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Sue de Beer - Biography

Sue de Beer, M.F.A., is a Brooklyn based American visual artist who works with multiple mediums including video, photography, sculpture and installations that explore the connections between memory, history, and architecture. She has exhibited her work internationally in venues such as MuHKA in Antwerp, Belgium; The Whitney Museum of American Art and the Brooklyn Museum in New York, USA; Kunst Werke in Berlin, Germany, and the Museum of Modern Art in Busan, South Korea. She has recieved numerous awards and grants for her artistic works including a faculty challenge grant from New York University in 2007. She was an artist in residence at the FLACC Workplace for Visual Artists in Genk, Belgium in 2007. From 2003 - 2004 she was a resident at The Outpost, Cuts and Burns. In 2001 Sue de Beer won the Philip Morris Emerging Artist Prize from the American Academy in Berlin. In 1999 she won The Joan Sovern Award for Excellence in Sculpture and was also the artist-in-residence at the Wexner Center in Ohio. She also won the Franklin Furnance Fund for Performance Art in 1999.

Sue de Beer’s academic work has focused on the arts. In 1995 Sue de Beer obtained her B.F.A. from The Parsons School of Design in New York City, New York. She then obtained her M.F.A. from Columbia University in 1998. She has the following to say about her decision to work with video:

I work in a variety of media, and in fact Making Out With Myself is the first video that I ever made. I have found since completing Making Out With Myself that there are some projects which work best as videos, and others that work best as photographs. For me, it is really about finding the media that is the best one for the particular project.

Her early movie Heidi II (1999), was produced in collaboration with Laura Parnes and exhibited in Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions, Los Angeles and Deitch Projects, New York, USA. The film presents a feminist response against the male-oriented oeuvre of American artist Paul McCarthy and Mike Kelley, in particular, their work Heidi (1992), which refers to the Disney classic. In Heidi II, Grandfather is portrayed as a lazy old man, soliciting sex from the young shepherd. Grandfather is reinterpreted as a metaphor for the figures of McCarthy and Kelley, revising their approach to Grandfather as a raging and abusive character. The film was exhibited in the gallery complete with Astroturf carpet and stuffed tigers and urethane foam seats.

Hans und Grete, a two-channel video installation exhibited at the 2004 Whitney Biennial and produced during an artist in residence period at the American Academy in Berlin doesn’t use a fairytale as its subtext, but rather refers to the aliases of RAF-members Andreas Baader and Ulrike Meinhoff's aliases, weaving in the themes of the Columbine high school shooters and popular movies such as Nightmare on Elm Street. Stephen Hilger states the following in the catalogue to Hans und Grete:

Hans & Grete, Sue de Beer's two-channel video installation, portrays the psychological lives of recent American school shooters. Set in a nebulous historical context, de Beer's narrative incorporates the characters of German terrorists active in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Considering real-life horrific events and their resulting social phenomena, de Beer finds common ground between terror - calculated acts of violence - and the morbid, escapist fantasies of the horror genre. In Hans und Grete, fictional acts of terror are presented through the lens of teen-age pop culture obsession. De Beer draws on actual events, for example the 1999 shooting massacre at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, which commanded massive public outcry, media frenzy, and the potential to influence counter-cultural movements. As icons of the underground, these historical events and figures - often in symbolic form - are recycled into popular culture. […] De Beer's project transcends time and space, recalling the hallucinatory tradition of Dennis Cooper's novels and the films of David Lynch.

Sue de Beer’s film The Quickening (2006) is inspired in part by The Salem Witch Hunts, American Gothic and the work of Decadent writers like Huysmans. The video was exhibited in a red room with shag carpetting and a dropped ceiling. The film explores female sexuality as both a form of power and a site for repression. The film remains true to Sue de Beer’s aesthetic of low-rent horror films. Gina D'Orio and Annika Trost (of the Berlin-based band Cobra Killer) act in the film. Sue de Beer first saw them perform in Berlin. She says of her choice to cast them in the film in an interview with Ken Pratt for Wound Magazine (1997):

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.

In an interview with Sculpture Magazine from September 2005, De Beer states that ‘every woman who is actively producing and shaping culture is part of the dialogue defining and redefining femininity and feminine identity. I feel like there was a backlash against feminism in the '90s in the artworld, and now there is some kind of fuzzy 'post-feminist' discourse, that is not quite interesting. [Cultural theorist] Slavoj Zizek says that the revolution isn't the most important thing, it is the day after the revolution is what matters.’

Sue de Beer’s work is in the permanent collections of The Brooklyn Museum, The Museum of Modern Art, The New Museum of Contemporary Art, The New School for Social Research, and The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, USA; The Seattle Contemporary, Seattle, Washington, USA; and The Goetz Collection, Munich, Germany. Sue de Beer has published the following books: The Quickening. (Marianne Boesky Gallery NY, Arndt & Partner, Berlin/Zürich, 2006.), Emerge. (Downtown Arts Projects. August 15, 2005.) and Hans And Grete. (American Academy in Berlin. 2002.).

Sue de Beer was a professor at the European Graduate School in Saas-Fee, Switzerland, where she conducted an Intensive Summer Seminar.