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Two Small Bodies, Beth B.
Two Small Bodies, Beth B.

Beginning September 8, The Films of Beth B and Scott B and Beth B Retrospective, two series showcasing the work of artist and filmmaker Beth B, will be presented by The Museum of Modern Art.

Beth B exploded onto the New York art and film scene in the late 1970s after receiving her BFA from the School of Visual Arts in 1977. Her prolific career is characterized by work that challenges society’s conventions, with a particular focus on social issues and human rights. In the years following her partnership with Scott B, Beth B has produced over 30 documentary, experimental, and narrative films, as well as interdisciplinary work that has been shown in galleries and museums throughout the world.

The Films of Beth B and Scott B, running from September 8–11 at MoMA, is a career retrospective of the films of Beth B and Scott B, the legendary duo who defined the punk filmmaking scene in Downtown New York in the 1970s and 1980s. The series features three films by Scott B and Beth B, including MoMA’s restoration of The Offenders and the theatrical premiere of five titles newly restored by Kino Lorber.

Beth B and Scott B are the best-known and most critically acclaimed underground filmmakers of New York’s No Wave and early punk scenes. They were on the leading edge of a movement germinating in the city’s lofts, nightclubs, and galleries, where their confrontational, humorous, thought-provoking films instigated and anticipated a democratization of filmmaking that eventually became known as “American Independent Film.” Among the influential artists and musicians who appeared in their work during this formative period are Lydia Lunch, Jack Smith, Adele Bertei, John Lurie, and John Ahearn. Galvanizing the alternative spirit of the Downtown scene, their films became aesthetic touchstones for succeeding generations of filmmakers, artists, and musicians, and continue to be cited in critical works on the period by film and art historians.

Beth B Retrospective, running from September 13-25 at MoMA, showcases the solo work of Beth B, including her two big-screen narrative films: Two Small Bodies (1994), based on Neal Bell’s play and starring Suzy Amis and the late Fred Ward, and Salvation! (1987), a sharp-edged social satire with Viggo Mortensen and Exene Cervenka that prefigured pop culture’s recent fascination with televangelism.

The series pays particular attention to B’s documentaries, a form in which she excels along unconventional lines, including Breathe In/Breathe Out (2000), about war and trauma, which was originally broadcast on German, Swiss, and Austrian Television; Voices Unheard, a riveting study of the incarceration and treatment of juvenile sex offenders, which premiered at MoMA in 1998; and her provocative look at gender reality and fantasy, Visiting Desire (1996). Series highlights include the premiere screening of her latest short video, Glowing Woman (2022), as well as the theatrical premiere of 17 titles newly restored by Kino Lorber.

Among her most innovative works are films and tapes that merge documentary and fiction. The award-winning video Belladonna (1989), a collaboration with artist Ida Applebroog, is a brutal testimony on violence, sex, and family relations. Thanatopsis (1991), written by and featuring Lydia Lunch, is a disturbing yet poetic meditation on war and personal resistance. Stigmata (1991), a documentary about drug abuse and recovery, articulates internal anguish with a vividness that is both haunting and chilling. And High Heel Nights (1993) is a documentary about drag and the transformation of the body. The series also includes video pieces originally created as commissions for installation, including Hysteria (2001), Amnesia (1991), Under Lock and Key (1993), and Out of Sight/Out of Mind (1995).

The Films of Beth B and Scott B and Beth B Retrospective are organized by Ron Magliozzi, Curator, Department of Film, The Museum of Modern Art.

The Films of Scott B and Beth B (in 3 programs)

Letters to Dad (1979)
The Offenders (1979) – MoMA restoration
Black Box (1978)
Vortex (1982)
The Times Square Show (1982)
G-Man (1978)
Trap Door (1980)

Beth B Retrospective (in 9 programs)

Features

Two Small Bodies (1993)
Salvation! Have You Said Your Prayers Today? (1987)
Call Her Applebroog (2016)
Exposed (2013)
Lydia Lunch – The War Is Never Over (2020)

Shorts

Amnesia (1993)
Breathe In, Breathe Out (2001)
Voyeur (2017)
The Dominatrix Sleeps Tonight (1983)
Hysteria (2001)
Visiting Desire (1995)
Voices Unheard (1997)
Under Lock and Key (1993)
High Heel Nights (1993)
Belladonna (1989)
Stigmata (1991)
Out of Sight/Out of Mind (1995)
Thanatopsis (1991)
Glowing Woman (2022) – premiere

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