2009 and is still awaiting trial, from fellow filmmakers and artists. The videos were sought out and collected by Buffalo filmmaker and former Squeaky Wheel director Dorothea Braemer and Joanna Raczynska, the former media arts director of Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center, under the auspices of the Termite TV Collective.
The contributions range from potent statements in support of Brose to more abstract work referencing aspects of institutionalized censorship. Bill Brown’s gritty black-and-white film “Document” is inspired by heavily redacted copies of declassified government documents. Laurie McDonald and Larry Heyl’s “Private Parts” explores a censorship controversy at the Rhode Island School of Design in 1978.
A video by Buffalo artists Ron Ehmke and Meg Knowles is a tongue-in-cheek advertisement for an imaginary product called the “Home Purification Apparatus,” which is merely a black cloth consumers can use to cover up objectionable material.
For Braemer, the robust response she and Raczynska received from artists across the country speaks to a growing dissatisfaction with the state of censorship and surveillance in America.
“I think people are getting really tired of censorship in general and surveillance in our society,” Bramer said. “You feel that the support for his case is getting stronger and stronger and more and more people are coming around and realizing that these accusations do not have much merit. He’s also well-liked in the independent film community, and people feel like they want to do something.”
On Brose’s legal defense website, www.lawrencebroselegaldefensefund.com, the number of high-profile supporters has grown since the site was launched and now includes former Albright-Knox Art Gallery Director Louis Grachos, University at Buffalo professor and accomplished curator Jonathan Katz and longtime Hallwalls Executive Director Edmund Cardoni.
Brose makes an appearance at the end of the video to reflect on the experience of being under constant surveillance and struggling to hold onto his creative identity as his case slowly makes its way to trial.
“There’s a self-censorship going on and it’s very effective, and that is part of the strategy of this whole case, to wear me down on every level of my life,” Brose says in the video. “I actually am being monitored all the time. It’s destroyed a lot of my creativity.”
What: Screening of films dedicated to Lawrence Brose
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday
Where: Burchfield Penney Art Center, 1300 Elmwood Ave.
Info: 878-6011 or www.burchfieldpenney.org