Author: Katya Kazakina
Bloomberg, February 3, 2011

Hypnotized Money Manager Sees Ghost, Redhead Strips in Art Film

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.

Red Lollypop
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.

(Katya Kazakina is a reporter for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are her own.)