On 15 December legendary French ‘erotic horror’ (read: vampires and lesbians) director Jean Rollin passed away at the age of 72. In memorandum, I am posting an excerpt of my writing on artist Aïda Ruilova and her use of Rollin in her artist films.
Aïda Ruilova is interested in cult relationships associated with horror film, using the appeal of the underground and insider fandom as an alluring edge to her works. Her narrative film Meet the Eye (2009) cast cult queen Karen Black and legendary punk artist Raymond Pettibon but her literal incorporation of lesbian vampire director Jean Rollin in tuning (2001) and life like (2006) is Ruilova’s pinnacle of reflexivity. Here imitation slips into an homage to Rollin, locating points of desire as she also do by festishising the objects of Carlo Mollino in Endings (2007).
As in Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby, Ruilova shifts horror away from representing the ‘other’ and marks it pointedly back onto our selves. Her films and videos reveal a different side to horror, one that uses the genre as a vehicle to express the agony of being close to others and to your self. Her single channel installation tuning consists of an image of the artist holding hands with cult director Jean Rollin in his Parisian home. In a little over one minute this blurry picture quickly jerks in and out of focus. Repeatedly looped action and scored to Sonic Youth’s Confusion is Sex (1993), Ruilova creates a jarring experience for the viewer. Tuning entices a close watch but never quite permits audience projection into the action.
Years later, her video life like revisits Rollin as a character once again in his apartment. In it he has died and a woman baring close resemblance to Ruilova paces the room and caresses his body. Like a lot of her work, life like features a series of tightly composed scenes that collapse the distance between the onscreen action and the audience to create an appropriately intimate and personal space, seductively calling loyalty and love into question.
She bravely exposes herself by weaving into her narratives themes of love, loss, confusion, pain, and obsession. Through this collusion of herself and horror historical figures she establishes a dialogical relationship with the past and uses it to construct a new path for the genre.
Video clip from life like (2006) – image still above