Artists Aïda Ruilova and Raymond Pettibon are not afraid of sex and psychology or sharing creative territory, but Bo, their son, is their greatest collaboration and work in progress.
RAYMOND PETTIBON: Do you love your work more than me? Than Bo? Boo Boo? Are they your babies, your baby dolls?
AÏDA RUILOVA: More than you? This feels like a trap. If life and work can intersect and flow together, that would be ideal. I can’t think straight unless I’m alone with my work. Each baby needs her own dedicated time. We all have to feed the beast, or I mean the baby, right? My father used to say, “If mamma’s not happy then no one is happy.”
LEFT: Aïda Ruilova Behind Convent Walls, 2012 Pencil and oil on paper 35 x 27 inches (Photo credit: Heather Rasmussen) | RIGHT: Aïda Ruilova Emmanuelle’s Vice, 2013 Pencil and oil on paper 66 1⁄4 x 50 5/8 inches (Photo credit: Robert Wedemeyer)
RP: What, if any, do you prefer: the initial inspiration and development of the work, or directing itself—the actual camera work and the photography, the lighting, the sound, the cracking of the whip, the technicians, the AD, the key grips, the actors, etc.?
AR: The cracking of the whip: I could imagine Lina Wertmüller doing that, or Douglas Sirk—whose gorgeous films are so tightly wound—and Alfred Hitchcock, but in his case, the whip would be replaced by the noose. The whip is emblematic of a directorial type; that reminds me of the “eye-patch directors.” You can’t forget about them. Nicholas Ray, Sam Fuller. Did Ida Lupino ever wear a patch over her eye? There’s a “smoke gets in your eyes” kind of feeling when the initial inspiration of an idea develops in your mind. I like how that can play out. If I can avoid committing the idea to paper, I will. Once the idea is materialized onto paper, the foreplay is over. After that, it’s all about production and moving forward. Then there’s the post production. After you and I worked together on my short video Meet the Eye, our relationship extended beyond the confines of the set. I think we defined that as postproduction for a while . . . Ha! I guess we’re still in postproduction, and we could consider our son Bo a work in progress.
RP: What was it like working with me and Karen Black? What was it like directing yourself? Was it an inner struggle, a psychoanalytical or dialectical dialogue with the self, or were the camera and script almost another limb, a natural extension of the self?
AR: Working with you and Karen was a dream for me. Though the actual narrative of that film was more of a nightmare than a dream. Karen was the first professional actress I worked with. Her performances in films like The Day of the Locust, Nashville, Trilogy of Terror and Easy Rider, to name a few, were iconic. My previous films were filled with non-actors—friends of friends or people I found on the street in New York City. Meet the Eye was the first film I had written a script for. I liked the tension of pairing a non-actor and visual artist with an actress. It made your rapport quite disconnected, which was what I was going for. I remember right before we shot a scene between you and Karen, she ran around the set a couple of times to amp herself up, and she ran right into the scene and jumped on top of you. She straddled you and threw you onto the bed. It turned out great because you had no idea what was going on. You had to locate yourself, both mentally and physically, in that moment. I loved her for that. You’re both great improvisers.
RP: What place, if any, does chance or accident have in your work? If chance does occur, does it throw a cog in the machinery, does it cause you to stop and rethink, or is there room for it? Is there a way to accommodate chance and perhaps allow it to improve the work in the end?
LEFT: Aïda Ruilova Emmanuelle (teaser), 2013 Pencil and oil on paper 44 1⁄2 x 30 1⁄2 inches (Photo Robert Wedemeyer) | RIGHT: Aïda Ruilova Emmanuelle’s Passion, 2012 Pencil and oil on paper 42 3⁄4 x 31 inches (Photo credit Heather Rasmussen)
AR: The role of chance or accident looms large in my work. I expect chance. I feel like I’m always negotiating, rethinking, and switching things around. I can’t avoid variables in that sense, and accommodation allows for improvements, or missteps that lead me elsewhere.
RP: Do you consider your work a collective body of progressive work or a collection of diverse works, each with its own unique qualities? Considering that we all evolve and develop, why wouldn’t our work follow the same evolution?
AR: I’ve been making work for 20 years now, and I haven’t really looked at it in terms of how it has evolved. I guess I should take a closer look. I think you could enter it at any point in time, through different projects, and see similar themes or obsessions, or maybe compulsions, in the work. There are definitely themes I continually explore in different works. I can see how those bleed together over time.
RP: Tell me about your drawings, or interventions, on movie posters.
AR: I started collecting film posters and finding ones that had a pre-Photo- shop look, where if you examine them you can tell that the photography was cut up and laid out by hand. From a distance, though, they look mechanically produced. The images exploit the female figure to market the franchise films they’re advertising. However, the real women the posters are representing become obscured. The character of Emmanuelle, in the ‘70s film, is a phantasm. Emmanuelle in print, on posters, is flawed. You can see the graininess of the low-quality paper the poster is printed on. The graininess flaws Emmanuelle’s figure in print as well.