Author: Ken Pratt
Wound Magazine - Autumn 2007

Ken Pratt interviews Sue de Beer

KP: I know from our communication that you're always on the move, changing angles even though there are 'red threads' that run through your work. I wanted to start by asking about "The Quickening" (2006). It's a dark and wonderful film work inspired in part by the Salem Witch Hunts, American Gothic and the work of Decadent writers like Huysmans. And it also seems to evoke a million other things ranging from early cinema and horror flicks through to "The Crucible". But, of course, what I'm going to ask about is casting Gina D'Orio and Annika Trost (of the Berlin-based band Cobra Killer) to act in the film. I once described them as having 'the bunker chic of a generation of young German women who survived the rubble of post-war Berlin: old enough to see Dietrich as a style icon and young enough to know that they were prepared to do anything for nylons and chocolate'. They seem to me to be the epitome of Berlin. An interesting decision then to cast them in a film work set in 18th century New England. Care to enlighten us on your choice?

SdB: I saw Gina and Annika play two shows in Berlin before I contacted them.

During the first show at the Prater, Gina, who was wearing an ice-skating outfit, fell off the stage I think by accident, and kept singing from the floor, covered in wine and dirt and surrounded by an awe-struck crowd. And I had just finished the script for the Quickening when I saw the second show - it was at the Maria - also in Berlin. Gina and Annika had a< 12 piece back up band for that show playing some kind of traditional greek instruments. Annika came out on stage with a hula hoop, poured a bottle of red wine on herself, and demanded that the bar give her and the entire band vodka before she would agree to sing. At that moment, I could really see both of them in my mind, running through a black forest, signing a pact with the devil.

So I got in touch with Gina through a friend of a friend, and asked if she would want to be in the piece. She helped me contact Annika after that.

KP: Gina told me that when they played at the party after your opening at Marianne Boesky last year, when flying to New York, their hula-hoops became a security issue. True?

SdB: The hula hoops were taken away from them by the security people at the airport. The skies are now safe from burlesque.

KP: Annika and Gina also told me that you were interested in Annika's fascination with the German classic "Das Boot" and that you were considering making an all-female reworking of the submarine drama. Is that a serious possibility?

SdB: These are funny questions. When I was in pre-production making props for the film, Annika told me that she had been to film school, and had wanted to be an actress, but dropped out when she realized 'Das Boot' only had male leads. Somehow I hadn't seen this project as a specifically all-female submarine rock video, I had some other images of things going on in the submarine involving sailors, but yes, I would love to do that with them. They keep going on tour and I keep travelling also so we haven't really followed up.

KP: We've discussed before that you prefer to show your films as one-off screenings or full installations that incorporate the films works. Would you like to say a bit about this artistic decision?

SdB: Not really.

KP: Your rise to prominence as an artist has been strongly linked with work in which female teenage subcultures, fashion, horror, beauty and dark destruction are all linked, perhaps most widely perceived after the 2004 Whitney Biennale. Some have connected this with a distressed internal state and yet my perception of you -and the work- are layers of serious discourse peppered with a deeply bemused dark humour. Are you a happy bunny or a tortured artist? Discuss, twenty points...

SdB: Wow. Both I guess. I don't know how to answer that.

KP: You effectively bide your time between Europe and the USA, having both a New York and a Berlin gallery. Any observations as an artist on the differences -or similarities- in sensibility of these two art demimondes?

SdB: New York is kind of strange right now. The art world boom made a lot of people high on coke. I am liking the Berlin energy more right now for making work, but I am also getting more spaced out as I get older, so maybe it just suits me better.

KP: At the time I was working on the "Frauhaus" project we were communicating about your forthcoming project that will show in Antwerp next year. Would you like to tell us a bit about the project?

SdB: I just finished it. I have a show up at Arndt & Partner through end of October that is three large installations - and one of them is the new video you are describing, which I titled 'Permanent Revolution'. It uses source material from the Bauhaus, and meshes it onto a kind of non-linear narrative structure, using music and editing to tie it together. The exhibition at Arndt was particularly exciting to work on as it shows both the Quickening and Permanent Revolution together, and there are a lot of links between those two works. It is also the first time I showed three big installations and two big films at once. It was a really massive undertaking, and now I am very tired.

I am bringing Permanent Revolution to Antwerp in December - it was filmed in Belgium in March. And it will also travel to LA and Tel Aviv in the coming year.

The American artist Sue de Beer has an impressive CV that includes the Whitney Museum of American Museum at Altria; the 2004 Whitney Biennale; Kunstlerhaus Bethanien and Kunst Werke, Berlin and the Neue Galerie am Landesmuseum Joanneum, Graz, to name but a few institutional credits. She has shown in numerous respected galleries including her representing galleries, Marianne Boesky, Arndt & Partner Gallery and Sandroni Rey Gallery, and was presented by Sandroni Rey at Statements, Basel, Miami Beach. She is working on a new project that will be exhibit at the MuHKA Museum, in Antwerp next year.