My next ART SEEN screening presents five films (including Goner) by Aida Ruilova and Robert Longo’s rarely screened Arena Brains (1987). A consideration of how space and architecture (urban, domestic) can effect us. Get tickets!
Artist and filmmaker Aida Ruilova provides the first set of answers to a series of questions about horror and architecture The Girl Who Knew Too Much is asking artists, filmmakers, curator, and writers.
Five Questions on Horror & Architecture: AIDA RUILOVA
Do you think architecture has the power to be horrific? If so, how?
Architecture manipulates our perception of space. Its effect can be subliminal which makes it very powerful. It can be mesmerizing as much as it can be oppressive.
How has architecture and/or horror impacted, influenced, or been represented in your work?
My works have dealt with the interior and exterior, the body: the human condition.
Why do you think horror narrative continuously returns to the home?
The home is considered a safe space, it gives us the illusion of security and safety. We need the mundane, the everyday to reflect on what we don’t understand.
How do architecture and horror similarly (or dissimilarly) pinpoint/reflect the historical (cultural, socio-political, etc)?
There’s a permanence to architecture because it’s bound as an object. Horror’s ability to reflect the current psyche is shaped by the conflict in our times.
What would be your favorite representation of architecture in a horror film or vice-versa?
‘Rope’ is as chilling in its storytelling as it is in the calculated lengths a director will go to shape a film. Hitchcock wanted the single set film to appear to be one continuous long take. Through set design and some creative panning he was able to create the allusion. It’s technical prowess reveals what it takes to support continuity of mood and narrative in the architecture of a film.
Quiet, guttural, and violent, Aïda Ruilova’s Goner (2010) is an intimate and full throttle engagement with the unknown. A young woman, clothed in only a long t-shirt and underwear, is covered in blood and alone in a bedroom. Laying face down when we first see her, with gashes at her ankles, the battle between her and the room in which she’s contained plays in an endless loop. Punching, stabbing, screaming, staring; she fights the small world around her. Heightening the sense of unease and inescapable containment are the ambiguities as to whether she is really alone, who or what is assaulting her, or if the room is even hers. Camera perspectives shift from an all-seeing eye to a personal gaze that becomes our own. The perverse imagination runs wild.
From the aesthetics and narrative established in the Italian giallo to the cliche tropes in the American slasher, Aïda Ruilova embodies the cinematic history of the horror film girl in under ten minutes. Goner is a rather forceful gesture towards acknowledging all the cultural and political implications associated with the complicated role of the young woman in horror film (the ‘final girl’, the survivor, the redeemer, the victim). Her evolution of weakness to strength unfolds before us as she becomes unwittingly involved in a landscape of life and death. At once an indulgence in stereotype and a liberation from that stereotype, the horror heroine is a violent and hyperreal representation of what is means to be a woman in the world.
And what better space to pinpoint this disjuncture between the life and death of women than in the architectural realm of the home, the bedroom? With a heart shaped bed, the girl in Goner is in a position of desire and longing but as the room distorts, the idea of pleasure becomes one of intense pain. Here the psychological discord of a woman coming undone in her own home echos the sad intensity of Roman Polanski’s Repulsion (1965) in which a beautiful woman loses her insanity when alone and trapped in her apartment. It also makes reference to the physical and sexual assaults inflicted on a young mother by and invisible and ghostly being in 1982’s The Entity. Spanning one hundred years and as many films, from F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu (1922) to the current The Conjuring (2013), domesticity is the psychological realm where horror and women confront each other head on. This inextricable link between horror, the home, and women is the structural support of Goner as the mystery between a young girl and a living space rages on.
The second part of The Art of Fear artist film exhibition is this Wednesday (October 19) in the upstairs lobby at Nitehawk Cinema! The event is free and starts at 7pm with films beginning shortly after – the program will be shown twice. See you all there!
Ghost Stories, the second program of The Art of Fear, features surreal tales of love, life, and death that are brought back from the afterlife in the bizarre and haunting works of My Barbarian (Malik Gaines, Jade Gordon and Alexandro Segade, Los Angeles), Aïda Ruilova (New York), and Marnie Weber (Los Angeles). Horror affect and narrative style are huge influencers in these films with inspiration deriving from Rod Serling’s Night Gallery television series, cult figures like Jean Rollin and Karen Black, and the theatrical monstrous characters from early Hollywood. Importantly, The Art of Fear is showing the New York debut of Marnie Weber’s most recent film, The Eternal Heart (2010).
My Barbarian – Night Epi$ode: Curatorial Purgatorial (Pilot)
2009, Single channel video, 12 minutes, Color, Sound
Aïda Ruilova – Life Like
2006, Single channel video, 5 minutes, Color, Sound
Aïda Ruilova – Lulu
2007, Single channel video, 5 minutes, Color, Sound
My Barbarian – Night Epi$ode: Yoga Matt and Veronika Phoenix
2009, Single channel video, 13 minutes, Color, Sound
Aïda Ruilova – Meet the Eye
2009, Single channel video, 7 minutes, Color, Sound
Marnie Weber – The Eternal Heart (see trailer below)
2010, Shot on Super 8 and 16mm, digital projection, 28 minutes, Color, Sound
I’m so excited to announce The Art of Fear, a two-part artist film program I am curating at Nitehawk Cinema in Brooklyn. Featuring moving image works influenced by horror cinema, it is the first manifestation of my research on horror film and contemporary art presented in New York (look out for a major upcoming exhibition in Los Angeles) and I’mthrilled to be working with such truly incredible artists. Please come support artist film, cinema, and horror this October!
The two-part screening features works by Takeshi Murata, Darren Banks, Jaime Shovlin (October 5) and My Barbarian, Aida Ruilova, Marnie Weber (October 19).
I pretty much can’t wait for this opening tonight:
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