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Beth B

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Beth B has been a major figure in the New York independent film and art scene since the late ‘70s, directing over 30 films in the documentary, narrative and experimental genres as well as mounting interdisciplinary installations in museums and galleries. B’s prolific career has been characterized by work that challenges society’s conventions, and that focuses on social issues and human rights[1].  Beth B’s films have been shown at, and acquired by, the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Museum of Modern Art[2]. Her films have been the subject of retrospectives at The Metrograph Theater[3], NYC; London’s National Film Theater; the Montreal World Film Festival; Lisbon’s Nucleo Dos Cineastas Independentes; and the Danish Film Institute.  She has also served on the competition juries at the Sundance Film Festival and the Toronto International Film Festival.

Beth B
BornBronx, New York
🏳️ Nationality
💼 Occupation
Filmmaker, Artist
📆 Years active  1977 - Present
❤️ Partner(s)Jim Filer Coleman
👶 ChildrenLola B Coleman

Early Life[edit]

Beth B was born in the Bronx, New York. She moved to Chicago, then San Diego and then at the age of 19, B returned to New York City where she met like-minded artists, musicians, and filmmakers culminating in the explosive No Wave scene of the late 70's[4][5].

Film Career[edit]

After receiving her BFA from the School of Visual Arts in 1977, breakthrough films, such as Black Box[6], Vortex[7], and The Offenders (co-directed by Scott B), were shown at Max’s Kansas City, CBGB’s, the New York Film Festival[8] and the Film Forum. These B Movies starred underground personalities including Lydia Lunch[9], James Russo, John Lurie, Jack Smith, and Bill Rice. Her early films, along with those of Jim Jarmusch, Richard Kern, and Amos Poe, are the focus of the documentary film, Blank City[10]. Her films have been the subject of several books and other documentaries, including Deathtripping: The Cinema of Transgression[11]; Art, Performance, Media: 31 Interviews[12]; No Wave - Underground 80; Downtown Film and TV Culture 1975-2001.

In 1984, B set out on a solo film career directing the controversial music video, The Dominatrix Sleeps Tonight[13], for the band Dominatrix. The video was banned and landed B on the front cover of New York BEAT Magazine with the headliner: Is Beth B Banned?, and was acquired by The Museum of Modern Art[14].

Feature Narrative Films[edit]

Salvation! [15](1987), a sharp-edged social satire starring Viggo Mortensen, Stephen McHattie, and Exene Cervenka, prefigured pop culture's fascination with televangelism and premiered at the Berlin Film Festival and was distributed by Circle Releasing. A soundtrack album featured New Order and Cabaret Voltaire.

B’s screenplay Life in Luxury (1988) was selected for the Sundance Screenwriter's Lab.

Two Small Bodies [16](1993), based on Neal Bell’s play and starring Fred Ward and Suzy Amis, was celebrated worldwide being featured at the Locarno (Nominee, Golden Leopard), Toronto and Sundance film festivals. This psycho/sexual story reveals the impulse to judge based on stereotypical notions of gender – one a scarlet woman, the other a macho detective. The film is loosely based on the true story of Alice Crimmins, 1965. She was convicted of murdering her two children. The soundtrack was composed by Swans.

Documentary and Experimental Films[edit]

From 1991 to 2000, B directed feature documentaries, short segments and experimental films for galleries, museums and television. For ZDF/Germany, ARTE/France, the Sundance TV and PBS, B created various short subject documentaries, including Breasts for PBS's Egg the Arts Show, segments for Nerve for the HBO series and website; High Heel Nights for ARTE/France, and segments for AfterEffects, the Sundance TV series.

The award-winning video Belladonna (1989), a collaboration with artist Ida Applebroog, is a disturbing composite drawing of the face of violence in our society, establishing its linkages to family, culture and ultimately, social organization. It premiered at the Ronald Feldman Gallery[17] and showed in the Whitney Biennial of that same year.

Thanatopsis (1991), written by and featuring Lydia Lunch, is a disturbing yet poetic meditation on war and personal resistance and premiered at The Kitchen[18], NYC.

Stigmata [19](1991), a documentary on drug abuse and recovery, articulates internal anguish with a vividness that is both haunting and chilling and was broadcast on PBS TV.

In 1994, B directed High Heel Nights for ARTE TV, a documentary about two drag queen performance artists who explore concepts relating to the transformation of the body.

Voices Unheard [20](1997) is a feature documentary about the incarceration and treatment of juvenile sex offenders, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and The Museum of Modern Art.

Visiting Desire (1996), a feature documentary film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and the Berlin International Film Festival and features art luminaries, Kembra Pfhaler, Lydia Lunch and Chloe Dzubilo.

Television Documentaries[edit]

Beth B began a new phase of her career in 2001, producing and directing television documentaries and docudramas, which she continues to do.

Breathe In, Breathe Out[21] (2000), a feature documentary directed by B and co-production with Open City/Blow Up, Dune and ZDF Television, had premiered at the International Film Festival Rotterdam and at the Toronto International Film Festival. The film is about intergenerational trauma from war.

Court TV productions produced and directed by Beth B include Shelley Shannon: An Unlikely Terrorist[22] (2001); Badge of Dishonor (2002); A Daughter’s Love (2004); Death of a Rising Star [23](2005); Pattern of Deception (2006); The Black Widower (2007); Family Secrets (2007); Positive ID: The Case Files of Anthony Falsetti [24](2008).

B served as Senior Series Producer on the TLC six-part reality television series, Crime Scenes Uncovered[25] (2002-2003), which was shot on location in Miami with the real Miami CSI. B produced and directed two of the episodes.

Independent Feature Documentaries[edit]

In 2013, Beth B went back to her roots in independent filmmaking with Exposed,[26][27] which she shot, directed, produced and edited. A documentary feature about 8 New York performance artists, who use their bodies in uncensored, provocative and comedic ways, questions the very concept of normal. Exposed premiered at the Museum of Modern Art and in the Panorama section at the 2013 Berlin Film Festival where it was nominated for Best Documentary Film. It stars Mat Fraser, Julie Atlas Muz, Rosewood[28], and Dirty Martini. The soundtrack was composed by Jim Coleman[29]

In 2016, B released her feature documentary film, Call Her Applebroog.[30][31][32], with Zeitgeist Films[33] as distributor. The film had its world premiere at The Museum of Modern Art at Doc Fortnight and opened at the Metrograph Theater in NYC. The film reveals renowned artist Ida Applebroog’s[34] groundbreaking artwork that has been a sustained enquiry into the polemics of human relations, but more intimately, it is about her dramatic struggle to overcome adversity. The soundtrack was composed by Jim Coleman[29]

B is currently shooting, directing, producing and editing the feature length documentary film, LYDIA LUNCH The War is Never Over[35] (2018), about iconic musician and performance artist, Lydia Lunch, a long-time collaborator with B.

Art Career[edit]


In the late 1970s, B mounted interdisciplinary installations at The Stedejlijk Museum[36], Amsterdam, OK Harris Gallery and Artists Space[37] NYC.

In 1991, B received a commission from the Whitney Museum of American Art and the American Center in Paris, to produce a one-minute videotape Amnesia, as part of the international Trans-Voices[38] project. The video evolved into a two-part major installation for the Wexner Center for the Arts entitled Under Lock and Key[39] and Amnesia[40]. Amnesia combines photography and video is a direct assault on the languages of hate and intolerance. Under Lock and Key, which combines an imposing steel sculpture with audio recordings and video projections, speaks to the entrapment we feel when caught in the violence of being attacked, and of the attacker himself caught in the web of his own imagined powers and fears and eventual incarceration. With readings by Nan Goldin and Jerry Kearns.

Out of Sight/Out of Mind[41] (1995), a media sculpture installation created by Beth B for Temple Gallery, Philadelphia is an intense study of the physical, psychological, and social breakdown of the human condition questioning madness in our culture today.

Trophies [42](1995), a sculpture installation at PPOW Gallery[43] and the Weatherspoon Art Museum,[44] was an exhibition of nine wax sculptural trophies in an investigation into the historical mutilation and transformation of the female body by self-choice, by science, and by other human beings.

A Holy Experiment[45] (1995) was an on-site installation commissioned for the Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia. Upon entering the prison cell, the visitor is locked in, surveilled by others while receiving religious exaltation emanating from the walls of the cell. The work creates a dialogue and intersection between the multiple characters within the prison system as the visitor enters into a controlled experience of incarceration and isolation.

In 1997, B produced and directed the media/theater production, Take My Breath Away, which was commissioned by the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Next Wave Festival and performed at PS122. It starred Adrian Grenier.  

Deitch Projects’ 1997 gallery exhibition of two installations by Beth B was entitled Portraits & Playthings[46]. Portraits was composed of twenty-one black and white, and ten color photographs of female genitals. By individuating this particular part of the anatomy, the photographs demystify this most vulnerable, private, and exploited part of the body. Playthings, a sculpture and video installation, questions issues of violation, cultural and sexual identity, and the historical representations that bind us to traditional roles and values. Monuments (1999) was a collaborative exhibition between Deitch Projects and Visionaire Gallery with two ten-foot fiberglass sculptures of female torsos and large-scale photographs abstracting and demystifying the historical representations of the female body.

B’s interdisciplinary installation, Hysteria[47] (2001), was a commissioned for the “Spectacular Bodies” show at the Hayward Gallery in London. This major exhibition incorporates elements that relate to 19th century definitions of hysteria in a critique of both the adequacy and the role of representation itself in the face of medicine and the treatment of women.  

Voyeur [48](2017) opened at the HOWL! Happening[49] in New York City with an installation of video, photography and sculpture that enlists the viewer’s implicit participation with transgressive imagery and invites each person to examine their own boundaries and preconceptions regarding sexuality and gender.

Public Art Projects[edit]

In 1990, B produced two public art projects. The bilingual newspaper, Day of Hope, took the form of a newspaper fashioned after the New York Post; however, it reported only hopeful news, distributed in 50 streetside “Free Paper” dispensers in NYC. Surgeon General’s Warning[50] was a bilingual series of silkscreen posters designed by Beth B as part of Creative Time Citywide public arts program. The overtly aggressive and political posters, wheat-pasted on buildings in New York City, confronted touchy contemporary issues like abortion, censorship, AIDS, racism, and homelessness.


G-MAN (1978)

Black Box (1979)

Letters To Dad (1979)

The Offenders (1979)

The Trap Door (1981)

Vortex (1983)

The Dominatrix Sleeps Tonight (1984)

In The Middle Of The Night (1984)

I Need Someone (1984)

Salvation! (1987)

Belladonna (1989)

Thanatopsis (1991)

Amnesia (1993)

Under Lock And Key (1993)

Two Small Bodies (1994)

High Heel Nights (1994)

Visiting Desire (1996)

Voices Unheard (1997)

Breasts (2000)

Ida Applebroog (2000)

Close To Home (2000)

Breathe In/Breathe Out  (2000)

An Unlikely Terrorist (2001)

Badge of Dishonor (2002)

Crime Scenes Uncovered (2002-2003)

A Daughter’s Love (2004)

Death of A Rising Star (2005)

Pattern of Deception (2006)

Family Secrets (2007)

The Black Widower (2007)

Positive ID: The Case Files of Anthony Falsetti (2008)

Exposed (2013)

Call Her Applebroog (2016)

References  [edit]

  1. Fitzgibbon, Coleen (Feb 17, 2017). "Beth B". Bomb Magazine.
  2. "Beth B | MoMA". www.moma.org. Retrieved 2018-07-07.
  3. "B Movies: The Films of Beth B and Scott B | Metrograph". metrograph.com. Retrieved 2018-07-07.
  4. "Luxonline". www.luxonline.org.uk. Retrieved 2018-07-07.
  5. ""All My Films Have Had Very Strong, Powerful Women": Legendary No Wave Filmmaker Beth B on Provocation, Censorship, and Working with Lydia Lunch". Flavorwire. 2016-06-08. Retrieved 2018-07-07.
  6. "No Wave Cinema". madmuseum.org. Retrieved 2018-07-07.
  7. Canby, Vincent. "'VORTEX' FROM SCOTT B AND BETH B". Retrieved 2018-07-07.
  8. "New York Film Festival", Wikipedia, 2018-04-28, retrieved 2018-07-07
  9. Calhoun, Ada. "Finding Inner Peace With the Angriest Punk of '70s New York". Retrieved 2018-07-07.
  10. Scott, A. O. "Céline Danhier on New York Avant-Garde in 'Blank City' - Review". Retrieved 2018-07-07.
  11. Sargeant, Jack, ed. (1995-10-01). Deathtripping: The Cinema of Transgression. London: The Tears Corporation/Creation. ISBN 9781871592290. Search this book on Amazon.com Logo.png
  12. Zurbrugg, Nicholas (2004). Art, Performance, Media: 31 Interviews. U of Minnesota Press. ISBN 9780816638321. Search this book on Amazon.com Logo.png
  13. ""The Dominatrix Sleeps Tonight": A provocative video from 1983 by "Call Her Applebroog" director Beth B." nightflight.com. Retrieved 2018-07-07.
  14. ""The Dominatrix Sleeps Tonight": A provocative video from 1983 by "Call Her Applebroog" director Beth B." nightflight.com. Retrieved 2018-07-07.
  15. Canby, Vincent. "TV EVANGELISM IS SATIRIZED IN 'SALVATION!'". Retrieved 2018-07-07.
  16. James, Caryn. "Review/Film; Did She or Didn't She? Commit Murder, That Is". Retrieved 2018-07-07.
  17. "Ronald Feldman Gallery". feldmangallery.com. Retrieved 2018-07-07.
  18. "The Kitchen".
  19. "Electronic Arts Intermix: Stigmata, Beth B". www.eai.org. Retrieved 2018-07-07.
  20. Feinstein, Howard (1999-01-15). "Voices Unheard". Variety. Retrieved 2018-07-07.
  21. Indiewire (2001-02-22). "INTERVIEW: Waiting to Exhale; Beth B's "Breath In/Breathe Out" Marks Rising Success for Art-Filmmake". IndieWire. Retrieved 2018-07-07.
  22. "Pro Choice" (PDF).
  23. "The Investigators". TVGuide.com. Retrieved 2018-07-07.
  24. correspondent, LISA MCCOMBS Campus. "Stories of the dead". Gainesville Sun. Retrieved 2018-07-07.
  25. Crime Scenes Uncovered, Hector Infante, retrieved 2018-07-07
  26. "Their Life Is a Cabaret, With Freedom in Vulgarity". Retrieved 2018-07-07.
  27. Kenny, Glenn. "Exposed Movie Review & Film Summary (2014) | Roger Ebert". www.rogerebert.com. Retrieved 2018-07-07.
  28. "Striking Photos Of A Burlesque Performer Before & After Makeup (NSFW)". Retrieved 2018-07-07.
  29. 29.0 29.1 "Home". www.jimcolemanmusic.com. Retrieved 2018-07-07.
  30. "She's Her Own Artist. And a Daughter's Muse". Retrieved 2018-07-07.
  31. "Review: 'Call Her Applebroog,' Beth B's Portrait of a Still-Vital Artist". Retrieved 2018-07-07.
  32. "CALL HER APPLEBROOG – a film by Beth B". callherapplebroog.com. Retrieved 2018-07-09.
  33. "Zeitgeist Films :: Zeitgeist Films". zeitgeistfilms.com. Retrieved 2018-07-07.
  34. "Ida Applebroog - home". idaapplebroog.com. Retrieved 2018-07-07.
  35. "Lydia Lunch Chats With Nicolas Jaar in New Documentary Clip: Watch | Pitchfork". pitchfork.com. Retrieved 2018-07-07.
  36. Grrr.nl. "Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam". www.stedelijk.nl. Retrieved 2018-07-07.
  37. "Artists Space". artistsspace.org. Retrieved 2018-07-07.
  38. "#EAIATICA" (PDF). institute of Contemporary Art.
  39. KNIGHT, CHRISTOPHER (1994-03-29). "ART REVIEW : Beth B's 'Amnesia' Burns Into Our Memory : The New York-based artist's one-minute video takes words of social intolerance from history and renders impossible the psychic action of forgetting". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved 2018-07-07.
  40. KNIGHT, CHRISTOPHER (1994-03-29). "ART REVIEW : Beth B's 'Amnesia' Burns Into Our Memory : The New York-based artist's one-minute video takes words of social intolerance from history and renders impossible the psychic action of forgetting". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved 2018-07-07.
  41. Zurbrugg, Nicholas (2004). Art, Performance, Media: 31 Interviews. U of Minnesota Press. ISBN 9780816638321. Search this book on Amazon.com Logo.png
  42. www.bibliopolis.com. "It's About Control: Two Installations - A Holy Experiment / Trophies by Beth B, Douglas Dreishpoon on Jeff Hirsch Books". Jeff Hirsch Books. Retrieved 2018-07-07.
  43. Gallery, P·P·O·W. "PPOW Gallery | New York". www.ppowgallery.com. Retrieved 2018-07-07.
  44. "Weatherspoon Art Museum". weatherspoon.uncg.edu. Retrieved 2018-07-07.
  45. www.bibliopolis.com. "It's About Control: Two Installations - A Holy Experiment / Trophies by Beth B, Douglas Dreishpoon on Jeff Hirsch Books". Jeff Hirsch Books. Retrieved 2018-07-07.
  46. "Jeffrey Deitch | Portraits & Playthings". www.deitch.com. Retrieved 2018-07-07.
  47. Kemp, Martin (2000). Spectacular Bodies: The Art and Science of the Human Body from Leonardo to Now. UK: University of California Press. p. 177. ISBN 978-0520227927. Search this book on Amazon.com Logo.png
  48. "BETH B Voyeur". Retrieved 2018-07-07.
  49. "Home Page". Retrieved 2018-07-07.

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