|3 February 2011||Art Production Fund / Park Avenue Armory||–|
|The Ghosts, 2009–2011, color video, 31 minutes 25 seconds.
Short film by Sue de Beer featuring Jon Spencer as “a banker wanting to find the ghost of a lover who left him”.
The Ghosts, a film and installation was open between 3rd – 6th February 2011 at Park Avenue Armory, 643 Park Avenue, NY NY 10065.
“Ms. de Beer met Mr. Spencer through the members of a German band called the Cobra Killers. He said he became involved partly because she described the project as a horror film and he is a fan of the genre. But during the shooting, which he squeezed into an exhausting Australian tour schedule, he was unsure at times what he had gotten himself into.
“Things were always a little vague, even sometimes the address where I was supposed to show up,” he said. “I don’t know if she was doing this to increase my sense of disorientation, to keep me in the dark. But I guess if she was, in some ways it kind of worked. It was a strange experience all around.”” – nytimes.com
Various articles and news reports are shown below (the NYTimes article is the best), visit the websites to see the full articles with images.
|Haunted: Sue de Beer at the Park Avenue Armory
Text: Doreen Remen.Co-founder, Art Production Fund
Photos: James Ewing
Published: 7th February 2011
The weather outside was indeed frightful, but an undeterred art crowd streamed into the Park Avenue Armory Wednesday night to preview a new film, The Ghosts, by artist Sue de Beer.
The event, hosted by Art Production Fund, Sotheby’s, Marianne Boesky Gallery and the Park Avenue Armory, kicks off a four day free-to-the-public viewing of the work. This is the latest presentation by Art Production Fund, made possible with the generous support of Sotheby’s.
Sue de Beer first came to prominence in 2004 with her inclusion in the Whitney Biennial. She has concentrated on giving form to that intense adolescent turmoil that we’re all familiar with, modifying conventions of movie making to help make her point. In this latest film, she elevates the emotional investigation to a metaphysical realm while grounding the piece more solidly in what we commonly find in popular movies (e.g. an evident narrative, certain shooting techniques, a sexy soundtrack). This combination leads to a sophisticated middle ground that softens the edges of both art and entertainment, providing a lush, hypnotic and haunting visit into the artist’s mind and our own personal psyches that everyone feels welcome to enjoy.
And on Wednesday night, the crowd was there to enjoy! Everybody was in great spirits, basking in the uniquely gorgeous and indescribably welcoming atmosphere of the Armory. The historic building, it’s décor and ambiance offering the perfect amount of reverence for the occult, is the ideal setting in which to experience Sue’s work.
In addition to the film, the show includes sculptural elements installed in various rooms: a modified praxinoscope “fountain” and two light filtering screens, all beautifully echoing scenes from the film. In the Veterans Room, where the film itself is screened, Sue installed a silver shag rug and large silver beanbags. A more appropriate viewing environment one can hardly imagine.
Earlier in the day, Sue, who is also an Assistant Professor at NYU, treated her students to a short talk and private viewing. As the evening arrived, she returned glamorous and lovely, graciously enjoying her moment as she greeted guests that included luminaries Calvin Tomkins, Gary Indiana, Glenn O’Brien, Jane Holzer, Roselee Goldberg, Lisa Phillips, and artists Ross Bleckner, Jon Kessler, Chris Astley and Barnaby Furnas (to name just a few!). The only real shame was that Marianne Boesky, her long time dealer, was unable to join in the celebration. She was stuck in an airport somewhere, all flights into New York cancelled because of the weather.
When the first screening ended, the audience — enjoying each other’s company, cocktails and hors d’oeuvres (courtesy of Sotheby’s) — wandered down the hall into the Board and Officers room, where Andy Comer, whose music punctuates the film, was playing a live set. As the melancholy and mesmerizing sounds filled the room, the damp cold outside suddenly transformed into
White Paint, Chocolate, and Postmodern Ghosts
By RANDY KENNEDY
Published: 26th January 2011 (appeared in print on January 30, 2011, on page AR1 of the New York edition.)
SURVEYING the row of door buzzers outside the hulking Brooklyn building where the artist Sue de Beer works, it somehow seems fitting to find a lone occupant listed on the building’s top floor, with no further explanation: “GOD.”
“I don’t know who that is or what they do,” Ms. de Beer said, breaking into a laugh when a reporter pointed out the small handwritten label next to the buzzer. “I’ve never really been up to that floor.”
But given the nature of her work and especially her most recent creation — a lush, frankly mystical video piece called “The Ghosts” that will have its debut Thursday in an unlikely place, one of the stately period rooms at the Park Avenue Armory — it is tempting to imagine the Holy Ghost himself at work up there in an old warehouse on the Red Hook flatlands, not far from a dingy bus depot, an Ikea and a discount store called 99 Cent Dreams.
Over the last decade Ms. de Beer has built a cult following for the dark and often disturbing ways that she mixes the profane and the sacred — or at least a postmodern version of the sacred, a longing to escape the confines of ordinary consciousness for something perhaps more beautiful or true.
The exhibition at the Armory and a show of related sculpture to open Feb. 18 at the Marianne Boesky Gallery in Chelsea are the most prominent presentation of Ms. de Beer’s work in the United States since she first became known through her inclusion in the 2004 Whitney Biennial and entered many prominent public collections, like those of the Museum of Modern Art and the New Museum of Contemporary Art.
In the work for which she is best known, videos that have mined the underbelly of youth culture — a critic once described her as “the pre-eminent auteur of teen angst” — the supernatural, or at least supranormal, has never been quite so front and center as it is in “The Ghosts,” which Ms. de Beer describes as a turning point, three years in the making.
But it has never been far outside the frame. The adolescent bedrooms that so often serve as the centerpieces of her creations, cluttered with posters and guitars and packs of cigarettes, have seemed at times like existential anterooms, where the occupants await some kind of apotheosis with the help of love or drugs or other mechanisms for escape.
Like, for instance, the sensory deprivation tank in which Ms. de Beer spent many dark, quiet hours when she lived in Berlin, with a pyramid above it for energy-channeling. (“It was kind of hokey,” she said.) Or the hypnotists she began to visit there and in New York, who informed the creation of the central character in “The Ghosts,” a hollow-cheeked hypnotist convincingly played by a fellow artist, Jutta Koether, a painter and musician.
“What I wanted was some kind of a nonverbal, non-narrative experience outside myself, something like a state of total belief without having to articulate a belief system,” Ms. de Beer, 37, said in a recent interview in her studio, where she shot much of the new video in small rooms with the windows blacked out. “But I don’t know if I ever got there.”
The new 30-minute two-screen video grew out of a period of desperation in her life, after a year in which she made no art at all. At that time, in 2007, she was traveling almost nonstop, mostly between Berlin, where she lived for several years, and New York, where she is now an assistant professor at New York University.
“I was burned out to the point where I just couldn’t do anything creative, and so I actually kind of gave up, and it was liberating,” said Ms. de Beer, who, despite the Stygian nature of her fascinations, is engaging and open in person, exuding a kind of rock -geek cool.
In the winter of her bad year, the sun would set in Berlin before 4 in the afternoon, she said. She started venturing out only at night, riding the U-Bahn subway trains alone with a notebook, trying to write. Then for two months she locked herself in a room with only a desk, a chair and a blanket, rarely coming out.
When she did, she had written the basic script for “The Ghosts,” which follows three characters — a young woman, a record-store clerk and a money manager (played by Jon Spencer, singer and guitarist for the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, whom Ms. de Beer persuaded to act for the first time) — as they seek the help of the hypnotist to deal with loss and longing.
In doing so, they conjure up ghosts — frightening-looking ones, who owe a visual debt to Ms. de Beer’s long fascination with horror films and, lately, to the particularly bloody 1970s Italian subgenre known as giallo. The ghosts seem to be challenging the viewer to decide whether they are mere memories or phantasms of a more substantial sort — or whether, in the end, it really matters.
In her early years Ms. de Beer was often identified among the practitioners of a death- haunted, neo-Gothic strain of contemporary art that emerged after 9/11, a list that included Banks Violette and David Altmejd. But the new work, while playing with those expectations, owes a lot more to Proust than to Poe, as a wrenching examination of memory and the ways it shapes identity.
“I think that over the last several years she’s developed a signature style and voice that’s all her own,” said Lauren Ross, the curator and director of arts programs for the High Line and a former chief curator at White Columns, who has followed Ms. de Beer’s work. “It’s always seemed to me that she is after a certain kind of character, one constantly in danger of losing control of the self. I think she’s very interested in how thin that line is.”
She added: “I’ve always found her work to be extremely unsettling, It’s always taken me out of my comfort zone.”
Doreen Remen, one of the founders of the Art Production Fund, the nonprofit organization that is bringing the video to the Armory with the help of Sotheby’s, the event’s sponsor, said the fund was interested in helping stage a video project in New York partly because “video has the ability to bridge a kind of audience gap that exists in contemporary art.”
“And,” she added, “I think that with this work, Sue is playing more with the conventions of movie entertainment in a way that is going to grab people, even though it’s not a conventional movie by any means.”
A Sue de Beer sculpture, “Depiction of a Star Obscured by Another Figure” (2011), painted plywood and steel, on display in her studio in Red Hook, Brooklyn. Because of great difficulty finding production money for the video in 2008 as the economy plunged, Ms. de Beer’s ghosts were whipped up mostly on the cheap, using naked actresses spray-painted white, head to toe, and chocolate sauce for the blood that oozes from the mouth of one of them, all of it transformed later in the editing room, where she spent months shaping two terabyte hard drives full of footage.
“I was doing all this research on how to make a ghost on essentially a two-dollar budget without making it look just laughably hilarious,” she said.
Her sets, which have always worn their high-school-play artificiality proudly, in this case really needed to do so because of budget concerns. A few helpers built a late ’70s Trans Am from wood — complete with the phoenix hood decal known in its day as the screaming chicken — spending little money except on a certain smokeable substance to make the experience more enjoyable. The only real splurge, Ms. de Beer said, was hiring a cat trainer and a large white Persian cat named Snoebell, indulging a visual fascination she finds hard to explain. (Snoebell also appeared in a 2009 video.)
Ms. de Beer met Mr. Spencer through the members of a German band called the Cobra Killers. He said he became involved partly because she described the project as a horror film and he is a fan of the genre. But during the shooting, which he squeezed into an exhausting Australian tour schedule, he was unsure at times what he had gotten himself into.
“Things were always a little vague, even sometimes the address where I was supposed to show up,” he said. “I don’t know if she was doing this to increase my sense of disorientation, to keep me in the dark. But I guess if she was, in some ways it kind of worked. It was a strange experience all around.”
Ms. de Beer, who doesn’t like to use trained actors in her works, said she was drawn to Mr. Spencer mostly because of his weathered voice and “world-weary face” and was pleased with the character he helped bring to life, a businessman who seems to be trying to exorcise a lost love by summoning her from the dead only so that he can leave her, repaying her for abandoning him. (The dreamlike dialogue in the video was written by Alissa Bennett, who has collaborated with Ms. de Beer before, and by Ms. Koether.)
Ms. de Beer said during the interview in her studio one blustery afternoon that the video was “really very personal for me, partly because I had benched myself.”
“When I finished with the initial script, it felt very important to me to make it,” she said.
Growing up in a rambling Victorian house with a widow’s walk in Salem, Mass., which still exudes an air of its witchy past, she felt that mysticism was a kind of birthright, and it has been a more prominent element of her work in recent years. A 2006 video, “The Quickening,” set in a cartoon-ish Puritan New England, delved into the spiritual seeking of the French novelist Joris-Karl Huysmans and quoted from the sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” putting the Jonathan Edwards warhorse to work in probably the strangest context it has ever found itself. Ms. de Beer has also borrowed from the dark, violent post-religious mysticism of the novelist Dennis Cooper. (From his novel “Period,” used in a 2005 de Beer video: “I could open the other dimension right now if I wanted. Or I could stay here with you. I’m kind of like a god.”)
But Ms. de Beer said that her fascination with ghosts is in one sense simply about finding a way to explore how we all must deal with the past and with loss as we grow older, a struggle that finds a metaphor in the artistic process itself.
“As an artist, you shed all these objects which were the ‘you’ back in the moment when you made them,” she said. “And then you go back and hardly recognize them and feel like the person who made them wasn’t you but someone else, like a sister or something. And you wonder ‘What was she like?’ ”
The Ghosts, a film and installation is open to the public.
Visit the free film screenings:
The Ghosts is a two-channel film by Sue de Beer that tells the story of an occult hypnotist who can retrieve lost lengths of time from peoples’ memories and return them to the patient as if they are experiencing those moments anew.
In the Armory’s historic Veterans Room, whose ornate decorative motifs echo the lighting effects in the film, de Beer will create a comfortable viewing environment for the film with soft carpet and soft seating, leaving much of the original décor of the room untouched. The Ghosts will also include include a sculptural ‘fountain’ in the Armory’s Silver Room and a screen installation in the Field and Staff Room that will produce some of the lighting effects from de Beer’s visually intense films in sculptural form.
Sue de Beer is an artist who uses video, installation, photography and sculpture to explore the connections between memory, history and architecture. She has exhibited her work nationally and internationally in such venues as the New Museum, the Whitney Museum of American Art, PS1/MOMA, the Brooklyn Museum, and Marianne Boesky Gallery in New York, Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions in Los Angeles, the Reina Sofia in Madrid, the Kunst Werke, the Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie, and the Kunsthalle Shirn in Germany, the Neue Gallerie am Landes Museum Joanneum in Austria, the MuHKA Museum in Antwerp, Belgium, and the Museum of Modern Art, Busan, in Busan, South Korea. De Beer’s work is in the permanent collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art, the New Museum for Contemporary Art, the Brooklyn Museum, and the Goetz Collection. She received her M.F.A. from Columbia University in 1998.
Art Production Fund (APF) is a non-profit organization dedicated to producing ambitious public art projects, reaching new audiences and expanding awareness through contemporary art. Recent projects include: Prada Marfa, Elmgreen & Dragset, Valentine, TX, 2005, permanent; Greeting Card, Aaron Young, Park Avenue Armory, 2007; Electric Fountain, Noble & Webster, Rockefeller Plaza, 2008; The Whitney Biennial, Park Avenue Armory, 2008. Kalup Linzy, Member’s Only, Prospect. 1 New Orleans, 2008. Scribble, Karl Haendel, 2009; Kalup Linzy, Kembra Pfahler, Haim Steinbach, Proenza Schouler for Pitti W, Florence, Italy 2009; ART ADDS, Alex Katz, Shirin Neshat, Yoko Ono, New York City, 2010; PAUSE, Yoko Ono and T.J. Wilcox, Cosmopolitan, Las Vegas, NV, ongoing; White Ghost, Yoshitomo Nara, Park Avenue, NYC, 2010; Rob Pruitt: Holy Crap, Sotheby’s, New York City, 2010. Co-Founders: Yvonne Force Villareal & Doreen Remen; Director: Casey Fremont; Project Manager: Theodora Schamber.
Film presentation is made possible with the generous support of Sotheby’s
WALL STREET JOURNAL:
Sue de Beer Celebrates ‘The Ghosts’
For just over 30 minutes, artist and filmmaker Sue de Beer transports her audience on a hyperrealist journey in her newest film and installation entitled “The Ghosts.” The two-channel video debuted Wednesday night to an unlikely mélange of board members and cult followers. Exhibited in the Park Avenue Armory’s Veterans Room, a regal space with details of inlaid wood and gothic chandeliers designed in 1880, de Beer added white mohair carpet and oversized silver pillows, creating a space where the audience was forced at once to be both voyeur and participant.
“The Ghosts,” mimics a giallo — an Italian genre that mixes horror and mystery and gained popularity in the late 1960s. Through four monologues, it tells the story of a hypnotist who can return lost spans of time and memory to their rightful owners. Those owners in turn experience the moments as if for the first time.
The idea for the film came after de Beer had ceased to create anything for a year. It was 2007, and de Beer was constantly traveling between New York and Berlin. “My personal life was chaotic,” de Beer said. “I was disconnected from personal relationships, never quite where I was supposed to be.”
To refocus de Beer spent hours in a sensory deprivation tank and sought out hypnotists in both cities. When it came time to write, de Beer found herself riding the Berlin U-Bahn alone after the sun set with a notebook. She then locked herself in a room for two months straight. Besides her notebook, a chair, desk and blanket were her only company, not unlike one of the characters in the film.
“I lived in this in-between,” de Beer said. “I had this feeling in the script, I was longing to move into fantasy space.”
After she finished the script, which centers around a troubled money manager, played by first-time actor Jon Spencer, singer and guitarist of the “Jon Spencer Blues Explosion,” a young woman and a record-store clerk, de Beer shelved it. That was the fall of 2008. She shot for two weeks in the fall of 2009 and for one week in summer 2010.
“Throughout shooting she kept saying, “do less, do less,” said Claire Buckingham, who plays the young woman. “Sue just wanted to take away the performance of acting and have the simplicity of the space and the moment.” To do that, Buckingham said de Beer called for long takes. So long that Buckingham actually fell asleep during one of the scenes where her character visits the hypnotist, played by Jutta Koether, a painter and musician.
While the deviled quail egg with miso and salmon French toast detracted from the eeriness of the evening, Andy Comer’s nine-song performance added to it. Comer and de Beer had collaborated on several past projects including their 2009 performance of “Radio Play” at The Kitchen in the Lower East Side.
“Her film is beautiful,” Comer said, although neither he nor de Beer sat in on either of the evening’s two screenings. “The film questions dream life and tries to make sense of the past while dealing with loss. There are few more relatable topics than that.”
Hypnotized Money Manager Sees Ghost, Redhead Strips in Art Film
The work will be screened at the Park Avenue Armory Feb. 3 through Feb. 6. Source: Art Production Fund via Bloomberg
A money manager gets hypnotized to fix his broken heart. Then, a teenage seductress and a store clerk face their personal demons.
These troubled souls are characters in a video by New York artist Sue de Beer. “The Ghosts” also stars sexy spirits who strip and ooze blood. It starts today at the Park Avenue Armory.
“I’m sure there are plenty of haunted money managers out there,” De Beer, 37, said in an interview. She shot most of the 30-minute work in 2009 while stock markets were crashing.
Her perfect character was a banker wanting to find the ghost of a lover who left him. He is played by the malt-voiced Jon Spencer (leader of the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion), who looks too handsome to be abandoned. His world begins to unravel as the hypnotist, portrayed by German artist Jutta Koether, counts from 10 to zero.
You might feel a bit queasy too. White faces of ghost women are superimposed over the hypnotist’s face, flickering madly. Real-life objects like lamps and partition screens dissolve into pools of light and kaleidoscopic patterns.
“I wanted to make a film in which you can fall into a trance and suspend disbelief,” De Beer said. She had a “low five-figure budget,” writing the script in a windowless studio in Berlin and shooting footage in Red Hook, Brooklyn.
Each character visualizes his or her fears, dreams and desires. The red-haired girl sees a fluffy, white cat. The men, predictably, dream of naked ladies.
The soundtrack includes Leonard Cohen, John Lennon and Simon and Garfunkel. The Cure adds sizzle to a scene in which the Lolita-like redhead tries to seduce the record-store clerk by sucking on a red lollypop.
“He is trying not to be picked up,” said De Beer. “He knows she’s trouble.”
The poetry and humor turn what could have been a bizarre arty film into a moving meditation on loss, longing and memory. Not everyone might care for hypnosis or get all the supernatural references. Still, most viewers will relate to the dread felt by someone who picks up the phone and hears an unknown voice saying “I am coming to get you.”
The film is showing at the Armory’s Veterans Room, which has silver drawings on the ceiling. De Beer has added a silver rug and metallic bean-bag chairs. The presentation brings to mind the installation by Swiss artist Pipilotti Rist at the Museum of Modern Art two years ago.
“You can enjoy it on a purely entertainment level,” said Doreen Remen, co-founder of Art Production Fund, a nonprofit organization that produced the event and got Sotheby’s to sponsor it. “And that’s what opens up the work to the audience beyond the art world.”
“The Ghosts” runs through Feb. 6 at 643 Park Ave.; +1- 212-744-8180. De Beer’s next show will open at the Marianne Boesky Gallery on New York on Feb. 18.
by John Arthur Peetz
Sue de Beer, The Ghost, 2009–2011, color video, 31 minutes 25 seconds.
Sue de Beer’s latest installation The Ghost is being presented in association with Art Production Fund at the Park Avenue Armory in New York. The work features a two-channel video projection concerning an occult hypnotist who utilizes “material recollection” to attain lost time. The Ghost is on view February 3–6.
ORIGINALLY I WANTED TO MAKE A GIALLO––a very classic version, with ghosts in it. During the course of the narrative development I began to undergo a series of hypnosis, and I also started going to a sensory deprivation tank in Berlin. So I began to wonder about intersections between the physiological and the psychological, or about ways to take your conscious mind to a place that is unconscious but still visible––a place that produces images. It was then that I began to conceive of a character that was very much in a giallo––an occult hypnotist. After I completed the basic outline for the script, I asked Alissa Bennett to write a text for the hypnotist, where the hypnotist talks about ghosts and the way ghosts inhabit a room––leaving traces of its former occupancy, clues for present and future residents. I also asked her to write a text for a character who repeatedly visits the hypnotist, to experience a more vivid sort of “recollection.” Alissa named this “the material recollection.”
It was difficult to find a person that could play this hypnotist character. Jutta Koether, who plays the hypnotist, has a strong presence as a person. She is also a musician and I find her voice to be beautiful and rhythmic. For the two characters in the film that are musicians, which are Jutta and John Spencer; they both have voices you could get lost in, voices that carry a lot of feeling with them.
For this video, in particular, the editing was quite physical. How do you make a ghost without it being something that is absurd? It’s especially hard on a small budget and shooting over a long period of time. I shot from end of October to December 2008, for two months straight, and then I re-shot five months later and did a lot of experiments to try to understand how to make a ghost. I think that in the editing of this piece, the hypnotism seems to be located in the physicality of video. The way that light can affect your eyes and in turn how that light can affect you physically was exciting to me. The optical effect of persistence of vision, and the way that could make segments of the video overlay.
The first part of this shoot took place in Fall 2009, after the October downturn had been digested, so my budget was quite small when I began to work. One of the characters in the film, Claire, was originally supposed to disappear and she was supposed to do it in a way that was a lot more filmic. But it became clear to me that I didn’t actually have the footage that I needed to make that happen, so I asked Alissa again to write a text for this character where she could make herself disappear. Claire describes how she will make herself into the perfect ghost, which echoes a theme for Jutta’s character––the nature of a haunting. How absence can be more powerful than presence. Claire’s character is new for me, in that she’s extremely unsympathetic. I find her to be a bit malicious, in the way that she can see the damage she is about to do, and is looking forward to its effects. She is secretive. But all of these things could make her absolutely fascinating for the right person who would love to be seduced by her. Please, come ruin me again.
— As told to John Arthur Peetz
RUN-OUT GROOVE ENGRAVING/MATRIX: n/a