– Spring/Summer 2006

Vampire Video: Time in the Art of Aïda Ruilova

Barry Schwabsky

Um, 2004, single-channel DVD with sound, 16sec loop. Courtesy of the artist

Um, 2004, single-channel DVD with sound, 16sec loop. Courtesy of the artist

For many aficionados of video art, the work of Aïda Ruilova might require a serious revision of expectations. When it first emerged by way of the performance art of the 1960s and 70s, video was most typically what one veteran of those days has described as 'a pure document of the performance, without cutting or editing' meant to 'present the real time of the performance'.1

It is true that, for some artists at the time, video did become an active element in the performative work, creating a sort of feedback loop within a piece by becoming a medium for the performer's own self-perception. Nevertheless, certain conventions remained constant: a static camera (or one whose movements were highly circumscribed); an avoidance of 'cinematic' editing in favour of what might be called a submission to the readymade character of the material (so, for instance, the length of a work might be dictated by the length of a reel of tape - say, sixty minutes); and perhaps most importantly of all, a sense of temporality that was quite distinct from dramatic or cinematic time. This new form of temporality had been anticipated in such works as the films of Andy Warhol: a neutral, extended, thin and uninflected time - a dead time, real - that might well be experienced by viewers as boring, even excruciating.

By the 1990s, of course, all of this was ancient history. Video art was becoming a different kind of spectacle. Large-scale projections in darkened gallery spaces were now taking on some of the characteristics of both cinema and mural painting. In contrast to the practices typical of the early days

  1. 'Interview with Marina Abramovic', in Klaus Beisenbach (ed.), Video Acts: Single Channel Works from the Collections of Pamela and Richard Kramlich and New Art Trust (exh. cat.), New York: P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, 2002, p.14

  2. Barry Schwabsky, 'Aïda Ruilova at White Columns', Artforum, December 2000, p.148

  3. Karen Rosenberg, 'The Whitney Biennial: Favorites', New York, 1 March 2004, online at http://nymag.com/nymetro/arts/features/n_9928/index.html