Beth B exploded onto the New York film scene in the late ‘70s, after receiving her BFA from the School of Visual Arts in 1977. These breakthrough films, such as Black Box, Vortex, and The Offenders (co-directed with Scott B), were shown at Max’s Kansas City, CBGB’s, the New York Film Festival and the Film Forum. These and more recent films have been shown at, and acquired by, the Whitney Museum and MoMA. Her early films, along with those of Jim Jarmusch and Amos Poe, were the focus of the documentary film, Blank City. Her films have been the subjects of several books and other documentaries, including The Cinema of Transgression; Art, Performance, Media; and No Wave: Underground 80; Downtown Film and TV Culture. Beth B’s career has been characterized by work that challenges society’s conventions, and that focuses on social issues and human rights.
Throughout her prolific career, Beth B has produced over 30 films within the documentary, experimental, and narrative genres. B worked in television as an Executive Producer, Producer, and Director for eight years. She has mounted largescale media installations for the Hayward Gallery and the Wexner Center, and created a theater production for BAM’s Artist in Action series. Her films have been shown at museums and cinemas worldwide as well as film festivals including: The New York Film Festival, Sundance Film Festival, Berlin Film Festival, Toronto Film Festival, Nuremberg Int’l Human Rights Film Festival, DOC NYC Film Festival, Locarno Film Festival and many others.
Currently, Beth B is directing and producing the feature length documentary film, LYDIA LUNCH: The War is Never Over, about iconic musician and performance artist, Lydia Lunch. In 2016, B released her feature documentary film, Call Her Applebroog, with Zeitgeist Films 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 as well as other theatrical venues. The film reveals renowned artist Ida Applebroog’s 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. Her personal story is one that Beth B knows well—Ida is her mother and colleague.
In February 2017, B mounted a new interdisciplinary exhibition, VOYEUR, at the HOWL! Gallery in New York City. The show combines video installation, photographs, and a large-scale sculpture.
In 2013, B produced, directed, filmed and edited EXPOSED, a documentary feature film about 8 New York performance artists who use their bodies in provocative and comedic ways to question the very concept of “normal.” The film premiered in the Panorama section at the 2013 Berlin Film Festival where it was nominated for Best Documentary Film and has been screened in over 30 countries.
From 2000-2008, Beth B began a new phase of her career, producing and directing television and educational documentaries and docudramas, which she continues to do. Breathe In, Breathe Out, a co-production with Open City/Blow Up, Dune and ZDF Television, had its world premiere at the Rotterdam Film Festival, its US Premiere at the Toronto Film Festival, and was subsequently broadcast in several countries. B has a prolific career producing and directing television documentaries including Positive ID: The Case Files of Anthony Falsetti; Death of a Rising Star; The Black Widow; An Unlikely Terrorist; and several other programs. B worked as Senior Series Producer on a six-part reality television series, Crime Scenes Uncovered, about the “real CSI” shot in Miami for TLC. She produced and directed two of the episodes. For ZDF/Germany, ARTE/France, the Sundance Channel and PBS, she has 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 Channel series.
Her feature narrative film, Two Small Bodies (1994), based on Neal Bell’s play and starring Fred Ward and Suzy Amis, was celebrated worldwide being featured at the Locarno, Toronto and Sundance film festivals. Salvation! (1987), a sharp-edged social satire starring Viggo Mortensen and Exene Cervenka, prefigured pop culture’s fascination with televangelism and premiered at the Berlin Film Festival and played theatrically worldwide. In 1988, her screenplay Life in Luxury was selected for the Sundance Screenwriter’s Lab.
B’s feature documentary film, Breathe In/Breathe Out, (a co-production with Open City/Blow up, Dune and ZDF Television) had its world premiere at the Rotterdam Film Festival in 2000 and was broadcast on German, Swiss and Austrian Television. The film is about war and trauma. Also, B produced and directed Voices Unheard a riveting in-depth documentary about the incarceration and treatment of juvenile sex offenders, which premiered in 1998 at The Museum of Modern Art and The Walter Reade Theater, NYC. Visiting Desire , a feature documentary, first premiered at the 1996 Toronto Film Festival and the Berlin Film Festival, and was then released theatrically. B creates an unconventional documentary where people come together to act out a fantasy with a stranger. The film features Kembra Pfhaler, Lydia Lunch and Chloe Dzubilo.
B has produced and directed a series of films and tapes that merge documentary and fiction. The award-winning video Belladonna, a collaboration with artist Ida Applebroog, is a brutal testimony on violence, sex, and family relations. It premiered in 1989 at Ronald Feldman Fine Arts and was invited to participate in the Whitney Bienale. Thanatopsis, written by and featuring Lydia Lunch, is a disturbing yet poetic meditation on war and personal resistance and premiered in 1991 at The Kitchen, NYC. Stigmata (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 in France, a documentary about two drag queen performance artists who explore concepts relating to the transformation of the body.
Her films have been the subject of retrospectives at The Metrograph Theater, NYC, London’s National Film Theater; the Montreal Film Festival; Lisbon’s Nucleo Dos Cineastas Independentes; and the Danish Film Institute. She has also served on the competition juries at the Sundance and Toronto Film Festivals. Critics at the New York Times, Village Voice and other outlets have praised her work as “compelling,” ”captivating” “extraordinary” “a tour de force” and have written that “her videos are haunting and her feature films brilliant.”
Over the years, Beth B has received numerous commissions. In 2001, she created the multi-media installation, Hysteria, for the “Spectacular Bodies” show at the Hayward Gallery in London, which included video, sculpture, and performance. 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” project. B produced and directed the media/theater production, Take My Breath Away , which was commissioned by the 1997 Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Next Wave Festival and performed at PS122. In 1993, B created two installations at the Wexner Center for the Arts entitled Under Lock and Key and Amnesia . Amnesia combines photography and video challenging stereotypical notions of prejudice. Under Lock and Key , which combines an imposing steel sculpture with audio recordings and video projections, is a testament to intolerance and self-determination. Other commissions include: Out of Sight/Out of Mind, a video sculpture installation at Temple Gallery, Philadelphia (1995); and A Holy Experiment , an on-site installation commissioned for the Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia (1995).
Beth B’s work has shown at galleries including: Deitch Projects and PPOW with video installations, photography and sculpture. Some exhibitions include: Portraits & Playthings and Monuments at Deitch Projects, NYC and Trophies at PPOW and Laurent Delaye Gallery, London. Museum exhibitions include: presentations at the Museum of Modern Art “Cineprobe/Video Viewpoints” and “Modern Mondays”; Trophies and A Holy Experiment at the Weatherspoon Art Gallery, N.C.; A Holy Experiment at the Bayly Museum; Charlottesville, VA.; Under Lock and Key at the European Media Arts Festival in Osnabruck, the Gemeentemuseum in Den Haag, and the Podewil in Berlin.
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. Creative Time CityWide funded Surgeon General’s Warning, a bilingual series of silkscreen posters that the artist designed and posted on the streets of NY confronting touchy contemporary issues like abortion, censorship, AIDS, racism, and homelessness.
Awards include: The National Endowment for the Arts, The Lannan Foundation, The Jerome Foundation, New York State Council on the Arts, The Public Art Fund, The Bohen Foundation and others.
In addition to her film and art productions, Beth B teaches at the School of Visual Arts in New York City and Montclair State University.