Aïda Ruilova’s video works are like fragments of fitful and disturbing fever dreams. Her early short projects (all under a minute) reflect her interest in both horror and punk rock and function as poetic slivers of noise music. Ruilova ignores narrative for a more immediate and raw form generated by the body under trauma. In her work You're Pretty (1999) Ruilova relays sexual obsession and despair, as a long haired, scrawny man repeatedly scrapes a record along the concrete floor of a basement. He clutches an amplifier and repeatedly mutters "You're pretty." Ruilova's use of quick cuts and repetition create an unsettling, sensory impression that evokes deep rooted fears and emotions.
Ruilova's works often feature solitary female figures, much like the typically imperiled girls of the horror genre. The gasps and cries of a young woman in Oh No (1999) create a disturbing tension, and it is unclear if she is the victim or the protagonist of some unseen action, or simply enthralled in a climatic experience. Rulovia creates convulsive fits through a use of extreme angles and zooming effects that contribute to the confusion between death, sex, and desire.
Ruilova's newest piece, Meet the Eye (2009) features cult film actress Karen Black as an aged and smoldering hysteric. Shot on a soundstage in Los Angeles, the work is a sophisticated departure for Ruilova. While there are still repetitions and unusual shots, the artist has slowed the pace to blur the boundaries between reality and fantasy in a more subtle manner.
Black's character embodies a tragic confusion, she is passionate yet unfocused. She is caught in a loop, repeatedly begging the question "which one is me?" She is split and disoriented, as she sprawls on the hotel bed in languid seduction, curls into an introverted haze, or mimics the pose of a saint tied and ready for her punishment. Her male companion, played by artist Raymond Pettibon, is caught in his own stupor as he repeats the same lines over and over with little emotional inflection. While there is a lurid sexual tension between the couple, they never satisfy their carnal desires.
The couple's insular dance of loss and repetition is punctured by a peephole which the man carves through the the hotel wall. The woman peers through the opening to see a smokey void, where a body shrouded in white cloth rests on the ground. The image is Lynchian in the uncanny shift between real and imagined space and through the poetic translation of terror. With Meet the Eye, Rulovia has made a haunted and chilling work that lingers with the viewer for days, like a bad dream.
Meet the Eye was produced as part of the Hammer Museum’s Artist Residency Program and will be on view at the museum June 16 - September 27, 2009.