Author: Ellen Blumenstein
RAF Exhibition catalogue text, Kunst Werke Berlin, 2004/5

de Beer, Hans & Grete

Despite the distinct differences of being both thirty years younger and American, Kathleen feels emotionally connected to German terrorist Ulrike Meinhof. Kathleen, one of the four characters in Sue de BeerÝs video installation Hans & Grete, (Texts: Alissa Bennett), reveals her inner thoughts in a seemingly self-addressed monologue. She imagines herself in the head of Ulrike Meinhof and enacts the terrorist's experiences and feelings of loneliness and self-alienation whilst in solitary confinement - inspired by a passage in a published text written by the terrorist herself. Kathleen attributes Meinhof's suicide to her experiences of isolation and her lack of perspective for the future. In suicide she finds another course of action: "I'm gonna erase myself and you're gonna find me everywhere", a quote where Bennett does not discern its author: Ulrike or Kathleen. Suicide, an act that alters the course of history and thus remains anchored in the collective memories of posterity- is perceived by Kathleen as the brave and admirable critical deed of Meinhof. Still, she desires to be present when she demonstrates to the world that she exists ˝ not as her motherÝs daughter, but as an independent person. Kathleen therefore decides not to die and instead to autonomously interfere with the course of the world.

In effect, the starting point of Sue de Beer's research for this work, is the psyche of American teenagers. A year in Berlin, however, intensified her relationship to contemporary German history. In any case, there is no doubt that Sue de Beer, since her youth, was aware of the posters illustrating the German RAF-protagonists in the Che Guevarian guerrilla style, as well as the 'Wanted' placards that decorated the bedrooms of some of her high school classmates. Her personal preoccupation with the RAF gave birth to the work's title Hans & Grete, named after Baader and EnsslinÝs code name, and also used by Astrid Proll for her photographic collection of private shots from the foundational stages of the RAF. The title implies it is not only Kathleen who especially relates to western German terrorism of the 70's and 80's, but that Sue de Beer sees similar influences in the other three characters - whose ideas and actions do not explicitly relate to the theme. Similarities between the characters in the piece and the real RAF protagonists can thus not be seen in their actions, but in the solely imaginary transgression. Violence will no longer be committed, but purely imagined. From psychoanalytic standpoints, personality structures of both parties seem to resemble each other. The difficult task of breaking from the significant and self-defining parental predominance ought trigger an action so radical, it creates an abrupt and irreversible separation. The longing for meaning, to detach oneself from the crowd, has been attached to members of the RAF by scientists such as Christian Schneider or Jan Philipp Reemtsa. Kathleen's monologue also refers to this quest when she says: "You can derail history by deleting yourself from it, and everybody knows that. I'm gonna do the opposite though, cause I want to watch that collision."