Author: Bridget L. Goodbody
Time Out New York, March 17-25, 2005

Sue de Beer, Black Sun
Whitney Museum of American Art at Altria


Sue de Beer's new two-channel video installation 'Black Sun' (2004-5) is haunting, and not just because you watch it from inside the skeleton of a house. Titled after Julia Kristeva's psychoanalytical treatise on melancholy and interspersed with narrated monologues from Dennis Cooper's Marquis de Sade-like novels, the video tracks a teenage girl's struggle to escape her mother's chronic depression through daydreams. But as de Beer reveals, the line between fantasy and rality can be thinner than a razor's edge.

The video opens with shots of the girl's home, eerily lit. As the mother lies catatonic in bed, a sexual predator lurks. The girl- here a young adolescent- dances alone in her bedroom to "You Can't Hurry Love." A bewildered voice (presumably the girl's) says "I am more like her. No, she is more like me."

Identity confusion spills into the character's mid-teens. "Here is what I want," she confides. "Love. Specifically I want the power to make people love me." The camera cuts to a girls and a boy, dressed as ghosts and drinking vodka in the cemetery as she strips to black lingerie- a diva, but a vulnerable one.

The final act portrays our heroine in an airplane, reading the emergency exit card. She falls asleep and, in a nightmare, becomes her mother-wanders in her nightgown, dons a wig that looks like her mother's hair. As the sequence ends, however, she is herself once again. For the moment, she exists in the realm of the living, but de Beer leaves no doubt that childhood traumas burn like an eternal flame.

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